Episode 19 (Quintus Curtius Rufus)


Further evidence is given by the Latin writer Quintus Curtius Rufus, in his work on the life of Alexander the Great of Macedon. No other data is known for the life of this historian, but it is believed that he lived in the I c. AD. We will give an extract which is without doubt, the most persuasive for the subject we are covering.

It is about a testimony related to the individuality of the language of the ancient Macedonians. Quintus Curtius Rufus very clearly states that the ancient Macedonians and the Greeks communicated with each other with translators!

An event is known when the Macedonian Philotas was on trial for preparing a conspiracy of murdering Alexander the Great. The conspiracy was discovered and Philotas was publicly interrogated by Alexander himself.

Quintus Curtius Rufus, describing this event, clearly wrote that the Macedonians spoke in a distinctive language. He even quotes a statement by Alexander the Great himself, in which he, addressing the Macedonians in first person plural, mentions (quote): “the mother tongue and our language”.

          Alexander addressed Philotas with he words:

          “The Macedonians are going to judge your case. Please state whether you will use your native languagebefore them.

Philotas denied, explaining that besides Macedonians, there were members of other nations as well. To this, Alexander told the people who were present:

“Do you see how offensive Philotas find even his native language? He alone feels an aversion to learning it. But let him speak as he pleases – only remember he as contemptuous of our way of life as he is of our language.”(SOURCE: Quintus Curtius Rufus, “De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Macedonis, VI).

But, Philotas was not indifferent to these accusations, so in his reply, he said:

“I am remarked for refusing to speak in the mother tongue, and that I am grossed out by the Macedonian traditions. So I’m threatening the kingdom by despising it? But long ago, the very same mother tongue was abandoned in the communication with other nations, so the winners and the defeated had to learn a new, foreign language.”

Still, Alexander’s general Bolon interfered with the accusations against Philotas, who, among many things, accused Philotas:”…even though he was Macedonian, he was not embarrassed, by using a translator, to hear out the people that spoke in his native language.”

This event is so clear in relation to the existence of an individual Macedonian language, that no further comment is needed. We can also see from this description that a part of the Macedonians, because of practical reasons (greater opportunity to communicate with the other nations etc), used the language koine. This was the common language made of different Greek dialects, (and words from other languages as well), but Macedonians kept speaking Macedonian with each other.

We can see that during the trial of Philotas, he was scolded by Alexander for not wanting to address the Macedonians in the “mother tongue”.

Philotas then accused Alexander of introducing the language koine, and said that the Macedonian language was neglected long ago, so now even the winners (the Macedonians) and the defeated (the Greeks, Persians and other peoples under Macedonian reign) had to learn this new language.

Bolon interfered, accusing Philotas that even though he was Macedonian, he communicated with the Macedonians using translators when he had the opportunity. This is a very significant proof that at that time many Macedonians did not even know the language koine, so when they wanted to address someone, they did it by using translators. Philotas, even though he knew the Macedonian language, did not want to listen to the Macedonians talk in their own language, but insisted on listening to their words translated into koine.

Quintus Curtius Rufus also mentions the Macedonians as different from the Greeks. Related to the conquering of the Asian tribe Arachosi and the stay in their country, Q. C. Rufus writes:

“…They were six thousand Macedonians, two hundred noblemen and five thousand Greeks with six hundred cavalries…” (Quintus Curtius Rufus: “History of Alexander the Great”, translated from Latin by Dr. Ljubinka Basotova; Skopje, 1998, page 292)

All this is more strong evidence against the present-day Greek propaganda.