Greeks and Macedonians by E. Badian 04

That these facts (fortunately for us) can be documented, for the period just after Alexander's death, by a late but reliable source is variously helpful to the historian. First, it throws much-needed light on the difficulties that Greeks had in commanding Macedonian infantry. Philip II, we remember, is not known to have employed any. Presumably, the first-generation Greek immigrants into his cities had not learned the language. Ambiance, however, is notorious for the trouble he repeatedly had in getting Macedonian infantry to fight for him, even though he was one of the ablest of the Successors. We can now see that his disability was not only his Greek birth, as has always been realized, but the simple fact that he could not directly communicate with Macedonian soldiers. His alien culture and provenance were not only obvious in an accent: it was a matter of language. In the end, he therefore lost his bid for power and his life. We also learn--and this is where this discussion started--that although Alexander's Greek companions (or at least some of them) did know the language, having come to Macedonia at an early age, Alexander never tried to impose Greek on his Macedonian infantry or to integrate it with Greek units or Greek "foreign" individuals.

Above all, however, this helps to explain how, half a generation after Philip's revival of the Macedonian king's claim to eminent Greek descent had been accepted at Olympia and his efforts to integrate his court had been bearing fruit, Greek opponents could still call not only the Macedonian people, but the king himself, "barbarian." In this respect, nothing had changed since the days of Archelaus. The term is in fact more than once used of Philip by Demosthenes, most notably in two passages. In one, in the Third Olynthiac (3.24), he claims that a century ago "the king then in power in the country was the subject [of our ancestors], as a barbarian ought to be to Greeks." In the second, a long tirade in the Third Philippic (9.30 f.) , he claims that suffering inflicted on Greeks by Greeks is at least easier to bear than that now inflicted by Philip, "who is not only not a Greek and has nothing to do with Greeks, but is not even a barbarian from a place it would be honorable to name--a cursed Macedonian, who comes from where it used to be impossible even to buy a decent slave." This, of course, is simple abuse. It may have nothing to do with historical fact, any more than the orators' tirades against their personal enemies usually have. But as I have tried to make clear, we are not concerned with historical fact as such; we are concerned only with sentiment, which is itself historical fact and must be taken seriously as such. In these tirades we find not only the Hellenic descent of the Macedonain people (which few seriously accepted) totally denied, but even that of the king. It is not even mentioned merely in order to be rejected: the rejection is taken as a matter of course. Now, the orator clearly could not do this, if his audience was likely to regard his claim as plain nonsense: it could not be said of a Theban, or even of a Thessalian. The polite acceptance of the Macedonian kings as Hellenes ruling a barbarian nation was still not totally secure: one would presumably divide over it on irrational grounds, according to party and personal sentiment--as so many of us still divide, over issues that are inherently more amenable to rational treatment.

As regards the Macedonian nation as a whole, there was (as far as we can see) no division. They were regarded as clearly barbarian, despite the various myths that had at various times issued from the court and its Greek adherents, perhaps ever since the time of Alexander I, and demonstrably ever since the time of Perdiccas II. This comes out most clearly in a well known passage by one of Philip's main supporters, the apostle of panhellenism, Isocrates. The passage is so important that it must be quoted in full in a note. Some time not long after the Peace of Philocrates, the orator congratulates Philip on the fact that his ancestor, had not attempted to become a tyrant in his native city (i.e., Argos), but "leaving the area of Greece entirely," had decided to seize the kingship over Macedon. This, explains Isocrates, shows that he understood that essential difference between Greeks and non-Greeks: that Greeks cannot submit to the rule of a monarch, live without it. It was this peculiar insight that enabled Philip's ancestor to found a firmly established dynasty over a "people of non-kindred race." He is described (with pardonable exaggeration, for it is unlikely that Isocrates was deliberately contradicting similar claims by other dynasties that had by then arisen: see above) as the only Greek who had ever done so.

