DDr. Stephen G. Miller's response to Dr. Tompkins' comments. 03/03/09r. Stephen G. Miller's response to Dr. Tompkins' comments. 03/03/09

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Dr. Stephen G. Miller's response to Dr. Tompkins' comments. 

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Response to Dr. Dan Tompkins re: "Letter to Archaeology"

Although I am away from my library and cannot provide
precise citations for the following, some of the
statements in the essay by Dr. Tompkins deserve a
prompt response.

1) "Brunwasser's report in Archaeology magazine nowhere
claimed that Alexander and his family were "Slavic.""

If the people of Skopje are claiming that Alexander is
their ancestor, aren't they claiming that he and they
have the same ethnicity? Perhaps I misread the Archaeology
article: are the people of Skopje claiming that they
are Greek?

2) "On Alexander, the problem for anyone who reads
Professor Miller's source, Herodotus (Books 5, 8 & 9),
is that the family, going back to Alexander I during the
Persian invasion, is one that exploits its status as
a border people."

Dr. Tompkins appears to think that the behavior of
Alexander I during the Persian invasion is, in some way,
a reflection of his ethnicity. But the reader of
the books of Herodotus he mentions (as well as Book 7)
will note that several city-states "medized" and did not
support the Greek efforts against the invaders. Has
anyone ever questioned whether the Thebans or the Argives
(for example) were therefore not Greeks?

3) "If Herodotus' account is, in fact, literally true..."

Such an implicit question about the veracity of Herodotus
is, I fear, characteristic of some current trends of
scholarship which attempt to identify prejudices in our
ancient authors and to analyze those authors' motivations.
Such efforts can all too easily result in decisions about
what we will believe and what we won't believe. For me,
Herodotus had the benefit of eye-witness accounts of the
events he described and as a primary source is much more
to be trusted than modern interpretations of what he ought
to have written. I do not feel comfortable with a methodology
that relies on secondary scholarship to the exclusion of
the primary evidence of the ancient author.

Indeed, Dr. Tompkins acknowledges this "pick and choose"
method of scholarship further on in his note: "whether
Alexander's account is "true" or wildly improbable,
depends upon the reader." It ought rather, I believe,
to depend upon the ancient author and what he wrote to us.

4) "... then the only people in Macedonia of certain Greek
blood would be the members of this immigrant royal family,
not the rest of the Macedonians."

I have read this or similar statements repeated by many
modern authors, but I do not know the evidence upon which
it is based. It would be welcome to know that evidence.
The existence of a royal house and a commons does not mean
ipso facto that they were of different ethnic groups. Were
the helots of Sparta or the penestai of Thessaly not Greek?

Finally, I hope that I have not misunderstood Brunwasser's
sympathies. It seems to me that he was making a political
statement in referring to the ancient land of Paionia as
Macedonia, and in posing in front of a modern statue of
Alexander with a Slavic inscription.

Stephen G. Miller
March 3, 2009