Friday, July 6, 2007

Ulrich Wilcken

Perusing through Ulrich Wilcken's book "Alexander the Great" we find on p. 22 the following passage:

"The beginnings of Macedonian history are shrouded in complete darkness. There is keen controversy on the ethnological problem, whether Macedonians were Greek or not."

P. 22, line 4: "Linguistic science has at its disposal a very limited quantity of Macedonian words, and the archaeological exploration of Macedonia has hardly begun."

Page 167 line 5, we find: (Describing the all familiar episode with Cleitus)

"He shouted in Macedonian for his hypaspists, and ordered the trumpeter to sound the alarm". (The most revealing point in Alexander's psyche; the time when he felt that conspiracy against his life is in the making, when he felt his life is in danger, forgetting his "Hellenic" mask, he shouts in his native Macedonian language. Yes, indeed, a very revealing point. Stripped from any artificiality, and pretentiousness, he reverts to the most instinctive/primitive response and shouts to his guards in Macedonian language.)

Line 6. "And yet when we take into account the political conditions, religion and morals of the Macedonians, our conviction is strengthened that they were Greek race and akin to the Dorians."

Let us take a closer look:

(a) Religion transcends borders and ethnicity. I find this argument weak but have included it in fairness. As for politics, Greeks did not live in a kingdom, nor did Macedonians live in city-states.

p. 187, line 15, we read the following passage referring to his advances to the Hyphasis:

"Alexander built twelve great tower-like altars on the nearer side of the river. We have been informed by those who refer everything to Babylonia, that this was for the twelve signs of the zodiac. In reality it was the twelve gods of Macedonia to whom these altars were raised."

p. 170, line 31 we find: (Referring to the conspiracy involving the royal pages, the sons of Macedonian nobles. These royal pages who "waited on the king's person", were brought, and tried, in front of the Macedonian army, and consequently executed by stoning. By the way, these royal pages were tutored by Callisthenes.)

"As Callisthenes was a Greek, there was no question of trying him by the Macedonian army."

[He, Callisthenes, a Greek, cannot be tried by the Macedonian army. Is this not a political differentiation based on ethnic classification or national separation?]

for on p.171, line 33, we see the following reference:

"On the march and in battle he was just the same as ever, he (Alexander) was the king of the Macedonian nation, who shared with them the unspeakable fatigues, and the hunger and thirst of this guerrilla warfare."

(c) "Morals"?

This must be the weakest link of the three. As it was indicated above, people who inhabit same geographical area, share common borders and fight common enemies, and most of all, trade with each other, sooner or later, they are not only going to borrow from one another, imitate each other's styles (to a certain extent), but even steal ideas from each other. That is, surely, inevitable. Nevertheless, the morals of the ancient Macedonians were quite different from those of the ancient Greeks. They were not branded "barbarians" for nothing.

Line 20, p. 22. Referring to the episode of Alexander I who desired to take part in the Olympic Games, to which only Hellenes had access to:

"He was at first refused as a barbarian, and it was only when by a bold fiction he traced back the pedigree of his house, the Argead, to the Herald Temenids of Argos, that he was admitted as a competitor."

Line 28, p. 22 and cont. on p. 23.

"Even in Philip's day the Greeks saw in the Macedonians a non-Greek foreign people, and we must remember this if we are to understand the history of Philip and Alexander, and especially the resistance and obstacles which met them from the Greeks. The point is much more important than our modern conviction that Greeks and Macedonians were brethren, this was equally unknown to both, and therefore could have no political effect."

This is same Wilcken who previously stated that:
"When we take into account the political conditions, religion and morals of the Macedonians our convictions are strengthened..."

Now, after further consideration of the existing conditions in the fifth and fourth century BC, he, Wilken, states:
"The point is much more important than our modern conviction that Greeks and Macedonians were brethren, this was equally unknown to both, and therefore could have no political effect."

[so much for consistency...]

Line 37, p.23 "A strong Illyrian and Thracian can thus be recognised in Macedonian speech and manners. These however are only trifles compared with the Greek character of the Macedonian nationality; for example, the names of the true full-blooded Macedonians, especially of the princes and nobles, are purely Greek in their formation and sounds".

[But how do we know how the Macedonians themselves referred to each other. This assumption is based on Greek sources for the names...but I'm being fair.]

Line 4 on p. 26 we find the following statement:

"The Macedonians were thoroughly healthy people, trained not by Greek athletics, but, like the Romans, by military service."

Line 9, p. 26 reads:

"The dislike was reciprocal, for the Macedonians have grown into a proud masterful nation, which with highly developed national consciousness looked down upon the Hellenes with contempt. This fact too is of prime importance for the understanding of later history."

[Note: If in fact the ancient Macedonians were regarded as Greeks, like the Thebans, Athenians, Spartans and the other city-states of Greece, why do not find any Greek city-state elevated as a nation. Is the usage of "Macedonian nation" by Wilcken and others accidental? He uses the terms "Macedonians and Greeks" repeatedly throughout his book. Obviously, he finds a strong need to differentiate between these two peoples.

This differentiation is obvious in the following passages: p.69, line 26, p.128, line 28, p.129, line 21, p.150, line 12, p.168, line 32, p.169, line 2, p.193 line 11, p.177, line 3, etc.]

Line 8, p. 44, we follow:

"Philip was the Hegemon, the federal general, selected for life by the congress. His kingdom of Macedon naturally did not belong to the Hellenic League..."

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