History of the Macedonian People - Rise of the Macedonian Empire

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 4 - Rise of the Macedonian Empire

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

Besides the Athenians, Perdiccas now had three more enemies. Arrhabaeus was still alive and well and prepared to attack from the north. The Spartans, upset with Perdiccas, were preparing to attack from the south and the fierce Illyrian mercenaries were loose in his kingdom.

What was Perdiccas to do?

Perdiccas considered his situation carefully and decided to go to the Athenians for help. He was certain that Athens would welcome his alliance just to counter the meddlesome Spartans. Sure enough, the Athenian generals in Chalcidice accepted Perdiccas's offer but not without conditions. For securing an alliance, Perdiccas had to provide Athens exclusive rights to his timber industry and join her in fighting the Peloponnesians. Perdiccas hesitantly accepted and honoured the agreements.

As for Arrhabaeus, Athens offered him a friendship agreement and a chance to reconcile his differences with Perdiccas. The Spartans on the other hand, after losing financial backing from Perdiccas and Arrhabaeus, scaled down their campaigns. Additionally, Perdiccas used his influence and persuaded Thessaly not to allow any more Spartan reinforcements to pass through.

The deal Perdiccas received from Athens may seem skewed in Athens favour, but it had its advantages for the Macedonian king. Athenian presence maintained peace and stability in the region and with the loss of Amphipolis, Macedonia became the main supplier of timber for the large Athenian market. I couldn't find any information as to what happened to the Illyrian mercenaries, but I am certain that after losing Arrhabaeus's support, they went back to Illyria.

All through the first phase of the Peloponnesian war, Perdiccas kept his alliance with Athens and tried not to become embroiled in Athenian affairs. But in 421 BC Athens reached a peace agreement with the Peloponnesians and regained control of parts of her northern empire. Although the Peloponnesians sanctioned the agreement, the Chelcidicians, who preferred autonomy to occupation, did not. Refusal of the agreement brought the war back and the region was again engulfed in hostilities. The war lasted until Amphipolis gained her independence. Perdiccas meanwhile, managed to stay aloof and avoided becoming involved in the conflict.

With peace in place, Athenian power was again on the rise, which troubled Perdiccas. But Perdiccas was not the only one troubled. Sensing Athenian assertiveness in the north, in 418 BC, Sparta attempted to counter Athens by recruiting Perdiccas into a Macedonian-Peloponnesian alliance. Athens, on the other hand, had hoped for an Athenian- Macedonian alliance. The prospect of losing Perdiccas, especially to the enemy, infuriated the Athenians. Athens was counting on Macedonian help to aid her fleet in challenging the Chelcidice coalition.

In view of the Spartan offer, Perdiccas considered his options carefully and decided to join the Peloponnesian alliance.

As punishment, in the winter of 417 BC, Athens blockaded the southern Macedonian coast and stopped all shipments of lumber. The blockade didn't hurt Macedonia as much as it did Athens, so in 414 BC a new arrangement was reached and Macedonia and Athens once again became allies.

Perdiccas died a year later and was succeeded by his son Archelaus in 413 BC. Archelaus's reign, which lasted approximately fourteen years from 413 BC to 399 BC, was a little more stable than that of his father. Unlike his father, Archelaus remained loyal to Athens, which gave him a firm market for his timber industry and the security he needed to take care of business at home. Archelaus maintained his father's policy with regard to the Lyncestians and Illyrians along the western frontier and managed to keep them at bay. Along the eastern frontier, the absence of Athenian influence and the decline of Thracian power granted Archelaus an opportunity to gain control of Basaltia and its valuable mines.

Due to political and social changes in Thessaly, Archelaus was given the opportunity to intervene on behalf of the ruling faction for which he was awarded Larisan citizenship and the lands of Perrhaebia, an important strategic location to the west of Olympus which connects Macedonia to Thessaly.

As for internal changes, Archelaus made improvements to roads, built fortresses in the countryside, fortified entry points into Macedonia and modernized his army. But most importantly, Archelaus is credited for moving the Macedonian principal city from Aegae to Pella. Aegae still remained a royal city but Pella became a royal residence for Archelaus and an administrative and military centre for his kingdom.

The main reason for making Pella the principle city was its strategic location within the Macedonian kingdom. "The largest of the Macedonian towns in classical times, Pella, was constructed on a low plateau where Mt. Paiko merges with the marshland of the central plain, and where the route of the Via Egnatia hugged the northern edge of the swamps. Pella might have been (or had) a seaport, as the head of the Thermaic Gulf extended some distance into the plain in those days. Pella's strategic position lying across the main east-west route near the west bank of the Axios gave it an importance surpassed only by Salonica at a later time." (Pages 41-42, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Archelaus chose Pella to be his principle city because it gave him easy access to the many waterways which would provide him passage to a wider area than just the central Macedonian plain. Pella was built by design, laid out on a grid plan, using blocks approximately 100 meters by 50 meters. Archeological excavations of the site have revealed "a series of elaborate private houses, in which were discovered the well-wrought floor mosaics... These large pebble mosaics, which formed the floors of rooms and passageways of Pella's villas, depict a variety of scenes, including Dionysus riding a panther, a lion hunt, an Amazonomachy, and a magnificent stag hunt..." (Page 170, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

The move to Pella was the first step on the road to greatness for Macedonia. Pella was becoming an impressive Macedonian political, military and cultural showcase, which in time would become the birthplace of Alexander III, the greatest conqueror that ever lived to earn the title "Great".

