Modern Historians on Ancient Macedonia

A.H.M. Jones, ‘The Greek City: From Alexander to Justinian’, Oxford University Press (Clarendon Press), 1998 p. 289

“In Greece and Macedonia Greek was of course the indigenous language of all classes of the population.”

Eugene N. Borza, ‘Makedonika’, Regina Books, Claremont CA, p.114

“Our understanding of the Macedonians’ emergence into history is confounded by two events: the establishment of the Macedonians as an identifiable ethnic group, and the foundation of their ruling house. The “HIGHLANDERS” or “MAKEDONES” of the mountainous regions of western Macedonia ARE DERIVED FROM NORTHWEST GREEK STOCK; THEY WERE AKIN BOTH TO THOSE WHO AT AN EARLIER TIME MAY HAVE MIGRATED SOUTH TO BECOME THE HISTORICAL “DORIANS”, and to other Pindus tribes who were the ancestors of the Epirotes or Molossians. That is, we may suggest that NORTHWEST GREECE PROVIDED A POOL OF INDO-EUROPEAN SPEAKERS OF PROTO-GREEK from which were drawn the tribes who later were known by different names as they established their regional identities in separate parts of the country.”

David Noel Freedman, ‘The Anchor Bible Dictionary’ Doubleday, 1992, pg 1093

“The first Greek-speaking people in the southern Balkan Peninsula arrived in Macedonia, Thessaly, and Epirus sometime after 2600 B.C. and developed, probably due to the extreme mountainous nature of the country, their several different dialects.”


Charles Edson ‘Ancient Macedonian Studies in honor of Charles F. Edson’ London, 1981, pgs 27-71

The basic institutions of the kingdom were those of early Greeks. At the head of the folk was the king who was the war commander and was responsible for the relations of his people with the gods. An assembly of the fighting men chose the new king from the available males of the royal family, usually the oldest son of the former king, and could express the desires and attitudes of the folk. Of high importance were the king’s Companions, the hetairoi. They were the king’s personal retainers. They fought for him in battle and in peace served as he desired. In return they received land grants and other perquisites. In social status and function they recall the Homeric hetairoi of the Achaian rulers. This personal relationship of mutual benefit and obligation was to become the specifically Macedonian system of government. It was solemnized by the festival of the Hetairideia in honour of Zeus Hetairides at which the king presided.

This society had its peculiar customs and practices. There are traces of the blood feud. A Macedonian who had not yet killed an enemy was obliged to wear a halter around his waist. The marriage ceremony was the severing of a loaf of bread by the bride and groom, who then tasted the two portions. Feasting and wassail were the relaxations of the aristocracy and hunting their passionate avocation. In the early spring of each year the formal purification of the army, headed by the king, took place with the fighting men in full panoply. A sham battle ended the purification. Although the basic religion of the Macedonians was Greek, as is shown by the names of the months and by the belief that the folk descended from Makedon, son of Zeus, and the royal family from Herakles, there was strong Thracian influence from the peoples the Macedonians had expelled or subdued. This is the origin of the emotional Sabazios worship among the Macedonians with its local variant of the satyrs, the Sauadai, and bacchantes, Klodones and Mimallones. It is little wonder that to the Greeks of the city-states this society should seem alien, un-Hellenic, or, as they would say, ‘barbarian’.”


Malcolm Errington, ‘A History of Macedonia’ University of California Press, February 1993, pg 3

“That the Macedonians and their kings did in fact speak a dialect of Greek and bore Greek names may be regarded nowadays as certain.”

“Ancient allegations that the Macedonians were non-Greeks all had their origin in Athens at the time of the struggle with Philip II. Then as now, political struggle created the prejudice. The orator Aeschines once even found it necessary, in order to counteract the prejudice vigorously fomented by his opponents, to defend Philip on this issue and describe him at a meeting of the Athenian Popular Assembly as being ‘Entirely Greek’. Demosthenes’ allegations were lent on appearance of credibility by the fact, apparent to every observer, that the life-style of the Macedonians, being determined by specific geographical and historical conditions, was different from that of a Greek city-state. This alien way of life was, however, common to western Greeks of Epiros, Akarnania and Aitolia, as well as to the Macedonians, and their fundamental Greek nationality was never doubted. Only as a consequence of the political disagreement with Macedonia was the issue raised at all.”


Robert Morkot, ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece’ Penguin Publishing USA, January 1997

“Certainly the Thracians and the Illyrians were non-Greek speakers, but in the northwest, the peoples of Molossis (Epirot province), Orestis and Lynkestis spoke West Greek. It is also accepted that the Macedonians spoke a dialect of Greek and although they absorbed other groups into their territory, they were essentially Greeks.”


Nicholas G. L. Hammond, ‘Philip of Macedon’ Duckworth Publishing, February 1998

“Philip was born a Greek of the most aristocratic, indeed of divine, descent… Philip was both a Greek and a Macedonian, even as Demosthenes was a Greek and an Athenian…The Macedonians over whom Philip was to rule were an outlying family member of the Greek-speaking peoples.”


A.B. Bosworth, ‘Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great’ Cambridge University Press, Reissue Edition, March 1993

“Alexander ruled the world as his father had ruled Macedon, concentrating power in his own hands and office to his Companions. In nationality the Companions remained overwhemingly Hellenic.”


