He lived and died more than 2,300 years ago, but still, few can rally Greek and Macedonian nationalists more than Alexander the Great—or Alexander the Macedonian, or, to be safe, simply Alexander.
Alexander ruled Macedon, a small kingdom on the northeastern corner of the Greek peninsula, and from there founded an empire that stretched from North Africa to the Indus River. Macedon existed on the fringes of the classical Greek world, and its system of government differed from those of city states such as Athens to the south. Yet the culture and language that Alexander spread as far as Afghanistan was undoubtedly Hellenistic, or Greek.
His heritage, however, is today claimed by both Greece and Macedonia, neighbours who also dispute Macedon’s linguistic patrimony. Athens has blocked Macedonia’s bid to join both the European Union and NATO, arguing the country’s name implies a claim on Greece’s northern region of the same name. Now Macedonia has unveiled a massive bronze statue of Alexander in the centre of Skopje, the capital. The 12-m-high figure atop a 10-m pedestal depicts a horseman, sword drawn, iconic locks swept back in the wind. Its official name, “Warrior on a Horse,” doesn’t fool anyone, and probably isn’t meant to.