I would like to mention at this point that Archelaus is also credited with establishing the uniquely Macedonian Olympic festival that took place at Dion in honour of Zeus and the muses. Dion was an important place where Macedonians participated in their own Olympic games, dramatic contests and celebrated many of their religious rites.

Archelaus was accidentally shot during a hunting accident in 399 BC and died of his wounds. His premature death cast the Argaed house into chaos for almost six years after which Amyntas III surfaced as the leading figure who would rule Macedonia next. Amyntas III was the great grandson of Alexander I.

The shakeup of the Macedonian kingdom due to the early and unexpected departure of Archelaus, was a signal for Macedonia's enemies to make their move. Just barely on the throne, in 394 BC, Amyntas found himself at odds with the Illyrians. Ever since the incident between Perdiccas II and Arrhabaeus of Lyncestia, Illyrian-Macedonian animosities had been on the rise. The situation climaxed in 394/93 BC when a powerful Illyrian force attacked and invaded Macedonia, driving Amyntas off his throne and out of his kingdom.

Only with a great deal of diplomacy, land concessions and Thessalian help did Amyntas appease the Illyrians, allowing him to regain his throne. As it turned out, the Illyrians raided Macedonia for her booty not political gain, which was common practice in those days.

Amyntas was lucky this time but his enemies were too numerous to allow chance to guide his fate so he worked hard to establish an alliance with his immediate neighbours to the southeast, the Chalcidic cities. The treaty, signed in desperation, seemed one-sided favouring the Chalcidic cities. It was, however, necessary for Amyntas, if Macedonia were to survive.

Free to help themselves to Macedonian timber and pitch, the Chalcidic cities grew wealthy and powerful with each passing year.

Feeling uncomfortable by this unfair alliance and by the steady buildup of Illyrian power, Amyntas was not happy with the Chalcidians and felt compelled to seek new allies.

In 386 BC, he made his move and through his adopted son, who was married to the daughter of a prominent Thracian chief, Amyntas established contact with the Thracians.

Sensing the Macedonian-Thracian alliance, the Illyrians bypassed Macedonia and made their move against Epirus. In 385 BC the Illyrians attacked Epirus, unaware that they would provoke a Spartan counterattack. Sparta was quick to react and invaded the region. This bold move became worrisome not only to the Macedonians but also to the Thessalians who soon would become willing partners to a Macedonian-Thessalian league.

Having secured his western boundaries, Amyntas now turned his attention to the greedy Chelcidic cities. Having greatly benefited from this unfair alliance, the Chelcidites were not enthusiastic about breaking it off. When Amyntas turned to the Spartans for help he found them to be willing partners. An allied Spartan force under Spartan leadership was dispatched from Sparta and arrived in the vicinity in the spring of 382 BC. With some Macedonian and Thracian assistance, the Spartans attacked the Chelcidic League but were unable to subdue it. The Spartan commander called for reinforcements and in 381 BC the attack was renewed and by 379 BC the Chalcidic League was dissolved.

Athens and her allies did not approve of the Spartan presence in Chalcidice, so within a year or so a new and more powerful anti-Spartan alliance was formed. Being clever enough not to be caught on the losing side, Amyntas slowly withdrew from the Spartan alliance and began to draw closer to Athens. The new relationship not only strengthened Macedonian security but also brought back an old and dependable timber and pitch customer. Unfortunately, there was never a "good" relationship with the "Greeks" without a catch. Soon after establishing ties with Macedonia, Athens demanded that Amyntas support her claims for control of Amphipolis. This called for a total reversal on the long-standing Macedonian position, which had always been in support of an independent Amphipolis. Giving Athens control of Amphipolis was a disaster waiting to happen for Macedonia's economic and political interests.

Having left his kingdom's affairs unsettled, Amyntas III died in 370 BC (perhaps assassinated by his former wife?) leaving his throne to his eldest son Alexander II. "The decade of the 360s plunged the kingdom of Macedon into a new dynastic crisis, intensified by continuing external threats. Early in his reign, Alexander was forced to buy off the Illyrians, although it is problematic whether he also gave his younger brother, Philip (the future Philip II), over as a hostage." (Page 189, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Hammond believes that Philip was an Illyrian hostage before he was turned over to the Thebans. Borza, however, believes that the chronology of events does not support this occurrence.

The new Illyrian campaign against Macedonia did not start until after the winter of 370/69 BC. "Within a year (368, by Hammond's own chronology) Philip had been shipped off as a hostage to Thebes. It seems unlikely that Prince Philip would have been shunted around so (what prompted the Illyrians to give him up?), the chronology is too tight, and our best sources for Philip, Diodorus, gives mixed signals to the matter of an Illyrian hostageship. Griffith (HM 2: 204 n. 5) also has some doubts about Philip in Illyris." (Page n 189, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Young Alexander did not have enough experience to maintain a strong and stable kingdom, or to secure any permanent alliances. He was given a chance in Thessaly but he couldn't make it work.

Experiencing internal problems, the feuding royal families of Thessaly turned to Macedonia for help. Alexander intervened, occupied Larissa and restored one of his former allies to the throne. This, unfortunately, disappointed another ally to whom Alexander had also promised the throne. While unable to secure peace by diplomacy, Alexander continued to occupy Thessaly by force. Discontent with Alexander's inability to resolve the impasse, the faction in power abandoned Alexander and turned to the Thebans for help. The Thebans accepted without hesitation and brought a force to drive Alexander out. Unable to resist, Alexander withdrew from all Thessalian territory.

