History of the Macedonian People - Cleopatra VII the Last of the Great Macedonian Monarchs
History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present
Part 12 - Cleopatra VII the Last of the Great Macedonian Monarchs
by Risto Stefov email@example.com
Cleopatra VII, one of five siblings, was born in 69 BC. After her father Ptolemy XII Auletes died in 51 BC, she, along with her twelve-year old brother Ptolemy XIII, became co-regent of Egypt. By the time of her rule, the Ptolemais had lost Cyprus, Coele-Syria and Cyrenaica. All that was left now was an impoverished Egypt, economically strapped and choked by its own bureaucracy. Her ancestors had left her a world suffering from famine and anarchy and crumbling all around. Cleopatra, however, was not discouraged and had dreams of great glories, the kind that would rival those of Alexander the Great.
This is the story of Cleopatra, the last of the Macedonian monarchs, not the Hollywood or Shakespearean version. Roman propaganda may have tarnished her reputation, Shakespeare may have brought her into the limelight and Hollywood may have made her world renowned but Cleopatra VII earned her own place in fame with her brilliance, wit and determination. As Plutarch puts it, "To know her was to be touched with an irresistible charm. Her form, coupled with the persuasiveness of her conversation, and her delightful style of behaviour - all these produced a blend of magic. Her delightful manner of speaking was such as to win the heart. Her voice was like a lyre..." (Pages 13-14, Ernle Bradford, Cleopatra, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London 1971).
The real Cleopatra was neither a raving beauty nor a voluptuary, as Hollywood would have us believe. She was passionate but never promiscuous and had the looks of a rather ordinary woman with a characteristic long Macedonian nose. She was good looking but not pretty. What she lacked in beauty, however, she more than made up for in intelligence, wit and charm.
Cleopatra was brilliant, strong-willed, quick-witted, and fluent in nine languages. She was also a mathematician and a shrewd businesswoman. She fought for her country and people and they in turn rose for her when all was lost. She had a charismatic personality, was a born leader and a very ambitious monarch. These traits, under better circumstances, would have placed her in the ranks equal to Alexander the Great. It has been said that Rome feared only two people, Hannibal and Cleopatra. She spoke Egyptian and was treated by her subjects like a living legend even after she passed on. For them she was the New Isis.
"Cleopatra was a queen. She was, as her handmaiden Charmion reminded the Romans who broke into the mausoleum where she lay dead 'the descendant of so many kings'. The whole of her life was devoted to her country, Egypt, and to attempt to preserve its national sovereignty under the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty to which she belonged. She was the seventh Egyptian queen of her name, but it is doubtful if she had any Egyptian blood in her veins. She was a Macedonian..." (Page 11, Ernle Bradford, Cleopatra, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London 1971).
Cleopatra's reign could not have come at a worse time. Between 51 and 49 BC Egypt was suffering from drought and famine and civil war broke out in Italy. To make matters worse, in late summer of 51 BC, Cleopatra pushed out her young brother as co-ruler and decided to rule alone. Unfortunately, some powerful court officials in Alexandria did not agree with her actions and ousted her in favour of her brother. Deprived of her Egyptian supporters, Cleopatra went among the Arab tribes east of Pelusium and set about raising an army. At about the same time, 48 BC, Pompey was defeated by Caesar at Pharsalus and set course for Alexandria. Pompey was an ally and Senate appointed guardian of young Ptolemy XIII, relying on Egypt for support. With his defeat, however, he was no longer held in high esteem and young Ptolemy's advisors were already warming up to Caesar. The moment Pompey set foot on the Alexandrian shore (September 28, 48 BC), Ptolemy's advisors had him murdered, his head pickled and presented to Caesar. Even though Caesar was glad to see Pompey dead, he was appalled at the sight and the circumstances of his death.
Victorious, Caesar arrived in Alexandria on October 2, 48 BC with approximately three thousand legionaries and about eight hundred cavalry. He was accompanied by twelve lectors carrying the fasces, perhaps an indication of things to come. Ptolemy's guardians may have been eager to welcome Roman dominance but the Macedonians were not and instantly began to riot. Ptolemy XIII was not there at the time was away at Pelusium defending his frontiers against Cleopatra. In his absence Caesar installed himself in the royal palace and began giving orders as if it was his own place. His victories against Pompey must have made him overconfident and coupled with his arrogance, made him careless
Faced with exorbitant demands for financial assistance, which they were not prepared to meet, Ptolemy's guardians recalled Ptolemy and his army to the court. Desperate not be left out of the talks Cleopatra had herself smuggled past the hostile lines, rolled up inside a carpet. She was delivered directly to Caesar at night by a Sicilian merchant. The following morning both Ptolemy and Cleopatra were summoned to attend a hearing before Caesar. By morning Caesar was very much captivated by Cleopatra's charm, which was her plan all along. Ptolemy, on the other hand, was quick to grasp the situation and reacted by running out of the palace screaming that he had been betrayed by his sister. Backed by his advisor guardians, Ptolemy called out to the Alexandrian mobs informing them that Caesar was planning to make Cleopatra sole ruler of Egypt and a puppet to Rome, words that were sure to inflame the situation. Before the mobs had a chance to react Caesar's guards brought Ptolemy back and Caesar himself went out and made a conciliatory speech to the crowds. When the unpleasantness was over, Caesar provisionally recognized both Ptolemy and Cleopatra as co-regents of Egypt. Additionally, he recognized Ptolemy XIV and sister Arsinoe joint co-rulers of Cyprus, even though Rome had annexed Cyprus ten years or so before. But all was not what it seemed.
