December 29, 2015

Greek historiography before 1853 about Macedonia!

Constantine Paparrigopoulos (Κωνσταντίνος Παπαρρηγόπουλος) (1815-1891)

European historiographical influences upon the young Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos

Ioannis Koubourlis

All national historiographies comprise texts that constitute turning points in their respective courses towards formation. In general, the main aim of the authors of such texts is to note the advances towards the writing of an all-encompassing history of the relevant national past; but, equally importantly, it is to point out persisting lacunae in such a history. These lacunae may concern certain ‘missing links’ in a given national narrative; and this is precisely the case of Greek national historiography before 1853, which had not as yet fully integrated Byzantium or the ancient Macedonians into the Greek national past.

But these lacunae may also concern the very formation of the relevant national conception of history. For in order to reach maturity a national historiography must be based on a particular philosophy of history that establishes the ‘nation’ as the prime agent of historical action within a linear and, most importantly, homogenous historical time.

Paparrigopoulos’s second book, The Last Year of Hellenic Freedom (1844), was an attempt to prove that the destruction of Corinth by the Romans took place in 145, and not in 146 BCE. As we know, his assumptions never convinced the historical community. That notwithstanding, this work is equally revealing of the contrast between the young essayist and the future national historiographer: in this text, Paparrigopoulos (1844, 8–11) spoke of the ancient Macedonians, in a similar vein to the Romans, as a foreign power against which the Greeks failed to unite so as to avoid being conquered.

This may in many respects have been an intellectual project, conceived and implemented from the top down. It also took shape under the influence of the Western powers, whose projections of classical models onto the new state played an important part in the process. Here the contribution of the leading German historian of ancient Greece, Johann Gustav Droysen (1808–1884),must be stressed, since it was he who composed the unitary narrative that gave Macedonia an integral place in the story of the Greek nation (Droysen 1833; 1836–43; cf. chapter 4 by Ioannis Koubourlis below).

The parallel to Mommsen’s Italian history is striking, since both operated with a strong unifying agent who overcame petty particularism in order to realize the national mission. The inspiration clearly came from contemporary Prussia, but while in Italy this role was given to Rome, in Greece it fell to Macedonia.

Johann Gustav Droysen (1808–1884), to whom Paparrigopoulos (1849–53,1.206) referred for the first time in his Textbook of 1849, but without being able to take advantage of the contribution of the great German historicist, offered him weighty arguments regarding the Greek identity of the ancient Macedonians and the spread of Hellenic civilization eastwards. He also offered him one of the key concepts of the newly born Greek national historical school: the concept of ‘Hellenism’. Although Droysen himself restricted its use to the Hellenistic world, he and his disciples, such as Otto Abel (1824–1854), understood ‘Hellenism’ in the sense of a ‘Hellenic genius’, which had a historical trajectory of its own. In fact, what Paparrigopoulos and other Greek national historians such as Zambelios had to do after having read Droysen was to generalize the use of the concept so as to apply it to the whole of Greek history and, at another level, to identify it with the concept of ‘Greek nation’. The final result of this double intellectual process was the production of a series of terms and concepts well known to all contemporary Hellenists: ‘Ancient Hellenism’, ‘Macedonian Hellenism’, ‘Byzantine Hellenism’, ‘Modern Hellenism’, and so forth.

Influenced therefore by Droysen and Zambelios, Paparrigopoulos started from the mid-1850s to think of Greek history not merely as a complex of facts, as he had done early in his life, but as the history of a Geist: ‘Hellenism’. In his five volume History of the Hellenic Nation, Paparrigopoulos was to present this Geist transforming itself into something else, every time that it moves to a different geographical terrain or historical era, and this in order to accomplish each time a different historical mission, without, nevertheless, losing its one and only identity. In fact, this particular conception of history, with all its idealistic anthropomorphism, constitutes the theoretical basis of Paparrigopoulos’s final argument in support of the Greek identity of the ancient Macedonians and the national role of the Byzantine monarchy:

    That [Macedonian Hellenism] is not Ancient Hellenism, we have [already] conceded; that it is not Hellenic at all, we deny with all our powers […] What really is a pure Hellenism […]? Nations can accomplish different missions at different periods and try to achieve different ends by different means […] So when we see the same language and the same […] quality of moral and spiritual force, it is not permissible to doubt the existence and the action of the same nationality, even if its action has been modified by time and circumstances (Paparrigopoulos 1860–74, 2.175).

Thirlwall organized his History according to a cyclical schema of national rise and fall, based upon a theory that maintained that all nations passed through a series of analogous developmental stages.7 This national schema allowed him to rearrange the various historical and symbolic loci of Greek antiquity in a hierarchical fashion, pushing the classical period, strictly defined, towards the centre of the ancient Greek historical experience. Indeed, his History went a long way towards the positive reevaluation of ‘liberal’ Athens from the sixth to the fourth centuries BCE, while ‘heroic’ Sparta was accommodated in the background as the representative of an earlier, ‘frozen’ stage of Greek national development (Thirlwall 1835–44, 1.335–

40). Finally, monarchical Macedonia was excluded altogether from the ‘national’ space of Greece: Thirlwall presented the ascendancy of Philip over the classical city-states as a ‘conquest’ of Greece by a foreign power.8
footnote 8
Note, for example, Thirlwall’s presentation of the revolt of the Spartan Agis against Macedonian power in 330 BCE, as a struggle against foreign dominion (Thirlwall 1835–44, 6.257).


Source: Greek historiography before 1853 about Macedonia!

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