Episode 9 (Coenus)

COENUS (IV c. BC)

Coenus was one of the most trusted generals of Alexander the Great of Macedon. The year of his birth is unknown, but it is supposed that he died in 326 BC. He accompanied Alexander during the expedition in Asia, so in the fall in 326 BC he returned to Macedonia along with other soldiers and officers who got a release.Аfter that he rejoined the Macedonian army in Asia, and afterwards he participated as a commandant in the infantry and the phalanx in the most eminent battles of Alexander.

However, in the written sources, Coenus was known by his speech held in front of Alexander which is preserved by the ancient historian Arrian. In the episodeabout Alexander the Great of Macedon we mentioned a speech, which the king held in front of his officers when they, on request of the soldiers, decided not to follow him in the final conquering of India and wished to return to their homes. However, none of them dared to bring this up to Alexander. Alexander, understanding what was going on, called his officers to a meeting and held a speech for them to remind them of all the achievements they gained in the expedition in Persia. We already mentioned that in his speech, Alexander the Great clearly separated the Macedonians from the Greeks.

After hearing Alexander’s speech, his officers stood there quietly for some time, then, Coenus plucked up courage and addressed Alexander. Coenus told Alexander that the soldiers are grateful and satisfied of what they achieved and of what they got from their king, but they thought it was time to put an end to the further achievements. Among other things Coenus said:

          “For thou thyself seest how many Macedonians and Greeks started with thee, and how few of us have been left. Of our number thou didst well in sending back home the Thessalians at once from Bactria, because thou didst perceive that they were no longer eager to undergo labours. Of the other Greeks, some have been settled as colonists in the cities which thou hast founded; where they remain not indeed all of them of their own free will. The Macedonian soldiers and the other Greeks who still continued to share our labours and dangers, have either perished in the battles, become unfit for war on account of their wounds, or been left behind in the different parts of Asia. The majority, however, have perished from disease, so that few are left out of many; and these few are no longer equally vigorous in body, while in spirit they are much more exhausted…. Do not lead us now against our will; for thou wilt no longer find us the same men in regard to dangers, since free-will be wanting to us in the contests. But, rather, if it seemgood to thee, return of thy own accord to thy own land, see thy mother, regulate the affairs of the Greeks, and carry to the home of thy fathers, these victories so many and great… and other Macedonians and Greeks will follow thee, young men in place of old, fresh men in place of exhausted ones…” (SOURCE: Arrian, “Anabasis” Book V, 27).

          In the end Coenus pointed that everyone needs to know when is it time to stop and the officers who were present applauded him. By hearing this, Alexander told them that those who want to go home can go, and if someone wished to stay, they can stay. After this, Alexander returned angrily to his tent, hoping that the soldiers would change their minds, but that didnot happen. Alexander then informed his officers that he had changed his mind and decided that the army would return back home and stop with the conquests.

Arrian took the speech of Coenus from the lost history of Ptolemy. What’s important here is the fact that in the speech of officer Coenus, the Macedonians and the Greeks are clearly separated and are mentioned as two different nations(“For thou thyself seest how many Macedonians and Greeks started with thee…”and“…and other Macedonians and Greeks will follow thee…”).

Here we have another testimony of an ancient Macedonian who clearly separated the Macedonians from the Greeks.

DICAEARCHUS (IV and III century BC)

Dicaearchus from Messana was born around 350, and died around 285 BC. He was a well-known Ancient Greek philosopher, cartographer, geographer and mathematician. He was a student of Aristotle and contemporary of Alexander the Great of Macedon. Only a few of his works are preserved today. One of the most famous work of Dicaearchus (today known by the name “Life of Greece”) was dedicated to the history and geography of the Greek territories. In the first volume (of a total three) Dicaearchus gave a detailed description of the Greek geography and history. About the boundaries of the Greek territories, he wrote:

I therefore draw the limits of Hellas at the country of Magnesians, to the Vale of Tempe. Above Tempe towards Olympus,  is the region of the Macedonians.”

He also wrote that the Greek territories started form the “Ambracian Gulf” (which is south of Epirus) and ended at the river Peneus (SOURCE: “Memorandum on the Ancient Boundaries of Greece”; British documents of foreign affairs, Part I, Series F, Europe 1848 – 1914, Vol. 14 “Greece, 1847 – 1914”, University publications of America).

Practically, Dicaearchus had no doubt as well that Macedonians are not Greeks.