No sooner had Caesar taken control of the situation than he reneged on most of his commitments. He even held Arsinoe in the palace under house arrest and would not allow her to depart for Cyprus. Meanwhile another high Roman official, Brutus from Rhodes (Caesar's future assassin) was vigorously exploiting Cyprus. Being considerably pressed by the situation, one of Ptolemy's guardians, Pothinus, decided to act. While Caesar enjoyed himself with lavish parties at the expense of the Alexandrians, Pothinus, in November 48 BC, summoned Ptolemy XIII's twenty thousand veterans from Pelusium and had Alexandria blockaded. War soon broke out (Alexandrian War) and Caesar found himself in an embarrassing and lethal situation. In one instance, having to flee and avoid capture he had to swim a moat leaving behind his purple general's cloak.
The war destroyed much of Alexandria including an important wing of the great Alexandrian library. Caesar fled and hid in the Pharos lighthouse and managed to secure access to the harbour. Arsinoe managed to escape from the palace and fled to general Achillas, one of Ptolemy XIII's guardians. The Macedonian army promptly proclaimed her queen, an act that greatly disappointed her sister Cleopatra VII. Fighting continued all through the winter until February 47 BC, when Caesar managed to extend his control to Pharos Island and recaptured the Heptastadion mole. This opened the way for re-enforcements, reportedly on their way, to enter. For his treasonous act, Caesar had Pothinus executed and Ptolemy XIII turned over to his opponents, hoping to stir up trouble in Arsinoe's camp.
On March 26th a mixed force of re-enforcements, led by Mithridates of Pergamon, arrived and rescued Caesar and his beleaguered legionaries. Ptolemy XIII fled in an attempt to escape but was captured and drowned in the Nile River. This opened the way for Cleopatra VII to return and take her rightful place as sole ruler of Egypt. To avoid complications she wisely chose to rule jointly with her eleven year-old brother, Ptolemy XIV. Arsinoe was captured, charged with high treason and placed under arrest.
After stabilizing Alexandria, Caesar did something unexpected. Instead of following the usual policy of making Egypt a province of Rome, he decided to make it his own kingdom. Perhaps he was thinking of starting his own dynasty when he sired a son with Cleopatra. This, however, could not have been strictly Caesar's idea. Caesar's plan, through his son, was to inherit the Ptolemaic throne and rule Egypt in the tradition of the Macedonians. Cleopatra's plan, however, was somewhat different. She wanted a son with Caesar so that, for the sake of his son, Caesar would safeguard Cleopatra's dynasty and protect Egypt from Rome. There was another added bonus, Cleopatra's son, being the son of Caesar, would have access to Rome and with Cleopatra's help might even have a chance at inheriting the Roman Empire. There is no doubt this was Cleopatra's plan all along.
No sooner was the business at the palace concluded than Caesar and Cleopatra took a well- deserved vacation up the Nile River. Their vacation was briefly interrupted by pressing business in Syria but Caesar was back in good time to witness the birth of his son. Ptolemy Caesar known as Caesarion was born on June 23, 47 BC. A year after his son's birth, Caesar decided it was time for him to return to Rome. He left Egypt in July of 46 BC alone and Cleopatra with Caesarion followed later. Caesar's arrival was well celebrated in Rome and he was showered with honours for his African successes. A month or so later, Cleopatra and her entourage arrived and Caesar set them up at one of his townhouses. By giving Cleopatra his personal quarters Caesar wanted to return the hospitality he received from her in Alexandria. But that was not how the Romans saw it. Caesar's compassion for these barbarians caused considerable offense among the conservative Republicans who looked down on them with disgust. The unpleasantness unfortunately turned to gossip when it was rumoured that Caesar was contemplating becoming a world emperor and a god, making Alexandria his second capital and Cleopatra his bigamous queen-goddess the New Isis. In no time Rome was buzzing with gossip, private matters became public knowledge and all of it was filtering back to Cleopatra. Even Roman intellectuals could not help but make their chauvinistic feelings known. Her air of arrogance and marriage to her young brother was all disgusting and very un-Roman. To top it all, Caesar erected a golden statue of Cleopatra in the temple of Venus Genetrix and publicly claimed paternity to his son Caesarion. His actions were leading to one inescapable conclusion "he was going to marry the wretch". Despite Roman laws against bigamy and marriages to foreigners, Caesar was actually going to marry Cleopatra. This, the Republicans found alarming but the Ides of March set their concerns to rest. In March of 44 BC Caesar was assassinated.
