Macedonia: Alexander the Great as Media Bait

Marble portrait of Alexander the Great said to be from Alexandria, Egypt (2nd or 1st century BC), currently in the British Museum, London, UK. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY NC.

For several years now, Macedonian traditional media have been involved in relentless promotion of all and any claims and events related to Alexander the Great that were deemed “positive” in terms of generating public approval and more readers/viewers.

The only other person who can come close in this regard is the late pop singer-turned national hero Toshe Proeski (1981-2007), but he has been allowed to rest in peace for the last couple of weeks, after the closure of a defamation lawsuit between his girlfriend and his manager.

Alexander III of Macedon (356 BC – 323 BC), on the other hand, has no such luck – national TV Kanal 5 this Sunday descended to a new level of Hades when it literally “raised” his spirit in a so-called news item [MKD] about a “historian” who went to Florida with a camera crew to seek the services of an allegedly famous medium to provide contact with his (sic!) ancestors. In the video, the spiritualist claims that a young man dressed in lion's skin is standing in the room, saying he went to Persia not for conquest but to seek cultural exchange, and would like to know more about the contemporary Macedonian linguistics.

Razvigor blog, run by the author of this article, commented [MKD] on this quasi-news item asking how come the ancestral spirit could communicate in English, a contemporary language which developed thousands of years after his death, but had no information on Macedonian, which developed in a similar manner. In addition, this “communication” did not provide any exclusive information which would have been known by the historical Alexander, such as locations of treasures that can be unearthed by archeologists and used as evidence, or known by his spirit – like the location of the grave containing his earthly remains.

Two days later, a user on the social bookmarking service Kajmak.ot “unearthed” [MKD] an obviously faux news item [SRP] from a Serbian blog about the discovery of Alexander's tomb in the south of the Republic of Macedonia, near the Greek border. The article is written with the structure of a “real” news story, but any resident of Macedonia with minimal knowledge of local geography or social issues would immediately recognize it as a joke, since all the names of official institutions, functions, locations and persons involved are nonexistent.

Screen shot of the front page of Macedonian news portal Kirilica from April 14, 2009, prominently displaying the faux news about discovery of the grave of Alexander the Great as a real news item.

Screen shot of the front page of Macedonian news portal Kirilica from April 14, 2009, prominently displaying the faux news about discovery of the grave of Alexander the Great as a real news item.

During that day, a number of Macedonian media, such as the news portal Kirilica [MKD], published Macedonian translations of this “news” in its entirety, adding just a small, barely noticeable disclaimer that the content has not been confirmed. Such gossipy items did not contain any fact-checking whatsoever, nor did they include a link to the original source. During the day, the site was frequently unavailable, possibly due to bandwidth overload.

Some bloggers took the bait, like Vojvodataa, the author of the blog Radikalno, who wrote [MKD]:

Please God, let this be true. The article contains many first names and surnames, I think there is some truth in it. If this is true, Our Lord is coming to aid our century-old struggle for our name and the elements of our identity, of which Alexander of Macedon is an indivisible part.

Other bloggers, such as Mojon and Azhder, reacted with lascivious humor, inviting the media to republish their posts about a discovery of a sexy photo of Alexander's seventh grade math teacher taken with his iPhone Ancient [MKD], and finding of the two sculls of King Marko [MKD].

On the other hand, the scientifically-grounded Archeological Diary documented the whole affair, providing an overview of the sensationalist (including A1, the most influential national TV station) and more somber media coverage of this affair. The blog's author Vasilka Dimitrovska, an archeologist, wrote [MKD]:

First and foremost, any information must be checked with at least three independent sources. Good God, even I—a non journalist—know that. It is nebulous to distribute news about anything connected to archeology without going in the field, even about the tomb and the spirit of Alexander of Macedon in person. Unless one checks all the options and removes even a shadow of doubt, the scientific public should be spared of such turbulent, emotionally charged media observations.

I suppose that the historians and the archeologists will continue to keep mum about these events [MKD], just like they kept silent about the world's first hamburger, the Copper Book, the Hunza and the Kalash, the Rosetta Stone affair, etc. There's nothing worse than such silence and ignoring, because it implies silent approval of such hypotheses and theories. We as society slowly move closer to the axiom “that the land has always been ours,” aiming to provide an united and monolithic view of a historical walkabout from the Paleolithic to Tito, even though some of the episodes are not quite “safe” and lead to the above mentioned failures of reason.

The view that history is a science based on immaculate myths, lacking elements that would contradict the fragile “officially ours Macedonian evolutionist schema” deserves criticism. We do not need to lie [MKD] – the truth is enough, no matter what it is. In spite of the fact that the same tendency spans from Greece to Sweden – recent research showed that national myths of all European countries are almost identical [MKD]. Dissemination of such trivial information provides a fake image to the world about strengthening of our identity (esp. the ancient Macedonian part), while lacking the scientific approach, published scientific papers and documented archeological findings. I really can't see why we should use a technique of self-identification through denial [MKD] to confirm any type of identity.

To conclude, I think that the Macedonian journalists covering culture, and especially the topic of history->identity should get more education about archeology as a science which deals with societies of the past, not the present. I for one would speak at such a seminar or a workshop. If need be, pro bono. :-)



  • Michael

    Amazing, I accidentally stumbled on to a real news story! Good job!

