Macedonians were Greeks

Historical truth on the ancient Macedonians

"All in all, the language of the Macedonians was a distinct and particular form of Greek, resistant to outside influences and conservative in pronunciation. It remained so until the fourth century when it was almost totally submerged by the flood tide of standardized Greek"
N. G. L. Hammond
British scholar of ancient Greece

The ancient Macedonian language was a rough doric Greek dialect which was not easily understood by other Greeks. Archaeological evidence exists for this, such as the Pella curse tablet.

Multiple scholars have claimed that ancient Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect as indicated below:

Hammond & Griffith “A History of Macedonia 550-336 BC” Vol II

“Macedonian was not a non-Greek language but a dialect of the Greek language in which Alexander spoke for a special purpose;
and in the case of his order the vocabulary, as well as the pronunciation, was probably particular to this dialect. On a later occasion the Macedonian”

* Toynbee, A.J

“King Philip II’s momentous decision to make, not the native Macedonian variety of North-East Greek, but Attic the official language of the kingdom of Macedon which, in the next generation, had generated the Greek successor states of the Persian Empire.”

* P.A.Brunt.

“The relics of the Macedonian language, such as the names of places and persons, both human and divine {..} show that it was basically Greek with an admixture of [probably] Illyrian.

* Martin, Thomas R (1996) “Ancient Greece From Prehistoric to
Hellenistic Times” pg. 188.

Macedonians had their own language related to Greek, but the members that dominated Macedonian society routinely learned to speak Greek because they thought of themselves and indeed all Macedonians as Greek by blood.”

* Hammond (1992) “The Miracle that was Macedonia” pg. 206.

As members of the Greek race and speakers of the Greek language, the Macedonians shared in the ability to initiate ideas and create political forms.”

* O.Masson (1996) “The Oxford Classical Dictionary 3rd ed. Macedonia,
Language” pgs 905-906

Yet in contrast with earlier views which made of it an Aeolic dialect [O. Hoffmann compared Thessalian] we must by now think of a link with North west Greek [Locrian, Aetolian, Phocidian, Epirote]. This view is supported by the recent discovery at Pella of a curse tablet [4th c BC] which may well be the first ‘Macedonian’ text attested [provisional
publication by E. Voutyras; cf. the Bulletin Epigraphique in Rev.Et.Grec.1994no.413]; the text includes an adverb “opoka” which is not Thessalian.
We must wait for new discoveries, but we may tentatively conclude that Macedonian is a dialect related to North-West Greek.”

* R. 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.”

PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

* Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great Page 30.

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“.

* Richard Billows, “Antigonus the One-Eyed”, pages 18-20

I think it highly likely that they were, for three reasons: the overwhelming majority of personal names known to have been used by Macedonians were good Greek names; the names of the months in the Macedonian calendar were basically Greek in form

* Andrew Robert Burn, “A Traveller’s History of Greece” , 1984, Italian edition of 1991 by Arnoldo Mondatori Editore S.p.A. , Milano, page 359 [*]

Macedonia , extended along the fertile land of lower Axios , was a region of robust agricolturs and of nobles devoted in equitation , that spoke a Rough Greek Dialect , incomprehensible to the Athenians and for that defined “barbarian” “.

* Graham Shipley ,The Greek World After Alexander, 323-30 Bc By , Page 111

Despite ancient and modern controversies it seems clear that the Macedonians as a whole were Greek-speakers. While the elite naturally communicated with other elites in standard, probably Attic, the ordinary Macedonians appear to have spoken a dialect of Greek, albeit with load-words from Illyrian and thracian which gave ammunition to their denigrators.

* Eric Carlton (1992) Occupation: The Policies and Practices of Military Conquerors Page 55

The Macedonian language has not survived in any extant text, but their personal and place names, and the names of their gods strongly suggest a Greek dialect.

