Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The "Macedonian Question", part 2

by Maria Nystazopoulou - Pelekidou
Translated by Ilias Kyzirakos
continue from here

The evidence of the sources and the findings of historical research

Before I attempt to demonstrate which is the historical reality based on the evidence of the sources, I would like to emphasize that the position of Skopje is based on two extremely serious methodological errors.

The first one concerns the terms Macedonia and Macedonians, which the historians of Skopje use in a national sense, even though these terms are strictly geographical, just like the term Epirot or Peloponnesian33. In the works published in Skopje and mainly in the "History of the Macedonian Nation" they skilfully use the term Slav-Macedonians and sometimes simply Macedonians, to create confusion and finally have the terms Macedonia-Macedonians accepted as denoting a separate nation. However, as we have already mentioned, these terms have never acquired any national meaning either in the past or in recent years. In the sources, travellers' descriptions, diplomatic documents, censuses of the Ottoman empire34 etc., the term Macedonian always denoted the inhabitants of Macedonia - primarily the Greek inhabitants - because the Bulgarian inhabitants of Macedonia were usually called "Bulgaro-Macedonians", that is Bulgarians of Macedonia, so that they could be distinguished from the Bulgarians of Bulgaria and of the Bulgarian Principality. Besides, the fact that the terms Bulgaro-Macedonians and Slavo-Macedonians are used, while "Helleno-Macedonians" isn't, presupposes and at the same times proves that Macedonia is Greek, because the term intrinsically conveys the Greek origin of the inhabitans of this region.

The second methodological error refers to the extension in place and time of a specific and locally limited national group. That is, starting with Yugoslav "Macedonia", the population of which is considered Slavic in its majority, the historians of Skopje extend this given ethnic composition throughout all Macedonia and its centuries of history, as if it were a stable unchanging element, unaffected by the extremely important historical events which took place in this sensitive area of the Balkan Peninsula.

Attention must also be drawn to the fact that during certain periods of History (the Hellenistic Age, Turkish domination etc.) the historians of Skopje are compelled to accept, up to a point, the hellenization of the region - hellenization which of course presupposes the existence of a powerful Greek element -, and during the subsequent period this Hellenic or hellenized population seems to disappear or be reduced to a minumum and the non-Greek "Macedonians" predominate anew.

It should also be noted that the geographical and historical boundaries of Macedonia do not coincide with the boundaries of Macedonia as the historians of Skopje define it. Macedonia, the "Major Macedonia" - as Prof. Ap. Vacalopoulos calls it - extends beyond the borders of present day Greek Macedonia:

Southward: to the Chasia Mountains, the Kambounia Mountains, Mount Olympus and the Aegean Sea,
Westward: to the Pindus Mountains,
Eastward: to the Nestos River, and
Northward: to Orchid-Strumnitsa-Melenikon

Needless to say, in the long history of the region, the administrative boundaries were not always the same, or immovable: they expanded or contracted, according to the historical data of every period. However, it should be noted that northward Macedonia never went beyond the line of Orchid, Bebuna mountains36, Strumnitsa-Nevrokop (see map No 1). Therefore, the modern Socialist Republic of "Macedonia" included only a small part of Macedonia: the region of Skopje did not belong to Macedonia but to the old Serbia, as the Serb historical geographer J. Cvijic37 observed at the beginning of the century. (1907). The use of the geographical term "Macedonia" for the more northern regions is thus contrary to historical reality. These geographical boundaries show that about 70% of Macedonia is today part of Greece and only a small part is located in Southern Yugoslavia and in SW Bulgaria38.

After pointing out these basic factors I shall attempt to present, very briefly, the evidence od the sources and the findings of historical research.

The evidence of the sources and the findings of historical research:

1. Antiquity

The Ancient Macedonians were undoubtedly a Greek tribe; either a north-western tribe related to the Dorians and Epirots, or an Aeolic one related to the Aeolians of Thessaly (before the north-western tribe of the Thessalians settled there), as scholars tend to accept today. Nowadays it is not seriously doubted that they were Greeks39, although some opposing views have been expressed by certain modern historians and linguists because the evidence of ancient writers has not been interpreted correctly and the relatively limited linguistic material preserved has not been evaluated correctly40.

