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“Ancient versus Slav Controversy” July 27, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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Are the Modern Macedonians the descendents of the Slavs or of the Ancient Macedonians?

As ridiculous as this may sound there are people out there, most probably not friends of the Macedonians, who promote the idea that there is a big controversy taking place among the Macedonians in their attempt to define their identity.

Just for the record let me say this; “Macedonians don´t need outsiders, particularly their enemies, to tell them who they are. Macedonians are Macedonians and have been so since the word Macedonia was coined and believe me that goes far back, beyond ´ancient times´.”

Before I begin, allow me to say that the word “Slav” is not an ethnic identifier. It is a linguistic identifier. Regions with people who are identified as “Slav speakers” stretch from the Balkans to Siberia and include major countries like Poland, the Ukraine and Russia and the people living in them cannot all possibly be “ethnic Slavs” or of a single ethnicity. So let us “once and for all” dispense with the idea that the word “Slav” can possibly be an ethnic identifier!

Macedonians know that they are not “Slavs” and that the word “Slav” is only a linguistic identifier. So how can there be a controversy between two factions of “Macedonians”; one thinking we are “Slavs” and the other thinking we are “ancient Macedonians”?

Speaking of “ancient Macedonians”, I cannot understand how a “living Macedonian” can be an “ancient Macedonian” unless he or she happens to be over 2,000 years old. So for those who keep on harping and looking for ways to give the Macedonians an identity, please do us all a favour and go away. We know who we are and we already have an ethnic identity. It is called Macedonian!

Call us whatever you like but keep in mind a couple of things;

1. You have no right to tell us who we are or what to call ourselves. We are the only ones who have that right!

2. We are Macedonians defined by our motherland Macedonia on which our ancestors were born. We are the product of all people who have ventured to Macedonia since the last ice age. We are the indigenous people of Macedonia and have always been Macedonian.

As for being ancient Macedonians or “Slavs”, yes we are both of those things and much more. We are the descendents of all those who existed in Macedonia including the ancient Macedonians and yes we are Slav speakers; a mysteriously unexplained language spoken from the Balkans to Siberia.

According to “mainstream” history the so-called Slavs were “stupid people” yet they came to possess a vast territory encompassing all of Eastern Europe and part of Asia in a relatively short period of time! I ask you then how is it possible that these “stupid people” accomplished such a great feat which even the best military strategists agree was impossible?

Again allow me to tell you what I think! I think that today´s so-called “Slavs” are a variety of ethnic groups living in many countries throughout Eastern Europe and Asia and the only thing they have in common is that they all speak a language that has common roots.

The question here however is how “did” the Macedonians acquire this “Slav language”?

I think there are two possibilities that would explain it; (1) Macedonians always spoke this language since Neolithic times or (2) it was brought to Macedonia from somewhere else at a later time!

Since there is no record of such a language being brought to Macedonia later we can assume that it was always spoken in Macedonia. And please, enough with the so-called “Slav migrations”. They never happened. The so-called “Great Slav Migrations” are a myth or an unproven theory at best, propagated for political reasons.

There is however ample evidence in history, especially in Alexander the Greats´ time, that point to the ancient Macedonians as being bilingual and speaking a language yet to be identified.

Here are some excerpts that Prof. Dr. Tone P. from Slovenia sent us;

Dragi Risto,

Here are three pieces of information sent to me in response to your article on Polyaenus;

The first piece;

UPDATE ON VENETI – What was the Mother Tongue of Alexander the Great?

By Charles Bryant-Abraham, Ph. D.

Fellow, The Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and Research Jerusalem, Israel

After submission of my review of VENETI to Sir Rodney Hartwell in June 1998, I came across a book in Athens of potential interest to the subject of Proto – (West) Slavic presence in the Balkans / He Glossa tes Makedonias, he Archaia Makedonike kai he Pseudonyme Glossa ton Skopion, (“The Language of Macedonia, Old Macedonian and the so-called Language of the Skopljites”) (written in modern Greek with citations in classical Greek and in Latin), by G. Khatsidakis, et al. (Athens, Greece: Olkos, 1993).