Dissatisfied with his inability to rule and especially with the way he handled the Thessalians, Alexander's position as ruler was challenged at home by Ptolemy. Being unable to resolve the challenge, Alexander agreed to bring in an outside arbitrator. On Ptolemy's request, the arbitrator chosen was a Theban commander, the same Theban commander who drove Alexander out of Larissa.

The dispute was eventually resolved in Alexander's favour but not without a price. To ensure Alexander would not take action against his rivals or renew activities in Thessaly, prominent members of his family, including his younger brother Philip II, were taken to Thebes to be held hostage. Philip at the time was only thirteen years old.

Even though he was secure back on his throne Alexander's problems, unfortunately, were not yet over. He was assassinated while taking part in a festival. Ptolemy of course was suspected since he had the most to gain.

Alexander II died in the spring of 367 BC and the rule of Macedonia was passed on to Ptolemy.

A woman named Eurydice, it is believed, was allegedly involved in plotting Alexander's assassination. During the investigation it was noted that before Alexander's death, Ptolemy and Eurydice closely collaborated and may have planned Alexander's deposition. When that failed, they conspired to have him assassinated.

Just to give you an idea of who this woman was, her mother was the daughter of the Lyncestian king Arrhabaeus and her father was Sirrhas, an Illyrian tribal chief. Eurydice was the wife of Amyntas III from an arranged marriage. Her relationship to Ptolemy is unknown (perhaps a lover?) but she was instrumental in his rise to power.

Eurydice's deeds, even though disreputable, have been etched in the history of the Macedonian royal court as the acts of a strong willed woman who wished to rule.

It goes to show that unlike their neighbours to the south, the Macedonians showed respect and admiration for their women both as leaders and as equals. In fact the Macedonians were vastly different from those to the south when it came to customs, culture and mannerisms. "The Macedonians were a thoroughly healthy people, trained not by Greek athletics, but, like the Romans, by military service. But alongside much that was good, they had many rougher habits,... which tended to make them appear as barbarians in Greek eyes. The dislike was reciprocal, for the Macedonians had grown into a proud masterful nation, which with highly developed national consciousness looked down upon the Hellenes with contempt." (Page 26, Ulrich Wilcken, Alexander the Great).

Alexander's death seemed like an easy victory for Ptolemy, but in actual fact it was not. Ptolemy's relations with Eurydice, a known troublemaker and a suspect in the plotting of her own husband's assassination landed him in hot water. Even though Ptolemy was a legitimate heir to the throne, the way he achieved his appointment upset many Macedonians. New challengers rose to the task and for the next three years the kingdom was in turmoil.

One of the more serious challengers was an exiled Macedonian named Pausanius. He put together a small army and occupied parts of central Macedonia. Unable to drive him out, Ptolemy and Eurydice called on Athens for support. Eager to regain influence in the north and hoping to regain access to Amphipolis, Athens accepted the challenge and helped Ptolemy drive Pausanius out of Macedonia.

Another challenge came from a faction loyal to the dead Alexander who called on the Thebans for support. Losing no time, the powerful Thebans invaded Macedonia and forced Ptolemy into an undesirable alliance imposing more conditions on his kingdom and taking more hostages. One good thing that came out of this alliance was the breakup of Macedonian relations with Athens putting an end to Athenian ambitions in Amphipolis and in the north.

Ptolemy died in 365 BC, probably assassinated by Perdiccas, Amintas III's second son who became the next ruler of Macedonia.

Soon after Perdiccas III was installed ruler of Macedonia, he brought back his younger brother Philip from Thebes. Philip was sixteen years old at the time.

Since the Spartan defeat in 371 BC, Theban power was on the rise and by 365 BC it was formidable enough to challenge the Athenian navy at sea.

Being a Theban ally under these conditions had its advantages. In exchange for Macedonian timber, Thebes was willing to provide long-term guarantees of security for Macedonia as well as protection of her frontier interests, especially against Athenian interference in Amphipolis.

Athens however, wasn't at all phased by this Theban generosity and had some plans of her own.

When a formidable Athenian naval force made its presence in the Thermaic Gulf and began to seize Macedonian ports and threaten the sovereignty of Macedonia, Perdiccas quickly gave in to the Athenian will. When informed that Thebes was about to attack the Athenian fleet, Perdiccas reconsidered and withdrew his support for Athens. Furthermore he reverted back to opposing Athenian desires for Amphipolis. The expected Theban naval attack unfortunately never materialized but that didn't stop Perdiccus from continuing to oppose the Athenians anyway.

Just as the war started to stabilize in the southern frontier, a serious Illyrian attack materialized from the north drawing Perdiccas's army into a second conflict. With his forces divided Perdiccas bore the full brunt of two fronts. His army, well trained and equipped, could have met the challenge. Unfortunately, Perdiccas's luck ran out and he was killed in one of the battles.

Perdiccas III died in 360 BC defending his homeland and like his father before him, left his kingdom in disarray. It was now up to his younger brother Philip to make things right.

Philip II replaced his brother Perdiccas III as ruler of Macedonia in 360 BC.

Philip was well aware that in order for Macedonia to achieve peace and economic prosperity she needed to free herself from outside interference and from the constant bickering and infighting. Philip was also aware that this was only possible through a strong defense.

It is my belief that historians misunderstood Philip II. Given the weakness of his kingdom and his experience in a world of turmoil, Philip's only desire was for the security of his kingdom. By his actions and not by the words of others, we can see that Philip's early ambitions were not of conquest but of defense. His idea of achieving security and peace was through building a protective zone or buffer all around his kingdom. What made Philip truly great was the fact that he achieved this economically and in a relatively short period of time.