*Anna Panayotou, Position of the Macedonian dialect

Its apparent, yet from the early 4rth Century, Macedonians, greek-speaking tribe of North-Western dialectical group, up to that time in the fridges of Greek-speaking world, adopted firstly for their diplomatical contacts and later for all the forms of written speech, the Attic dialect

*James L. O’Neil’s , presentation at the 2005 Conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, entitled “Doric Forms in Macedonian Inscriptions” (abstract):

A fourth‐century BC curse tablet from Pella shows word forms which are clearly Doric, but a different form of Doric from any of the west Greek dialects of areas adjoining Macedon. Three other, very brief, fourth century inscriptions are also indubitably Doric. These show that a Doric dialect was spoken in Macedon, as we would expect from the West Greek forms of Greek names found in Macedon. And yet later Macedonian inscriptions are in Koine avoiding both Doric forms and the Macedonian voicing of consonants. The native Macedonian dialect had become unsuitable for written documents.”

*Chrys C. Caragounis, The Unity and Evolution of the Greek language

In the fourth century B.C. Philip II (or perhaps his predecessors) adopted the Attic dialect as the official language of Makedonia, because its Greek dialect was too uncouth, undeveloped and lacking in refinement.

* Alan Fildes , Alexander the Great, son of the gods, page12

Although the Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect, worshipped Greek gods and traced their nation’s origins from Olympian gods, their customes and northern Doric accent were markedly different from those of the people of the rest of Greece, who saw the Macedonia as a largely insignificant, backward monarchy

*Jonathan Hall, Hellenicity, page 155

For what it is worth, the evidence – sparse as it is – suggests that a form of Northwest Greek was spoken in Makedonia, but structural linguistic affiliation does not guarantee intelligibility and it is entirely possible that the Makedonian dialect was as difficult for other dialect speakers to comprehend as the speech of the Aitolian Eurytanes was unintelligible to Thoukydides (3-94.5).

* John Anthony Crame, A Geographical and Historical Description of Ancient Greece: With a Map, and a Plan of Athens, Page 165

Judging from their historical nomenclature, and the few words that have been preserved to us, we may evidently trace a Greek foundation in their language, whatever idiomatic differences might exist between it and the more cultivated dialects of southern Greece.

* Charles Gates, Ancient Cities” page 259

Philip II came to power in Macedonia in 359 BC. Althought speaking a dialect of Greek, the Macedonians lay on the fringes of Greek culture and had contributed little to Greek political, socio-economic and artistic

* L.S. Stavrianos, “The Balkans since 1453, Page 19

Their language closely resembled the classical Greek from which it differed no more than one English dialect from another

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

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.

* F. Munzer, German linguist, “Die Politische Vernichtung des Griechentums”, Leipzig 1925, p. 4

The problem of the nationality of the Macedonians has been studied a great deal. Otto Hoffman with linguistics as his starting point solved it correctly and decisively when he accepted that the Macedonians were Greeks

*Kathryn A. Morgan,“Popular Tyranny”, page 9,

For this reason , the latest arrivals – northwest- Greek speakers, Macedonians – were able to establish a robust system of kingship indepeendent from central and southern Greek traditions of strong local leaders.

* Sylvain Auroux, French linguist, “History of the Language Sciences: I. Approaches to Gender II. Manifestations”, p.439

“Before the times of the national unity installed by the Macedonians around the middle of the 4th century BC, Greece was composed of many regions or city states[…] That they [Dorians] were related to the North-West Dialects (of Phocis, Locris, Aetolia, Acarnania and Epirus) was not perceived clearly by the ancients. “

* Otto Hoffmann, “Makedonians, their language and their Ethnicity“.

