Macedonia, with its precipitous and abrupt mountains,
forming natural barriers and making communication with the rest
of Greece difficult, could not participate very actively in the
political, cultural and social life of the other Greeks. For this
reason the Greeks in the south, did not very well mix with the
Greeks in the north, i.e. with those in Macedonia. Up until King
Philip II’s era, there were no significant contacts and conflicts
between Macedonian Greeks and the rest of the Greek City-States
in the south. The endeavor of King Alexander I to protect the
Greek City-States from the eminent Persian danger, obtained him
the title of “Philhellene” by the southern Greeks. “Philhellene”
at that time had the connotation of “Philopatris” (he who loves
his fatherland) and was bestowed to those Greeks, who were not
just concerned with their own City-State’s welfare, but they displayed
Pan-Hellenic anxieties. It should be remembered that, in spite
geographic accessibility problems, which restrained intermingling
of Macedonians and the rest of the Greeks in the south:
• Macedonians had
the same language, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians had the same religion, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians used the same architecture, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians served the same arts, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians used the same names, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians had the same traditions, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians had the same myths, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians had the same heroes, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians had the same rituals, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians had the same customs, as all other Greeks
• Macedonians were Greeks.
Macedonians, through their agrarian and bucolic lives,
their mountainous terrain, their continuous struggles to keep
at bay barbarians from raiding the Greek peninsula and their intermittent
internal struggles for succession to the Throne of Macedonia,
ended up being rather isolated from the rest of the Greeks. They
held on to their traditions, but their cultural development was
not very significant. The cultural distance between the southern
Greek City-States and Macedonia was quite substantial, because
Athens did not have to play the protecting role of keeping the
northern raiders off the Greek land. Macedonians bore that responsibility.
Dr. Apostolos Daskalakis in his book The Greeks of Ancient Macedonia
states: “If the Macedonians had not become the shield, protecting
the lands beyond Mount Olympus by the continuous barbarian attacks,
the Greek element would not be preserved uninterrupted for so
many centuries. Had the Greek City-States in the south not remained
for centuries undisturbed by invaders, Hellenism could had never
reached the elevated thought about freedom, arts, philosophy and
sciences, which were universally inherited by humanity.
The without doubt culturally more advanced academic
and artistic world of southern Greece, did not stay indifferent
to this new venue towards the land of Macedonian. Thus a multitude
of men of letters, arts and sciences found fertile ground amongst
Macedonians. By the 4th century BCE this assimilation was complete.
The enormous economic prosperity of the Macedonian State and able
leadership of its Kings, became contributing factors towards collective
changes, with innovative creations in all aspects of artistic
endeavors; especially in metallurgy, painting and architecture.
Such Arts became the archetype later on for the Romans, as it
is evident even today in the city of Pompey, Italy.
This wide move of the center of Hellenism from the
southern to the northern part of the Greek peninsula, began with
the emergence of the Macedonian King Philip II. His conquests
and at the same time the decline of the Greek City-States in the
south, caused a sensation of envy and dissatisfaction to the other
Greeks, especially to the citizens of Athens, which formed the
hub of public opinion at the time, against the, in some ways,
“uncultivated” Greeks of Macedonia. All the insults about “barbarian”
Macedonians did not originate by philosophers, poets or other
authors, but by political Athenian orators.
The Athenian politician-orator Demosthenes, King Philip’s
main opponent, speaking to the Athenians, said: “…aren’t all our
powerful locations placed in the hands of this man? Will we not
suffer the most awful humiliation? Are we not already at war with
him? Isn’t he our enemy? Isn’t he in possession of our lands?
Isn’t he a barbarian? Doesn’t he deserve all this name-calling?”
Demosthenes, in his speech, spoke with human anger against an
opponent. When he called King Philip “barbarian”, he did not mean
that Philip was “not Greek”. This was taken for granted, since
in his Olynthian II oration, Demosthenes praises the State of
Macedonia. At the same time Demosthenes could not call anyone
a “barbarian”, given that his own origin was “barbarian”. Aeschinus,
in his oration against Ktisiphon, calls Demosthenes “libelous”,
because he is “barbarian” by his Scythe mother and only a “Greek”
Macedonian King Alexander I, lover of Arts and friend of poet
Pindar, participated in the 80th Olympiad of 460 BCE. He competed
in the “Stadion” field event and was placed close second to the
first runner. His participation marked not only the beginning
of the involvement of Macedonians in the Olympics, but it also
constituted the foundation of future Macedonian interaction with
the other Greeks and, furthermore, had very far reaching effects
on the future of Hellenism.
Macedonians, who participated in the Olympics at Olympia,
were as follows:
• King Alexander I, in the 80th Olympics, in 460 BCE. He run the
“Stadion” and was placed very close second.