By his actions alone one can see that Philip had no ambition to "unite" the Greeks but rather to extinguish their desire to interfere in his affairs. Philip knew that by destroying his enemy's ability to wage war, his enemy would no longer be a threat to him.

At this point I would like to digress for a moment and take the opportunity to analyze some other issues.

We have been repeatedly bombarded with information, mainly from Modern Greek propaganda sources, that the ancient Macedonians spoke a Greek language, worshipped Greek Gods etc., and as such were Greeks.

Trivial as this may sound, there are people today who still subscribe to this idea. Since we have no genuine data to concretely dispute them and almost all the information that we have is derived from Greek or Latin sources, we have no choice but to challenge them purely on merit.

Given that our basic understanding of the ancient Macedonians comes from non-Macedonian sources that had little or no understanding of Macedonian affairs, makes such claims questionable and perhaps biased.

Since Modern Greece occupied Macedonian territory in 1912-1913 no Macedonian has ever been allowed to conduct archeological research. Greek authorities control all archeological discoveries; the very sources of data needed to conduct such studies. Any new evidence that may surface is automatically scrutinized and is either hidden or distorted to protect Greek interests.

With regard to the ancient Macedonians speaking a Greek language, I offer you this:

If 19th century archeologists were to dig in Macedonia instead of Greece, and if they were to find inscriptions written in the language of the ancient Macedonians, would they have called it Greek?

If the same archeologists continued digging in Greece and Egypt and found the same language spoken there as well, would they have called it Greek?

The logical answer, of course, would be no! They would have realized their error and called it a "common" language to all three nations.

In my estimation it is more accurate to state that "besides speaking their own languages, the more enlightened of the ancient people, including the Macedonian royalty, also spoke a 'common' language or 'lingua franca' if you prefer".

It is more accurate therefore to state that "Koine" was not a "Greek" but rather a "common" language or "lingua franca", spoken by the various educated and enlightened people.

Modern Greeks make such outrageous claims not because they are interested in the pursuit of truth but rather because it serves their political interests. Given that the Modern Greeks have vested political interests in the ancient Macedonians would naturally make their claims dubious at best.

The real question however, is not what language the royal Macedonian families spoke but rather what language did the common ancient Macedonians speak?

To find out I will again take you back to Dura-Europos, this time to 3 BC,


3 B.C.

This inscription on a slab of stone is ascribed by scholars to 3 B.C.

Division and Alphabetization:






"Your nose, yours, having smelled the pederast, spoke to you. Your nose itself, and not mine, said to me that it is yours that prefers women."


NOS - "nose"

TOJ - "yours, your" - TOJ, for the literal TVOJ, is dialectally still very much in use.

JE - auxiliary to DIO (DJAV) to form the past tense

SMRDOT - "having smelled" - If we insert the Italian

MERDA - or French MERDE ("shit") for the

punctuated O, the Indo-European SMERHD -

"stink" ensues to odorize the Venetic.


- "pederast, professional sodomite" - in Greek

DIO - "said, spoke" - The dialectal variant now is DJAV

- "said, spoke" which is here governed by the

auxiliary JE above.

DO - "to, at, towards"

TOJ - "you" - The form is very archaic and dialectal and

no longer in use. DO TOJ in current usage would be described by TEBI or TI in the genitive case and not via a preposition.

TOJ - "your, yours"

DA - "that, but" - Here it means "but not" together with NI, however, in the sense of "and not." This is still the literal form.

NI - "no, not" - still exactly the same literally and dialectally

MOJ - "mine" - exactly the same literal and dialectal form

MI - "me, to me" - still the same dialectally and literally

DIO - "said, spoke" -see supra - It is governed by the auxiliary JE, which follows three words later.

TOJ - "your, yours"

AL - "but, and, or" depending on context

JE - auxiliary to DIO which is not repeated but the meaning is clear that the nose was very emphatic in saying it itself by repeating JE.

SAN - "itself, the one, the very one" - The present literal form SAM still has dialectal SAN echoes. (Prekmurje)

D' - "that" - Dialectally this is still current.

ROJ - "would rather, likes, prefers" - The current literal and dialectal usage is RAJ.

GYNAIKOS -"woman" in Greek]

(Pages 81-83, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany, a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms).

The meaning of the inscription is not as important to us as the language in which it is written. Granted these are not words of wisdom but they are clearly of Venetic (Slav) origins.

The following quotation was taken directly from Anthony Ambrozic's book "Gordian Knot Unbound".

I decided to include this in its entirety to give you a glimpse of Ambrozic's work. My main motivation however, was to show you that he makes a connection between the Old Phrygian and Early Thracian on one side and the Pelasgic, Etruscan, and Venetic languages on the other.

Here is what Ambrozic has to say:



Even though the transcriptions for the Early Thracian and the Old Phrygian inscriptions by Vladimir Georgiev, Claude Brixhe, and Michel Lejeune have, with minor exceptions, been accepted in both Part I and Part II of this study, a dilemma in respect to several characters in each group stands out begging for answers. The | | symbol for N in the Kjolmen inscription is the most glaring. No other alphabet of the time has it. Not the Pelasgic, nor the Etruscan, Old Phrygian or Greek, nor the Venetic. Plainly and simply, it is unique to that inscription, which, incidentally, is the oldest of the five Early Thracian passages. In the same vein, the Early Thracian and Old Phrygian sigmoid S and snaking S have no ancient counterparts.