From the 39 “languages” that according to Gustav Mayer their form was “completely alien” has been proven after this research of mine,that 10 of them are clearly Hellenic,with 4 more possibly dialectical forms of common hellenic words,so from the entire collection are remaining only 15 words appearing to be justifiable or at least suspected of anti-hellenic origins.Adding to those 15, few others which with regards their vocals could be hellenic,without till now being confirmed as such,then their number, in comparison to the number of pure hellenic ones in the Makedonian language,is so small that the general Hellenic character of the Macedonian linguistic treasure can not be doubted.(..)THE NAMES OF THE GENUINE MAKEDONIANS AND THOSE BORN OF MAKEDONIAN PARENTS ,ESPECIALLY THE NAMES OF THE ELITIC CLASS AND NOBLES,IN THEIR FORMATION AND PHONOLOGY ARE PURELY HELLENIC.”(…)The general Hellenic character of the Makedonians linguistic treasure can not be disputed even in case some of them might be loans from the Hellenic Mythology or from non-hellenic myths or for the better pre-hellenic myths (Teytamos-Marsyas-Seilinos….*).

* J.R. Hamilton, “Alexander the Great”, 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.”

* Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, The Outline of History, Glimpses of World History

The language they spoke was among the oldest forms of Greek, and it had affinities with the Aeolian, Arcado-Cypriot and Mycenean dialects.

* John Lynton Myres, “Who were the Greeks”, page 99

the northern dialects of Greek, including that of the Macedonians, who were coming in the fifth centurry to have a common fontier with the Thracians in the Strymon basin

* N. G. L. Hammond,”The Macedonian State: The Origins, Institution and History,” Calrendon Press, Oxford,
1989, pp. 413.pp. 12-14:”