I will not review the book at this time for our Greek-reading Augustans, other than to indicate broadly my impression that the seven contributing writers have built a well-reasoned argument for the essential Hellenism of Alexander the Great. One cannot, however, avoid suspicion of a hidden political agenda to head off any future South Slavic irredentism for the Macedonian-speaking hinterland of Thessalonica. Unlike “Veneti” the book presents no linguistic evidence to shore up its premises and conclusions.

Granted, as A. I Thabores correctly points out (p. 194) in his chapter, “He Hellenike Dialektos ton Archaion Makedonon kai ta Semerina Neo-Hellenica Idiomata tes Makedonias (kai tes Alles Boreias Helladas),” (“The Greek Dialect of the Ancient Macedonians and the Modern New Greek Dialects of Macedonia (and the Rest of Northern Greece)”):

“. . . the names of their gods, the myths and the mythical heroes, their personal names, the monumental and place names and local items of their dialect … are all essentially Greek.” [My translation] Yet I would query whether this might not be reflective of an on-going, pervasive Greek cultural influence in the frontier zone between Greece and the Balkan peoples reaching back to the pre-heroic age.

The passage that caught my eye and that I would bring to the attention of our fellow Augustan, Dr. Jozko Šavli, and his co-authors of Veneti, Prof. Matej Bor and Father Ivan Tomazic, occurs in Anna Panagiotou’s study (pp. 187-188), “He Glossa ton Archaion Epigraphon tes Makedonias,” (“The Language of the Ancient Inscriptions of Macedonia.”) I urge Dr. Savli and his colleagues to reexamine the known Macedonian

Inscriptions, there are some 6,000 of them, through the prism of Slovenian diachronic dialectology, and I first pose the challenging question here in The Augustan: Though thoroughly assimilated into the Greek culture and language through the education of his teacher, Aristotle, can it be that Alexander the Great himself emerged into world history from a Proto-(West) Slavic, i.e., Venetic, family background?

I translate Ms. Panagiotou’s reference to a passage in Curtius(2) /Hist. Alex. Magni Maced.,/ IV, I11.4.:

“… which narrates another event of the kingdom of Alexander… considered as an indication that the Macedonian language was not a Greek dialect, but a different language: the general Philotas was accused by one of his compatriots of not feeling ashamed, (” . . . Macedonatus, homines linguae suae per interpretem audire,”) “. . . born a Macedonian, to hear the men of his language through an interpreter,” i.e., according to this passage, Philotas had need of translators in order to understand the mother tongue.

Yet in a curious way, this passage comes to contradict another by the same author in the same document (VI.9.34-36.) Alexander asks if Philotas will speak in the language of their fathers, (“… Macedones … de te indicaturi sunt, quero an patrio sermone sis apud eos usurus,”) “… the Macedonians who will judge you, I ask if you will use the language of [our] fathers with them,” and elicited the response:

(“Praeter Macedonas … plerique adsunt, quos facilius quae dicam percep-turus arbitror, si eadem lingua fuero usus qua tu egisti, non ob aliud, credo quam ut oratio tua intellegi posset a pluribus,”) “[Above and] beyond the Macedonians … there are many present whom, I feel, will more easily grasp the things I say if I use the same language you did, for no other reason, I believe, than that your speech might be understood by many.”

This explanation caused the angry remarks of Alexander that Philotas neglects to speak in the language of their fathers: (“Ecquid videtis adeo etiam sermonis patrii Philotan toedere? Solus quippe fastidit eum discere. Sed dicat sane utcumque ei cordi est, dum memineritis aeque ilium a nostro more quam sermone abhorrere,”) “Have you ever seen Philotas reject the language of [our] fathers heretofore? Indeed, he alone is averse to learning it. Let him then say, however, it is in his heart, since you will remember that he is opposed to our custom[s] as well as our language.”

Ms. Panagiotou’s article proceeds to attempt to explain this passage as referring to a northern Hellenic dialect so greatly at variance with the contemporary /Koine/ that it might just as well have been a foreign language. Her attempt falls short of convincing.

