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Μέγας Αλέξανδρος - English

  Pre-Historic Period
  Roman Period
  Byzantine Period
  Turkish Period
  Frankish Period
  Modern Period
Greco-Slav Conflict

Pre-Historic Period
Occupying the bigger part of northern Greece, Macedonia first appears on the historical scene as a geographical-political unit in the 5th century BC, when it extended from the upper waters of the Haliakmon and Mount Olympus to the river Strymon. In the following century it reached the banks of the Nestos. The history of the Macedonians, however, may be said to commence somewhere around the beginning of the 7th century BC; at this time the Greek tribe of the MAKEDONES, whose home was in Orestis, began to expand, driving out the Thracians and contending with the Illyrians, and gradually occupied Eordaia, Bottiaia, Pieria and Almopia, finally settling in the region called by Thucydides "Lower Macedonia, or Macedonia by the Sea".

This region of high mountains, large rivers, lakes and fertile plains makes its appearance on the stage of civilization as early as the Early Neolithic Period (Nea Nikomedeia, region of Giannitsa). The density of the settlements, however, shows a vertical increase at the end of the 5th millennium BC (Late Middle Neolithic) and attests, throughout the whole of the region though especially in central and east Macedonia, to significant mobility on the part of the population and to its characteristic dynamism. These same settlements prospered until the Early Bronze Age - that is, until the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC -most of them organized in the plains, with houses either square or rectangular in plan, sometimes with wooden posts and sometimes with stone foundations for the walls.

Stock-breeding, based on the raising of goats and sheep, was one of the prime factors in Macedonia's development, in combination, of course, with other intra-community activities and occupations, such as hunting and fishing. An improvement in the quality of diet is indicated by the diversity of crops cultivated: grain, vines and olives. Exchanges of cultural goods (jewelry, quality pottery) now multiplied, clearly an example of prestige gifts rather than evidence of commercial contacts.

The Bronze Age finds Macedonia with fewer settlements, a circumstance that may be interpreted either as the result of the contraction of the population or as the result of the development of central cores at the expense of small-scale satellite settlements. The houses are now quite frequently two-roomed, with the areas relating to the preparation of food kept separate; they are constructed with wooden posts, and have one of the ends apsidal in form. A still primitive system of planned streets can be detected in some of the settlements. Both bovines and sheep and goats, along with pulses and cereals (wheat and barley) formed part of the daily diet of the inhabitants of Macedonia, who at this period were serving their apprenticeship in the production of bronze tools, used alongside stone implements. The pottery, and especially the quality pottery, usually monochrome, reveals relations with the Bronze Age pottery of central Europe, neighboring Epirus and Thessaly, and also with that of the north-east Aegean. In time, it also acquired a certain independence, despite the fact that in the later centuries of this same period (Bronze Age), it was to be influenced by the outstanding achievements of the Mycenaean wheel. Overworking of the land and the steady increase in the density of the settlements, which now show a preference for semi-mountainous sites, suggest the evolution, with the passage of time, of a certain hierarchy and a central authority. The articulation of society is indicated in a general way by the differentiation in burial customs.

The transition to the following period, the Early Iron Age, though not yet clearly demarcated, is distinguished by clear destruction levels or levels indicating the abandonment of settlements. The houses, with stone-built bases, now frequently have wattle-and-daub walls. The dead were generally buried in organized cemeteries with earth tumuli covering groups of cist graves, simple burials directly in the earth or in jars; this is one of the hallmarks of the period, which is defined by the appearance of proto geometric decorative elements on the local pottery (Vergina, West Macedonia), the lavish use of bronze objects, mainly jewelry, the founding of settlements on spacious sites, and the exploitation of iron deposits for the construction of weapons.


The relative isolation of the Macedonian region in the period from the 10th to the 8th centuries BC - an isolation due to the temporary unavailability of the commercial routes from south to north - was soon overcome, and Macedonia entered upon the Archaic period as the promised land for the hundreds of colonists who came to the coasts of the Aegean from many cities in southern Greece. It was during this period that colonists from southern Greece founded Methone, Sane, Skione, Potidaia, Akanthos and many other cities-ports on the coasts of Pieria and Chalkidike.

