Blesok no. 26, May-June, 2002
Prose


A Dream
from "Chronicle and dreams about Alexandra Magnum"

Vladimir Šopov


“Where from, traveller?”
“From Nowere, sir.”
“And where is that, man?”
“Macedonia, sir.”
“Such thing has never existed,
does not exist, and will ever exist, man!” “I know, sir. Haven't I told you that
I come from Nowhere.”
Macedonia, son, has been plough by two black oxes.

     Crowds of people, like a rivers, flowing in Dion those day. People from every corner of Macedonia flooded the Macedonian's sacred town. Old men, women, children, losers, idle and dwarfs, bright and less bright, vagrants, blind, cripple, poor and rich, dressed up and ragged people. In one word everyone in Macedonia who was able to walk and crawl, in those days of April 334, set off to the town under Olympus, where our king has organised the farewell celebration. They rushed on horses, on mules, donkeys, but most of them on foot. A lot of them were fall behind, killed by the exhorstion, waddling along the road like drunk. They got lost turned on east or west. Some of them even came back from there they started the journey, not aware of that. Others, had even fallen into the ditches, along the road, into the meadows and woods, slept there a day or two, strengthen a little bit, and arrived in Dion, when everything was over.
    
     Those who were on time, several thousands, during the day walked around the town, along its wide and endless avenues according which Dion was well known. During the night, when the celebrations will be silenced, thousands of people arrived from High and Neither Macedonia, they spread around the woody slides of Olympus and along the sandy coast of the White sea, where everyone found some shelter under a cliff or bush, or dig a hole in the sand, just to spend the night in dream, dream which repaired the strength for the coming celebrations. The April nights embraced the Dion's guests in its tame. Every one of those nine days of celebrations, the weather was sunny and warm. Luckily, the year was not rainy. There was no rain, not then not even three weeks later, when Alexander jumped on Bucefal and leaded the 35.000 Macedonian soldiers. Somewhere near Helespont it started raining, very much welcomed heavy spring rain.
    But, now let us go back to Dion, where our king Alexander has organised farewell celebrations. I have never seen anything like that! Once I was at the Olympic games in Athens, during the Philip's days, when there was a short worm breeze in the relations between Macedonians and Athenians, but, what I saw there was nothing compared to what I saw here. During that nine days there had been hundreds of singers, poets, actors, orators, dancers, painters, sculptors, from all over Macedonia, who performanced. There where also guests. From Epir, Thesalia, Tracia, and also from Athens. Most of the Athenians were sympathisers of the Macedonian party in Athens, who, even during the Philip's days, were for friendship between the Macedonians, and the Macedonian state, despite the Demosten and his followers. There were some who showed themselves in Dion not so willingly, but because of their duties and status given to them wrapped up to them four years ago by Philip the Macedonian, after the great victory of Macedonians over the Athenian-theban coalition at Heronea, 338. These people were sent to show, the best of Athens spiritual treasure to the Macedonian king and to the new master. In that way Athenians showed their loyalty to Macedonia and its king, the loyalty in which not even one Macedonian'believed. Shortly after Philip's death, the people from Athens, Theba and their allies raised a rebellion against the Macedonian rulers, assuming that Alexander, Philip's son is not enough mature to rule with the Macedonian state and colonies. Even that he was far away on the North of Macedonia, as soon as he heard about the rebellion by Demosten and his followers, set off to south with his army in not more than several days and took over the Thermopiles. The Athenians and the Thebans refused to believe on the massangers that Alexander, together with his Macedonians is there, and not somewhere else. And when Alexander's army moved to south, towards Theba and Athens, the rebellions threw away their weapons and again, crawling on their knees plead for mercy and piece.
