BMCR 2018.11.37

The History of the Argeads: New Perspectives. With the collaboration of Sarina Pal. Classica et orientalia, 19

, , , , The History of the Argeads: New Perspectives. With the collaboration of Sarina Pal. Classica et orientalia, 19. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017. vi, 304. ISBN 9783447108515. €74,00.

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[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Over the past few years, a number of articles and a couple of books devoted to Argead Macedonia have been published in different languages. The volume under discussion represents a natural continuation of the process. It consists of twenty papers grouped in four thematic parts.

Most of the papers deal with problems directly related to the Argeadae, but some are devoted to the Achaemenid impact on Asia Minor. The aim of the editors is to present new approaches to, perspectives on, and views of Argead Macedonia—a task only partly accomplished: some of the papers contribute to the subject they discuss, whereas others simply summarize past achievements.

Part I consists of four papers. The accent in Lerner’s is on the people of Skudra, attested in the Persian royal inscriptions. Initially, he presents a short summary of the Persian presence in Thrace (c. 513-479 BC). Unfortunately, in a number of places the provided information is incorrect,1 though these inaccuracies do not have a negative impact on the author’s main idea presented in the last part of the paper. There Lerner, discussing the Persian royal inscriptions, points out the well-known fact that in Darius’ inscriptions Skudra is inscribed in the singular, whereas in Xerxes’ daivā inscription it is in the plural. He believes that this difference was ‘the result of a different set of historical circumstances’. Lerner seeks to demonstrate that the name Skudra could be rendered plural and refers to at least two groups of European Thracians. To support this view, he enumerates other differences between daivā inscription and Darius’ inscriptions and points out that according to Herodotus (VII.185), on his way to Greece, Xerxes recruited two groups of Thracians: ‘those who dwell along the coast and those who dwell further inland’. Thus, ‘Dareios claimed Skudra newly conquered, while Xerxes enlarged his father’s conquest with the further acquisition of another “Skudra”, and thus the reason for its change in status to the plural, Skudrā.’

There are some problems facing this interesting idea: 1) from a modern view point Xerxes could not pretend to have imposed his power on Thracians different from those conquered by Darius—Darius reached the Istrus, and his generals subjugated the lands later crossed by Xerxes on his way towards Greece; 2) Herodotus particularly divides the European Thracians into coastal and inland in VII.110.1 and 115.2, not in VII.185. The division regarding their recruitment in the Persian army, can be hardly accepted as proof that during Xerxes’ rule the Persians recognized two groups of Thracians in Europe. Actually, the enumerated tribes (between the Hebrus and Acanthus) inhabited a land whose breadth was equal to only a few dozen kilometers (between the Aegean Sea and the Rhodopes), a distance, insignificant for the Persian standards; 3) nonetheless, for the aims of his propaganda, Xerxes perhaps could claim to have conquered new lands in Europe and, in particular, in Thrace; 4) Lerner focuses mainly on Skudra’s case and does not pay much attention to the other differences between daivā inscription and Darius’ inscriptions, which is necessary if one aims to prove that Skudra was not inscribed in plural by mistake. For example, in Darius’ inscriptions the name Skudra is attested three times in singular and the Ethiopians two times in plural (DSe 29-30, DSm 10—the Ethiopians are missing, DNa 29-30), whereas in daivā inscription (XPh 27-28) Skudra is in plural and the Ethiopians in singular. It is important to note that according to Kent, in daivā inscription Skudra is ‘just above’ Kūšiya. In my view, the lack of a satisfactory explanation (note 124 is insufficient) why in the said inscription Kūšiya is in singular makes Kent’s assumption still valid, namely that Skudra was wrongly inscribed in plural at the expense of the Ethiopians attested just below.2

Two of the remaining papers deal with the Achemenid impact on parts of Asia Minor (LaBuff and Michels), whereas the last with Macedonia (Wiesehöfer).

Part II consists of five papers. The first is devoted to the influence of geography on political alignments and decision- making in Argead Macedonia (Heckel), the second to Alexander’s early coinage (Heinrichs), the third to Argead military development (Howe), the fourth to Alexander’s tents and camp life (Troncoso and Rico), and the last to the Argead economy (Ruffing).

Heinrichs’s paper is particularly useful for Alexander I’s early coinage. He divides the issues into two groups: eastern, influenced by Potidaea and Persia and minted for the Chalcidice, and western, influenced by Larisa and minted for Macedonia proper. Heinrichs believes that the eastern series wеre intended for the Macedonians digging the canal through Athos, whereas the western for the Macedonians preparing a passage for the Persians through the uncultivated estuaries of the rivers emptying into the sea between Therme and Methone. Thus, he concludes that the western issues had nothing to do with cutting new roads round Mt. Olympus. Contrary to Herodotus’ assertions, Heinrichs thinks that on his way towards Thessaly, Xerxes crossed the Tempe pass—a route defined by Heinrichs as ‘a realistic option’.

