Alexander the Great and Greeks
To modern Greeks, Alexander the Great is an integral part of their rich heritage - one of history’s greatest conquerors who toppled the hated Persian Empire and took Greek culture as far as Egypt and India.
A skilled general and diplomat who transformed Macedon - ancient Macedonia - from a tribal backwater into a regional superpower, Philip waged a sustained campaign against the Greek city-states, eventually crushing Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE.
“Philip was a rather unscrupulous ruler, who tried to, and finally managed, to expand Macedonian power over the rest of Greece... of course, there was a lot of antagonism against him,” said Reinhard Senff, scientific director of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens.
However, in contrast to many of the city-state democracies, Macedon was a monarchy.
The question of ancient Macedonia’s Greek heritage has been thrust into the spotlight recently as modern-day Greece and Macedonia, a former Yugoslav province, attempt to settle a 27-year dispute over the right to the name.
The greatest orator of the era, Demosthenes of Athens, penned fiery speeches against Philip, calling him a “barbarian.”
“Force of habit,” said Stephen Miller, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.
“For Demosthenes, anyone who disagreed with him was a ‘barbarian’. He called some of his fellow Athenians barbarians.”
As with past Macedonian kings, Philip also participated at the Olympic Games, a competition exclusively reserved to Greeks.
“The Macedonians were not considered Greeks by the Greeks... as far as we know until the end of the classical period only the royal family was admitted to Olympia,” said Senff, who heads excavation work at the birthplace of the Olympics.