UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


820-335 BC - Ancient Macedonia

All the northern coasts of the Aegean Sea, where from the east as far as Mount Olympos Titraeian tribes (Bisaltes, Sithones, Mygdones, Pierii) were the earliest known inhabitants, were down to the time of the Peloponnesian war included under the name Thrake. The Greek colonies settled there were accordingly counted in the Athenian maritime confederation as belonging to the Thracian tribute-province. The name Makedones, not known till the 7th century, was probably that of a primaeval Greek tribe closely related to the Dorians. It included in the first instance only the inland region west of the Axios. As with the rest of the Thracian coast districts, its princes were forced by Darian I. to recognise the Persian overlordship. They afterwards extended their dominion by conquest westward (to Illyria), northward (to Paeonia), and eastward (to Thrace).

A sort of natural boundary for this extended Macedonia, not however quite falling in with the race limits of antiquity, is formed towards the west by the northern continuation under various local names of the chain of Pindos, towards the east by the broad mountain masses of Orbelos (now Perim) and Rhodope (now Despot-Planina); on the south besides the sea there is at least at one spot the lofty peak of Olympos. Towards the north, on the other hand, a natural boundary is altogether wanting, while the main watershed for the tributaries of the Danube presents rather the character of broad plateau-like ridges (with passes only from 1,300 to 1,600 feet), varied only by isolated mountain groups rising from their midst to a far higher elevation (such as Skardos, now Shar, 7,150 feet; of the rest no ancient names have come down to us). These northern ridges, as well as the upper valleys of the rivers which flow from them to the south, lie beyond the historical borders of Macedonia.

Macedonia lay to the north of Greece, bounded on the north by the Scodrus, now the Balkan, range, which separated it from Moesia; on the east by an offshoot of the Balkan range, which separated it from Thrace. On the west the boundary was variable, sometimes reaching only to the mountainous country that lies along the Adriatic, and sometimes including that country. To the south of it lay Epirus and Thessaly, which were separated from it by mountain ranges, and also a portion of the northern extremity of the Archipelago.

The coast of Macedonia towards the Archipelago is deeply indented by arms of the sea. A large territory projects into the sea, called anciently Chalcidice, which ends in three promontories like fingers, the most westerly called Pallene, the central one Sithonia, and the most easterly Mount Athos; gulfs then called the Toronaic and Singitic gulfs, now the gulfs of Kassandra and Monte Santo, separated these promontories; and the whole district of Chalcidice has on the west the Thermaic Gulf, now the Gulf of Saloniki, and on the east the Strymonic Gulf, now the Gulf of Orphana or Contessa.

It is plain that the Macedonians who founded the kingdom of Macedon, were not the whole Macedonian nation, but only a part of it. There were in the mountainous districts Macedonian tribes, which had their own kings, and originally were not subject to the Temenidae. These are the Macedonian highlanders of Herodotus. The Elimiots were, according to Thucydides, one portion of these Macedonians, the Lyncestac another; both which appellations were merely local. The name of Macedonia was not therefore, as some supposed, confined to the royal dynasty of Edessa, but was a national appellation; so much so, that it is even stated that those very kings subdued, among other nations, a large portion of the Macedonians. The tribes of Upper Macedonia were long governed by their own princes; thus Antiochus was king of the Orestae at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war;1 the Lyncestao were under the rule of Arrhibaeus, the son of Bromerus,8 the great grandfather, by the mother's side, of Philip of Macedon.

The Macedonian kingdom of the Temenidae, on the other hand, began from a single point of the Macedonian territory, concerning the position of which there are various traditions. According to Herodotus, three brothers of the family of Temenus, Gauanes, Aeropus, and Perdiccas, fled from Argos to lllyria, from thence passed on to Lebcea in Upper Macedonia, and served the king of the country (who was therefore a Macedonian) as shepherds. From this place they again fled, and dwelt in another part of Macedonia, near the gardens of Midas, in mount Bermius (near Berwa), from which place they subdued the neighbouring country. Thucydides so far recognises this tradition, that he likewise considers Perdiccas as the founder of the kingdom, reckoning eight kings down to Archelaus.

The other account, however, that there were three kings before Perdiccas, is unquestionably not the mere invention of later historians, but was derived, as well as the other, from some local tradition. According to this account the Macedonian kingdom began at Edessa, which had been taken by Caranus, of the family of the Temenidae, and by him named after a goatherd, who rendered him assistance. Both narrations have equally a traditional character, and were doubtless of Macedonian origin.

