Episode 37 (Plutarch, Part III)



Plutarch left writings about the diversity of the ancient Macedonians in other works as well. One of them is the Biography of Agesilaus (written around the year 75 as well).

Agesilaus lived in the V century BC and Plutarch described the main events of his life. Plutarch mentions the Macedonians as victors over Persia andin his writings, it is clearly pointed out without any doubt that the Macedonians were a nation different to the Greeks. He wrote that the Greeks agreed with great remorse that the fame they got in the war against Persia was entitled to Alexan­der and the Macedonians, while they (the Greeks) kept on argu­ing with each other and warred against each other. Here we read:

“Greece to herself doth a barbarian grow… What better can we say of those jealousies, and that league and conspiracy of the Greeks for their own mischief, which arrested fortune in full career, and turned back arms that were already uplifted against the barbarians, to be used upon themselves, and recalled into Greece the war which had been banished out of her? I by no means assent to Demaratus of Corinth, who said, that those Greeks lost a great satisfaction, that did not live to see Alexander sit in the throne of Darius. That sight should rather have drawn tears from them, when they considered, that they had left that glory to Alexander and the Macedonians, whilst they spent all their own great commanders in playing them against each other…”

          This is another proof that the Macedonians are clearly different from the Greeks. Here we see that Plutarch considers the Spartans, Athenians, Thebans and other nation as “Greeks” – all of those that used to war against each other. But, he clearly mentions the Macedonians separately from them, even though they warred against the Greeks and Persians.

Here he also writes that the Greeks wasted their time in wars on their cities for nothing, instead of uniting and turning against Persia. While the Greeks wasted their time, money and military, the Macedonians managed to realize their dream and conquer Persia.

A very strong proof that the Macedonians were not Greeks can be found in Plutarch’s Biography of Agis. Agis was a Spartan king. Plutarch writes that since the time that Philip of Macedon defeated the Greeks, not a single Greek king died on the battlefield, except for Cleombrotus. Here we read:

          “And certainly we see that in the many battles fought betwixt the Lacedaemonians and the other Greeks, up to the time of Philip of Macedon, not one of their kings was ever killed, except Cleombrotus, by a javelin-wound, at the battle of Leuctra.”

          This is also a big proof that the Greek Plutarch (unlike today’s Greek propaganda), knew very clearly that the Macedonians are in no way Greek. Simply, he writes that until the time of Philip of Macedon, from the time when the Greek cities were enslaved by the Macedonians, not a single Greek king (except Cleombrotus) had died during a battle. If the Macedonians were “Greek”, then this connotation should include them as well. But that is not the case at all. It is well known that the Macedonian king Perdiccas died in a battle. He reigned from 365 till 359, before Philip of Macedon. This Macedonian king died in battle against the Dardanian leader Bradiles. So, if the Macedonians were “Greeks”, Plutarch would have mentioned Perdicca III as a “Greek king”, who died in battle. However, he did not do this because of the fact that he did not consider the Macedonians as Greeks.

In the year 75 BC, Plutarch wrote his short historical work Comparison of Philopoemen and Flamininus. Here too he mentioned the Macedonians, clearly separating them from the Greeks. Philopoemen was a Greek general who participated in the inner clashes among the Greeks, and Titus Flamininus was a Roman general, who lived in the III and II c. BC and was known for defeating the Macedonian king Philip V and liberating the Greeks from Macedonian slavery. For these two generals, Plutarch in his work writes:

        “First, then, as for the greatness of the benefits which Titus conferred on Greece, neither Philopoemen, nor many braver men than he, can make good the parallel. They were Greeks fighting against Greeks, but Titus, a stranger to Greece, fought for her. And at the very time when Philopoemen went over into Crete, destitute of means to succor his besieged countrymen, Titus, by a defeat given to Philip in the heart of Greece, set them and their cities free. Again, if we examine the battles they fought, Philopoemen, whilst he was the Achaeans’ general, slew more Greeks than Titus, in aiding the Greeks, slew Macedonians.”

It is really interesting to know how today’s Greek historians react to this evidence. Here Plutarch, again gives a clear proof of the Macedonian non-Greek ethnical background. He praises the Roman general Titus Flamininus saying that not one action of rows of brave Greeks could compare to all the good things this Roman did for the Greeks, because he, even though was a stranger in their territories, liberated the Greek cities from Macedonian slavery, after previously defeating the Macedonian army “In the heart of Greece” (the battle near Kynoskephale) led by king Philip V. Plutarch concludes that the Greek Philopoemen killed more Greeks than Titus Flamininus killed Macedonians to liberate their cities. We can see that Plutarch really despised all the Greeks who warred against each other, instead of uniting against Macedonia.