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Macedonians and Greeks

Macedonians had their own language related to Greek, but the aristocrats who dominated Macedonian society routinely learned to speak Greek because they admired the idea of being Greek and thought of themselves and indeed all Macedonians as Greek by blood. At the same time, Macedonians looked down on the Greeks to the south in Greece as a soft lot unequal to the adversities of life in Macedonia. The Greeks reciprocated this scorn1. The famed Athenian orator Demosthenes2 (384-322 B.C.) lambasted the Macedonian king Philip II3 (*359-336) as “not only not a Greek nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from a land worth mentioning; no, he's a pestilence from Macedonia, a region where you can't even buy a slave worth his salt.”4 Barbed verbal attacks like this one characterized Demosthenes's speeches on foreign and domestic policy to the Athenian assembly, where he consistently tried to convince his fellow Athenians to oppose Macedonian expansionism in Greece. His exceptional rhetorical skill also made him the foremost of his time in the writing of speeches for other men to deliver in court cases.

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