The inverted ) character, to which Georgiev incorrectly ascribes the value of a gamma, is found also in the Palasgic and the Etruscan alphabets, where it has the sound value of a C. The Venetic mirrors it in the symbol >.

The symbol I, prominent especially in the Ezerovo inscription, and according to Georgiev having a Z sound value, is not repeated in either the Kjolmen Z (i.e. in Zesasan) nor the Duvanli one. However, we find the same character in the Pelasgic alphabet, and as a variant, in the Etruscan (single vertical bar with two horizontal crossbars).

Again, the Pelasgic and the Old Phrygian contain the symbol (PSI) for H (and G on occasion). The Greek PSI approximates it but has a different sound value. On rare occasions, the Old Phrygian and the Etruscan make use of the arrow (the Old Phrygian pointing up and the Etruscan pointing down). However, each assigns different sound value to it. And lastly, the Old Phrygian and the Dura-Europos 8s resonate with the same sound value in the Venetic (fat 8).

From the foregoing a tangible connection between the Old Phrygian and the Early Thracian on one side and the Pelasgic, Etruscan, and Venetic on the other is established. This confluence brings into question the conventional wisdom that the source of early writing had its origins only in the Middle East. It insinuates the need for reexamining assumptions heretofore regrettably far too often taken for granted.

If the Pelasgi, the ancient pre-Hellenic peoples, who occupied Greece before the 12th century BC, and who were said to have inhabited Thrace, Argos, Crete, and Chalcidice, had their own alphabet, it unquestionably predated the alleged import of the Greek from the Phoenician. And again, to quote the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1973-74 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 1, p. 624), if the Etruscan alphabet had been the prototype for the Greek, we can not look upon the Greek as having been the precursor of either the Early Thracian nor the Old Phrygian. Both of these appear to have too many home-grown elements.

Concrete evidence for such reevaluation comes from excavations of the Vincha culture sites in the Balkans itself. The archeological site at Banjica (near Belgrade), in particular, is of significance. According to the C-14 method, its artifacts have been assessed as dating no later that 3473 BC. This makes the script found there 373 years older than the Proto-Sumerian pictographic script. (See Radivoje and Vesna Pesic, Proceedings of the First International Conference, "The Veneti within the Ethnogenesis of the Central-European Population," Ljubljana, 2001, p.66).

Indeed, Vesna Pesic, the co-author of the above article, has made a comparison study of the Vincha script with the known ancient scripts. The number of identical letters in the said comparison scripts was as follows:

1. The Brahma script -5

2. The Cretan Linear A - 4

3. The Cretan Linear B - 2

4. The West Semitic -8

5. The Old Phoenician -10

6. The Cyprian - 9

7. The Palestinian - 7

8. The Old Greek - 12

9. The Anglo-Saxon Runic - 4

On page 67 Pesic concludes as follows: "The comparison of the Vincha and Etruscan scripts is very interesting; the complete Etruscan alphabet is totally identical with the Vincha script."

According to Pesic, it had been the sea-faring, merchant rivermen, the Veneti, who had disseminated the Vincha script to the Etruscans as early as the end of the second millenium BC. The Veneti at this time are attested to have existed not only on the great bend of the Danube, but also on the Morava, Timok, and Vardar (69). In fact, the etymology of several toponyms in the area points directly to them. They join a host of others named after them. Invariably found along the waterway turnpikes of the ancient world, these range from as far afield as Vannes on the Atlantic to Banassac on the Lot, and Venice on the Adriatic. We find them on the lower Tisza in Banat, down the Morava to the river banks of northern Thrace, where Herodotus records them in the 5th century BC (I, 196). ] (Pages 85 to 87, Anthony Ambrozic, Gordian Knot Unbound).

With regard to ancient names, I want to inform you that in South-Western Macedonia, there is a tributary running into the River Bistritsa named "Veneticos". This tributary is located about ten kilometers southeast of the city of Grevena in southwestern, geographical Macedonia. The tributary lies south of Kostur (Orestikon), inside the heartland of what once was prehistoric Macedonia. Could this be a coincidence or a sign of Venetic presence in prehistoric Macedonian origins?

With regard to Macedonians worshiping Greek gods or worshiping the same gods as the Greeks, I offer you this:

Gods by definition do not belong to a race but rather to a sect of people sometimes encompassing many races and cultures. Worshiping the same gods as the Greeks, does not make the ancient Macedonians Greek.

The following quote was taken from John Shea's book "Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation". It is included here in order to provide you with an alternative to the modern point of view regarding the ancient Greek language and religions.

"Linguistic evidence and the ancient model. Bernal provides evidence in support of his view that Egyptian and Phoenician elements were powerful in the development of ancient Greek culture. He notes that it is generally agreed that the Greek language was formed during the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries B.C. Its Indo-European structure and basic lexicon are combined with a non-Indo-European vocabulary of sophistication. He argues that since the earlier population spoke a related Indo-European language, it left little trace in Greek; thus the presence of that population does not explain the many non-Indo-European elements in the later language. Bernal suggests that it has not been possible for scholars working in the Aryan model over the last 160 years to explain 50 percent of the Greek vocabulary and 80 per cent of proper names in terms of either Indo-European or the Anatolian languages supposedly related to "pre-Hellenic." Since they cannot explain them, they simply call them pre-Hellenic.