    That was the motive why no one in Macedonia believed them and the reason why the Macedonian audience didn't greet the Athens artists, much less than the artist from Epir, Thesalia, Tracia. Even those artist whom the audience have known as a sympathisers of the Macedonian party in Athens, from the time when Athens under Macedonian domination, were not reworded as they deserved for their artistic, poetic and sports performance in Dion. Dimad, the great Athenian partisan for friendship between Macedonians and Athenians, has noticed that from the very beginning. I was next to him, when he confessed to the old Isocrates, that he is ashamed of being Athenian. Once, when a snake bites you, said Dimad to Isocrates, you look with fear even to a lizard! And we, the Athenians, have bitten our hosts several times. Even today, he said, most of our people, think about Macedonians as barbarians. I, said Dimad can not say that I know the Macedonian language as my native, but I have a feeling for rhythm and harmony. That give me reason to believe that even great Homer can not find any remark. For example this Pelad, his verses was not hexametrical as the case with the Homer's verses. I didn't count the metrical feet, but the way Pelad played with them; that arrhythmia of the rhythm and that harmonicall disharmony, that took my breath! I couldn't understand what Pelad sang about, Isocrates! I managed to understand the things, which I am certain, you understood, too. The words Alexander, Philip, Heronea, Heles-pont, Propondis… But, the way he did it, I'm sure that even the great Homer can not do it in that way.
    As I told you, I was one or two steps away from both of the Athenians. So close that if one of them have raised the leg, I might have been kicked. The old, white beard Isocrates mumbled through the grey mustaques and beard which he raised either with his left or his right hand. He was bitten by one old idea. He came in Dion, with his 80 years, to bid farewell to the Philip's son, aware that he also bid farewell to the idea which kept him in life the last two decades. Since the day Philip sat on the Macedonian throne, Isocrates longed to make Philip a Homer's hero, a new Agamemnon. Ispolin of a new unity, the man who will unite all the quarrelled people, people who were scattered, all the people under the mountain of the gods, under Olympus! However, Philip had heroes among his own people, in our Macedonian people, but he respected and followed the Isocrates's scriptures, and reacted wisely every time with respect to the old man. But, he rejected the role of the new Agamemnon, which Isocrates offered him, the same way he rejected the role of being savage and barbarian, the person he was for the Athenians, the way Demosten, Isocrates's opponent, has presented him. Philip became neither alliance with Athens, nor did he destroy it, as his generals advised him after the battle at Heronea. He simply conquered it.
    The 80 years old Isocrates was aware that the 3 thousand Athenian soldiers in Macedonian army, which was leaving soon for Asia, are nothing else than hostages. Their lives were the guarantee for safety of the south border, and nothing more. Isocrates, himself, spent half of his life to contribute much more for Athens. Its sons not to be hostages, the Pericle's town not to be under Philip's power, but to share it with him. With him and his successors, with Alexander. That's why, after he had unwillingly finished, listening to Demad speech, he replied with bitterness and disappointment. We, the Athenians, he said, and all the others south of Olympus, had learned only one thing from Homerus, the hexameter. That monotonous and dull rhythm, Demad! We can neither take out nor put some metrical feet. And that one who can not change himself, can not spiritually grow. This Macedonian king, Alexander, he knows Homer by heart, as well as Pelad, the Macedonian Homer. Now, tell me Demad, who in our Athens had ever heard about Pelad, whose verses took my breath away? Even those who, by any chance heard about him, thing about him as a barbarian and for his verses as unworthy for the Athenian ears.
    The two Athenians went silent because from the stage we could hear sounds from a well known song from the upper part of Macedonia. I had listened to it as a child. It sings about Axios, our biggest river. About its clear water, which hold up and water the spine of our land. I was touched. Something started to tremble in my stomach. I raised my look towards the place where Alexander was sitting. Next to him, on his right, was Olympia. Next to her Antipatar. On the left, Parmenion. Behind them, in the second row, companions Alexander's and mine: Hefestion, Krater, Perdica… And, on my seat, there was my sister Hellenice, just behind Olympia. I gave her my seat, because that day, unexpectedly came in Dion. She told me that she would like to be present at the farewell celebration, to wish our king bon voyage. She didn't have to say no more. I went to see the king and to ask him to give my seat to my older sister. He replied: You should not ask me for my nanny. Alexander never missed a chance to say a nice word for Hellenice, who nursed him when his mother lost the milk in her breasts. The queen, loved her-as a sister, so they both, hand in hand, went in the theatre and took their seats. I set three rows bellow next to Demad and Isocrates. That is why I was able to overhear their conversation.