The Ancient Macedonians initially settled in NW Macedonia. Later they expanded into the fertile valley of Haliakmon river, where, after having driven back or subjugated the Illyrian and Thracian tribes, they established the Macedonian state. During this time the regions of NW Macedonia remained independent hegemonies. Later on, the kingdom of Macedonia expanded up to the Strymon river. Their relative isolation for centuries, in the country that bears their name, greatly contributed to their developing autonomous unity, both social and political, without being greatly influenced by other Greeks and, therefore, without the cultural development of the southern regions41.

Ancient sources affirm that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks, and the linguistic conclusions, which are based on the study of the Macedonian dialect, also attest to this.

Among the ancient historians, Herodotus is the first who refers to the Macedonians whom he considers, without any hesitation, Greeks: " Έλληνας δέ είναι τούτους τούς από Περίκκεω γεγονότας, κατά περ αυτοί λέγουσι, αυτός τε ούτω τυγχάνω επιστάμενος καί δή καί εν τοίσι όπισθεν λόγοισι αποδείξω..." [= But that the descendants of Perdiccas are, in fact, Greeks (as they themselves say), I happen to know; and I will, moreover, prove that they are Greeks in the latter part of my history]. (V, 22,1). The same historian presents the king of Macedonians Alexander I (ca. 495-450/440 B.C.), a dominant figure of Macedonian history during the 5th c. B.C., saying at the time of the Persian wars: "αυτός τε γάρ Έλλην γένος ειμί τωρχαίον, και αντ΄ ελευθέρης δεδουλωνένην ουκ άν εθέλοιμι οράν τήν Ελλάδα" [= I am myself a Greek of ancient stock, and I would not with my good will see Greece enslaved rather than free]. (IX, 45,1-2)42. Succeeding generations called Alexander I, and only him among all kings of Macedonia, "Philhellene", and they did so for a specific reason: he effectively assisted the "Greek" alliance of Corinth against the Persians43.

Thucydides44, and later Arrian45, Polybious46, Titus Livius47 and others also confirm, directly or indirectly, that the Macedonians were Greeks. In ancient times, the nationality of the Macedonians was never an issue, precisely because they were Greeks. The historians of Skopje have greatly exploited the fact that Demosthenes calls Philip a "barbarian", and regard this as proof of his non-Greek origin. However, the word "barbarian" meant at that time not only the foreigner, i.e., the person who spoke a different language, but also the person who was uncivilized48. The Athenian Demosthenes considered the king of Macedonia to be culturally inferior. Moreover, we should not forget the fanaticism and Attic nationalism of the orator who was fighting against Philip in the belief that Philip would subjugate the rest of Greece, as well as his own city-state; Demosthenes believed that as a consequence Athens would not be able to play a leading role in the new political scheme which the Macedonians would impose, since this scheme would be quite foreign to the then prevailing of the city-state49.

Certain doubts have been expressed about the Greek character of the Ancient Macedonians' language, mainly because, up to now, no texts or even complete phrases written in the Macedonian dialect have been found. Today, however, after the comparative study of all known linguistic material, linguists, as well as historians, accept the Greek character of the Macedonian dialect50. The following elements prove that Macedonian is a dialect of the Greek Language:

The name of the Macedonians itself is Greek: the word μακεδνός [makednos] is already attested to in Homer (Odyssey, η 106: οία τε φύλλα μακεδνής αιγείροιο) [= like fluttering leaves of a tall poplar tree] and means "high, tall and slender". That is, this ethnic name is one of those which denoted the physical characteristics of a people. Also the proper names of the Ancient Macedonians51, the names of gods, months, etc., as well as most place-names are Greek, in Macedonian dialect, and bear no resemblance to Thracean-Illyrian names. If the Macedonians started being hellenized in the 5th c. B.C., as the historians of Skopje clain, how can it be explained that they retained proper names, as well as the names of the months and place-names in Macedonian dialect which are undisputedly Greek? How did the Macedonians of the 5th and 4th c. B.C. acquire these Greek dialectal names, which do not belong to the Attic dialect, if they did not inherit them via a tradition which had always been Greek?52