Bernal suggests to the contrary: that much of the non-Indo-European element can be plausibly derived from Egyptian and West Semitic and that this would fit very well with a long period of domination by Egypto-Semitic conquerors. He claims that up to a quarter of the Greek vocabulary can be traced to Semitic origins (which for the most part means the Phoenicians), 40 to 50 percent seems to have been Indo-European, and a further 20 to 25 percent comes from Egyptian, as well as the names for most Greek gods and many place names. Thus 80 to 90 percent of the vocabulary is accounted for, as high a proportion as one can hope for in any language.

Bernal argues that the Indo-European component of the Greek lexicon is relatively small. There is a low proportion of word roots with cognates in any other Indo-European language. Further, the semantic range in which the Indo-European roots appear in Greek is very much the same as that of Anglo-Saxon roots in English, another culture strongly influenced by invaders (in this case, the French-speaking Normans). These roots provide most pronouns and prepositions, most of the basic nouns and verbs of family, and many terms of subsistence agriculture. By contrast, the vocabulary of urban life, luxury, religion, administration, political life, commercial agriculture and abstraction is non-Indo-European. Bernal points out that such a pattern usually reflects a long-term situation in which speakers of the language which provides the words of higher culture control the users of the basic lexicon. For example, he claims that in Greek the words for chariot, sword, bow, march, armor, and battle are non-Indo-European. Bernal explains that river and mountain names are the toponyrns that tend to be the most persistent in any country. In England, for instance, most of these are Celtic, and some even seem to be pre-Indo-European. The presence of Egyptian or Semitic mountain names in ancient Greek would therefore indicate a very profound cultural penetration. Bernal presents many examples of these and notes that the insignificant number of Indo-European city names in Greece, and the fact that plausible Egyptian and Semitic derivations can be found for most city names, suggest an intensity of contact that cannot be explained in terms of trade.

Bernal maintains that when all sources, such as legends, place names, religious cults, language and the distribution of linguistic and script dialects, are taken into account alongside archaeology, the ancient model, with some slight variations, is plausible today. He discusses equations between specific Greek and Egyptian divinities and rituals, and the general ancient belief that the Egyptian forms preceded the others, that the Egyptian religion was the original one. He says that this explains the revival of the purer Egyptian forms in the fifth century B.C. The classical and Hellenistic Greeks themselves maintained that their religion came from Egypt, and Herodotus even specified that the names of the gods were almost all Egyptian.

Using linguistic, cultural, and written references, Bernal presents interesting evidence connecting the first foundation of Thebes directly or indirectly to eleventh-dynasty Egypt. He argues that both the city name Athenai and the divine name Athene or Athena derive from Egyptian, and offers evidence to substantiate this claim. He traces the name of Sparta to Egyptian sources, as well as detailing relationships between Spartan and Egyptian mythology. He says that much of the uniquely Spartan political vocabulary can be plausibly derived from late Egyptian and that early Spartan art has a strikingly Egyptian appearance. For Bernal, all these ideas link up with the Spartan kings' belief in their Heraklid - hence Egyptian or Hyksos - ancestry, and would therefore account for observations such as the building of a pyramid at Menelaion, the Spartan shrine, and the letter one of the last Spartan kings wrote to the high priest in Jerusalem, claiming kingship with him.

Bernal claims that there has been a movement, led mainly by Jewish scholars, to eliminate anti-Semitism in the writing of ancient history, and to give the Phoenicians due credit for their central role in the formation of Greek culture. A return to the ancient model is less clear with regard to Egyptian influence. However, Bernal proposes that the weight of the Aryan model's own tradition and the effect of academic inertia have been weakened by startling evidence showing that the Bronze Age civilizations were much more advanced and cosmopolitan than was once thought, and that in general the ancient records are more reliable than more recent reconstructions. He believes the ancient model will be restored at some point in the early twenty-first century. For our purposes it is sufficient to note that even the current acknowledgment of the significance of Phoenician influence in the formation of ancient Greek culture indicates some of the ethnic mix that made up ancient Greece". (Pages 81 to 83, John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation).

There is one more item I would like to mention before I continue with Philip's story. Unlike the ancient Greeks who despised everything foreign, the ancient Macedonians on many occasions adopted other peoples' customs, religions and ideas in order to enrich their own. This was most prevalent and well documented during Alexander's exploits to the east. Wherever Alexander went he took with him craftsmen, philosophers, poets, physicians, etc. Wherever Alexander found people of skill and wisdom, whom he admired, he sent them back to Macedonia.

It is grossly misleading to state that the ancient Macedonians were just mere conquerors.

From what the ancient authors (Diodorus Liculus) tell us, Philip was no ordinary man. When he was taken hostage to Thebes he was only thirteen years old and yet at that young age he was more interested in the affairs of the Theban government and military than playing with his peers.

At age fourteen, Philip studied the equipment and tactics of the Theban army including those of the elite Sacred Band. Becoming eighteen in 364 BC, he was given a force of Macedonians to command.

After Perdiccas's death, Philip was recalled to the Macedonian court where he was given the position of leader of the military. "Philip knew the Macedonians as soldiers and they knew him, when they elected him not as king (that office having been given to Amyntas IV, the infant son of Perdiccas) but as guardian and deputy of the king as commander-in-chief." (Page 58,Nikolas G.L. Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia).

There is some disagreement between Hammond and Borza with regard to Philip's appointment. Borza (and others) believe that Philip may have been appointed king and not guardian to Amyntas.

In any case, it was Philip who took over the reign from Perdiccas and who prepared his army to defend his kingdom. With the Illyrians, Paeonians, Thracians and Athenians poised to invade no one would have predicted what was going to happen. But as Diodorus tells us, Philip dealt with all issues directly.