    I felt sorry for them both. They spent all their lives in bringing the Athenians and Macedonians together. They've held dozens speeches, they have even organised the pro-Macedonian party, but the self-sufficient Athenians could never accept loosing the colonies in Thermanean gulf and Halcidic, unhealed wounds in the body and the soul of the Macedonian. They have lived on the account of Pericle's glory and his golden period, so with that heavy burden on their shoulders they couldn't realise the simple truth that the nucleus of the epoch is somewhere else. And the wicked Demosten, and those like him, with the encouraging speeches against Philip and his barbarian Macedonians, as he used to call them, he pushed up self fancied Athenians, more and more in the game of total self distraction. From this point to hatred, the way is very short. He, Demosten, who wasted hours and hours in preparing his speeches in front of the Athenians, at the Agora or elsewhere, seemed to have no more time for reading. He, forget even what he used to read in his youth. He forgot about Plato, whom we, together with Alexander, Krater, Hefestion, Philota, Cassander and dozen more, we learned by heart at Macedonian university in Mieze! Demosten had forgot that the wise Plato in “Cratil” had opened our eyes, the Macedonian eyes. The essential words like fire and water in Homer's language, don't come from Homer's language, they come from the language of the barbarians. That was the explanation Socrates gave to Hermogen in the dialogue which I know by heart, even today. If it is as Plato says, if the essential words in the language used by Athenians, by origin are taken from somewhere else, from some barbarian languages, than Demosten should think over that again, before every speech in which he attack us, the Macedonians, calling us barbarians. But/who is Plato for Demosten? For Demosten, the great Athenian orator, who not only had no time to reread, but also forgets, too. He has forgotten that once in front of Philip, as a member of an Athenian delegation, he couldn't say a word. After all preparations and exercising to explain his own his arguments which will defeat Philip, he stood astonished. That was what we have heard from some members of the delegation. As a meter of fact, during the trip from Athens to Pela, he prepared himself for his discourse in front of the Macedonian king. But, when he heard the sonoric voice of Philip, and his thoughts arranged in nice sentences, he started to blush, sweating and staring at Philip, as if there was a god in front of him and not a barbarian king. Philip, himself, saved him from embarrassment. Today is not your day, . Demosten, he said to him. You will tell me all your thoughts, when you are be ready for that.
    And what about Demad and Isocrates? They were alleged as a traitors, by the Athenians and the great intriguante Demosten. Maybe, they were traitors. I don't know. I can not judge, because I happen to be Macedonian, not Athenian. I only know that Demad showed unseen courage at Heronea, He stood for Macedonian interests in Athens, he also was a leader to the Macedonian party there, but in the battle at Heronea Demad was one of the bravest Athenians. He fought us until all his forces drained. Demad was the one who encouraged the Athenian soldiers, despite of Demosten who was the first who cowardly run away from the Heronean battlefield; the same Demosten who raised Athenians against us, the Macedonians, while Demad, alleged as a traitor, stayed at the battlefield, badly wounded. Words, words! Go with the wind because the deeds are here to stay! Talking to myself I watch Demad and Isocrates, and I don't know what to think any more, my head is full of thoughts. I don't want to pity them, they don't deserve it. Yet, I pity them! They devoted their lives to something which can not be fulfilled in their time, something worth to even give your life for!
    They are here, at the Macedonian theatre, several rows below my seat. They are following the farewell celebrations, Alexander is present, too, in the box, and down, on the stage, the great Macedonian poet Pelad is finishing with his performance. Suddenly, the theatre became a volcano. There were noises, screaming, greetings, so Pelad had to stay in front of the audience much longer than it was planed. At the end he said that he would like to say some verses which flooded his mind at that moment. The murmuring stopped, the theatre was filled with silence.
  
Translated by: Liljana Rangelova and Mila Šopova




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