Episode 18 (Titus Livius)

TITUS LIVIUS (I c. BC – I c. AD)

The Roman historian Titus Livius is one of the few ancient historians who is often relied on by the current Greek propaganda and pro-Greek authors, to “prove” the supposed “Greek ethnic identity” of the ancient Macedonians. But, the facts speak something entirely different. Let’s see what this is about.

In one extract of his work “History of Rome” (book 31, chapter 29), Livius wrote that the Aetolians, the Acarnanians and the Macedonians were (quote) “nations with the same language” (in Latin: “eiusdem linguae homines“). Because the Aetolians and the Acarnanians were “Greek” (nations that lived on the territory of present Greece), that would mean the Macedonians were also “Greek”. Well, let’s respond to these remarks.

Titus Livius lived from the year 59 BC till the year 14 AD. He (as a Roman), wrote this sentence in response to the negotiations between the Balkan peoples and Rome which occurred during the Roman invasion of the Balkan Peninsula (II c. BC). This means that he wrote about an event that happened nearly a century and a half before he was born. For this claim, two explanations are possible:

The first explanation involves Livy himself, who explains that in his time, the Macedonians were partially Hellenised (which means that they were not Hellenic, but a part of them accepted segments of the Hellenic culture, just as the Greeks took parts from the Macedonian culture, which is completely normal between two neighboring nations).

However, despite all this, Livius very clearly distinguishes the Macedonians from the Greeks. In the same book, while writing about the hatred the Greek Athenians had towards the Macedonians from the time of the Macedonian king Philip V, and their desire (with help from Rome) to get rid of the Macedonian slavery, Livius writes:

“…The people of Athens and their allies, their armies and fleets, should so often curse and execrate Philip, his children and his kingdom, his military and naval forces, and the whole race and name of the Macedonians.” (SOURCE: Titut Livius, “History of Rome”, 31, 44).

This testimony is much stronger than the testimony for the similarity of the language between the Macedonians, the Acarnaians and the Aetolians.Here he points out ethnic (“racial”) differences between the Macedonians and the Greeks, unlike the language which can be very changeable.

The second explanation also has serious arguments.There are many controversial opinions regarding the origin of the Acarnanians.

Strabo considered them a “Greek tribe”, but Aeschines, Theopompus and Pausanias did not mention them as Hellenes in the Amphictyonic Council, which was a community of the Greek tribes at that time.

It seems that Thucydides most correctly presents the Acarnanians’ ethnic origin. He claims that the Acarnanians (especially those from the city Argos) were a mix of Hellenes and “barbarians” (people who didnot speak Greek).

There are stances that indicate that the Acarnanians had a Thracian origin. For example, the author Cornelius Nepos wrote that Themistocles’s mother was Acarnanian, and Plutarch in his “Biography of Themistocles” wrote that she was Thracian (SOURCE: G. Sotiroff: “The Language of Constantine the Great“; Ele­men­ta nova pro historia Mace­dono-Bulgarica; Regina, Lynn Publishing Co., Saskatchewan, Canada, 1986 p. 20).

The case with the Aetolians is the same as well. There are ancient testimonies that claim that they spoke a different language from the Greeks which means that they were not Greeks.

The famous ancient historian Polybius presents a statement which was given by the Macedonian king Philip V himself in which he said that (quote). “…most of the Aetolians themselves are not Greeks”(SOURCE: Polybius, “Histories”, XVIII, I, 4).

All of this could mean that Titus Livius might be correct saying that the Aetolians, the Acarnanians and the Macedonians were “nations with the same language“, but what the present day Greek propagandists forget to say is that that there are serious ancient testimonies that neither of these nations were Greek.

ZOSIMUS (V and VI c.)

Zosimus was a Byzantian ancient historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantian king Anastasius in V and VI c. He is the author of the book “Historia Nova”, which consists of 6 books. It is interesting to note that he was a pagan, even though Christianity was in full bloom at his time.

In the first book of “Historia Nova”, while describing the expansion of the Roman Empire, Zosimus writes:      

         “And being still desirous to enlarge their empire, they crossed the Ionian sea, conquered Greece, and ruined the Ma­ce­donians, whose king they carried to Rome in chains.”(SOURCE: Zo­si­mus, “New History”, London: Green and Chaplin;1814,B. 1).

So, it is quite clear that Zosimus treated the Macedonians as different from the Greeks, who were under Macedonian slavery before they were conquered by the Romans.