The same observations apply to lexical material. Relatively few words of the Macedonian dialect have been preserved: about 153 and they are recorded by Athenaeus and in the Lexicon of Hesychios, who drew them mainly from the work of the Macedonian lexicographer Amerias53. It should be noted that ancient lexicographers did not record all the words of a language or dialect, but only those that presented a certain peculiarity or difficulty in comprehension. For this reason foreign words and idioms are recorded, and thus the proportion of foreign words is not representative of the total vocabulary of the Macedonian dialect. Many of the words which have been treasured as Macedonian occur in all Greek dialects, but in the Macedonian dialect they had a specific meaning and they were recorded by the ancient lexicographers, for example the word υπασπιστής (adjutant). These words that were handed down as Macedonian do not bear any resemblance to the Thracian-Illyrian language. The Macedonian linguistic material (proper names, place-names and common nouns) testifies to the Greek character of the Macedonian dialect: The etymology of the words is Greek; the features and vowel changes are common in Greek; so are the inflections and endings. As for the few words which are recorded as Macedonian in the Lexicon of Hesyxhios and which are not considered by some to be Greek, it is most likely that they are loan-words, a phenomenon that is observed in all languages, and one which does not put their origin in doubt54.

The historians of Skopje use the quotation of Plutarch that Alexander ανεβόα μακεδονιστί καλών τούς υπασπιστάς [= called out in Macedonian speech a summons to his corps of guards] (Plutarch'sAlexander, 51,4), as proof that the languagewhich the Macedonian soldiers spoke was not Greek. But here the word μακεδονιστί means the local dialect, as the respective terms δωριστί, αττικιστί ιωνιστί etc.55 attest, and not a separate non-Greek language. In fact, Alexander and the Macedonians disseminated the Greek language throughout the world they conquered; Alexander gave an order that the inscriptions which were in a foreign language were to be explained in Greek, so that they would be comprehensible to his troops (τήν επιγραφήν αναγνούς εκέλευσεν ελληνικοίς υποχαράξαι γράμμασιν [= After reading the inscription, he ordered it to be repeated below in Greek letters]: Plutarch's Alexander, 69,2) and he also ordered that the troop of Persians "should learn the Greek language and be trained to use Macedonian weapons" (εκέλευε γράμματά τε ελληνικά μανθάνειν καί μακεδονικοίς όπλοις εντρέφεσθαι Plutarch's Alexander, 47,6)55a.

The fact that no written documents in Macedonian dialect have been preserved does not prove their non-Greek origin, as the historians of Skopje claim. Indeed, no dialectal inscriptions or even a phrase of a dialectal Macedonian text have been found. All the inscriptions found in Macedonia date after the 5th c. B.C., when the Macedonians used, at least in public life, the Attic dialect56. However, in other regions of Greece, undisputedly Greek, no preserved written documents of the 7th or even 6th c. B.C. have been found either. The cultural phenomenon of Athens cannot be regarded as a means of comparison with other regions, especially in order to draw conclusions concerning the national origin of their inhabitants.

It must be noted that the recent excavations at Vergina, in addition to other very important finds regarding the history of Macedonia, have brought to light, a series of inscribed grave stelai which can be dated with certainty to the second half of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd c. B.C. These inscriptions as we know from the description of Prof. M. Andronikos present a very significant collection of common Macedonian names, male and female, numbering 75. All these names are Greek, such as Αλκέτας, ’λκιμος, Δρύκαλος, Ξενοκράτης, Πευκόλαος, Πιερίων - except for one (Αμάδοκος) which is Thracian - and many of them are characteristically Macedonian and unknown to Attica, attesting to their Macedonian origin. These names refute the theory that only the ruling class had become hellenized, because they do not belong to the royal family, or to the nobility, or to the ruling class: they are the names of ordinary citizens and many of them date back to the beginning of the 4th and the end of the 5th c. B.C. Therefore, as Prof. M. Andronikos points out, we have "epigraphic evidence... that at the end of the 5th c. B.C., the Macedonians who lived in the first capital of the Macedonian kingdom [in Aeges]... had Greek names"57.