• King Arhelaos Perdikas,
competed in the 93rd Olympics, in 408 BCE and won at Delphi the
race of the four-horse chariot.
• King Philip II was an Olympic champion
three times. In the 106th Olympics, in 356 BCE, he won the race,
riding his horse. In the 107th Olympics, in 352 BCE, he won the
four-horse chariot race. In the 108th Olympics, in 348 BCE, he
was the winner of the two colt chariot.
• Cliton run the Stadion in the 113rd
Olympics, in 328 BCE.
• Damasias from Amphipolis won in
the Stadion in the 115th Olympics, in 320 BCE.
• Lampos from Philippi, was proclaimed
a winner in the four-horse chariot race in the 119th Olympics,
in 304 BCE.
• Antigonos won in the Stadion race,
in the 122nd Olympics, in 292 BCE and in the 123rd Olympics in
• Seleucos won in the field-sports
competition in the 128th Olympics in 268 BCE.
• During the 128th Olympics, in 268 BCE and in the 129th Olympics,
in 264 BCE, a woman from Macedonia won the competition. Pausanias
mentions that: “…it is said that the race of the two-colt chariot
was won by a woman, named Velestihi
from the seashores of Macedonia”.
Pausanias mentions the Philippeion in Olympia: “In
the grove there is the Records Building and an edifice called
Phippeion…Philip built it after the battle at Chaeroneia…there
are statues of Philip, of Alexander and Amyntas…there are pieces
that were made of ivory and gold carved by Leoharus, just like
the statues of Olympia and Euridice”. Also Pausanias points out
that various statues were made by order as oblations and he mentions
that: “representing the Macedonians, the inhabitants of Dion,
a city by the Macedonian Pieria mountain range, had a statue made,
which portrays Apollo holding a deer”.
During the Vergina excavation a tripod was found,
which is kept at the Museum of Thessaloniki, and carries the inscription:
“I come from the Argos athletic competitions, the Heraia”. According
to Archeology Professor Andronikos, the tripod belonged to the
Macedonian King Alexander I and it was a family heirloom.
King Arhelaos I (413-399 BC) established in Dion magnificent
athletic competitions every two years “the Olympian Dion”, which
lasted nine days, as it corresponded to the nine Pierian Muses,
originating from the Macedonian mountain range Pieria. During
these events ancient tragedies were presented. Arhelaos I organized
the Macedonian Army, structured a transportation system and transferred
the Capital from Aiges to Pella. In his court lived the tragic
poet Agathon, the epic poet Horilos, the dithyramb writer Timotheos,
the tragic poet Melanipidis and the doctor and son of Hippocrates
Thessalos. Tragedian Euripides composed his tragedies Arhelaos
and Bachae right in Arhelaos’s court. Euripides died and was buried
Three ancient Theaters were discovered in Macedonia;
one is at Dion, dating back to the 5th century BCE; the second
is at Vergina (Aegai) – 4th century BCE and the third at Philippi.
Ancient plays used to be performed in these Theaters. At the Dion
Theater, Euripides’ Bachae and Arhelaos were introduced for the
first time. Some experts believe that Iphigeneia in Aulis was
presented there. The theme of the play Arhelaos is associated
with the migration of the Argive Timenidis, Prince of Macedonia
and founder of the Royal House of Aegai. These tragedies, played
in these Theaters, were written in the Greek language, since they
were intended for Greek audience, the Macedonians.
Dion, the sacred place of Macedonians, is one of the
largest (about 4 acres) and most archeologically significant districts
of Greece, featuring multifarious bath areas, taking up about
1 acre, with tiled floors, marble bathtubs, complete plumbing
system (led and clay pipes) and lavish colonnaded tiled halls.
A fact that has been overlooked is that Dion was also the center
of intellectual competitions and therefore the birth place of
the cultural Olympics.
The “Hellenistic Era” is an enormous issue and it
could be appropriately illuminated, only if Universities create
chairs and research it fully. We could also become more knowledgeable
of the influence King Alexander the Great had on Islam, which
according to Dr. Constantine Romanos, is the missing link in the
History of Civilization. All ancient authors refer to the impact
of the Hellenistic cultural and intellectual thinking that was
passed on by the Macedonians to the peoples of the Far East.
Plutarch mentions that: “All of Asia, civilized
by Alexander the Great, was reading Homer and Euripides’ as well
as Sophocles’ tragedies”. It is not by coincidence that the Koran
refers to Alexander the Great as Prophet. Jews have adopted his
name. Buddhists worshipped him as equal to God. Saint Vasileios
the Great and Saint Nectarios promote Alexander and his deeds.
Diodoros points out: “…the enemies were compelled by the victor