Now, the work plan before us is not complex. The Macedonian inscriptions, must be scrutinized anew by the trained and sensitive eyes of Slavicists of the stature of the authors of /Veneti/. Let this task be undertaken at the earliest possible moment.


1. Charles Bryant-Abraham, PhD, Fellow, The Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and Research Jerusalem, Israel

2. Cf John C. Rolfe. /Quintus Curtius/ (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962.)

Rolfe states (p. xviii): “Curtius’s principal source is Clitarchus, son of Dinon (Pliny, NH. x (49) 136), who accompanied Alexander’s expedition and wrote a highly coloured account of it … Curtius used Clitarchus in a changed and contaminated form, perhaps through Timagenes, whom he mentions in viii. 5.21 in connexion with Clitarchus and Ptolemy … He differs with Clitarchus in ix. 5.21 and follows Ptolemy, censuring Clitarchus for carelessness or credulity. . .”

Rolfe adds (p. 3od): “The /Historiae/ seem to be the work of a rhetorician rather than of an historian. One of his principle aims was to insert in his work brilliant speeches and romantic incidents. Doubtless he wished to give a correct account, but his imperfect knowledge of history and geography led him into many errors.

Rolfe is correct in pointing out (p. xxiv) that the chancellery language of Macedonia was Greek: “For some generations the court language was Attic Greek.” Yet, even conservatively admitting constraints on Curtius’ accuracy, we must presume a kernel veracity for the passages in question. That presumption is sufficient to warrant reexamination of the Macedonian inscriptions by Venetologists.

Jozko Šavli, Matej Bor and Ivan Tomazic “VENETI: First Builders of European Community: Tracing the History and Language of Early Ancestors of Slovenes.”

The second piece;


During the reign of Alexander the Great, the Macedonians spoke their own native language, as the native language of Alexander the Great was not understood by the ancient Greeks (Quintus Curtius Rufus, VI, 9, 37). Similarly, Plutarch

http://faq.macedonia.org/history/alexander.plutarch.html points out that Alexander spoke to his fellow countrymen in Macedonian: “/he/ [Alexander]/ called out aloud to his guards in the Macedonian language, which was a certain sign of some great disturbance in him/” (Plutarch, Alexander http://faq.macedonia.org/history/alexander.plutarch.html, 51). Still, Alexander spoke also Greek, loved Homer, and respected his tutor Aristotle. At the same time though, there is much evidence that generally he was not fond of the Greeks of his day. The chronicler Curtius, describing the atmosphere before a battle, gave a notion of the different attitudes of the great commander, who psychognostically applied the principle of identity to every ethnic group in his army. In respect to the various motives for taking part in that war, Curtius wrote: “Riding to the front line he [Alexander the Great] named the soldiers and they responded from spot to spot where they were lined up. The


Macedonians, who had won so many battles in Europe and set off to invade Asia … got encouragement from him – he reminded them of their permanent values. They were the world’s liberators and one day they would pass the frontiers set by Hercules and Patter Liber. They would subdue all races on Earth. Bactrius and India would become Macedonian provinces. Getting closer to the Greeks, he reminded them that those were the people who provoked war with Greece, … those were the people that burned their temples and cities … As the Illyrians and Thracians lived mainly from plunder, he told them to look at the enemy line glittering in gold …”

Q. C. Rufus, Alexander III, 10, 4-10

After all, he thoroughly destroyed Thebes. Therefore, his empire is correctly called Macedonian, not Greek, for he won it with an army of 35,000 Macedonians and only 7,600 Greeks.

Alexander’s increasingly Oriental behavior led to trouble with Macedonian nobles and some Greeks. In 330 BC a series of allegations was brought against some of Alexander’s officers concerning a plot to murder him. Alexander tortured and executed his friend, Philotas (commander of the cavalry) the accused leader of the conspiracy, and several other high-ranking officials in order to eliminate the possibility of an attempt on his life. The question of the use of the ancient Macedonian language was raised by Alexander himself during the trial of Philotas. Alexander has said to Philotas:

“´The Macedonians are about to pass judgment upon you; I wish to know whether you will use their native tongue in addressing them.´ Philotas replied: ‘Besides the Macedonians there are many present who, I think, will more easily understand what I shall say if I use the same language which you have employed.’ Than said the king: ‘Do you not see how Philotas loathes even the language of his fatherland? For he alone disdains to learn it. But let him by all means speak in whatever way he desires, provided that you remember that he holds out customs in as much abhorrence as our language.'”