There are those who believe that Caesar, despite Roman disapproval, would have married Cleopatra if he had not been murdered. He would have made her empress of Rome and the Mediterranean world and would have established a Julian-Ptolemaic dynasty. Alexandria, not Rome, would have become the capital of the empire.
The Romans may have despised Cleopatra but there is no doubt that Cleopatra made a lasting impression on Caesar, who sired a son by her. He also adopted Egyptian irrigation schemes, the Egyptian solar calendar and even fashioned the Roman public libraries after the Alexandrian model. It was Cleopatra, among other things, who introduced the famous Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes to Caesar and it was Sosigenes who reformed the Roman calendar which was to last until the sixteenth century when it was again reformed by Pope Gregory.
Two weeks after Caesar's death his will was read and there was nothing in it for Caesarion or Cleopatra. Fearing for her life, Cleopatra left Rome in haste and returned to Alexandria. During Cleopatra's absence, life in Egypt had deteriorated even further. Public works projects were abandoned and the Nile canals were in need of repair. Famine and plagues were rampant due to poor harvests and neglect and social unrest was on the rise.
Upon her arrival in Alexandria, Cleopatra had her brother Ptolemy XIV assassinated and replaced him with her four year old son Caesarion as her new co-regent. She had Caesarion recognized by Caesar's former lieutenant Dolabella. For his services Cleopatra gave Dolabella Caesar's four legions, which were stationed in Egypt. No doubt she was anxious to get rid of them and this gave her the chance to do it. Dolabella, on the other hand, was grateful to her for giving him advantage over his opponents in the Roman Civil war that raged on between the Caesarians and the Republicans. Unfortunately, Dolabella's legions were taken over by Cassius, his opponent, before they had a chance to reach him. Unable to accept his failure, Dolabella committed suicide in 43 BC. While the Roman Civil war raged on, both sides where calling on Cleopatra for assistance but she kept pleading impoverishment through famine and plague. Clearly she was in favour of the Caesarians but would not commit for fear of choosing the losing side. After the two battles at Philippi in 42 BC, with the death of Brutus and Cassius, it became clear who would be the winners. Antony, Octavian and Lepidus were the men who came out triumphant and Cleopatra would now have to deal with them. Soon after the battle, Octavian became very ill and had to leave for Italy. After Octavian, it was clear that there was only one choice for Cleopatra and that would be Antony. All was not well with Antony and in 44 BC, during a brief period of supreme power, Antony had given Arsinoe, Cleopatra's ambitious sister, rule of Cyprus. In 43 BC Cleopatra had taken it back. Obviously, Antony had given Arsinoe control of Cyprus to keep the balance of power in the region but now it was uncertain how Antony would react to Cleopatra's move.
While awaiting Antony's fate, Cleopatra received news that Caesar's divinization was pronounced in Rome. On January 1st, 42 BC Caesar was officially made god and Octavian was proclaimed "Son of Divine Julius". In Cleopatra's estimation, this was good news for her son Caesarion as well.
In 41 BC Antony finally summoned Cleopatra to meet him at Tarsus. By now Cleopatra had spent considerable time learning everything there was about the man and was ready for him. Before she even met Antony, Cleopatra became familiar with his military skills, his popularity with the troops, his drinking habits, ambitions, love affairs and scores of other characteristics. She wanted to grab his attention and by putting on a splendid show she managed to do just that. The gilded poop (stern of a vessel), purple sails, silver oars, all objects of wealth and power of a blue-blooded queen made an immense impression on the man. Whatever hostilities he may have had for her evaporated and he was captivated by her elegance. Antony spent the winter of 41-40 BC in Alexandria living in luxury, content being with Cleopatra. Rumours unfortunately were circulating, most likely by Republican propagandists, that while living in her palace Cleopatra could get anything she wanted from Antony, including the execution of her sister Arsinoe. Arsinoe was indeed executed by Antony in 41 BC not because Cleopatra wished it so but because she was financing the Republican cause. After her fallout with Cleopatra, Arsinoe fled to Ephesus and turned her support to the Republicans. If rumors were true about Antony and Cleopatra then Antony would not have taken Cyprus away from her. Not long after she drove her sister out, Antony removed Cyprus from Cleopatra's control. The real story is more likely that both Antony and Cleopatra cultivated each other in pursuit of their own ends.