Bounded to the south by a long chain of mountain ranges -Ossa, Olympus and the Kambounian Mountains, to the west by the Pindos range, to the east by the river Strymon and then the Nestos, and to the north by Orbelos, Menoikion, Kerkine, Boras and Barnous, Macedonia was cut off from the main body of Greece, on the ramparts of Hellenism, and lived until the 6th century by the teachings of the Homeric epic.

The state-form was unusual: in one sense a federal state composed of autonomous Macedonian tribes subject to the central authority (Orestai, Elimeiotai, Lynkestai), yet also an ethnos with a strong, though democratic monarchy, and a society of farmers and stock-breeders capable of defending their land against all foreign designs, Macedonia evolved with the passage of the centuries into a power of world-wide (for the period) influence and prestige.

The country was self-sufficient in products to meet basic needs (timber, cereals, game, fish, livestock, minerals) and soon became the exclusive supplier of other Greek states less blessed by nature, though at the same time it came to be the target of expansionist schemes dictated largely by economic interests. A particularly "introspective" land, with conservative customs and way of life and a social structure and political organization of a markedly archaic character, speaking a distinctive form of the Doric dialect, Macedonia took over the reigns of the Greek spirit in the 4th century BC, when the city-state was entering on its decline; revealing admirable adaptability in the face of the demands of the present and the achievements of the past, and ingenuity and boldness when confronted with the problems of the future, the country was quickly transformed into a performer of new roles, opening up new roads towards the epoch of the Hellenism of three continents.


The Macedonians were a Dorian tribe, according to the testimony of Herodotus (1, 56): "(The Dorian ethnos) ... dwelt in Pindos, where it was called Makdnon; from there ... it came to the Peloponnesus, where it took the name of Dorian". And elsewhere (VIII, 43): "these (that is, the Lacedaimonians, Corinthians, Sikyonians etc.), except the people of Hermione, were of the Dorian and Makednon ethnos, and had most recently come from Erineos and Pindos and Dryopis". A Dorian tribe, then, that expanded steadily to the east of Pindos and far beyond, conquering areas in which dwelt other tribes, both Greek and non-Greek.

For many centuries, Macedonia remained on the fringe of the Greek world. In the mountainous regions of Macedonia, at least, the way of life will have consisted predominantly of transhumant pasturage. Education will, at best, have been confined to aristocratic circles and those connected with them. We do not, therefore, expect to find any written texts of a private nature from the Archaic period. In the rest of the Greek world, writing is related to the structure and mechanisms of the city-state, and is used mainly for the recording of justice in the broadest sense of the word. Under a monarchical regime like that of Macedonia, however, and in a world of nomads, we would hardly expect to find public documents.

At about the end of the 6th century BC, the changed socio-economic circumstances deriving from permanent settlement and the intensification of economic and cultural relations with the rest of the Greek world led to the creation of the preconditions for the use of writing, mainly for the purposes of diplomatic relations. The local dialect a member, as far as we can judge, of the group known as the north-west Greek dialects, which included Phokian, the Lokrian dialects, etc., had no written tradition, whether literary or other. Consequently, the rise of education and culture was to the detriment of the Macedonian speech. Attic was selected as the language of education, and the local dialect was "smothered" by the written language, the koine, and was never, or hardly ever, written down, being restricted to oral communication between Macedonians. From as early as the time of Alexander the Great, moreover, Macedonian lost ground to the koine in this sphere too, if we are to believe the historical sources, and there is certainly no evidence that it was spoken in the centuries after Christ. Only its memory was perpetuated through the use of personal names until the 4th century AD

Although very little of the Macedonian tongue has survived, there is no doubt that it was a Greek dialect. This is clear from a whole series of indications and linguistic phenomena by which the koine of the region is "colored" which are not Attic but which can only have derived from a Greek dialect. For example: The vast majority of even the earliest names, whether dynastic names or not, are Greek, formed from Greek roots and according to Greek models: Hadista, Philista, Sostrata, Philotas, Perdikkas, Machatas and hundreds of others. In general, the remnants of the Macedonian dialect that have come down to us have a completely different character from Ionic. This circumstance is patent proof that there can be no question of the ancient Macedonians having been Hellenized, as has been asserted (Karst), for such Hyalinization could have been only by the Greek colonies on the Macedonian coast, in which the Ionian element was predominant (Beloch).

