Episode 20 (Thrasymachus)

THRASYMACHUS (V c. BC)

Also known as Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, he was born around 459, and died in 400 BC. He was a known philosopher and orator. From his works, only fragments are preserved from other authors. One of them was Clement of Alexandria, who lived in II and III c. In his work “Stromatis” Clement of Alexandria gives an extract from Thrasymachus’s speech known as “For the Larissaeans”. In this speech, Thrasy­machus, in relation to the Macedonian king Archelaos (reigned from 413 untill 399 BC), wrote:

         “Shall we be slaves to Archelaus – Greeks to a Barbarian? (SOURCE: Clement of Alexandria, “Stromatis”, 6)

This statement was given by Thrasymachus after the stronger tendencies of Macedonia to rule over the Athenian territories during the Peloponnesian War.

It is known that the term “barbarian” in ancient times meant a person that does not speak Greek, so it is quite clear that Thrasymachus did not consider the ancient Macedonians to be Greek.

PRAXAGORAS OF ATHENS (IV c.)

Praxagoras of Athens lived in the IV century AD and was the author of three books, none of which are preserved. One of these books was “History of Constantine the Great”. Parts of this book were preserved by the ancient author Photius who briefly retells its contents. Among other things, here we read:

         “He inherited his father’s kingdom and that of Rome after the overthrow of Maximin, and obtained possession of Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor by the deposition of Licinius”. (SOURCE: Photius, “Bibliotheca”, 62).

          Here too we see that Macedonia and Greece are clearly divided as two different entities. If Macedonia was Greek it wouldnot be distinguished from Greece.Not only here, but in many other ancient authors as well.

 SAINT AUGUSTINE (IVandV c.)

St. Augustine’s real name was Aurelius Augustinius. He was born in 354, and passed away in 430. He wrote about the Christian theory. In his works, he managed to make a connection between a part from the ancient philosophy Platonism and Christianity. His most known work is “City of God”. In the Fifth book from this work, he writes about “…writings which Alexander of Macedon wrote to his mother. Here he mentions the ancient Macedonian historian Leones, whose work he used as a reference. In the Twelfth book, St. Augustine writes about the period of the creation of human kind:

„… Let me cite only that letter which Alexander the Great wrote to his mother Olympias, giving her the narrative he had from an Egyptianpriest, which he had extracted from their sacred archives, and which gave an account of kingdoms mentioned also by the Greek historians. In this letter of Alexander’s a term of upwards of 5000 years is assigned to the kingdom of Assyria; while in the Greek history only 1300 years are reckoned from the reign of Bel himself, whom both Greek and Egyptian agree in counting the first king of Assyria.  Then to the empire of the Persians and Macedonians this Egyptian assigned more than 8000 years, counting to the time of Alexander, to whom he was speaking; while among the Greeks, 485 years are assigned to the Macedonians down to the death of Alexander, and to the Persians 233 years, reckoning to the termination of his conquests” (SOURCE: Augustine, “De Civ. Dei”, XII, 10).

          As we can see in this extract, St. Augustine compares the writings of the ancient Greek and the ancient Egyptian historians. Undoubtedly, some interesting conclusions are drawn.

First, the ancient Egyptian priest informed Alexander the Great of Macedon that, in the ancient Egyptian writings the empires of the Persians and the Macedonians were over 8 000 years old, and not like it was written by the later historians (such as Herodotus and others), which counted only 485 years since the creation of the Macedonian empire till the time of Alexander the Great.

Secondly, Saint Augustine, relying on the ancient writings of the old Egyptian and old Greek historians in the previously mentioned quote, clearly notes a difference between the Macedonians and the Greeks in the ancient time.That is why he mentions them separately in here (along with the Egyptians, Persians and Assyrians).

Because of the fact that St. Augustine wrote the previously mentioned quote based on contents from the history book written by the ancient Macedonian historian Leones from Pella (which was based on the letter written by Alexander the Great to his mother Olympias), it is quite clear that not only Alexander the Great himself, but the historian Leones of Pella as well considered the Macedonians as an individual nation to the Greeks.