Quintus Curtius Rufus, Alexander, VI. ix. 34-36

The trial of Philotas took place in Asia before a multiethnic public, which has accepted Greek as their common language. Alexander spoke Macedonian with his co-nationals, but used Greek in addressing West Asians. Like Illyrian and Thracian, ancient Macedonian was not recorded in writing. However, on the bases of about a hundred glosses, Macedonian words noted and explained by Greek writers, some place names from Macedonia, and a few names of individuals, most scholars believe that ancient Macedonian was a separate Indo-European language. Evidence from phonology indicates that the ancient Macedonian language was distinct from ancient Greek and closer to the Thracian and Illyrian languages.

Another old-fashioned noble, Cleitus, was killed by Alexander himself in a drunken brawl. Heavy drinking was a cherished tradition at the Macedonian court when Alexander ran him through with a spear. Although he mourned his friend excessively and nearly committed suicide when he realized what he had done, all of Alexander’s associates thereafter feared his paranoia and dangerous temper. Alexander next demanded that Europeans follow the Oriental etiquette of prostrating themselves before the king – which he knew was regarded as an act of worship by Greeks.

But resistance by Macedonian officers and by the Greek Callisthenes (a nephew of Aristotle who had joined the expedition as the official historian of the crusade) defeated the attempt. The Greek Callisthenes was soon executed on a charge of conspiracy.

As the Macedonians marched into Parthia, the tone of the journey changed. Alexander had adopted the Persian style of dress, rather than his traditional Macedonian clothing, and his troops were unhappy with him. After all, up until that point, the Macedonian soldiers respected him immensely, as they saw him as a partner working for the common good of all Macedonians, the nobles and the masses. He was well known for calling on his fellow countrymen to join him in battle by their own will:

“However he told them he would keep none of them with him against their will, they might go if they pleased; he should merely enter his protest, that when on his way to make the Macedonians the masters of the world, he was left alone with a few friends and volunteers. This is almost word for word as he wrote in a letter to Antipater, where he adds, that when he had thus spoken to them, they all cried out, they would go along with him whithersoever it was his pleasure to lead them.”

Plutarch, Alexander http://faq.macedonia.org/history/alexander.plutarch.html, 47

The third piece;

Ancient Quotes on the Macedonians as Distinct Nation

The ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish historians, geographers, and orators, speak of the Macedonians as distinct nation, separate from their Greek, Thracian, and Illyrian neighbors. They are clear that Macedonia was never part of Greece and that the Macedonians conquered Greece, Thrace, and Illyria, and kept the Greeks, Thracians, and

Illyrians enslaved, until Rome defeated the Macedonian armies and turned the country into its first province in 168 BC. The assertion of those modern historians that propagate that the Macedonians “were Greeks” which have “united” Greece, is absurd and is completely unsupported by the words of the ancients who clearly considered Greece subjected by the Macedonian foreigners. The Macedonians garrisoned the Greek cities (like the Thracian and Illyrian cities) to enforce their occupation, and later used the Greeks (along with equal numbers of the Thracians and Illyrians) for their conquest of Persia.

1) Diodorus http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/diodorus.html

2) Justin http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/justin.html

3) Arrian http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/arrian.html

4) Curtius Rufus http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/curtius.html

5) Thucydides http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/Thucydides.html

6) Isocrates http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/isocrates.html

7) Ephoros http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/Ephoros.html

8) Ptolemy http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/Ptolemy.html

9) Pausanias http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/pausanias.html

10) Medius of Larisa


11) Pseudo-Herodotus http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/PseudoHerodotus.html

12) Plutarch http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/plutarch.html

13) Livy http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/livy.html

14) Polybius http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/Polybius.html

15) Thracymachus http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/Thracymachus.html

16) Herodotus http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/herodotus.html

17) Demosthenes http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/demosthenes.html

18) Josephus


19) Strabo http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/strabo.html

20) Dionysius Periegetes


21) Pseudo-Scylax


22) Dionysius son of Kalliphon


The ancient Greeks did not regard the Macedonians as Greeks, nor did the Macedonians regard themselves to be Greek. They were proud of their Macedonian nationality and way of life, and looked down upon the Greeks and with contempt. The Greeks called them /barbarians/, along with the Persians, Illyrians, and Thracians, a label that they attributed to all non-Greeks who neither spoke nor understood the Greek language.