  • […] Macedonia: Alexander the Great as Media Bait (Global Voices) […]

  • Peter

    There is no dought,Alexander the Great was Macedonian.I do not understand Greeces claim on someone who they have absolutly no connection to by ancestry or any other way.First of all, todays “Greeks” have absolutly no connection to ancient Hellens, let along to the ancient Macedonians.We have learned from history that,the ancient Hellens have dissapiered long ago and left no connection to the present day “Greeks” or should I say Albanians.Albanians were the majority after the ancient Hellens dissapeared.The population in Macedonia has been invaded by different tribes,but ancient Macedonians did manage to survive and mix with the newcommers.Therefore,the Macedonians are the only ones who have the right to claim the name Macedonia,not Greece.Just look at the ancient discoveries from ancient Macedonians,they are all located in the Greek occupied Macedonia,none in Greece proper.The question is ;Why is that only in The Macedonian land are found the artifacts?I wont answer this question,it is self evident.

    • Istor the Macedonian

      Macedonians had always Greek names, toponyms, ways, heroes, gods, dialect and spread Greek Language and Civilization to the World.

      Macedonians named after Greek names ALL the cities they built or renamed.

      If any modern white people do what Macedonians did we will call them Macedonians.

      Whoever denies Macedonians’ Greekness is ignoramus or a SlavoSkopian propagandist.

  • Andrew J.

    Nice joke theories you got there Peter

    Greeks(Helenes) don’t exist and Macedonians who were(and still are part of the hellenic nation) became slavobulgarians/Abanians/Roma/Turks(Those are the major ethnic groups of FYROM)

    You go sportski.

    “For I (Alexander I) myself am by ancient descent a Greek, and I would not willingly see Hellas change her freedom for slavery.” (Herod. IX, 45, 2 [Loeb])

    Greek names, greek Gods, Greek cutlure, Greek language and took part at the Olympic games that were exclusive for Greeks(Hellenes)…oh yeah, and all the ancient artifacts of Macedonians were the same as the rest of the Greeks just like the Sun of Vergina wich was a Panhellenic Symbol…now tell me, where do you feet in all this my slavic friend?


  • Keith Coombes

    The hysterical plundering of Hellenism by the ex-yugoslav citizens is pitiful. It is the latest manifestation of the balkanite inferiority complex driven by the most virulent slav nationalism since Milosevic. Why are slavs throughout the world wishing to deny their slavic ancestry since the collapse of the USSR? Is it so uncool to declare yourself a slav nowadays?

  • Peter

    Andrew,just read the following piece of information.This article should shut-up the Greek theory of Macedonias non-existance before 1944,or should I say Titos Macedonia? “The voice of our country does exist, freedom does exist- that cherished legacy of the peoples. To proclaim these words means to call the noble hearts to rush up and fight in order to help you, obtaining that sacret freedom absent from our dear fatherland for so many centuries. Macedonians, remember our origin and do not give it up.” Kristendil,11/23 March 1881 Here is what Greece was doing to the Macedonians by helping the Ottomans. Macedonian Chiefs Death. “A Greek spy betrayed Delcheffs whereabouts to the Turks. London,May 26,-Detailed reports of the death of Delcheff,the famous Macedonian chief,says the Sofia correspondent of The Times,show that he accompanied a band under Voivoda and Kirchovsky, together with the poet Tavoroff, and entered the village of Banitza near Seres,where his presence was betrayed to the Turks by a Greek spy. A large force surrounded the village, and all the members of the revolutionary band were killed after a long resistance. It is stated that the inhabitants of the village, to which the Turks set fire, were also killed.Delcheff was thirty-two years old. He was a schoolmaster, and practically created the present Macedonian organization, which has ramifications in all parts of the country. The Vienna corespondent of The Times says perquisitions and arrests continue in the villayet of Adrianopole. Numbers of priests and school teachers have been taken into custody. Arms have been found in six villages. The male population has fled, and agricultural work is at a standstill.” On September 3,1903 the Greek Prime Minister used an insulent language againts the Macedonian revolutionaries,and boasted that his country is helping the Turks any way they can to suffocate the Macedonian uprising.That PM was Rallis.The Greek consecutive government do go by which way the wind blows.Durring the Nazi occupatio,Manolis Glezos lowered the “swastica” from Akropolis,he was jailed for it.Before then after the 1825 revolution,Kolokotronis was jailed just to please the Turks.This is a pattern of consecutive Greek governments.Dont the Greek people have any pride for who they are?.Look for my next article.

  • Dear readers, please refrain from malice or spreading anti-Macedonian hate when commenting the article. It must be noted that the tendencies described above can be viewed as mirror image of the tendencies which are more or less mainstream in Greece at least for the last couple of decades.

    For instance, take a look at the props of a Greek nationalist rally taking place before NATO Summit of April 2008, starting around 33′ of this clip from the Croatian TV documentary “Macedonia, a country in a trap”.

    For more information on this subject, including background of the general context, I recommend reading the latest interview with the American linguist Victor Friedman.

  • I have known the location of Alexander’s tomb since 1985 I have actually stood on it but as a non archaeologist was not permitted to dig.

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