As for the background of Alexander’s early coinage, its connection with Xerxes’ campaign as a whole appears plausible. However, details are difficult to give. Yet, though Herodotus says nothing about Macedonians, they might have participated in the digging of the canal through Athos, since Alexander’s brother-in-law Bubares was assigned with the task (Hdt. VII.22.1-2). As to Xerxes’ route, basing my arguments on Herodotus’ information, I still believe, as in 2015,3 that the Persians used a pass different from Tempe—in my view Petra. The definition of Herodotus’ account as ‘hardly in accordance with the historical facts’ (p. 91) seems exaggerated since: 1) Herodotus, for one reason or another, appears familiar with Alexander’s deeds;4 2) unlike other cases, here it was hardly about the Macedonian propaganda, sometimes deliberately aiming to falsify or even fabricate certain political events. Therefore, if the minting of the western series was really connected to the development of the Macedonian infrastructure in regard to Xerxes’ campaign (but see Hdt. VII.131.1—the Persian army not Macedonians), then it would be relevant mostly to the preparation of a pass in the interior suitable for crossing by a large army, which in my view is Petra.

Howe seeks to demonstrate the Illyrian influences on Argead military development during the reigns of Philip II and Alexander III. In his view, Philip’s stay in Illyria as a hostage is undeservedly neglected as a factor for his subsequent military reform. Howe thinks that Philip spent over ten years in Illyria being then between 3 and 13 years old, or at least a year when he was between 11 and 13, and during his stay there, Philip became familiar with Bardylis’ innovations in the Illyrian warfare, which he dates in 385 BC based on Diod. XV.13.2. There are several problems with this: 1) Diodorus mentions only the distribution of 500 suits of Greek armor and incorporation of 2000 allies among the Illyrian troops; 2) Philip was not present in Bardylis’ court during his presumed innovations and subsequent attack against Epirus in 385 BC. In fact, at that time Philip was still unborn, which, paradoxically, is noted, albeit indirectly, by Howe himself (p. 104).5

The second part is far more successful. Howe presents some parallels between Alexander’s policy and warfare in Illyria and Asia: taking hostages, marriage alliances with local rulers, and tactical withdrawals. He seeks to refute the belief that similar actions were applied for the first time in the eastern Persian satrapies.6

The first four papers of Part III discuss Argead marriage policy (Carney), the surviving archaeological finds related to them (Palagia), the Argeads and the Greek sanctuaries (Bowden), and their symbolic capital (Müller), whereas the sixth describes the presence of educated Greeks in Argead court (Pownall).

In the fifth Koulakiotis analyzes the Hellenic impact on ancient Macedonia. He quotes I.56 (οἴκεε ἐν Πίνδῳ Μακεδνὸν καλεόμενον) and VIII.43 (Δωρικόν τε καὶ Μακεδνὸν ἔθνος) as places where Herodotus presents the origins of the Macedonians and their ruling dynasty. These passages must be used very carefully, since, due to the different spelling, their connection with the Macedonians (Μακεδόνες) remains debatable. Moreover, Pseudo-Apollodorus (III.8.1) attests Μάκεδνος, the son of Lycaon, who might not, but equally might, have been eponym of Μακεδνὸν ἔθνος. If it is the latter, and if Μακεδνὸν ἔθνος is different from Μακεδόνες, then Pindus will not be related to the mountain but rather to the homonymous city (Strabo IX.4.10).

The last part consists of five papers devoted to Macedonian body language in the Attic orators (Roisman), the usage of Alexander I’s name in the propaganda during Philip II’s rule (Squillace), Philip II’s Scythian march in light of Alexander historiography (Bichler), Cassander and the Argeads (Landucci), and the Argeads in the Second Sophistic (Asirvatham).

There are an insignificant number of spelling, typographic, and grammar mistakes.7

To sum up, the volume is well edited and some of the papers contribute to the subject they discuss. Undoubtedly, it is useful for all those interested in Argead history.