Alexander’s Macedonian Army was not a “Greek army” as some modern writers have erroneously claimed, nor the Macedonian conquest of Asia was a “Greek conquest”. The fact is that /not one/ ancient writer has called the Macedonian empire “Greek” or the Macedonian army and conquest “Greek”, but specifically /Macedonian/. When Rome clashed with Macedonia, the Macedonians were ordered by the Romans to evacuate from the /whole of Greece/ and withdraw to Macedonia. They were hated by the Greeks ever since Philip II defeated the Greeks at Chaeronea in 338 BC and brought Greece to its kneel, and the Greeks fought fiercely, first on the side of the Persians and later on the side of the Romans to expel the Macedonians from their country. Too late would they realize that the Macedonian occupation would only be replaced by the Roman. In between the Greeks fought many unsuccessful wars against the Macedonians to drive them out of Greece, among which the Lamian War is the most famous.

It should be noted that the Lamian War was triggered by the death of Alexander the Great, which encouraged the Greeks to rebel.

The purpose of this page is to provide the reader with the actual quotes of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish historians, geographers, and orators that speak of the above assertions, and show that the ancient Macedonians were not Greeks (as the modern Greeks claim today) but a distinct nation. The reader is cautioned that these ancient quotes are not found at the Greek Internet pages which propagate that the Macedonians “were Greek”. Since these overwhelming quotes confirm the fact that the ancient Macedonians were not Greek, the Greek Internet pages purposely avoid them, as they have no way of explaining them. But to the ancient peoples and to the ancient authors the distinctive ethnicity of the Macedonians was not a matter for debate – it was simply a fact.

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All rights reserved. Terms of Service http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/terms.html

Feedback: feedback@historyofmacedonia.org

Thank you Tone for your contribution and for helping the Macedonians.

So what can we conclude from the evidence we have been given above?

We can conclude that;

1. “Slav” is not an ethnic but a linguistic identifier. Therefore Macedonians cannot be “Slavs” in an ethnic sense, but only “Slav speakers” in a linguistic sense, which no Macedonian will dispute!

2. Here we have given the reader enough evidence to prove that the ancient Macedonians, including Alexander the Great himself, spoke a second language besides Koine.

Could this language have been a proto-Slav language of the language Modern Macedonians speak today? Yes it could! Those who are “politically motivated” however say “no it can´t be because the ´Slavs´ did not come to the Balkans until the 6th century AD”.

My question here is “where is the proof that a so-called ´Slav migration´ ever took place”? In the absence of such proof, I submit that the language spoken in Macedonia today is an evolved version of the Macedonian language spoken in ancient times by the ancient Macedonians which, in retrospect, makes the ancient Macedonians “Slav speakers”!

Other articles by Risto Stefov:



You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com


1. Gorgi Popovski - September 23, 2011

The Slavs are product of Western history just to deny one of the oldest civilization in the world.

Tina - March 6, 2012

Macedonians are BC, Slavs are not. No need for debate.

2. Jayse - November 27, 2014

Macedonians were Greek and are still Greek. Macedonia is in the region of today’s Greece. FYROM isn’t. Thank you🙂

3. Hogosha - December 15, 2014

Bullshits… You j adore Turks also.. That is enough to explain how much uneducated you are…

4. Nick the Greek - January 7, 2015

Turkish support for FYRoM has done this fledgling newly emergent country no favours at all.

FYRoM is kept at arms length from the EU and NATO and Turkey’s relationship with the West is becoming ever more distant.

They both deserve each other – according to the European Western point of view!

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