4. The language of the Macedonians. What language did these ‘Macedones’ speak? The name itself is Greek in root and in ethnic termination. It probably means ‘highlanders,’ and it is comparable to Greek tribal names such as ‘Orestai’ amd ‘Oreitai,’ meaning ‘mountain-men.’ A reputedly earlier variant, ‘Maketai,’ has the same root, which means ‘high,’
as in the Greek adjective ‘makednos’ or the noun mekos.’
The genealogy of eponymous ancestors which Hesiod recorded (p. 3 above) has a bearing on the question of Greek speech. First, Hesiod made Macedon a brother of Magnes; as we know from inscriptions that the Magnetes spoke the Aeolic dialect of the Greek language, we have a predisposition to suppose that the Macedones spoke the Aeolic dialect.
Secondly, Hesiod made Macedon and Magnes first cousins of Hellen’s three sons — Dorus, Xouthus, and Aeolus — who were the founders of three dialects of Greek speech, namely Doric, Ionic, and Aeolic. Hesiod would not have recored this relationship, unless he had believed, probably in the seventh century, that the Macedones were a Greek-speaking people. The next evidence comes from Persia. At the turn of the sixth century the Persians described the tribute-paying peoples of their province in Europe, and one of them was the ‘yauna takabara,’ which meant the ‘Greeks wearing the hat.’ [27] There were Greeks in Greek city-states here and there in the province, but they were of various origins and not distinguished by a common hat, the ‘kausia.’
We conclude that the Persians believed the Macedonians to be speakers of Greek. Finally, in the latter part of the fifth century a Greek historian, Hellanicus, visited Macedonia and modified Hesiod’s genealogy by bringing Macedon and his descendants firmly into the AeolicMacedonian branch of the Greek-speaking family.
[28] Hesiod, Persia, Hellanicus had no motive for making a false statement about the language of the Macedonians, who were then an obscure and not a powerful people. Their independent testimonies should be accepted as conclusive. That, however, is not the opinion of most scholars. They disregard or fail to assess the evidence which I have cited, [29] and they turn instead to Macedonian words and names, or/and to literary references. Philologists have studied words which have been cited as Macedonian in ancient lexica and glossaries, and they have come to no certain conclusion; for some of the words are clearly Greek, and some are clearly not Greek. That is not surprising; for as the territory of the Macedonians expanded, they overlaid and lived with peoples who spoke Illyrian, Paeonian, Thracian and Phrygian, and they certainly borrowed words from them which excited the authors of lexica and glossaries. The philological studies result in a verdict, in my opinion, of ‘non liquet.’ [30] The toponyms of the Macedonian homeland are the most significant. Nearly all of them are Greek: Pieria, Lebaea, Heracleum, Dium, Petra, Leibethra, Aegae, Aegydium, Acesae, Acesamenae; the rivers Helicon, Aeson, Leucus, Baphyras, Sardon, Elpe’u’s, Mitys; lake Ascuris and the region Lapathus.
The mountain names Olympus and Titarium may be pre-Greek; Edessa, the earlier name for the place where Aegae was founded, and its river Ascordus were Phrygian. [31] The deities worshipped by the Macedones and the names which they gave to the months were predominantly Greek, and there is no doubt that these were not borrowings.
To Greek literary writers before the Hellenistic period the Macedonians were ‘barbarians.’ The term referred to their way of life and their institutions, which were those of the ‘ethne’ and not of the city-state, and it did not refer to their speech. We can see this in the case of Epirus. There Thucydides called the tribes ‘barbarians.’ But inscriptions found in Epirus have shown conclusively that the Epirote tribes in Thucydides’ lifetime were speaking Greek
and used names which were Greek. [32] In the following century ‘barbarian’ was only one of the abusive terms applied by Demosthenes to Philip of Macedon and his people.[33] In passages which refer to the Macedonian soldiers of Alexander the Great and the early successors there are mentions of a Macedonian dialect, such as was likely to have been spoken in the original Macedonianhomeland. On one occassion Alexander ‘called out to his guardsmen in Macedonian (‘Makedonisti’), as this [viz. the use of ‘Macedonian’] was a signal (‘symbolon’) that
there was a serious riot.’ Normally Alexander and his soldiers spoke standard Greek, the ‘koine,’ and that was what the Persians who were to fight alongside the Macedonians were taught. So the order ‘in Macedonian was unique, in that all other orders were in the ‘koine.’ [34] it is satisfactorily explained as an order in broad dialect, just as in the Highland Regiment a special order for a particular purpose could be given in broad Scots by a Scottish officer who usually spoke the King’s English.The use of this dialect among themselves was a characteristic of the Macedonian soldiers (rather that the officers) of the King’s Army. This point is made clear in the report — not in itself dependable — of the trial of a Macedonian officer before an Assembly of Macedonians, in which the officer (Philotas) was mocked for not speaking in dialect. [35] In 321 when a non- Macedonian general, Eumenes, wanted to make contact with a hostile group of Macedonian infantrymen, he sent a Macedonian to speak to them in the Macedonian dialect, in order to win their confidence. Subsequently, when they and the other Macdonian soldiers were serving with Eumenes, they expresed their affection for him by hailing him in the Macedonian dialect (‘Makedonisti’). [36] He was to be one of themselves. As Curtius observed, ‘not a man among the Macedonians could bear to part with a jot of his ancestral customs.’ The use of this dialect was one way in which the Macedonians expressed their apartness from the world of the Greek city-states. [27] See J. M. Balcer in ‘Historia’ 37 (1988) 7.[28] FGrH 4 F 74 [29] Most recently E. Badian in Barr-Sharrar 33-51 disregards the evidence as set out in e.g. HM 2.39-54, when it goes against his view that the Macedonians (whom he does not define) spoke a language other than Greek. [30] The matter is dicussed at some length in HM 2. 39-54 with reference especially to O. Hoffmann, ‘Die Makedonen, ihre Sprache und ihre volkstun’ (Goettingen, 1906) and J. Kalleris, Les Anciens Macedoniens I (Athens, 1954); see also Kalleris II and R. A. Crossland in the CAH 3.1.843ff. [31] For Edessa see HM 1.165 and for the Phrygians in Macedonia 407-14. Olympus occurs as a Phrygian personal name. [32] See Hammond, ‘Epirus’ 419ff. and 525ff. [33] As Badian, loc. cit. 42, rightly observes: ‘this, of course, is simple abuse.'[34] Plu. ‘Alex.’51.6[35] Curtius 6.8.34-6. [36] PSI XII 2(1951) no. 1284, Plu. Eun.14.11. Badian, loc. cit. 41 and 50 n.66, discusses the former and not the latter, which hardly bears out his theory that Eumenes ‘could not directly communicate with Macedoniansoldiers,’ and presumably they with him. Badian says in his note that he is not concerned with the argument as to whether Macedonian was a ‘dialect’ or ‘a language.’ Such an argument seems to me to be at the heart of the matter. We have a similar problem in regard to Epirus, where some had thought the language of the people was Illyrian. In Plu.’Pyrrh.’1.3 reference was made to ‘the local ‘phone,” which to me means ‘dialect’ of Greek; it is so in this instance because Plutarch is saying that Achilles was called ‘in the local ‘phone’ Aspestos.’ The word ‘Aspestos’ elsewhere was peculiar to Greek epic, but it survived in Epirus in normal speech. It is of course a Greek and not an Illyrian word. See Hammond, ‘Epirus’ 525ff., for the Greek being the language of central Epirus in the fifth century B.C. “