Table of Contents

Persia and Its Impact: Comparative Approaches
Jeffrey Lerner, Persia, Thrake, and Skudra, 7-25
Jeremy LaBuff, The Achaemenid Creation of Karia, 27-40
Christoph Michels, The Persian Impact on Bithynia, Commagene, Pontus, and Cappadocia, 41-55
Josef Wiesehöfer, The Persian Impact on Macedonia: Three Case Studies, 57-64

Political, Military, Numismatic and Economic Aspects of Argead Macedonia
Waldemar Heckel, Geography and Politics in Argead Makedonia, 67-78
Johannes Heinrichs, Coins and Constructions. The Origins of Argead Coinage under Alexander I, 79-98
Timothy Howe, Plain Tales from the Hills: Illyrian Influences on Argead Military Development, 99-111
Victor Alonso Troncoso & Mauricio Álvarez Rico, Alexander’s Tents and Camp Life, 113-124
Kai Ruffing, The Macedonian Economy under the Argeads, 125-135

The Argead Dynastic Profile and Its Representation
Elizabeth Carney, Argead Marriage Policy, 139-150
Olga Palagia, The Argeads: Archaeological Evidence, 151-161
Hugh Bowden, The Argeads and Greek Sanctuaries, 163-182
Sabine Müller, The Symbolic Capital of the Argeads, 183-198
Elias Koulakiotis, The Hellenic Impact on Ancient Macedonia: Conceptualizing Origin and Authority, 199-213
Frances Pownall, The Role of Greek Literature at the Argead Court, 215-229

Literary Images and Reception of the Argeads
Joseph Roisman, Macedonian Body Language in the Attic Orators, 233-240
Giuseppe Squillace, Ghost from the Past. The Memory of Alexander I of Macedonia and its Propagandistic Use During the Reign of Philip II, 241-251
Reinhold Bichler, Philip II and the Scythians in the Light of Alexander Historiography, 253-268
Franca Landucci, Cassander and the Argeads, 269-279
Sulochana Asirvatham, The Argeads and the Second Sophistic, 281-295


1. There are many strange statements: the settlement of Myrkinos subsequently became the polis of Amphipolis (p. 10; but see Thuc. IV.107.1-3); in 480 (?) Mardonius (?) retook (?) the Thracian (?) polis of Eion (p. 11); Demaratus (the former Spartan king) was appointed by Darius hyparch of Doriscus (p. 11); after 479 BC there was a burgeoning process of state formation of certain Thracian tribes, and among them the Astae (p. 12). (The first undisputed mention of the Astae is in regard to the events of 188 BC—Livy XXXVIII.40.7). There exist other inaccuracies (wrong quotations, statements wrongly ascribed to ancient and modern authors, etc., whose comprehensive enumeration is hardly necessary).

2. Kent, R. 1950. Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon. American Oriental Society. New Haven Connecticut, 21.

3. Vasilev, M. I. 2015. The Policy of Darius and Xerxes towards Thrace and Macedonia. Leiden; Boston: Brill 190-194.

4. For the possibility that Herodotus visited Macedonia and personally communicated with Alexander I see Vasilev, M. I. 2016. The Date of Herodotus’ Visit to Macedonia. Ancient West and East, 15, 31-51.

5. Therefore, if Philip had been really a hostage in Illyria, he would not have witnessed Bardylis’ presumable military reform and, accordingly, would not have rationalized the innovations by comparing the old and new Illyrian military tactics. Philip could only compare the contemporary Illyrian tactics with the Macedonian and subsequently with the Theban ones. Whether this was possible for a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old teenager is quite a different question. There are also some strange statements which have no grounds: he states (p. 104) that 4000 Macedonian ‘aristocratic Companion Cavalrymen’ (?) were killed in the battle against the Illyrians (360/59 BC) and that Philip increased the size of the cavalry to 10 000, of which 5000 Companions and 5000 lighter cavalry (p. 104 n28). These are highly exaggerated numbers for which, as it seems, ancient evidence is missing.

6. In certain places, however, either quotations of ancient authors are missing (about the marriage policy in Sogdiana), or there are only references to his own or other scholars’ works (n. 33, 42). This places an impediment before the reader who wishes to consult immediately the primary sources. The assertion (p. 106) that the Thracians were pacified by Alexander only after he had offered Langarus his sister for a wife, and after the latter had already defeated the Autariats is incorrect. Actually, these events happened after the Thracian campaign was already over (Arr. Anab. I.1.4-5.5).

7. ‘Daskal Atanasova’ (p. 8); spelling mistakes in the cited literature in Bulgarian (p. 25); ‘do not resemble’ instead of does not resemble (p. 49); ‘an evidence’ (p. 57); ‘tha fact’ (p. 99); ‘reponded to Illyrian actions’ (p. 100); ‘Parmenion returned to Pella in 456’ (p. 106); ‘remain oscure’ (p. 253).