Friday, July 6, 2007


The Age of Alexander

All ancient writers have something unique to contribute. Here, one will find a number of cited references concerning the ancient Macedonians.

[In Plutarch The Age of Alexander, noted by J.T.Griffith]


"Alexander was born on the sixth day of the month Hecatombaeon, which the Macedonians call Lous, the same day on which the temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned down." [p.254]


Alexander was only twenty years old when he inherited his kingdom, which at the moment was beset by formidable jealousies and feuds, and external dangers on every side. The neighboring barbarian tribes were eager to throw off the Macedonian yoke and longed for the rule of their native kings: As for the Greek states, although Philip had defeated them in battle, he had not had time to subdue them or accustom them to his authority.

Alexander's Macedonian advisers feared that a crisis was at hand
and urged the young king to leave the Greek states to their own devices
and refrain from using any force against them. [p.263]

(Alexander chose the opposite course)
Did Plutarch say Philip "united" the Greek states or "defeated" them in battle?

Alexander returns from the campaigns at the Danube, north of Macedon.

When the news reached him that the Thebans had revolted and were being supported by the Athenians, he immediately marched south through the pass of Thermopylae.

'Demosthenes', he said, 'called me a boy while I was in Illyria and among the Triballi, and a youth when I was marching through Thessaly; I will show him I am a man by the time I reach the walls of Athens.' [p.264]

"Thebans countered by demanding the surrender of Philotas and Antipater and appealing to all who wished to liberate Greece to range themselves on their side, and at this Alexander ordered his troops to prepare for battle."

'To liberate Greece' from whom? From the Macedonians? But today's Greeks claim that the Macedonians were Greeks? Either Plutarch is mistaken, or else the Modern day Greeks have got it wrong.

Alexander asks a women, who was being taken captive, who she was, she replied: 'I am the sister of Theogenes who commanded our army against your father, Philip, and fell at Chaeronea fighting for the liberty of Greece.'

Wasn't it unification of Greece by Philip? How strange, every time ancient Greeks fight for the liberty of Greece, Macedonia and the Macedonians are on the opposite side.

There is a story that on one occasion when a large company had been invited to dine with the king, Callisthenes (Alexander's biographer) was called upon, as the cup passed to him, to speak in praise of the Macedonians. This theme he handled so eloquently that the guests rose to applaud and threw their garlands at him. At this Alexander
quoted Euripides' line from the Bacchae On noble subjects all men can speak well. 'But now', he went on, 'show us the power of your eloquence by criticizing the Macedonians so that they can recognize their shortcomings and improve themselves.' Callisthenes then turned to the other side of the picture and delivered a long list of home truths about the Macedonians, pointing out that the rise of Philip's power had been brought about by the division among the rest of the Greeks, and quoting the verse

Once civil strife has begun, even scoundrels may find themselves honoured.

The speech earned him the implacable hatred of the Macedonians, and Alexander noted that it was not his eloquence that Callisthenes had demonstrated, but his ill will towards them. [p.311]

Alexander's letter to Antipater in which he includes Callisthenes in the general accusation, he writes: 'The youths were stoned to death by the Macedonians, but as far as the sophist I shall punish him myself, and I shall not forget those who sent him to me, or the others who give shelter in their cities to those who plot against my life.' In those words, at least, he plainly reveals his hostility to Aristotle in whose house Callisthenes had been brought up, since he was a son of Hero, who was Aristotle's niece.' [p.133]

Cassander's fear of Alexander 'In general, we are told, this fear was implanted so deeply and took such hold of Cassander's mind that even many years later, when he had become king of Macedonia and master of Greece, and was walking about one day looking at the sculpture at Delphi, the mere sight of a statue of Alexander struck him with horror, so that he shuddered and trembled in every limb, his head swam, and he could scarcely regain control of himself.' [p.331]

Was Macedonia a Greek land, or is it the other way around?

'It was Asclepiades, the son of Hipparchus, who first brought the news of Alexander's death to Athens. When it was made public, Demades urged the people not to believe it: If Alexander were really dead, he declared, the stench of the corpse would have filled the whole world long before.' [p.237]

Lamian War 323-322 is also known as the "Hellenic War" by its protagonists. The Greeks, the Hellenes, were fighting the Macedonians led by Antipater at Lamia.

[Modern day Greeks would like to dispatch off Demosthenes castigations of Philip II as political rhetoric, and yet Demosthenes was twice appointed to lead the war effort of Athens against Macedonia. He, Demosthenes, said of Philip that Philip was not Greek, nor related to Greeks but comes from Macedonia where a person could not even bye a decent slave. 'Soon after his death the people of Athens paid him fitting honours by erecting his statue in bronze, and by decreeing that the eldest member of his family should be maintained in the prytaneum at the public expense. On the base of his statue was carved his famous inscription:

'If only your strength had been equal, Demosthenes, to your wisdom
Never would Greece have been ruled by a Macedonian Ares' [p.216]

[Greece "ruled" not "united" by Macedonian Ares]

"While Demosthenes was still in exile, Alexander died in Babylon, and the Greek states combined yet again to form a league against Macedon. Demosthenes attached himself to the Athenian convoys, and threw all his energies into helping them incite the various states to attack the Macedonians and drive them out of Greece." [p.212]

The news of Philip's death reached Athens. Demosthenes appeared in public dressed in magnificent attire and wearing a garland on his head, although his daughter had died only six days before. Aeshines states:

"For my part I cannot say that the Athenians did themselves any credit in putting on garlands and offering sacrifices to celebrate the death of a king who, when he was the conqueror and they the conquered
had treated them with such tolerance and humanity. Far apart from provoking the anger of the gods, it was a contemptible action to make Philip a citizen of Athens and pay him honours while he was alive, and then, as soon as he has fallen by another's hand, to be besides themselves with joy, trample on his body, and sing paeans of victory, as though they themselves have accomplished some great feat of arms." [p.207]

"Next when Macedonia was at war with the citizens of Byzantium and Perinthus, Demosthenes persuaded the Athenians to lay aside their grievances and forget the wrongs they had suffered from these peoples in the Social War and to dispatch a force which succeeded in relieving both cities. After this he set off on a diplomatic mission, which was designed to kindle the spirit of resistance to Philip and which took him all over Greece. Finally he succeeded in uniting almost all the states into a confederation against Philip." [p.202]

"The maladies and defects in the Greek scene of the fourth century were not hard to find. But its great and overriding merit is summed up in the word 'freedom.' With allowance made for the infinite variety promoted by
so many independent governments, Greece was still broadly speaking a free country. This freedom was threatened and in the end extinguished by the coming of the great Macedonians." [p.8]

[In Plutarch The Age of Alexander, noted by J.T.Griffith]

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