* Malcolm Errington, “A History of Macedonia”, California University Press, 1990.

“The Molossians were the strongest and, decisive for Macedonia, most easterly of the three most important Epeirot tribes, which, like Macedonia but unlike the Thesprotians and the Chaonians, still retained their
monarchy. They were Greeks, spoke a similar dialect to that of Macedonia, suffered just as much from the depredations of the Illyrians and were in principle the natural partners of the Macedonian king who wished to tackle the Illyrian problem at its roots.”

* J.M. Roberts, “A Short History of the World”, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993

The Macedonians spoke Greek and attended Hellenic festivals; their kings claimed to be descented from Greek families- from Achilles, the great Achaean hero of the Iliad, no less.”

* NGL Hammond, “Philip of Macedon”, Gerald Duckword & Ltd, London, 1994

“As subjects of the king the Upper Macedonians were henceforth on the same footing as the original Macedonians, in that they could qualify for service in the King’s Forces and thereby obtain the elite citizenship. At one bound the territory, the population and wealth of the kingdom were doubled. Moreover since the great majority of the new subjects were speakers of the West Greek dialect, the enlarged army was Greek-speaking throughout.”

* David Sacks, “A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World.”, Oxford, 1995

Macedon was inhabited by various peoples of Dorian-Greek, Illyrian, and Thracian descent, who spoke a Greek dialect and worshipped Greek gods…Unification and modernization came gradually, at the hands of kings of Dorian descent.”

* Robert Morkot, “The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece”, Penguin Publ., 1996

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.”

* Hugh Murray,William Wallace,Robert Jameson, “The encyclopædia of geography: comprising a complete description of the …”

M. Malte-Brun distinguishes in the ancient Greek two different idioms: 1. The promitive Hellenic, which he subdivides into three principal dialects, the Arcadian, the Thessalian, with the ancient Macedonian, and the (Enotrian, transported into Italy and mingled with the Latin); 2. the Hellenic of the historical times, divided into four principal dialects and several varieties.

*Alan Fildes, Joann Fletcher, ” Alexander the Great: son of the gods”

Located in the northern extremity of Greece, and cut off from its neighbors by its mountainous terrain, ancient Macedonia’s relative isolation produced a distinctly separate culture. Although the Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect, worshipped Greek gods,

*Herbert Treadwell Wade, The New international encyclopaedia, vol 14

Basmatzides, Fick, Demitsa, ed. Meyer, Hatzidakis, Kretscmer, Beloch and apparentlyBrgmann and Koersh have mainteained that Macedonian is only a Greek dialect.

* Lucilla Burn, “Hellenistic art: from Alexander the Great to Augustus”, p. 28

The language spoken by ordinary Macedonians, as opposed to the ruling family, seems at most times to have been a dialect form of Greek. The elite communicaed both with itself and with other elites in standard, probably Attic Greek.