Antony left Alexandria in early spring of 40 BC and did not return until four years later. While Antony was away Cleopatra bore his twins, a boy and a girl. There was a turn of events for Antony at home and his popularity was declining. His relationship with his second wife was on the rocks, especially since she bore him a daughter not a son, which drove him to look eastward towards Alexandria. Cleopatra after all was a wealthy blue-blooded Ptolemaic queen who did bear him a son.
Feeling it was best to leave Rome for a while Antony took an assignment and went east. After the birth of his second daughter by Octavia, his mind was made up that he was going to pursue a relationship with Cleopatra. Octavia followed him part way on his journey but fell ill and was sent back. The way was now clear for him to pursue Cleopatra and the moment he reached Antioch he sent for her. He must have had an elaborate plan because from the moment he saw her he lavished her with gifts including Cyprus, Coele-Syria, the Cilician coast, Phoenicia, Judea and Arabia. These were vast regions rich with timber, spices and other natural resources ideal for ship building and supporting an empire. Unfortunately, the Romans took offense at Antony's actions, not only because they despised Cleopatra, but also because most of the provinces Antony disposed of were not even under his authority. Antony was about to embark on a Parthian campaign and he needed ships and supplies. With his declining popularity in Rome he could not entirely rely on the Senate to support his effort so he turned to Cleopatra. By providing Cleopatra with lands rich in timber he gave Egypt the lumber it needed to build a large fleet. Before he left for his campaign Antony acknowledged his twin children and gave them official names. The boy was named Alexander Helios and the girl Cleopatra Selene. No sooner had Antony departed than Cleopatra gave birth to another of Antony's children. But all was not well, the Parthians turned out to be a tougher opponent than expected and in 36 BC Antony suffered a humiliating defeat. Upon receiving the bad news Cleopatra rushed to his rescue. She met his army in Syria bringing them food, clothing and much needed cash. After his humiliating defeat Antony was in no mood to face Rome and in the spring of 35 BC he went to Egypt. Things turned out for the worse when Octavia attempted to assist him and he turned her down. Octavia too made an attempt to come to Antony's rescue but he ordered her not to come any further. Being rejected in favour of Cleopatra not only angered Octavia but insulted her brother Octavian, who by now was growing very powerful in Rome. Antony made no effort to reconcile his differences with Octavia or her brother Octavian, who took every opportunity to criticize him. A showdown was inevitable.
Unable to stay still, Antony embarked on another, less dangerous but profitable campaign against the Armenians. Returning rich and triumphant, Antony was paraded through Alexandria as the New Dionysus while Cleopatra portrayed herself as the New Isis. Later during another elaborate ceremony in the great gymnasium of Alexandria, Antony, sitting on a throne with Cleopatra dressed as Isis, bestowed royal titles upon his children. To rule the new territories, Caesarion or Ptolemy XV Caesar was proclaimed King of Kings and made joint ruler of Egypt with his mother. Cleopatra was proclaimed Queen of Kings. Alexander Helios dressed in Macedonian royal robes was proclaimed Great King of the entire Seleucid Empire including Parthia. Antony's daughter Cleopatra Selene was installed as Queen of Cyrenaica and Crete and the youngest son Ptolemy Philadelphus, at the age of two dressed in Macedonian royal robes, was proclaimed King of Syria and Asia Minor.
It is unclear what the motive was for bestowing such titles but Antony's actions did provoke the Romans to react. First they did not approve of the unauthorized attack on the Armenians, second Antony had no right to give away Roman territories that were not under his control. When Antony sought Senatorial approval for the lands he donated to the Macedonian monarchs, he was turned down. Egypt, in spite of its poor economic condition, was a rich country with a large population and formidable natural resources that could support an empire. As ridiculous as it may sound, with Cleopatra's help, Antony could have contemplated resurrecting Alexander's Asian Empire. After all, was there not an oracle that foretold that true harmony between East and West could be achieved under Cleopatra and Antony's biracial New Order? There is an inscription as well as minted coins issued in 34 BC that provide evidence that indeed there were plans to amalgamate the Seleucid and Ptolemaic royal houses.
