“Let’s forget about Alexander the Great, for a while,” my Bitolan interlocutor exclaimed in exasperation.
For the past hour, he had been trying, via various spurious means to ‘prove’ to me that the Macedonian king was not Greek, but rather, belonged ethnically to the people he believed he was affiliated with. I, on the other hand, had been countering his outlandish contentions by proffering in return, that even if one were to concede that Philip of Macedon was not Greek, (which I was not willing to do), then at least by matrilineal descent, Alexander was Greek by virtue of the fact that his mother Olympias, was a Molossian princess, one of the ancient Epirotic kingdoms.
“No, no,” he interjected. “She was Illyrian.”
“Everyone agrees she was Molossian,” I replied. “There is no dispute about it. So even in your view, Alexander was half something which is unrelated to your conception of your own ethnic identity. So pick. Was he, as the son of an Epirot, Greek, or, if you believe the theory that the Illyrians were the precursors of the modern Albanians, was he Albanian?”
It was at that point that my interlocutor’s brow furrowed. He harboured prejudices both against the Greeks and the Albanians and as his eyes narrowed, I could see how hard it was for him to determine which was the lesser of the two evils. It was at that point that he sought an escape from the exchange altogether.
“Anyway, we “Maco’s” can claim someone who is far more exalted than Alexander. Someone who you can never claim to be yours?”
“Who, Putin?” I asked.
“No,” he said assuming an air of awe and grandeur. “I mean Jesus, himself.”
“What?” I choked into my coffee, spreading froth all the way down my shirt. “Jesus was one of yours? Are you serious?”
“Of course,” he nodded confidently. “He was a ‘Maco.”
“Well considering that he was born by all accounts in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth, and was crucified in Jerusalem, all of which are situated in Palestine, on what basis do you argue that Jesus was one of yours?”
“Well he was called Hristo, which is a ‘Macedonian’ name., for starters.”
“His name is Hristo. He had a ‘Maco’ name. So it follows that he was a ‘Maco.’
I stared at him incredulously as he emptied four sachets of sugar into his vanilla soy skinny latte and stirred it nonchalantly.
“You do know that even in your language Jesus is Hristos, not Hristo?” I enquired.
“Same thing, same thing,” he waved dismissively.
“And you know that this is a Greek word that means “the anointed one”?” I continued.
“No, and why should I take your word for it?” he crowed.
“And you know that Christos is a title, and not Jesus’ actual name, which was, well actually, Jesus?”
“Look mate,” my interlocutor sneered. “You can say whatever you want. Nothing is going to change the fact that Jesus was a Maco. You bloody Greeks. It’s not enough for you that you want to claim Macedonia as your own, you want Jesus as well. All this rubbish about Hristo being a Greek word.”
“Any biblical scholar can tell you this,” I offered.
“Garbage” he spluttered. “When Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East, he also took over Israel. And he settled his “Macedonian” soldiers there, like he did everywhere else. So Jesus is from one of these “Maco” solider families that settled in the region.”
“You are completely sure about this?” I asked.
“One hundred percent,” he insisted. “Why do you think we have the “Macedonian Sun” on the templon of our church? It represents the fact that Jesus was a “Maco.”
“I can’t believe this,” I muttered, well, in utter disbelief.
“Also, King Abgar wrote a letter to Jesus asking him to come to his kingdom, to be safe from his enemies. Jesus didn’t go but wrote him a letter in return. What was the name of his kingdom? Edessa, which is Vodena, named after Vodena in “Aegean Mcedonia.” So one “Maco” was writing to another. ‘Maco’ power!” he whooped.
“You can’t be serious,” I shook my head.
“What, are you disappointed that Jesus isn’t’ Greek?” my interlocutor commented sarcastically.
I cast my mind back two decades to a hot summer’s afternoon in an inner Melbourne terrace house. I was sitting in a doily covered couch, listening to an aged aunt hold forth on the subject of the perceived woes of Greece:
“I tell you, it’s those freemasons and those Jews that are responsible for everything. They are deliberately keeping the nation from achieving its full potential.”
“Jesus was a Jew,” I piped up from behind the enormous quince spoon sweet I was in the process of consuming.
“Whhhhaaaat?” my generously proportioned aunt rose from her chair, her feet thundering onto the floor, creating reverberations that almost threw me from my seat.
“Well Jesus was a Jew, wasn’t he?” I repeated.
She lunged towards me and slipped a long nailed thumb and fore finger around my left ear. “Listen here, you stupid boy,” she spat through gritted teeth. “Jesus was a Greek. His name was Christos, a Greek name. His mother was called Panagia, a Greek name. I don’t want to hear any of this Zionist rubbish in this house ever again. The Jews killed him because they hate Greeks”
“But aunt,” I pleaded, picking up the Bible she always had on the sideboard next to her armchair, and turning to the Gospel of Matthew. I began to read the genealogy of Jesus: ” “A record of the origin of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” What was David? A Jew. What was Abraham? A Jew. What was Isaac? A Jew.”
“Let me see that!” my aunt snatched the Bible from my hands and peered at it intensely. I could see her slowly, carefully, following every syllable of the miniscule print with her massive fingers, enunciating them haltingly. Finally she gave up and threw the Bible across the room. “This Bible is false!” she proclaimed “It has been produced by Communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Grabbing hold of my arm, she lifted me from the couch and frog-marched me to the door.
“Get out and stay out,” she shouted. “I will not have any smart arse sully the sanctity of my home with Judaeo-Commie propaganda. Ακούς εκεί ο Χριστούλης μας ήταν εβραίος….κωλόπαιδο.”
Relating my adverse concatenation of circumstances to a friend a week later, he scoffed: “You can’t be serious. What a strange family you have. It’s completely inconceivable.”
“Don’t laugh my friend.” I warned him. “Go and enquire of your aged relatives as to the ethnicity of Jesus and then let’s talk.”
When next I saw him, he was crestfallen and sporting a bruise on his arm. “I simply can’t believe it,” he shook his head. They are convinced Jesus was Greek. All of them. One enraged uncle even did claimed he was an incarnation of the Olympian god Apollo.”
“So if Jesus, on the flimsy linguistic grounds you have offered, was as you say a “Maco,” I departed from my reverie, “then why is the rest of the world is convinced that he was a Jew?”
“Oh that’s easily explained,” my friend wiped the last of the latte stain from his upper lip. “The Jews will never forgive us “Maco’s” for conquering their kingdom in ancient times. “And they will never forgive Jesus, as a “Maco,” for trying to destroy their religion. That is why they are out to destroy the “Macedonian” people. This also explains why the Jews are helping the Greeks steal our name and persecute our people. It’s all a big conspiracy concocted by Jews and Freemasons to keep our people from realising their full potential.”
Images of my aunt’s coal black pupils dilated in fury flashed before my eyes.
“Pardon me for asking,” I smiled, “but are you sure that YOU are not Greek?”