Straight dope on Greece Macedonia

Hiya Cecil,

Big fan since I found you in the preset bookmarks in Opera. Could you explain to me what the big deal with Macedonia is amongst Macedonians and the Greeks? I do understand the basics: Greece doesn’t want Macedonia to be called Macedonia, because this could mean that they have a claim on some Greek territory also called Macedonia. This sounds stupid to me though - is this just a Balkan thing? What else is going on? Also why do the various peoples who inhabit the Balkans seem to be constantly at each others throats for very limited reasons?

Also, was Alexander the Great Macedonian or Greek?


Fred Heck

Alexander was Macedonian, but, like his father, Phillip, who had conquered Greece before Alexander became king and set out to conquer the rest of the world, he was a great admirer of, and much influenced by, the advanced Greek civilization and culture of his time. As a boy, he was personally tutored by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and, once he became king he set Aristotle up with his own school, the Lyceum, in Athens, and during his conquests would send reports of the cultures foreign parts, and interesting artifacts and biological specimens that his armies found, back to the Lyceum for study.

Alexander’s conquests effectively spread Greek culture through south-western Asia and Egypt, which it continued to dominate for many centuries. Through the periods of both teh Roman and Byzantine empires, until the Muslim conquest of the area, the lingua franca of the region remained Greek, not Latin, and the culture remained rooted in the original Greek culture. Alexander (and his Macedonian generals, who split his empire between them after his death) was largely responsible.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Confused, we’re glad you found us.

I don’t think your question relates to any particular column by Cecil’s, so I’m moving it to the General Questions forum. If I’m wrong and you had a particular column in mind, please email me and I’ll fix things back. No biggie, we just like things as orderly as we can manage. And, as I say, welcome.

An earlier thread on TFYROM.

That question is kind of the whole reason for the controversy.

Both. The ancient Macedonians were almost surely a mix of folks, including Thracian and Illyrians. However the core may have always been Greek or before that “proto-Greek” - this wiki on the classification of the ancient Macedonian dialect gives a flavor of just how hard it might be to tease out exactly who was who. But at any rate whether they were originally Greek or not by ~5th century B.C. it had regardless become a Hellenized state, with a ruling family mythology claiming an origin in Peloponnesian Argos, even if the likes of Athens regarded them as still at least semi-barbarians. Alexander’s father Philip II even went so far as to adopt the Attic dialect ( increasingly dominant in Greece through Athenian influence ) as the official language of his burgeoning little empire.