10Alexander4344BC 507BC 463
11Perdiccas II BC 463BC 414
12Archelaus BC 413BC 399
13Orestes BC BC
14Pausanias BC BC
15Amyntas II BC 394BC 369
16Alexander II BC 369BC 368
17Perdiccas III BC 354BC 359
18Phillip II BC 359BC 336
19Alexander III BC 336BC 323
Knowledge of the chronology of the early kings of Macedonia is confined to only a few particulars. Of the predecessors of Amyntas, with respect to the times in which they reigned, nothing is known. The years of the reigns of the early kings are specified in Eusebius, and, with some variation, in Dexippus. The durations of the reigns are obviously manufactured by chronologers, upon no certain or positive testimony, since none existed. It is well known that Herodotus and Thucydides omit all notice of the three first kings, and make Perdiccas the first king of Macedonia; at least of the dynasty founded by the Temenidae. Amyntas, the ninth king, (or the sixth according to Herodotus,) was king of Macedonia at the time of the expulsion of the Pisistratidse from Athens in BC 510. If Alexander succeeded soon after BC 507, and was still alive in BC 463, he might reign something more than forty years. From the uncertainty which prevails in writers so near the times as Theopompus, Anaximenes, Marsyas, and Hieronymus, with regard to the reign of Perdkcas, some judgment may be formed as to what degree of credit to give the numbers which chronologers have assigned earlier kings. Eusebius reports 353 years to the accession of Perdiccas II in BC 463, while Dexippus reports 357 years, which places the fondation of the kingdom between BC 816 and BC 820.

Lower Macedonia or Emathia, the coast plain which is watered by the lower course of the Axios and Haliakmon, and between them by the shorter Ludias or Rhoedias, was the birthplace of the Macedonian Empire. Emathia is in the interior of Macedonia. This lower Macedonia, in its proper sense, below the slopes of the Candauian mountains, did not extend to the sea, from which it is separated by Pieria and a narrow strip of the ancient Bottia. This was ancient Macedonia proper, the kingdom of the ancestors of Alexander, and contained the ancient Macedonian capital of Aegeae, which was the residence of the kings before the reign of Philip. Not Aegae, as found in most maps and in modern editions of ancient authors. In the older editions the name is correctly given. Moderns unfortunately took it into their heads that this was a mistake, and unceremoniously altered it without saying anything about it: as the altered form was found in the maps of D'Anville and Barbie du Bocage, it was thought to be the correct one.

There is a story about the name of this town, according to which it is derived from the founder of the Macedonian kingdom, who is said to have conquered the town by following, during a thunder-storm, close behind a herd of goats, and thus entering the open gates with a small band of followers. The royal sepulchres existed there as late as the time of Pyrrhus, but the Gauls in his army plundered them. This place has two names, Edessa and Aegeae; the former has been transferred to several other places, and above all to the very ancient town of Roha in Mesopotamia. Beeoea (now Veria) is the second place in Emathia; its name-sake in Syria was far more important, but both still exist. Beroea was a flourishing place throughout the middle ages, and continued to be a wealthy town until its present destruction. Edessa is at present only a village.

Upper Macedonia the higher regions which border on the western side of ancient Macedonia - were all inhabited by tribes seemingly belonging to the great Illyrian people, the nearest, Eordaea, was quite early united with the Macedonian kingdom, while Elimeia and Orestfs on the Haliakmon, and Lynkestis on the Erigon, maintained their own tribal princes, which only acknowledged the supremacy of the kings of Macedonia after the Persian wars. Not till the latest days of the Empire, and then under Roman dominion, do they seem to have acquired the practice of building towns Eastern Macedonia was that part of the coast plain which lay east of the Axios, called Mygdonia after its ancient inhabitants of Thracian stock. Shortly before the Persian wars it was conquered by the Macedonian kings, who immediately after those wars subdued also the mountain region bordering it on the east, and abounding in silver. This was the territory of the Bisaltes, likewise Thracians.

Whenever the ancient seat of the Macedonian kings is mentioned, in Thucydides of Perdiccas and Archelaus (the latter is spoken of also by Plato as a prince who drew to his court the wits and talents from Athens, just as German princes formerly invited Frenchmen), and even when Amyntas, Philip's father, is spoken of, they resided at Aegeae. Philip was the first to make Pella on the Ludias great; it was previously a small Bottiaean place, which was conquered by the Macedonians, when they drove the Bottiaeans into Chalcidice. The district lost its name Bottiaeis, which in Herodotus it still bears, and became part of Macedonia.

Philip, who, like Peter the Great, from the moment of his accession, set about raising the kingdom from its obscurity, took the first step towards this object in transferring his residence from the distant Aegeae to Pella, which was near enough to the sea to carry on commerce. The rivers in that part of the country, especially the Ludias, were then navigable, but they are now filled up with sand. Pella, however, was not so near the sea as to enable the Athenians to take it by surprise in a maritime expedition. Its situation on a hill surrounded by waters (tovo? ^e/acrovijtroetS?y?) was very strong. It was quickly changed into a considerable city.

The Macedonians were long regarded by the Greeks as barbarians; but some portion of Grecian light and civilisation gradually penetrated their country. Some of their young nobility and princes were sent to Greece for education, and among them was Philip, a young man of great natural ability, who, having made himself master of their diplomatic and military system, returned to his own country, fully prepared to turn the combined system of force and artifice of the Greeks against themselves. By a train of able and artful measures, in which bribery had its full share, he brought one state after another under his influence, till, coming to a struggle with Athens, whose citizens had been roused to resist him by the eloquence of the celebrated Demosthenes, he defeated their army, and, from that time, might be regarded as the master of Greece. Philip then formed the intention of measuring hia strength with the Persian empire, and was making preparations for invading it, when he was assassinated. He left one son, named Alexander.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:29 ZULU