Richard Stoneman, ‘Alexander the Great’ Routledge, September 1997, pgs 11-12

“In favour of the Greek identity of the Macedonians is what we know of their language: the place-names, names of the months and personal names, which are without exception Greek in roots and form. This suggests that they did not merely use Greek as a lingua franca, but spoke it as natives (though with a local accent which turns Philip into Bilip, for example). The Macedonians’ own traditions derived their royal house from one Argeas, son of Macedon, son of Zeus, and asserted that a new dynasty, the Temenids, had its origin in the sixth century from emigrants from Argos in Greece, the first of these kings was Perdiccas. This tradition became a most important part of the cultural identity of Macedon. It enabled Alexander I to compete at the Olympic Games (which only true Hellenes were allowed to do); and it was embedded in the policy of Archelaus who invited Euripides from Athens to his court, where Euripides wrote not only the Bacchae but also lost play called Archelaus. (Socrates was also invited but declined.). It was in keeping with this background that Philip employed Aristotle – who had until then been helping Hermias of Atarneus in the Troad to rule as a Platonic “philosopher-king” – as tutor to his son, and that Alexander grew up with a devotion to Homer and the Homeric world which his own kingship so much recalled, and slept every night with the Iliad under his pillow.


Robin Lane Fox, ‘Alexander the Great’ Penguin USA, Reissue Edition, September 1994

“These plains would be the envy of any Greek visitor who crossed their southern border by the narrow vale of Tempe and the foot of Mount Olympus. He would pass the frontier post of Heraclion, town of Heracles, and stop at the harbour town of Dion, named after the Greek god Zeus, ancestor of the Macedonian kings, and site of a yearly nine-day festival of the arts in honour of Zeus and the nine Greek Muses. There he would walk through city gates in a wall of brick, down the paved length of a sacred way, between the theatre, gymnasiums and a temple with Doric pillars: suitably, the nearby villages were linked with the myth of Orpheus, the famous bard of Greek legend. He was still in a world of Greek gods and sacrifices, of Greek plays and Greek language, though the natives might speak Greek with a northern accent which hardened ‘ch’ into ‘g’, ‘th’ into ‘d’ and pronounced King Philip as ‘Bilip’. Bearing on up the coast, he would find the plain no less abundant and the towns more defiantly Greek.’


J.R. Hamilton, ‘Alexander the Great’ Hutchinson, London, 1973

“That the Macedonians were of Greek stock seems certain. The claim made by the Argead dynasty to be of Argive descent may be no more than a generally accepted myth, but Macedonian proper names, such as Ptolemaios or Philippos, are good Greek names, and the names of the Macedonian months, although differed from those of Athens or Sparta, were also Greek. The language spoken by the Macedonians, which Greeks of the classical period found intelligible, appears to have been a primitive north-west Greek dialect, much influenced by the languages of the neighboring barbarians.”


Ulrich Wilcken, ‘Alexander the Great’ W.W. Norton & Company, Reissue Edition March 1997

“It seems more and more certain that the Macedonians were a Greek tribe related to the Dorians. However, as they stayed high up in the distant north, they could not participate in the progress of civilization of the Greek people that migrated southward…”


Olivier Masson, ‘Oxford Classical Dictionary’ Edited by Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth, 3rd edition (1996), Oxford University Press, Macedonian Language, pgs 905-906.

Macedonian may then be seen as a Greek dialect, characterised by its marginal position and by local pronunciations (like ‘Berevika’ for ‘Ferevika’, etc.).

We must wait for new discoveries, but we may tentatively conclude that Macedonian is a dialect related to North-West Greek.”


Emeritus Professor of the University of Paris, Olivier Masson, Université de Paris X et Ecole des Hautes Etudes

“The latest archaeological findings have confirmed that Macedonia took its name from a tribe of tall, Greek-speaking people, the Makednoi (ma(e)kos = length). They shared the same religious beliefs as the rest of the Hellenic world but up until the Classical period remained outside the cultural and political development of the southern city states.”


Thomas Martin, ‘Ancient Greece – From Prehistoric to Hellenic Times’ Yale University Press, 1996, pgs 188-189.

“Macedonians had their own language related to Greek, but members of the elite that dominated Macedonian society routinely learned to speak Greek because they thought of themselves and indeed all Macedonians as Greek by blood. At the same time, Macedonians looked down on the Greeks to the south as a soft lot unequal to the adversities of life in Macedonia. The Greeks reciprocated this scorn.”


John V.A. Fine, ‘The Ancient Greeks: A Critical History’ Harvard University Press, 1983, pgs 605-608.

“Since so little is known about the early Macedonians, it is hardly strange that in both ancient and modern times there has been much disagreement on their ethnic identity. The Greeks in general and Demosthenes in particular looked upon them as barbarians, that is, not Greek. Modern scholarship, after many generations of argument, now almost unanimously recognises them as Greeks, a branch of the Dorians and ‘NorthWest Greeks’ who, after long residence in the north Pindus region, migrated eastwards. The Macedonian language has not survived in any written text, but the names of individuals, places, gods, months, and the like suggest strongly that the language was a Greek dialect. Macedonian institutions, both secular and religious, had marked Hellenic characteristics and legends identify or link the people with the Dorians. During their sojourn in the Pindus complex and the long struggle to found a kingdom, however, the Macedonians fought and mingled constantly with Illyrians, Thracians, Paeonians, and probably various Greek tribes. Their language naturally acquired many Illyrian and Thracian loanwords, and some of their customs were surely influenced by their neighbours.


Hermann Bengtson, ‘History of Greece’ Translated and updated by Edmund F. Bloedow, University of Ottawa Press, 1988. Chapter 10 Philip of Macedonia, pgs 185-186.

“It was he (Philip II) who accustomed this people of shepherds and peasants to urban life, who subdued the belligerent barbarian neighbours, opened up access to the sea and the country itself to Hellenic culture. For the Greeks, however, the Macedonians always remained ‘barbaroi’, never recognised by the Hellenes as cultural equals, not even when on the crest of world dominion.