Whatever his real plans may have been is uncertain but in 32 BC Antony divorced Octavia, thus forcing Rome to recognize Cleopatra as his wife. At about the same time Antony minted new Roman coins with Cleopatra's head on them, inscribed with the words "Queen Cleopatra the Younger Goddess". The new silver Dinarii coins soon became widespread and popular throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. These acts of Antony's unfortunately did not bode well with Rome and were in fact interpreted as anti-Roman. Octavian lost no time and declared war, not on Antony but on Cleopatra. Rome was convinced that Cleopatra was behind all this and somehow had bewitched Antony into doing her bidding. Cleopatra was misunderstood and undeservedly denigrated by Roman statesmen and poets alike. She was called every name in the book, even things that cannot be put in print. Antony too did not escape Roman taunts and accusations. The more serious charges included misuse of the Roman legions, acting without Senatorial authorization, giving away Roman territories that did not belong to him and so on.
There are some who believe that such behaviour was indicative of xenophobia, more specifically, some Romans feared Cleopatra and the potential danger she posed for Rome. There were many who believed that Cleopatra would triumph and give birth to a new and universal empire and that is precisely why Octavian had to intervene before it was too late.
On September 2nd, 31BC at Actium Octavian's ships, under Admiral Agrippa's leadership, engaged Antony's forces and defeated him. Determined to put an end to the Macedonian legacy, Octavian pushed for Alexandria. Humiliated by his defeat, less than a year later Antony took his own life. Cleopatra could not bear the humiliation of being captured and dragged through the streets of Rome like a slave so she too took her own life. She had her maid smuggle a poisonous asp in a basket of figs. Death by snakebite, in the Egyptian religion, was believed to confer immortality and for Cleopatra, in a way it did. Outside of Alexander the Great, also Macedonian may I add, no one has eclipsed the fascination of Cleopatra through the centuries to this day.
Caesarion was not so fortunate and died a horrible and indignant death at the hands of his butchers. Cleopatra's children by Antony, surprisingly, were spared and adopted by Antony's second wife Octavia.
By Octavian's declaration the Ptolemaic dynasty came to an end on August 29th, 30 BC. The Romans plundered Alexandria, like every other conquered Macedonian city before her, and all its riches were taken to Rome. Cleopatra's accumulated Ptolemaic wealth alone was enough to cause a glut in the Roman market which brought the Empire's interest rates from 12 to 4%.
After Actium, all Macedonian held lands and territories were annexed by Rome. Macedonia, meanwhile, after the last rebellion in 142 BC continued to exist as part of the Roman domain until antiquity. During this five-century long period Macedonia's boundaries were changed several times. The northern frontier was most vulnerable and prone to invasions. At one point, after an attack against a barbarian tribe, the northern boundary was extended to the Danube. In 27 BC Augustus declared Macedonia a Senatorial province and had its territory significantly reduced. With time, in the decades that followed, Macedonia was partitioned into territories. After Diocletian's reforms Macedonia became part of the Diocese of Moisia and at the time of Constantine it became part of the Illyrian Prefecture. At the end of the 4th century AD Macedonia was split into two provinces, Macedonia Prima with Solun (Salonika) as its capital and Macedonia Salutoris. Later on during the 5th and 6th centuries another name appeared: Macedonia Secunda with Stobi as its capital.
When Macedonia came under Roman rule the number of Italian colonists increased and a variety of barbarian tribes penetrated the region. As a Roman province, Macedonia was heavily exploited and the population was plundered by heavy taxes. The support of the Roman administration, garrisons and military campaigns fell upon the shoulders of the local population. Macedonia, in addition to being enslaved, was also obliged to provide large numbers of soldiers for the Roman auxiliary brigades.
Urban life in Macedonia, during Roman rule, existed under three distinct settings, the free cities, the colonies and the municipalities. Included among the free cities were Aegeae, Pella, Beroea, Philippi, Heraclea, Salonika, Heraclea Lyncaestis and Stobi. During the Roman period both Heraclea Lyncaestis and Stobi were important large centers situated on well-traveled roads.
Another important fact I want to mention here is that most major stormy events in the history of the Roman period had their echoes in Macedonia. The Roman civil wars, the struggle between Caesar and Pompey and the war between Brutus and Cassius all took place on Macedonian soil. Similarly, the 3rd and 4th century Roman Empire crisis, colonial relations with Christianity and barbarian penetrations, also had their roots in Macedonia.
Before I conclude with the ancient Macedonian dynasties, I want to go back in time to the era of the Seleucid Empire and examine what happened to the far-east satrapies. As I mentioned earlier, after conquering new lands, Alexander III built cities and populated them with settlers brought from Macedonia. The purpose of each city, in the short term, was to provide economic support and sustain the local military effort. In the long term these cities would fuel all military demands including the provision of soldiers for the war effort. So what happened to the Macedonian settlers after the Macedonian empires collapsed?