Consequently, both the evidence of the sources and the study of the linguistic material, lead to the conclusion that the Ancient Macedonians were a Greek tribe. The theory that it was a non-Greek population, whose ruling class became hellinized, has no basis in fact. The people of Macedonia spoke Greek, a local Greek dialect and thus it was easy for them to adopt the Attic dialect. Even after the Roman conquest, the Greek language was still spoken in the region, despite foreign domination and the strong presence of Latin-speaking soldiers and other representatives of Rome. It is of primary importance that the inscriptions of Roman and early Byzantine times, which were found in Macedonia, are in Greek - except, of course, for the regions where there were Roman colonies, for example at Philippi58 -, while the inscriptions which were found in the more northern regions are in Latin. The Greek language was deeply rooted since it was the language of the Macedonian people, not only of the ruling class and the authorities.


33. It should be noted that during the Byzantine era these terms also had an administrative meaning. In the early Byzantine era the province of Macedonia, whose seat was Thessaloniki, belonged to the prefecture (praefecturea) of Illyricum and extended nearly to the geographical limits of "major" Macedonia: See Angeliki Konstantakopoulou, Ιστορική Γεωγραφία τής Μακεδονίας (4ος-6ος αι.) (= Historical Geography of Macedonia, 4th-6th c.) (Ioannina, 1984), pp. 19-26, with the older bobliography. In the Mid-Byzantine era, with the change of the administrative organization and the generalization of the administration by themata, the Thema of Macedonia, which is attested to for the first time in 802, was established and extended eastwards of the Nestos river into a large section of Thrace, i.e. it was not identified with the geographical boundaries of Macedonia. A little later the Them of Thessaloniki was established, which extended to Central and West Macedonia, and the them of Strymon in Eastern Macedonia.

34. See the edition by Hr. Andonov-Polianski, Britanski Dokumenti za Istorijata na Makedonskijot Narod [= British Documents regarding the History of Macedonian People], 1. 1797-1839 (Skopje, 1968), in which, despite the efforts to misinterpret names and events, the objective student should not be able to find even the slightest indication of the existence of the "Macednoian People in these documents of British consuls, agents or travellers. Only Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians, Serbs and Albanians are mentioned, as well as Macedonia as a geographical unity. Cf. the book review by A. Angelopoulos, Balkan Studies 9 (1968), pp. 559-561. For the consuls' reports of the 19th c., see Ev. Kofos, Macedonia, op. cit., p. 6 note 1. See also the Turkish cencus of 1906, where only muslims (Turks and Albanians), Bulgars and Greeks are mentioned: St. Yerasimos, "Balkans: frontieres d'aujourd'hui, d'hier et de demain?", Herodote 63/85 F (1991), p. 89.

35. See Ap. Vacalopoulos, History of Macedonia, 1354-1839 (Thessaloniki, 1969), p. 1.

36. Babuna mountain is the ancient Messapion.

37. J. Cvijic, Remarques sur l'ethnographie de la Macedoine2 (Paris, 1907), p. 6 note 1.

38. In some strange way, the false information that, during the division of Macedonia in 1913, Greece took 51.57% of the total Macedonian territory, Yugoslavia 38.32% and Bulgaria 10.11%, in other words that 48.33% in total of Macedonia is now situated in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, goes on being repeated unchecked. However, these percentages are not correct because they correspond to the area of Greek Macedonia (34,603 km2), the total area of the current Republic of Skopje (25,713 km2) and Macedonia of Pirin (6,789 km2). They refer therefore to the state which was formed after the end of World War II, overlooking the fact that the Republic of Skopje, besides being a more recent creation, also contains Serbian territory: In fact only the southern part, that is, much less than half the total area is geographically and historically part of Macedonia (see Map 2). It should be noted that, in 1913, territory of the Ottoman Empire was returned to the three Balkan States including areas in their northern parts which were not Macedonian (see Map 3). Therefore the percentage of Macedonia which was returned to Greece is, in reality, much greater.

