Episode 16 (Herodian)

HERODIAN (II and III c.)

Herodian was born in Syria around the year 170. It is considered that he had Greek origins. He lived in Rome a certain period, where he wrote an impressive history work in eight books,dedicated to the history of Rome. Herodian passed away around 240.

Regarding Herodians’s writings about the subject we are covering, we will say that this ancient author also treated the Macedonians as a separate nation andhe pointed this out very clearly. We will list several examples.

In the first book (chapter 3), Herodian mentions the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty which ruled Egypt at the time. Herodian writes the following about the king Ptolemy:

“Ptolemy, too, contrary to the laws of the Macedonians and the Greeks, went so far as to marry his own sister.”(SOURCE: Herodian: “History of the Roman Empire“, 1961, Book 1, Chapter 3).

Actually, the members of the Ptolemaic dynasty only made formal (not real) marriages with their sisters to fit the Egyptian tradition. What is interesting in this sentence is that Herodian distinguished the Macedonians from the Greeks by saying that they had their own laws. He was of course, referring to the Macedonians and the Greeks that lived in Egypt. This testimony has even bigger value because Herodian himself had Greek origins.

Furthermore in the sentence, Herodian, while criticizing other kings and their strange habits, mentions the Macedonian king Antigonus:

In the Third book (chapter 2), Herodian is still very clear in pointing out the specialness of the Macedonians and the Greeks. He criticizes the Greeks by saying that they are always arguing with each other, are jealous of each other and that they are looking for ways to destroy anyone who succeeded in life. Because of this, he says that the Greeks fell as a nation destroyed by their own greed and evil, as they became an easy prey for the Macedonians, and later for the Romans too. Here we read:

          “This is an ancient failing of the Greeks; the constant organizing of fractions against each other and their eagerness to bring about the downfall of those who seem superior to them, have ruined Greece. Their ancient quarrels and internal feuds had made them easy prey to the Macedonians and slaves to the Romans, and this curse of jealousy and envy has been handed down to the flourishing Greek cities of our own day.”

No further comment is needed here, really. Herodian clearly points out the three different nations here: Macedonians, Romans and Greeks.The Greeks of course falling under the Macedonian, and later Roman domination.

In the eighth chapter of theFourth book dedicated to the Roman emperor Caracalla (188 – 217), Herodian writes that this Roman emperor was so thrilled by the persona and work of Alexander the Great of Macedon, that he proclaimed himself as “the Second Alexander”. Here we read:

          “Caracalla, after attending to matters in the garrison camps along the Danube River, went down into Thrace at the Macedonian border, and immediately he became Alexander the Great. To revive the memory of the Macedonian in every possible way, he ordered statues and paintings of his hero to be put on public display in all cities. He filled the Capitol, the rest of the temples, indeed, all Rome, with statues and paintings designed to suggest that he was a second Alexander.. At times we saw ridiculous portraits, statues with one body which had on each side of a single head the faces of Alexander and the emperor. Caracalla himself went about in Mace-donian dress, affecting especially the broad sun hat and short boots. He enrolled picked youths in a unit which he labeled his Macedonian phalanx; its officers bore the names of Alexander’s generals.”

This, an almost unbelievable testimony is significant in many ways. First, it speaks about the great appeal Alexander the Great had even among some Romans in the highest positions. Let us remind ourselves that it took a great effort for the Romans to conquer Macedonia, but that didnot stop some of the newer generations to admire the great Macedonian king. Furthermore, Herodian mentions a special kind of “Macedonian outfit” which Caracalla dressed up in, and also gives more details about the way the Macedonians dressed (special hatandshort boots). We see that Caracalla rapidly started to worship Alexander after he came near Macedonia (which in his time was already three and a half centuries under Roman reign). This means that at that time, the memory of Alexander the Great of Macedon was still strong and fresh among the Macedonians, so Caracalla took it from them.

To conclude, the work of the ancient Greek historian Herodian represents another blow against today’s Greek propaganda. Herodian undoubtedly treated the Macedonians as a special nation with their own culture.