Sunday, February 24, 2008

Alexander was Great, not Greek

I bet Greek people who play Civ IV were happy to see Pericles added in the most recent expansion, Beyond the Sword.

That's because, unlike Alexander the Great, the first leader, Pericles is like, you know, Greek.

Having Alexander be the leader of Greece makes as much as sense as having Julius Caesar be the leader of the Celts or having Alexander be the leader of Persia and Egypt.

Alexander might have been born King of Greece (cause his father had conquered them) but he was no more Greek than Stalin was Polish.


David M Jacobs said...

From what I can gather from extensive conversations with Greek friends, most Greeks do consider Alexander to have been Greek.

Many never question this "fact" but others cite his mother's Epirote origins, his tutelage at Aristotle's hands and/or his use of (some dialect of) the Greek language.

Of course, one line of argument suggests that the (ancient) Macedonians were closely related to the Illyrians, who could have been ancestors to modern Albanians, but that's a good way to get your nose punched by one of the more hot-blooded Greek lads, who aren't great fans of modern Albanians.

But I guess that's what you get for becoming involved in ethnic arguments with regard to the Balkans. What may seem trivial or academic or a mere attempt to garner reflected glory to you or I can take on a whole different dimension to people who still distrust Catholics over the outcome of the Fourth Crusade.

(And how I wish I was exaggerating that last point...)

Chuck said...

I fully appreciate the extent to which Greek culture influence Macedon.

Alexander's education was chosen specifically by his father because he recognized the greatness of Greek civilization and culture, a greatness also recognized by the Roman Empire, all of Europe, the United States, etc.

Conversely, I understand why the Greeks would love to claim Alexander.

He was great.

However, a trip to

this website, which is a macedonian website. has numerous articles on why the Macedonians do NOT consider themselves ethnically Greek.

I find this somewhat compelling.

I realize a lot of people conflate Macedon and Greece, I just don't consider the reasons for doing so all that compelling.

But hey, I'm the ugly American, so it's entirely possible my head is up my ass.

As I said, I was mostly going by what the Macedonians seem to feel, that though there has been a lot of interchange, that they are distinct from Greece.

David M Jacobs said...

Your reasoning (at least as far as my knowledge goes) is correct, with one caveat, however: Greeks don't consider modern Macedonians to be Greek either, and in fact consider the latter to have usurped the "Macedonian identity".

Hence, Greeks often refer to (the nation of) Macedonia as the Republic of Skopje, while other UN countries tiptoe around the issue by explicitly identifying the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM for short) or, less commonly, Slavic Macedonia.

For a brief rundown, check out this Wikipedia article. I hope this clears things up a little.

I don't find the reasons for conflation that compelling either, but by the same token, I also don't think many Greek Civ players lose sleep over the game's authors identifying Alexander as Greek.

Chuck said...

Yeah, I agree with you, especially on the last point.

And it doesn't bother me or anything, it certainly doesn't stop me from spending hours playing Civ.

I just thought it was funny that it took them a couple of expansions to get Pericles in there, a great Greek leader whose "greekness" isn't even a little tiny bit in doubt.

Heck, you could include King Leonidas of Sparta too. It would be pretty fun to yell "THIS... IS... SPARTA!" while playing Civ ;)

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