Episode 23 (Tatian)

TATIAN THE ASSYRIAN (II c.)

Tatian the Assyrian was born in Assyria (a territory in present-day Iraq). He was an early-Christian writer and theologian who left behind many valuable works. At first he was a pagan, but during his visit in Rome he met with the Christians and accepted Christianity. He left a number of polemics with the pagans. Later he stayed in other countries and in his final years he came back to Assyria where he passed away around 185. One of his most popular works is known by the name “Tatian’s Address to the Greeks”, where he criticizes the ancient Greek authors for assigning values to the Greeks that they did not objectively deserve. He lists which segments of science and art the Greeks took from other nations, and later proclaimed them as “their own”. His stances at the time can be acclaimed to many other present-day Greek authors as well. Let us give an extract from one of his work:

“The Greeks Claim, Without Reason, the Invention of the Arts. Be not, O Greeks, so very hostilely disposed towards the Barbarians, nor look with ill will on their opinions. For which of your institutions has not been derived from the Barbarians? The most eminent of the Telmessians invented the art of divining by dreams; the Carians, that of prognosticating by the stars; the Phrygians and the most ancient Isaurians, augury by the flight of birds; the Cyprians, the art of inspecting victims. To the Babylonians you owe astronomy; to the Persians, magic; to the Egyptians, geometry; to the Phœnicians, instruction by alphabetic writing. Cease, then, to miscall these imitations inventions of your own. Orpheus, again, taught you poetry and song; from him, too, you learned the mysteries. The Tuscans taught you the plastic art; from the annals of the Egyptians you learned to write history; you acquired the art of playing the flute from Marsyas and Olympus, – these two rustic Phrygians constructed the harmony of the shepherd’s pipe. The Tyrrhenians invented the trumpet; the Cyclopes, the smith’s art; and a woman who was formerly a queen of the Persians, as Hellanicus tells us, the method of joining together epistolary tablets: her name was Atossa. Wherefore lay aside this conceit, and be not ever boasting of your elegance of diction; for, while you applaud yourselves, your own people will of course side with you. But it becomes a man of sense to wait for the testimony of others, and it becomes men to be of one accord also in the pronunciation of their language. But, as matters stand, to you alone it has happened not to speak alike even in common intercourse; for the way of speaking among the Dorians is not the same as that of the inhabitants of Attica, nor do the Æolians speak like the Ionians. And, since such a discrepancy exists where it ought not to be, I am at a loss whom to call a Greek. And, what is strangest of all, you hold in honour expressions not of native growth, and by the intermixture of barbaric words have made your language a medley.

(…)

You have, too, contrived the art of rhetoric to serve injustice and slander, selling the free power of your speech for hire, and often representing the same thing at one time as right, at another time as not good. The poetic art, again, you employ to describe battles, and the amours of the gods, and the corruption of the soul.(SOURCE: “Tatian’s Address to the Greeks”).

For the subject we are covering, we can clearly see that while mentioning the Greek dialects, this early-Christian writer does not mention the Macedonian language as a “Greek dialect”.

SOZOMENUS (IV and V c.)

Sozomenus was another author who wrote about the ancient Macedonians. He lived near the end of the IV c. until the middle of the V c. He was a historian of the Christian church and descended from a wealthy Christian family from Palestine.

In his works he mentioned the Macedonians several times, clearly as different people from the Greeks.

For example, in his work “Ecclesiastical History”, referring to the battle between Constantine the Great and Liciniusin year 314, he writes:

        “After the battle of Cibalis, the Dardanians and the Mace­donians, the inhabitants of the banks of the Ister, of Hellas, and the whole nation of Illyria, became subject to Cons­tantine.”(SOURCE: Sozomenus,Ecclesiastical History”, Book I, Chap. VI).

We can see that the Macedonians and Greece (Hellas) are mentioned separately.

While referring to the christening of the Balkan peoples, taking place during Constantine I the Great’s reign (306-337), Sozomenus wrote:

“…The Christians of the West, the Greeks, the Macedo­nians, and the Illyrians, met for worship in safety through the protection of Constantine, who was then at the head of the Roman Empire”.(SOURCE: Sozomenus, Eccl. History”, Book II, Chap. II).

Here too we will point out that it is more than obvious that the term “Macedonians” is used in an ethnic, and not geographical sense, because it is used equally with the ethnical terms “Illyrians” and “Greeks”. So, it is quite clear that the ancient Macedonians lived in Macedonia in the IV c. as a separate nation to the other Balkan peoples.

These statements are just enough to consider Sozomenus as part of the ancient historians who decisively wrote that the Macedonians were not Greeks.