War over Alexander the Great to rumble on
Skopje museum plans sculpture of the Macedonian king and other famous ancient figures
By Gareth Harris. Museums, Issue 251, November 2013
Published online: 13 November 2013
The director of an archaeological museum opening later this year in Skopje, the capital of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, says it will have 15 wax sculptures of historical figures, including Alexander the Great (below), his father Philip II and the philosopher Aristotle, which will do little to improve relations with Greece or Bulgaria.
Greeks and Bulgarians have bitterly contested Macedonia’s claim to figures such as Alexander. Greece has also been involved in a 22-year naming dispute with Macedonia, the name adopted by the Balkan state in 1991 after the break up of Yugoslavia. The Greek government fears that Macedonia may stake a territorial claim to a northern area of Greece, which is also called Macedonia.
Ian Worthington, a professor at the University of Missouri, says the display is controversial—“clearly emphasising to all and sundry their claim to Alexander and Philip II”. He says, however, that Skopje is in the heart of the ancient Macedonian kingdom and having a statue of Alexander is “rather like putting up a statue of a famous son in his home town”.
Paul Cartledge, the professor of Greek culture at the University of Cambridge, is sceptical. “The so-called Republic of ‘Macedonia’ is located in what was ancient Paeonia, and the ancient Paeonians were non-Greeks whom the (Greek) Macedonians conquered and incorporated in their European empire,” he says. The Greek Embassy in London declined to comment.
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