This is a vast subject that should be tackled on its own and will not be part of this study. I will, however, examine the conditions of the eastern Seleucid Empire after its breakaway from the Seleucid dynasty. As I mentioned earlier, Alexander III built a number of cities north of the Hindu Kush in Bactria and Sogdiana which after breaking away from the Seleucid dynasty, became the nucleus of a Macedonian civilization that lasted well into the Christian era. Contrary to popular belief that Alexander had very little impact on Indian life, there is evidence that suggests quite the opposite. For one, Alexander opened channels of communication between India and the rest of the Macedonian empires. For example, during a dig in the late 1930's the French archeologist Ghrshman while doing archeological research at Begram, the site of Alexandria of the Caucasus, discovered, among other things, imported Egyptian and Syrian objects. Included among them were glassware, bronze statuettes, bowls and other objects that could only have come from the western part of the Macedonian Empire. If the old generation of Macedonia felt confident on land and conquered by the spear, the new generation took to water and conquered by trade. The Ptolemies were masters of trade and continued to explore new markets until the Romans destroyed them. They sailed the Arabian Sea and explored the coasts of India as far as Bengal, and had traveled on to Burma, the Golden Chersonese of Malaya and beyond the Gulf of Tonkin and the southern coast of China. Even during and after Roman times, generations of the same merchants, under different flags or in the name of a different emperor, continued to trade with the Indians. According to Strabo who visited Egypt in 24 BC, when a shorter passage was found, about one hundred and twenty ships sailed from Alexandria to India each year. They came with their beautiful big ships agitating the white foam of the Indian waters, bringing with them gold, silver and copper and returned with pepper, fine textiles, perfumes, incense, jewelry, indigo and ebony ivory, tigers, monkeys, elephants, peacocks and spices of all kinds.
In time these Yavana (white European, predominantly Macedonian) traders were allowed to come and go freely. They intermingled with Indian high society bringing them not only goods made in the west but also art and culture. They were even allowed to settle and colonize parts of coastal India with trading posts that in time grew into very important trading centers.
There is also evidence that suggests that even Europe traded with India. Much of the gold that ended up in India came from the Roman coffers. During Nero's reign, the Roman economy was so disturbed by the drain of gold that the elder Pliny denounced the luxury of rich men's habits and the extravagance of Roman women that brought the empire into such financial peril. Not only did Europeans go to India to seek their fortunes, but Indians came to Europe to seek theirs. It is possible that many of these Indian traders, over time, became stranded and never returned to their ancestral lands. This could explain the presence of the Roma populations in the Balkans.
It is widely believed that the Roma are migrants from India. "To begin, Alexander opened a channel of communication between India and the Hellenistic kingdoms that was not to be closed again. Along the roads which his surveyors measured traders, artisans and ambassadors found their way from the West into India very soon after his last garrison left, and the contact they established never ceased. The great trade route to Pataliputra has remained open with very brief intervals from then until now." (Page 44, George Woodcock, The Greeks in India, Faber and Faber Ltd, 1996)
Besides introducing stone and metal working techniques to the Indians, the Macedonians taught them to mint coins and issue them as a fixed standard for trade. The use of coins stimulated trade through the passes of the Hindu Kush and brought great prosperity to the undisturbed Macedonian cities of Bactria. For many years these cities served as centers of influence both politically and culturally, clinging stubbornly to their Macedonian ways. A century later, as their populations grew, they built armies and began a southward migration over the Hindu Kush and down into the Punjab. In Alexander's name, they marched into the unconquered regions and invaded India. Their economic, political and military strength gave them confidence to break away from the Seleucids, who saw Bactria as another province to pillage, and form their own kingdom. Diodotus, the governor of Bactria, a former Macedonian soldier with no links to any of the Macedonian dynasties, assumed kingship. Diodotus and his son, Diodotus II, ruled over a large kingdom that not only included the ancient provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana but stretched from the Hindu Kush over the Oxus valley to Bokhara, Samarkand, west to Margiana and south of the Kara Kum desert to the frontiers of Parthia. Although sketchy in detail it has been said that this kingdom, with minor interruptions from the Seleucids, existed from about 260 BC to the middle of the first century BC when it was overrun by nomad migrations. The story of the Macedonian kingdom of Bactria has yet to be told. Outside of minted coins and various religious Buddhist texts very little excavation and archeological work has been done.
Bactria's isolation from the rest of the Macedonian realm forced her to look eastward and develop trade with the eastern nations including China. Even though trade with China was done through middlemen, Macedonian made objects created from the natural nickel and copper alloy were found in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Nickel was unknown to Europeans until 1751 AD. The Macedonians of Bactria were using it in 200 BC.