Whether Philip was entirely happy about this we cannot know. As we have seen, he had made every effort to reconcile and integrate Greeks the Macedonians. But the passage provides the necessary background to the fact that even Philip had not tried to pass off his Macedonians as Greek and had been perfectly content to accept membership of the Delphic Amphictyony as a personal gift, just as, in due course, he never tried to make his Macedonians members of the Hellenic League. Meanwhile, he was hoping to leave the final settlement of the problem to the future: alexander was to prepare the way for fuller integration than could at present be attempted or claimed. We have no idea of what Macedonians, on the other side of this fence, thought of this whole issue: no Macedonian oratory survives, since the language was never a literary one. But that the feeling of a major difference (obviously, the Macedonians"), of their being "peoples of non-kindred race," existed on both sides is very probable. for one thing, the language barrier would keep it alive, even though the literary language of educated Macedonians could only be Greek. That fact was as irrelevant to ordinary people (and perhaps even to those above the ordinary level) as was the Hellenic cultural polish of the Macedonian upper class that has been revealed to us in recent years. The artistic and cultural koine of much of eighteenth-century europe was French; indeed, upper class German ladies might confess that it was the only language they could write. Yet not all of them, by any means, were even Francophile, and none of them felt that they were French. The reaction to a Greek "court philosopher,' or perhaps--if we can believe at least the outline of the story--the anger of Clitus: these help to document feelings in the very class that, as we now know, was culturally conspicuous for Hellenism. But like many prejudices, these feelings of antagonism are most clearly seen among ordinary people--whether the Athenians who applauded Demosthenes' tirades or ordinary Macedonian soldiers; and not only those who deserted Ambiance.

Alexander himself, with that basic tact that (at times surprisingly) links him to his father, had not tried to force military integration on his Greeks and Macedonians. both were useful to him as they were. Having monopolized the market in Greek mercenaries, he forced them to settle in the northeastern frontier region of the empire, in a ring of colonies that was to ensure its military safety. Even before his death, when he had disappeared into India and there were apparently rumours circulating that he would never return, some of the conscripts in those colonies started on the long migration home, and at least some of those who did were successful. As soon as he was safely dead, many thousands of them banded together for the long march back, through areas held by hostile Macedonians and inhabited by natives perhaps equally hostile to both. Of course, this movement had little to do with national antagonism on the mercenaries' side. It was a revolt against Alexander's despotism, which in the instance had happened to be aimed at Greeks. The fact that in the final battle a large contingent betrayed their comrades and deserted to the Macedonians shows that (as centuries before in the battle of Lade) national antagonism was by no means pervasive, and was perhaps not at all prominent. However, a Macedonian army under Pithon did defeat the rebels. Pithon, no doubt recognizing their immense value for the empire as a whole, persuade them to go back to their posts, assuring them personal safety in return. Yet, contrary to his oath, seventeen thousand Greeks were cut down, after surrendering their arms, by the enraged Macedonians, and Pithon could not stop them. The patent needs of the empire and the oath of their commander were swallowed up in the explosion of what we can only regard as the men's irrational hatred for their Greek enemies. The effect of the massacre on the later history of the region cannot be assessed; but it must have been considerable. The rebellion at the eastern extreme of the empire thus helps us document Macedonian antagonism toward Greeks. Correspondingly, rebellion at the other end documents Greek feeling about the Macedonians. Perhaps rebellion had been brewing even before. but it was in any case the immediate result of Alexander's disappearance. Once more Athens rallied the Greeks to freedom, and once more she found many followers. The war, known to us (and to some ancient sources) as the Lamian War, was described by it protagonists as "the Hellenic War." The term speaks for itself, at least concerning the feelings of those who used it. In a wider Greek theater, where love of Greek freedom was not easily given up, and where (just as in earlier) despotism was still equated with barbarian rule, the spirit we find in Demosthenes' oratories was thus confirmed.

In fact, these two rebellions at the two extremes of the empire were the only ones for a long time. It was (significantly) only Greeks, whether professional soldiers or mere Greek citizens, who showed enough spirit to challenge what they felt to be the foreign domination. But that they in fact did so shows that at this time the gap between Greeks and Macedonians was by no means bridged. The work of the Argead kings who had long tried to work toward bridging it, and the work of Alexander who was himself the result of the long process (though, as we saw, he did not try to force it on beyond what was acceptable), was to take perhaps another century to reach fruition. Perhaps it was not fully completed until both parties became conscious of their unity, as it had by then developed, in contrast to a conqueror from the barbarian West.


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