Was Alexander the Great Really of Albanian (Illyrian) Origin?

Sir William Woodthorpe Tarn, of the British Academy, regarded worldwide as having written the definitive work on Alexander the Great, states in the opening paragraph of his book Alexander the Great that “Alexander certainly had from his father (Philip II) and probably from his mother (Olymbia) Illyrian, i.e. Albanian, blood!”*

During Rose Wilder Lane’s visit to Albania in 1921 resulting in the publication in1923 of her book Peaks of Shala, she heard the following rather extraordinary rendition of Albanian oral history about Alexander the Great from an Albanian elder:

“There was at that time two capitals of the united kingdom of Macedonia. There was Pela, between Salonika and Manastir, and there was Emadhija**, the old capital, lying in the valley which is now Mati (a high, fertile plateau north of Tirana, near the coast of northern Albania – ED).

“Alexander’s father, Filip the Second had great houses in both Pela and Emadhija, and before Lec i Madhe was born, his mother left Pela and came back to the original capital, Emadhija. It was there that Lec i Madhe was born, and there he lived until he was out of the cradle and rode on a horse when he first went down into Pela to see his father who came from the city to meet and see his son for the first time.

“Filip the Second was very proud of his son, and his pride led him to the one great foolishness of a good and wise king. He said that he would make Lec i Madhe king of the world, and that was well enough, but he thought to be king of the world a man must be more learned than he himself. Whereas all old men who have watched the ways of the world know that to be strong and ruthless will make a man powerful, but to be learned makes a man full of dreams and hesitations.

“In his pride and blindness, Filip the Second sent to Greece for an Albanian who had learned the ways of the Greeks, and to that man he gave the boy, to be taught books. (The Albanian’s) name was Aristotle, and he came from a family of the tribe of Ajeropi, his father having gone to a village in Macedonia and became a merchant there. Being rich, he sent his son, who was fond of thought rather than of action, to learn the Greek ways of thinking. And it was this man who was brought by Filip the Second to teach his son.”***

* P 1, ALEXANDER THE GREAT, W.W. Tarn, Beacon Press, Boston, 1956
** “Emadhija” means in Albanian “the great city”
*** PP 184, 186, 187, PEAKS OF SHALA, Rose Wilder Lane. Harper Brothers & Publishers, New York & London, 1923

Other nationalities , of course, have long laid claim to Alexander the Great as one of their own – most notably the Macedonians and the Greeks. However, as cited so authoritatively in the opening paragraph of Tarn’s book, Alexander the Great can be rightfully identified as an Albanian.

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