Another famous personality worth mentioning here who may be worthy of further study in the future is Menander, the great king of India. Menander too was a professional soldier, not of royal stock, who rose to become a fair king. He is famous for his fair treatment of his subjects and for introducing bilingual coins. Menander's kingdom was separate from that of the Bactrian and lasted for many decades, even past his death. Even though Menander's kingdom was partitioned by his successors, it remained in Macedonian hands for a very long time afterwards.
The last king to rule parts of India was Hermaeus whose reign lasted until about 40 BC, about 10 years past the Kushana and Parthian invasions. Hermaeus held out until 30 BC when he and his wife Calliope were both killed. After Hermaeus's death no king of his race ever ruled again south of the Hindu Kush. The Macedonian rulers of India may have ceased to exist but the Macedonian populations continued to live on. There is no evidence of any general or local massacre of the ordinary population after the nomad invasions to suggest otherwise. In fact there is evidence that suggests that even two hundred years after Hermaeus's death, the Macedonians and other European races in India remained numerous and formed communities that continued to issue coins in their language. It is estimated that Macedonian communities existed up until the year 200 AD, as self identifiable minorities in India. The process of dispersion was long and slow and the impressions made on the Indians were considerable. The reputation of these "all-knowing Yavanas" was undiminished for a long time. Besides their miraculous abilities to heal, the Yavanas were in great demand for their engineering expertise in war machine design and in stone, wood and metal works. Demand for the skilled Macedonian artisan was not restricted to the Indians alone, even the newcomer Parthians used them to build their commissioned works. Strange as it may sound, both the Kushana and Parthian kings used Macedonian as well as hybrid coins. Was this because they couldn't mint their own? Or was this because the Macedonian coins were more popular with the predominantly Macedonian merchant class? How far in time did the Macedonian cities, with their large merchant populations continue their traditional activities into the period of Parthian and Kushana dominion? At this point it is hard to estimate. Only through further archeological research can these questions be answered.
The greatest recorded achievement of the old Macedonian masters was the magnificent pagoda, a 638 foot high multi-storied temple, celebrated throughout the Buddhist world. At that time, the pagoda was the tallest building in the world, from its five-storied stone base to the tip of its iron pillar, with its thirteen gilded circlets crowning the thirteen wooden tiers.
The Macedonian political power in Bactria was also extinguished at about the same time as that of India which coincided with the dramatic end of Macedonian rule in Asia and Africa. It is believed that the breakup of the strong Macedonian community in north-west India was largely due to its alliance with the ruling Parthian chieftains. After the Parthians were defeated in about 150 AD by the Andhra king, Gautamiputra, they were expelled, along with their allies. Having nowhere else to go, much of the population migrated to other parts of the country. Remnants of the military class became mercenaries and soldiers of fortune. Some of this information comes to us from an inscription found on the walls of the cave temples of Nasik to the north-east of Bombay. It is interesting to note that some of the Yavanas, Sakas and Parthians retreated into the mountains and deserts of Rajasthan. Four centuries later the Rajputs emerged from this same region and played a dramatic part in the history of India. The Rajputs are believed to be a hybrid people, the ancestors of the Yavanas and their barbarian allies.
Of the mercenaries and general population that ventured deep into India, traces can be found in the furthest points in southern India. Some, including women, were recruited by the Tamil rajas. Yavanas women served as bodyguards within the palaces while the men served outdoors as guards. I want to mention at this point that the Yavanas of India, most of whom were the descendents of Macedonian soldiers and settlers, in time adopted the Buddhist religion. Even Alexander himself was intrigued by the doctrines of Buddhism and often spent considerable time discussing its merits and virtues with the naked Buddhist philosophers. It was not too long after the Macedonian masters opened their first schools of sculpting in Taxila than statues of Buddha in Yavana (Macedonian) clothing began to appear. It is believed that the colossal statues of Buddha, in present day Afghanistan, were built by the ancient Macedonian sculptors. According to Hardev Singh, even today one can find traces of the ancient Macedonian character in various remote places of India. Some still stubbornly cling on to old traditions and refuse to give them up. One can tell that they are not pure Indian from their mannerisms, their expressions, the way they drink their wine, sing their songs and lament their departed. Hardev believes that the first Macedonians that became permanent residents of India were men who started their own settlements and married local women. Because of the mixed marriages (mothers being non-Macedonian), the Macedonian language was quickly forgotten but the Macedonian rituals were performed by men and were passed on from generation to generation. Some of these rituals are very unusual and bear no resemblance to Indian traditions but are closely related to the Yavana of old.