The fact that Roman and Byzantine lexicographers and grammarians cited examples from Macedonian in order to interpret particular features of the Homeric epics must mean that Macedonian - or rather, what survived of Macedonian at the period in question - was a very archaic dialect, and preserved features that had disappeared from the other Greek dialects; it would be absurd to suggest that these scholars, in their commentaries on the Homeric poems, might have compared them with a non-Greek language. The name given to the Macedonian cavalry - hetairoi tou basileos - "the King's Companions" - is also indicative: this occurs only in Homer, and was preserved in the historical period only amongst the Macedonians.

The anonymous compiler of the Etymologicum Magnum notes in the entry on Aphrodite, probably adopting a comment by the earlier grammarian Didymos: "V is akin to F. This is clear from the fact that the Macedonians call Philip "Vilip" and pronounce falakros [bald] "valakros" the Phrygians "Vrygians" and the winds (fysitas) "vyktas". Homer refers to "vyktas anemous" (blowing winds). Observations of this type abound. Male and female names occur in Macedonian ending in -as and -a, where in Attic we have -es and -e: Alketas, Amyntas, Hippotas, Glauka, Eurydika, Andromacha, and dozens more. A feature bequeathed by Macedonian to the koine and also to Modern Greek is the genitive of so-called first declension masculine nouns in -a: Kallia, Teleutia, Pausanea (the Attic ending was -ou). The long alpha is retained in the middle of words (as in all dialects other than Ionic-Attic dialects): Damostratos, Damon etc. and Iaos" rather than the "Ieos" of Ionic Attic, is used to form compounds, occurring as both the first and the second element. The koine of Macedonia, for all its conservatism and dialect coloring, follows a parallel path to the koine of other regions, though not always at the same moment in time. Whatever the case, all the changes that marked the Greek language in general and the north Greek dialects in particular, can be followed in the inscriptions of Macedonia.


In the immense kingdom created by Alexander's III the Great conquests in the East, Macedonia continued to be the cradle of tradition and the motherland, point of departure and re turn; the object of the innermost desire of the vet erans who returned to build, at the time of Philip III and Cassander, the houses lavishly decorated with mosaic floors at Pella, and undoubtedly at other cities in northern Greece, and the imposing funerary monuments at Lefkadia (Mieza). The Hellenistic period, an epoch of doubt and ques tioning and unalloyed individualism, a restless Period in which Greeks and barbarians together stood tall in the face of man's destiny, doomed yet optimistic, was conceived on Alexander's bier at Babylon (323 BC) and, like a phoenix born from its ashes, flew towards the future of the world. From this time to 277 BC, when Antigonos II Gonatas, the philosopher king, ascended the throne, Macedonia was the field of intense com petition for the succession, was ravaged by sav age invasions by Gauls, and saw the royal tombs at Aigai dug up, cities abandoned, and celebrat ed generals fall ingloriously in fratricidal battles. During these fifty years, in which all the cohesion that had been won was lost, Cassander's murder of Alexander IV, son of Alexander the Great and Roxane, in 310 BC, removed the last represen tative of the house of the Argead dynasty, Olym pias (mother of the conqueror of Asia) and Philip III Arrhidaios having already met with a Iamen table death. <P> Cassander (316-298/97 BC), whose cultural achievements included the foundation of Thes saloniki and Cassandreia, and after him Demetrios Poliorketes (293 BC), Pyrrhos (289/88 BC), Lysimachos and Ptolemy Keraunos (281 BC) plunged the country into a bloodbath and weak ened the kingdom with their clumsy and selfish policies - some of them in the maelstrom of their tempestuous fortune-seeking lives, others in de spairing attempts to dominate and acquire influ ence, setting as their aim the acquisition of the Macedonian crown, a title that undoubtedly con ferred enormous prestige upon its bearer. <P> Despite all this, as is often the case in periods of political instability and demographic contrac tion, Macedonia, which at the time of Philip II had entertained some of the most famous intellects in Greece (Aristotle, Theophrastus, Speusippos), gave birth to some famous historical figures who -mainly as a result of the stability achieved under the rule of Antigonos - together with others who found protection at the royal court (Onesikritos, Marsyas, Krateros, Hieronymos, Aratos, Per saios), made Pella an important cultural center in the early and middle Hellenistic period. <P> The country had to wait for the reign of Philip V, an ambitious Antigonid who ascended to the throne at the age of just 17 years (221 BC), to relive times of glory and greatness. Continuously on the alert against the threatening Thracians, Dardanians and Illyrians, the young leader sought to strengthen his kingdom by suitable dip lomatic maneuvers and even terrorism, by em ploying local leaders to protect the border re gions effectively, and by transplanting popula tions and annexing territory. At the same time he tried, albeit in an opportunistic manner, to assert control over the situation in southern Greece, though here his ambitions foundered on the suspicion and bitter experience that had been accu mulated there as a result of the policies of previ ous Macedonian kings, Demetrios II and Antigo nos III Doson. The "

