Prof. Badian’s views about the incident of Eumenes – Xennias

There are some conflicting views over the incident where Eumenes of Kardia with his cavalry and light arms faced the Macedonian commander, Neoptolemus, leading Macedonian phalanx. In order to avoid battle, Eumenes sent Xennias, a man whose spoke the Macedonian dialect to negotiate with the commander of the phalanx.

About the above incident prof. Ernst Badian states the following


“Now, Xennias’ name at once shows him to be a Macedonian. Since he was in Ambiance entourage he was presumably a Macedonian of superior status, who spoke both standard Greek and his native language. He was the man who could be trusted to transmit Ambiance’ message. This clearly shows that the phalanx had to be addressed in Macedonian, if one wanted to be sure (as Ambiance certainly did) that they would understand. And almost equally interesting – he did not address them himself, as he and other commanders normally address soldiers who understood them, nor did he sent a Greek. The suggestion is surely that Macedonian was the language
of the infantry and that Greek was a difficult, indeed a foreign language to them. We may thus take it as certain that, when Alexander used Macedonian in addressing his guards, that too was because it was their normal language, and because (like Ambiance) he had to be sure he would be understood”.

Error #1. Badian’s conjecture that “Xennias’ name at once shows him to be a Macedonian” is blatantly wrong. He may be a Macedonian but we arent certain. Xennias is a good Greek name and this particular name was found as well in other Greek regions except Macedon, like Thessalia and Epirus.

Error #2. Contrary to Badian’s assertion, Eumenes was able to communicate with his Macedonians soldiers. In Plutarch ‘Eumenes’ XVII2 Eumenes finds it quite easy to address Macedonians and also in return the Macedonian mob to be delighted by Eumenes’ speech.

Error #3. Sending a man to address the phalanx in Macedonian doesnt mean in anyway that Eumenes couldnt speak/understand Macedonian dialect himself. If we were to believe Badian’s conjecture then we should believe also from the following text that the Macedonian commander Antigenes didnt speak..Macedonians also.


“…..41. A short time before the battle Antigenes, the general of the Sliver Shields, sent one of the Macedonian horsemen toward the hostile phalanx, ordering him to draw near to it and make proclamation. This man, riding up alone to within earshot opposite the place where the phalanx of Antigonus’ Macedonians was stationed, shouted: “Wicked men, are you sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander?” and added that in a little while they would see that these veterans were worthy both of the kings and of their own past battles. At this time the youngest of the Silver Shields were about sixty years old, most of the others about seventy, and some even older; but all of them were irresistible because of experience and strength, such was the skill and daring acquired through the unbroken series of their battles. When this proclamation had been delivered as we have said, there arose from the soldiers of Antigonus angry cries to the effect that they were being forced to fight against their kinsfolk and their elders, but from the ranks of Eumenes there came a cheer and a demand that he lead them against the enemy as soon as possible.

XIX 39.5 (Loeb Edition volume IX)

Using Badian’s logic we should conclude that neither the Macedonian commander of Argyraspids Antigenes could communicate in Macedonian dialect, hence he sent one of his soldiers to address the Macedonian phalanx. Rather self-contradicting with Badian’s perception of the infantry’s ‘language’ to be Macedonian. If so it would be quite irrational one of the supreme commanders of Macedonian army, the leader of Argyraspids to be unable communicating with his troops

Explore posts in the same categories: Ancient Macedonian History, Modern Historians

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