39. Cf. Ul. Wilcken, Alexandre le Grand, op. cit., p. 33: "It seems more and more certain that the Macedonians were a Greek tribe related to the Dorians. However, as they stayed high up in the distant north, they could not participate in the progress of civilization of the Greek people that migrated southward...". Also Herman Bengtson, Griechische Geschichte4, Muenchen 1969, p. 305, points out that "the majority of the new generation of historians but with the notable exception of Julius Kaerst (Geschichte des Hellenismus, 1/3, 1927, p. 154 sq.) agree, and rightly so, that the Macedonians were Greeks". See also K.J. Beloch, Griechische Geschichte2, IV/1, pp. 1-9.

40. For the Ancient Macedonians there is a most extensive bibliography. I confine myself to referring to the recent work of N.G.L. Hammond, The Macedonian State: Origins, Institutions and History(Oxford, 1989). See also Macedonia, 400 Years of Greek History and Civilization (published by "Ekdotike Athenon") (athens, 1991) and mainly pp. 46-63 which include the chapter "The Nationality of Macedonians" by M. Sakellariou.

41. H. Bengston, Griechische Geschichte, op. cit., p. 305, observes that generally the Macedonians were considered culturally inferior. Cf. also Ul. Wilcken, Alexandre le Grand, op. cit., p. 33.

42. See also Herodotus, I, 56, 2-3 and V, 20-22. (English translation by David Grene, the University of Chicago Press, Chicago-London 1987).

43. See commentary on Thucydides I, 57; commentary on Demosthenes, Olynthiac III, 130; Dion Chrysostom II, 33; Harpocration, in entry Alexander, Anecd. Graeca, 375, 20 Bekker. All the sources that mention the epithet "Philhellene" are subsequent and we cannot be certain that they derive from sources contemporary to Alexander I. The argument, however, that the epithet "Philhellene" confirms that Alexander I was not a Greek is not at all convincing and is contradicted by Alexander's own words, as they have been handed down to us by his contemporary Herodotus (see the above quotation IX, 45, 1-2).

44. Thucydides, II, 99, 3-6, who obviously uses Herodotus as a source, states that the kings of the Macedonians are Temenids from Argos, which means that he agrees that Macedonians were Greeks.

45. Cf. the well-known passage of Arrian, I, 16, 11, where it is stated that after the battle of Granicus, Alexander offered as a votive of thanks to Pallas Athena 300 Persian panoplies with the very eloquent inscription: Αλέξανδρος Φιλίππου καί οι Έλληνες πλήν Λακεδαιμονίων, από τών βαρβάρων τών τήν Ασίαν κατοικούντων [= Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks, except the Lacedaemonians, from the barbarian inhabitans in Asia], a characteristic inscription which attests that both Alexander and the Macedonian soldiers were Greeks, because the Macedonians were certainly included among the Greeks. Cf. also Arrian, I, 16, 10.

46. Polybius, XXVIII, 8, 9, preserves the following valuable information: in the deputation that Perseus, King of Macedonia, sent to the King of Illyria, in order to form an alliance with him against the Romans, a deputy of Illyrian descent also participated: διά τό τήν διάλεκτον ειδέναι τήν Ιλλυρίδα [= becasue he knew the Illyrian language], which means that the Macedoniasns did not know the Illyrian language, since in their conversations with the Illyrians they were compelled to use interpreters. See also IX, 37,7: πρός Αχαιούς καί Μακεδόνας ομοφύλους καό τ\;ν τούτων ηγεμόνα Φίλιππον [= To the Achaeans and the Macedonians Belonging to the same race, and to Philip, their leader]. Cf. also IV, 9 and VII, 9, 3.

47. Titus Livius, 31, 39, considers the Macedonians to speak the same language as the Aetolians andf the Acarnanians.

48. See Demosthenes, Against Meidias, 150. Cf. also all those that Thucydides characteristically mentions, I, 5-6, for the barbarian custom that the Greeks had in earlier times, and especially I, 6, 1: " ... καί ξυνήθη τήν διαίταν μεθ΄όπλων εποιήσαντο [οι Έλληνες] ώσπερ οι βάρβαροι, σημείον δ΄εστί ταύτα τής Ελλάδος έετι ούτω νεμόμενα τών ποτε καί ες ομοίων διαιτημάτων [= ... and this way of living, to always be armed, was a custom to them, just as it is a custom to the barbarians today. So the fact that in these areas of Greece they live in this way even today, is proof that once all the Greeks lived in the same way] and I, 6, 6: "πολλά δ΄ άν καί άλλα τις αποδείξειε τό παλαιόν Ελληνικόν ομοιότροπα τώ νύν βαρβαρικώ διαιτώμενον" [= and in many other ways one would be able to prove that the Greeks in the old times lived in the same way as the barbarians of today].

