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N.G.L. Hammond

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There were two parts of the Greek-speaking world at this time which did not suffer from revolution and did not seek to impose rule over the city states. In Epirus there were three clusters of tribal states, called Molossia, Thesprotia and Chaonia[...]the other part of the Greek-speaking world extended from Pelagonia in the north to Macedonia in the south. It was occupied by several tribal states, which were constantly at war against Illyrians, Paeonians and Thracians.
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"The Genius of Alexander the Great", p.11, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (November 26, 2004)

 
N.G.L. Hammond

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"The language spoken by these early Macedonians has become a controversial issue in modern times. It seems not to have been so in antiquity. As we have seen, Hesiod made Magnes and Macedon first cousins of the Hellenes, and he therefore regarded them as speakers of a dialect (or dialects) of the Greek language. That he was correct in the case of the Magnetes has been proved by the discovery of early inscriptions in an Aeolic dialect in their area of eastern Thessaly. Then, late in the fifth century a Greek historian, Hellanicus, who visited the court of Macedonia, made the father of Macedon not Zeus but Aeolus, a thing which he could not have done unless he knew that the Macedonians were speaking an Aeolic dialect of Greek. A remarkable confirmation of their Greek speech comes from the Persians, who occupied Macedonia as part of their conquests in Europe c.510-480. [...] Disagreements over this issue have developed for various reasons. In the second half of the fifth century Thucydides regarded the semi-nomadic, armed northerners of Epirus and western Macedonia as "barbarians", and he called them such in his history of events in 429 and 423. The word was understood by some scholars to mean "non-Greek-speakers" rather than "savages." They were shown to be mistaken in 1956, when inscriptions of 370-68, containing lists of Greek personal names and recording in the Greek language some acts of the Molossians, were found at Dodona in Epirus. This discovery proved beyond dispute that one of Thucydides "barbarian" tribes" of Epirus, the Molossians, was speaking Greek at the time of which he was writing. Demosthenes too called the Macedonians "barbarians" in the 340s. That this was merely a term of abuse has been proved recently by the discovery at Aegae (Vergina) of seventy-four Greek names and one Thracian name on funerary headstones inscribed in Greek letters.

 
N.G.L. Hammond
 

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[...] To the civilised Greek of the fifth and fourth centuries, the Macedonian way of life must have seemed crude and primitive. This backwardness in culture was mainly the result of geographical factors. The Greeks, who had proceeded south in the second millennium, were affected by the many civilising influences of the Mediterranean world, and ultimately they developed that very civilising institution, the polis. The Macedonians, on the other hand, remained in the north and living for centuries in mountainous areas, fighting with Illyrians, Thracians, and amongst themselves as tribe fought tribe, developed a society that may be termed Homeric. The amenities of city-state life were unknown until they began to take root in Lower Macedonia from the end of the fifth century onwards.

 
John V.A. Fine
 

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' and `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 […] 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 recorded 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 `Greeks wearing the hat'. 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. However, the Macedonians wore a distinctive 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 making Macedon not a cousin, but a son of Aeolus, thus bringing Macedon and his descendants firmly into the Aeolic branch of the Greek-speaking family. Hesiod, Persia, and 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.

 
N.G.L. Hammond
 

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.

 
David Noel Freedman
 

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.

 
Robert Morkot
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