The first century BC brought profound change in the political structure of power from northern India to Egypt and it also brought the extinction of the centuries old Macedonian ruling dynasties. The end of Macedonian rule did not facilitate the end of Macedonian culture in these regions. Far from it, once established, the Macedonians continued to live on among the native populations permanently naturalizing their customs and culture. At least in India, a great deal of the original political and administrative structures established during ancient times were adopted by the Indians and some remain unchanged to this day. If I may also add, it was the early Macedonians right after Alexander's time who introduced the Indians to their present day calendar, including the division of the week into seven days, one named after the sun and one after the moon. The Macedonian civilization exercised immense prestige not only in Asia and India but in Rome as well. Rome herself was very much infatuated with Macedonian art, architecture, sculpture, etc. that in time she too developed a Macedonian culture. Despite popular beliefs to the contrary, the Macedonia language and culture were never extinguished during the Roman period. Latin may have been the official language of the Roman Empire but the Macedonian koine remained the international language of trade and commerce throughout the world. Even the three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, where written not in Latin but in the Mediterranean koine language. After the split of the Roman Empire, the Eastern Empire did not revert to using the koine language, as some would have us believe, but simply ignored the Latin.
To be continued...
And now I will leave you with this...
Recently I had the pleasure of viewing a pre-recorded live telecast from one of the major Greek television networks discussing Macedonian minority issues in Greece. I am going to be honest with you and admit that I could not watch more than ten minutes at a time without experiencing deep frustration and anger. After a few attempts at watching, "I could take no more" and gave up. There is no place where I can begin to rationalize what I saw. The so called "Macedonian Expert" in the program insisted that there is no Macedonian minority in Greece and there is no such thing as a Macedonian language. She explained that the Macedonian nation was created by Tito as a plot to usurp Macedonia from Greece and the Macedonian language was a Bulgarian creation remnant of the 19th century Bulgarian Exarchate Church in Macedonia.
One has to be from a different planet and have total amnesia to believe the venomous drivel that came out this program. Why do Greeks waste their time putting such garbage on television? Who are they trying to fool?
I don't want to ramble on but I do want to set the record straight!
Contrary to popular belief, it is the Greek nation that is a creation and not the Macedonian one. Let's examine the facts.
1. Greece was created for the first time in 1829 by the Great Powers from remnant parts of the Ottoman Empire for the purpose of stopping Russia from gaining access to the Mediterranean waters. Macedonia on the other hand, since ancient times has been called Macedonia and has always had clearly defined borders.
2. When created, Greece was given an artificial character, a two thousand year old pagan culture and a dead and foreign language. Macedonia on the other hand has its own unique culture and has always used its natural language that goes back to prehistoric times. The so called "non existent Macedonian language" is the original and natural language spoken by the Macedonian people for many centuries.
In many ways, Greece is like the United States of America. The USA is a multinational, multiethnic modern country created where one never existed before. Americans speak the English language as well as their own ethnic languages (Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, etc., etc.). The Americans adopted an existing language, as the language of their country. Similarly, Greece is a multinational, multiethnic modern country created with artificial boundaries encompassing various nationalities of people who speak various languages. Instead of adopting one of the existing languages however, Greece opted for artificially resurrecting an ancient dead language.
The difference between Greeks and Americans is that an American recognizes and will admit to his or her true ethnicity. No American would ever pretend that he or she is a descendant of the ancient Americans (except of course for the indigenous people). Greeks on the other hand, would not admit to their true ethnicity and insist that their country is homogeneous and that the entire population is Greek. In spite of mass importation of Asians and assimilation of many other nationalities, including Macedonians, the Greeks insist that they are descendents from the ancient Greeks. To this day Greece is importing people from various places, including the former Soviet Union, but its constitution recognizes only one nationality, the artificially created Greek!
Isn't it time to put an end to this charade???? You are embarrassing yourselves!!!!
Alexandar Donski, The Descendants of Alexander the Great of Macedon The Arguments and Evidence that Today's Macedonians are Descendants of the Ancient Macedonians (Part One - Folklore Elements), Shtip/Sydney - 2004.
E. E. Rice, Cleopatra, Sutton Publishing, UK 1999
A History of the Macedonian People, Institute of National History, Macedonian Review, 1979, Skopje.
Ernle Bradford, Cleopatra, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London 1971
M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, London, Cambridge University Press, 1981
F.W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World, Fontana History of the Ancient World, Fontana Press, 1992.
Peter Green, Alexander to Actium, The Historical Evolution of the Hellenic Age, University of California Press, Berkley Los Angeles, 1990.
Peter Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, Macdonald Phoebus Ltd, 1981.
F.E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism A History of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the Triumph of Christianity, Simon and Schuster, 1970.
George Woodcock, The Greeks in India, Faber and Faber Ltd, 1996.
Parts of the information on the ancient Macedonians of India is based on an interview with Hardev Singh, who believes he is a descendant of the ancient Macedonians of India.
You can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org