49. Cf. I. Kalleris, Les Anciens Macedoniens. Etude linguistique et historique, vol. I (Athens, 1954), p. 15.

50. About the language of the Ancient Macedonians and the related theories, see N. Andriotis, Η γλώσσα καί η ελληνικότητα τών Αρχαίων Μακεδόνων [= The language and the Greek Character of the Ancient Macedonians] (Thessaloniki, 1952). Ap. Daskalakis, Ο Ελληνισμός τής Αρχαίας Μακεδονίας. Καταγωγή καί γλώσσα τών Μακεδόνων [= The Hellenism of Ancient Macedonia. Descent and Language of the Macedonians] (Athens, 1960) (= L' Hellenisme de l' Ancienne Macedoine) (Thessaloniki, 1965). I. Kalleris, Les Ancient Macedoniens. Etude linguistique et historique, vols I-II (Athens, 1954-1975). Ant. Thavoris, Ιστορία τής Ελληνικής Γραφής [= The History of Greek Writing] (Ioannina, 1983), pp. 31-48, with the bibliography. Cf. P. Kretchmer, Einleitung in die Geschichte der Griechischen Sprache (Goettingen, 1896), p. 283 et sq. and p. 415, who expressed the view that the Macedonians were a mixture of Greek and Illyrian populations, a view that is not accepted by H. Bengston, op. cit., p. 305. See also recently Η γλώσσα τής Μακεδονίας (= The language of Macedonia), collective work ed. by G. Babiniotis (Athens, 1992).

51. The inscriptions found in Macedonia increased considerably the number and variety of Macedonian proper names.

52. Cf. Ant. Thavoris, The History of Greek Writing, pp. 44-45.

53. Ibid., pp. 35-36.

54. Cf. ibid, p. 37 et sq.

55. Cf. the characteristic quotation of Theocritus, Idylls, 15, 92, where the Syracusian women, of Corinthian descent, say: " ... Κορίνθιαι ειμές άνωθεν... Πελοποννασιστί λαλεύμες. Δωρίσδειν δ' έξεστι τοίς Δωριέεσσι " [= We are Corinthian women by extraction. What we talk's Peloponnesian. I suppose Dorians may speak Doric, mayn't they? (English translation by J. M. Edmonds, The Greek Bucolic Poets, ed. Loeb., pp. 188-189). Cf. Ant. Thavoris, The History of Greek Writing, pp. 34-35.

55a. English translation in the Loeb Classical Library ed. by E. Capps - T.E. Page - W.H.O. Rome, London 1919.

56. The introduction of the Attic dialect into wider use, beginning perhaps from official documents and the royal court, must be the result of an age-old process, which was completed in the time of Philip, and not the decision of a reformer King of Macedonia; it should be placed in the more general context of the prevalence, throughout the Greek world, of the Attic dialect, which evolved in the Hellenistic koine [= common dialect]. Consequently, that which happened, and the extent to which it hapenned in Macedonia, i.e. the substitution of the Macedonian dialect by the attic dialect, is not a phenomenon particularly Macedonian: throughout Greece, at a quicker or slower pace, the Attic koine replaced the local dialects.

57. See M. Andronikos, Vergina. The Royal Tombs and the Ancient City (Athens, 1991), pp. 83-84. It should also be noticed that the finds, which the recent excavations by Prof. D. Pantermalis at Dion as well as the excavations at Pella and elsewhere, have brought to light, significantly promote our knowledge of the history of ancient Macedonia.

58. See, for example, D. Samsaris, Ο εξελληνισμός τής Θράκης κατά τήν ελληνική καί ρωμαϊκή αρχαιότητα [= The Hellenization of Thrace during the Greek and Roman Antiquity] (Thessaloniki, 1980), mainly p. 311.

to be continued.....

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