“Macedonia” is not exclusively Greek
Let me first grant to my critics that ancient Macedonia before the conquests of Alexander the Great was mostly in what is today the Hellenic Republic. I have no doubt about that. Never have. But that in no way gives modern Greece exclusive rights to the term “Macedonia.” Let me illustrate:
- The modern country that borders Greece to the north fancies itself the Republic of Macedonia. There was no Republic of Macedonia in ancient Greece and no serious possibility of confusion with ancient Macedonia by the use of that term.
- According to the US Geological Survey, there are eight “locales” in the United States with “Macedonia,” in their names and 1519 other places (many churches, most not of the orthodox variety).
- There are 28 locales named Athens in the US, three of them towns. Anyone in Greece objecting?
- In France, a macedoine is a fruit salad. Want to make an issue of that?
- The United States calls one of its 50 states “New Mexico.” Mexico’s official name is Estados Mexicanos Unidos. There is a lot more history of irredentist claims across the Mexican/American border than across the Macedonia/Greece border. I don’t know anyone who has bothered worrying about the names though, except that some Mexicans would like to get rid of the Estados Unidos part in their own official name.
- For those concerned about identity theft: citizens of the United States call themselves “Americans.” So do citizens of all the other countries of the Western Hemisphere. I’ve never heard a citizen of the US claim exclusivity, though I have heard citizens of other countries object to the US usage.
- Macedonia under Alexander expanded into the territory of ancient Paeonia. That’s one of the many reasons he is termed the Great. Aren’t those who want to limit the term to modern Greece depriving their hero of some of his glory? How about the Egyptian city of Alexandria: is that offensive?
- For those who find the recent architectural innovations in Skopje offensive, please visit Washington DC, which was built as the “New Rome” and mercilessly plundered late-18th century understanding of Greek and Roman architecture. There is even an imitation of the coffered dome of Rome’s ancient Pantheon in the entrance hall of the National Gallery of Art, built however in the 20th century.
- Those who argue that Skopje should be satisfied with a name like “Republic of Upper Macedonia” need to explain why then Greece is vetoing membership in NATO, which would occur under the country’s UN-accepted name “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” The latter, which Greece has rightly accepted under the Interim Accord for many other purposes, is no less distant from the supposedly offensive “Macedonia” or “Republic of Macedonia.” It has three or four “modifiers,” depending on how you count.
- The only excuse for making an issue of Macedonia’s name is if it were to lay claim to Greek territory. Amendment 1 of the constitution of the Republic of Macedonia reads: “The Republic of Macedonia has no territorial pretensions towards any neighboring state.”
One of my antagonists on Twitter called me a clown for claiming Greece does not have an exclusive right to the term “Macedonia.” But he wasn’t laughing. I laughed at him. Who’s the clown?