Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Macedones - A. Kallistos

THE MACEDONES (The Highland Warriors of Hellas)
by Alexandros Kallistos

As we move northward from Attica, that civilization which we know as classical Greece wanes. At Macedon it becomes a veneer, thin indeed, applied only to the rulers of a nation composed of various, loosely allied tribal groups living in ways not dissimilar to the wild tribes to the north of them. By the time we reach The Danube, the people resemble more closely the hunter gatherers of pre columbian North America than they do the sophisticated citizens of Athens to the south.

Macedon is as rich in natural resources as Attica is poor. Seemingly endless miles of first growth forests provide such an abundance of timber that there is plenty to export to the sparsely wooded south. Great flat plains are abundantly watered by the many torrential rivers which rush down the mountains over roaring falls and flood them twice a year depositing a mineral rich silt which gives the stoneless soil its whitish bloom. The plains burst forth with an abundance of cereals, fruits, and vegetables undreamt of in the poor and dry soil of southern Attica. Horses, cattle, sheep and goats thrive on the rich grazing lands. Macedon provides all The Macedones need for sustenance; it is self sufficient. The people have not changed for hundreds of years for there has been no need to change.

This bountiful land has been inhabited for thousands of years by people of various ethnic backgrounds. For the most part, they live in a state of armed truce with their neighbors in a society based upon family related clans like the barbarous tribes north of The Danube.

We know much about the rulers of Macedon, but little about the common people. They lived in clan groups each with its own king. Some were transhumanant pastoralists, and some were settled agriculturists, though they did not live together and there was no intermarriage between clans. In the autumn, after the crops were gathered, the pastoralists would come down from the mountains and spend the winter grazing their flocks on agricultural lands rented for the season. In the spring before planting, they would have disappeared up into the mists of the mountains from whence they came. There are still parts of the world where this ancient social rhythm continues to this day.

The tribes might have differing ethnic backgrounds, some from as far away as Phrygian in Asia Minor, but over the years they came to speak a common language based upon Aeolic Greek which became known as Macedonian. It could be understood by the Attic speakers of the south, but only with some difficulty such as a London gentleman might encounter today trying to understand the rural Northumberland patois, though both in fact, are speaking English.

The religion of the Macedonian commoner, though nominally Greek, was heavily accented by ancient west Asian beliefs. Thus, Cybele of Asia Minor becomes Aphrodite Mother Of The Gods in a transparent attempt to Hellenize her; she remains recognizably a more ancient Goddess, renamed.

Dionysus, also an imported God from The East is the other important God of The Macedonians who are famous for their orgiastic rites performed in his honor by the women of Macedon and forbidden on pain of death to the men. In the case of the Macedonian God, Darron, the healer, there is not even an attempt to Hellenize.

The importance of women in religion is reflected in their everyday social status as well. Even though this is structurally, a paternalistic society, women here play a much more important role than elsewhere in Hellas and it is only in Macedon that the history of classical Greece records regnant queens, a condition which would be unthinkable even in Sparta.

The government of Macedon is completely opposed to the democracies and oligarchies of classical Hellas. Here a king has always ruled the land just as a chief rules the clan and a father rules the family. The fathers owe their allegiance to their clan chief and the chiefs to the king.

The main duty of the king is to command the army and secure the borders of the state. His secondary duty is to represent the people before the Gods. Each morning the king sacrifices to the Gods as a religious representative of his subjects. In Macedon, the Argaed kings were believed to be directly descended form the Gods and to thus enjoy a special influence upon them. Their ceremonial duties were of extreme importance in this deeply religious and highly superstitious land. So important was the kings daily ritual to the well being of the people that Alexander had himself carried from his death bed to perform his daily sacrifices. As a direct descendant of the Gods, the king and his family enjoyed a religious respect which gave them a partially divine status. Evidence of an organized worship of the dead kings has been discovered in the royal graves at Aegae.

The king of the Macedones was not a king as we know them today. By law, he was accessible to all of his subjects at any time, anywhere. Anyone might address him as an equal. Though he could judge any law case, he, curiously, could never pass a sentence of death without a vote of the assembled army. He did not wear purple robes or a crown but rather, wore the same garments as other upper class men. He might though, tie a simple cloth ribbon around his head or his hat in order to identify himself.

The custom of clan leaders and their sons attending the king in the royal capital created what amounted to a standing army. The clan leaders, their sons, and retainers were on hand, armed, and available for instant deployment. Furthermore, the clan leaders need only order all men of fighting age in their clans to come to his aid and they would appear in a matter of days. These armed and trained troops were The Macedones, the only legal voters of Macedon and they alone could make or depose a king. It was only the assembled army which chose their king. Being the eldest son of a king was not enough; the popular vote of the warrior citizens of Macedon was required.

It was this standing army, combined with superior and constant training, innovative planning, and advanced weaponry which made The Macedones, a backwoods people on the rough frontiers of Hellas, the invincible warriors who conquered the majority of the then known world.

The ancient ways which saw war as the very reason for a man's existence created a society of warrior citizens unlike the citizen warriors of The South The absolute chain of ingrained loyalties was unbreakable. There is no recorded instance of a Macedone fighting for an enemy of his country as was so common in the south of Hellas.

These are the Macedones; they were a people who valued their Gods, their families, and their country above all else. They were the greatest nation the world had ever known until, to the west, a little village on The Tiber, in another backwoods part of the world ,stirred.


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