Philip's first act as ruler was to buy off the Paeonians and Thracians. To deal with the Athenians however, Philip had to learn to use his famous diplomatic charm.

Athens had a long-standing ambition to possess Amphipolis; her motives were made very clear. Reassuring that he would not interfere in her affairs, bought Philip some time to continue reorganizing his military and building his power.

After some success in his reorganization, Philip got the chance to test his troops in action. During the spring of 358BC the Paeonian king died and an opportunity to secure the northern frontier presented itself. A short campaign gave Philip a decisive victory and a secure northern frontier.

The invading Illyrians were next on his list as he approached them with a warning to vacate western Macedonia. Perched atop the western mountains of Lyncus, the fierce Illyrians were confident they could hold their own and ignored Philip's warnings. In fact they were so confident of a victory that they made Philip a counteroffer "peace for status quo". Philip was not amused and a battle ensued.

Equally matched, the Macedonians fought bravely and decimated the Illyrian army giving Philip another victory. "The antagonists were equally matched, each side fielding about 10,000 foot, with the Macedonians maintaining a slight edge in cavalry, 600 to 500. More than 7,000 Illyrians lay dead on the field, according to our source, Diodorus." (Page 202, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Was this overwhelming victory a result of Philip's superior military training, his tactics or simply Illyrian overconfidence? In my estimation, at this point in time, it was a combination of all three. This victory against a feared opponent not only saved Macedonia but also gave Philip and his military the needed confidence to take on more formidable foes.

Philip wasted no time and began his reorganization the day he took over running his kingdom.

Despite what historians may claim, I believe Philip's main motivation for rebuilding his military was to create a formidable and lasting defense barrier around his kingdom. The Macedonia Philip inherited was surrounded by warlike, aggressive tribes who desired conflict. Philip's vision was to achieve peace through strong defense. To do that he had to subdue the aggressive elements all around his kingdom and ensure that they were kept down. There was also the matter of the greater powers who would not agree to a strong and large Macedonia and would challenge him just to safeguard their own interests and survival.

As problems presented themselves, Philip used his extraordinary talents to seek solutions.

To fight a mightier opponent, Philip had to invent better military strategies and superior weapons. To keep a lasting peace Philip needed a well-trained, professional and full time army. To keep his opponents down, he needed to crush their military abilities and to hinder them from rebuilding. All these factors were combined to produce the greatest military might the ancient world had even seen.

Up to Philip's time, soldiers were selected from the nobility and usually lived and trained at home only to be called to duty before battle. Philip, on the other hand, raised and rigorously trained a full time professional army. Additionally, Philip combined the use of infantry and cavalry in coordinated tactics in ways never before applied. In terms of weapons, Philip used his experience from Thebes to enhance his military techniques and created modern weapons for his army. The most effective weapon was the Macedonian Phalanx which employed sixteen to twenty foot spears or pikes known as Sarissas. The body of the pike was made of dogwood (Dren) while the tip was made of a foot long, sharp metal blade. The Phalanx was employed in a rectangular or oblique battle array of soldiers each holding a pike underhand tipped at an angle. The first row held the pikes parallel to the ground while succeeding rows elevated them slightly. The twenty-foot long sarissas extended five rows beyond the first row of soldiers making the Phalanx an impenetrable fortress of very sharp pikes. The front and rear rows of soldiers wore body armour and heavy shields while all inside rows wore no armour and carried only light shields.

Despite popular beliefs otherwise, it took Philip a long time to transform his army into an efficient fighting machine. Much time was needed to recruit men, develop the administration, build up finances, train soldiers and gain field experience before his army would be ready for serious engagements.

"The new Macedonian army was marked by its great speed in movement, by versatility in tactics and weapons, and by the coordination of cavalry with infantry. Finally, there can be no doubt that unusual skills in personal and military leadership created, reflected, and depended upon excellence in the Macedonian army, as kings and men complemented one another". (Page 205, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Let's not forget the contributions of the Macedonian corps of engineers who designed the magnificent machines and built the siege engines that made Alexander famous.

Again I must emphasize that there is no evidence to indicate that Philip possessed consistent policies for empire building or plans for conquest beyond his own needs to secure his kingdom. Philip simply reacted to events as they unfolded and, judging from his actions, he preferred to use diplomacy over force. I believe it was Greek hatred and mistrust that gave Philip a bad wrap. "...it was Philip's ill fortune to be opposed by the most skilled orator of his era, and most nineteenth- and twentieth-century classical scholarship, impressed by the power of Demosthenes's oratory, has seen Philip as a barbarian determined to end the liberty of Greek city-states." (Page 198, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

"At this most critical moment of Macedonian history, Philip, who was then twenty-four, acted with astounding energy and skill. By brilliant feats of arms and by most subtle and cunning diplomatic skill, he promptly succeeded in removing perils from without and within, and was soon acclaimed king by the Macedonian army.

In the first year of his reign Philip has reached the height of his powers. His extraordinary capabilities as general, statesman and diplomat, which made possible this rapid and thorough salvation of the state, explain to us also the extraordinary success of his career. Yet the greatness of this man was not understood till the nineteenth century. Not merely was his fame obscured by the glittering achievements of his son Alexander. His memory has suffered from this disadvantage too: the greatest orator produced by Greece, Demosthenes, was his political opponent, passionately attacked him in his incomparable speeches, and, in the interest of his policy, presented to the Athenians a picture-distorted by hatred-of Philip 'the barbarian'. In the age of classicism especially, everyone was dazzled by the fine periods of Demosthenes, and accepting them literally, judged the life work of Philip purely from the Athenian standpoint-and that too from the standpoint of Demosthenes. This was accentuated by the political tendencies of the period. Barthold Georg Niebuhr had a passionate hatred for Philip, in whom, with his vivid conception of history, he saw a parallel to Napoleon, and before Austerlitz published a translation of the first Philippic of Demosthenes, to produce a political effect against the Gallus rebellis, as is shown by the motto he affixed to it. To reach a just estimate of Philip, historical science had first to be liberated from the Athenian-Demosthenic point of view. It is modern research alone that, following the lead of J. G. Droysen, has tended more and more to set out from the one correct point of view; the Macedonian King Philip must be judged by the standard of Macedonian interests only.

If we do this, Philip stands before us as one of the great rulers of the world's history, not only because he laid the foundations for the exploits of his still greater son Alexander, on which Alexander, in conformity with his own genius, erected a new world, but also as a man in himself of far-seeing aims and achievements". (Pages 27 to 29, Ulrich Wilcken, Alexander the Great).

The drive to secure his kingdom took Philip west to Orestis and Lyncus where he erected defensive barriers and created new frontiers which to this day mark the western borders of geographical Macedonia. To the south in 357 BC, Philip sought and secured the alliance of Epirus sealed in part by his marriage to Olympias, a very important figure in Macedonia's future and the Epirian Chieften's niece, and in part by taking Olympias's brother, Alexander into the Macedonian court. Being Philip's protégé, in the long term, Alexander proved himself a good ally to Macedonia.

Macedonia's neighbours to the north and to the south viewed all these good things that were happening in Macedonia with great suspicion.

What happened so far was only a prelude of things to come and the major battles for Philip were yet to be fought.

To be continued...

And now I will leave you with this.

In my mission to expand my understanding of the world I read John Chadwick's book "The Decipherment of Linear B" in hopes of learning a little more about the Minoan (Mycenaean) era.

I will get straight to the point. It appears that according to Chadwick, the Mycenaeans who lived in the region about 700 years before the ancient Greeks were also Greek.

Speaking about peoples' and place names, Chadwick claims that "Many names of course are much harder to interpret as Greek, and some are certainly foreign; but the presence of an element foreign in origin, if not still in speech, does not contradict the positive evidence that Greeks were widely spread throughout society, and we feel sure that the Mycenaeans were at least predominantly Greek. The 700 years or so between the coming of Greeks and the Pylos tablets (Mycenaean inscriptions) are time enough to allow the pre-Hellenic inhabitants to have been absorbed." (Page 102-103, John, Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B, Second Edition, Cambridge 1970).

After reading the above quote, I had to really question what is meant by Greek?

As I read further I ran into this:

"We know not only that the Mycenaeans were Greeks, but also what sort of Greek they spoke. They were not Dorians, nor apparently Aeolians; it is tempting to follow a widespread custom and call them Achaeans, the name Homer most often uses for the Greeks as a whole. The name Hellenes does not appear until after Homer, and Greek is of course only taken from the Roman name for the people of Greece". (Page 103-104, John, Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B, Second Edition, Cambridge 1970).

Are you as confused as I am?

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the ambiguity of the term "Greek". Without proper definition it could mean anything. From Chadwick's definition "Greek" practically encompasses everything that has existed before and after the rise and fall of the ancient "Greeks".

I am really surprised to see such sloppiness and negligence in such scientifically important documents that pride themselves on precision.

By using Chadwick's analogy, I can claim that the aboriginal people of Ontario, Canada that lived in Ontario 1000 years ago were English because certain toponyms like Ottawa, Algonquin, Oshawa, Mississauga, Nottawasaga, Kanata, Ontario, etc., were found to exist in both cultures. I can also claim that the aboriginal people of Ontario have been absorbed and their descendents are now English even though I know for a fact that indigenous people exist to this day.

Unwilling to "drop the subject" or "forget about it", I decided to consult the World Book Encyclopedia for clarifications on the definition of the term "Greek". To my surprise, I found the exact same ambiguity there as well. Here is an excerpt:

Speaking about the ancients "...the Greeks used many different dialects before writing was introduced. But the dialects never differed so much that the Greeks of one region could not understand those of another". (Page 400, G 8, The World Book Encyclopedia).

By this analogy I can claim that the Spanish, French, Italian and English people are one and the same because they are Europeans, speak dialects of the Latin language, use the Latin alphabet and the majority of them pray to the same God, etc., etc. Furthermore because the Romans, who introduced the Latin language and alphabet, were actually from Italy, makes the Spaniards, French and the English Italian.

Does anyone buy this?

I believe the definition of the term "Greek" the way it is applied to the ancient period and to the modern period requires a major overhaul.


John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation. London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1997.

Michael Dimitri, The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia, 1992.

Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks.

Eugene N. Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus, The Emergence of Macedon. New Jersey:Princeton University Press, 1990.

Jozko Šavli, Matej Bor, Ivan Tomazic, VENETI: First Builders of European Community.

George Nakratzas M.D., The Close Racial Kinship Between the Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks, Macedonia and Thrace.

Anthony Ambrozic, Gordian Knot Unbound. Toronto: Cythera Press, 2002.

Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany. Toronto: Cythera Press, 1999.

Anthony Ambrozic, Journey Back to the Garumna.

Nickolas G. L. Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia. London: Sidwig and Jackson, 1991.

John Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B, Second Edition, Cambridge 1970.

Ulrich Wilcken, Alexander the Great, New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1967.

The World Book Encyclopedia, G 8

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com