This prosperity and a sound incomes policy, together with the rise of trade and the liberalization of local institutions in the major urban centers, filled the royal treasury with liquid funds and the granaries with stores of grain, and armed 18,000 mercenaries under the rule of his successor, Perseus, the last king of Macedonia. The 6,000 talents and the vast quantities of precious vessels that came into the hands of Aemilius Paulus on the morrow of the decisive battle of Pydna (168 BC) attest to the economic vigor of the state up to the very eve of its collapse.


This, then, was the end of the kingdom beneath Mount Olympus, which had been the common point of reference for all the Hellenistic kingdoms of the East and had supplied succeeding generations with Greek ideals. It was essentially a nation state, in contrast with the "spear-won" kingdoms of the epigoni (Successors) in which the Macedonians were always a minority of foreign conquerors, a conservative country, certainly, devoted to its traditional institutions, so different from the immense new empires of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, with their heterogeneous populations. Far removed from the deification of leaders, from vainglorious titles, from the appellations and dooms of excess, Macedonia confronted its destiny as once its Stoic king Antigonos II Gonatas had confronted the highest office, which had been bestowed upon him: as glorious slavery!

A menace to the Roman Senate, the land of Alexander was divided into four merides (portitons), or economic and administrative districts, and the possession or sale of landed property between them was forbidden, as was intermarriage. The Macedonians were described as "free" (in reality, under the tutelage of the Romans), paid a tax and were obliged to maintain an army only large enough to protect their own borders against the barbarian tribes of the north. This regime, however, lasted no more than twenty years: anti-Roman sentiments on the one hand, and social friction between the privileged classes and the masses on the other, and above all the deterioration of the internal situation led to the re volt of Andriskos, an adventurer who claimed to be the son of Perseus. With the crushing of his rebellion by the Roman legions (148 BC) Macedonia now belonged to the past, even as a protectorate: the senate decided to turn it into a province (provincia Macedonia)- the first Roman province in the East - and incorporate it into the Roman empire, installing a governor with his headquarters at Thessaloniki and an army. The period from 148 BC to the advent of Augustus (27 BC) was undoubtedly one of the most burdensome for the country which, administratively, now stretched from the Ionian sea to the Nestos river, and from mount Olympus to the source of the Axios river: the continuous incursions of barbarian tribes (Skordiskoi, Bessoi, Thracians) throughout the second century BC, the invasion by the armies of Mithridates VI, supported by the Maidoi, the Dardanians and the Sintoi, at the be ginning of the first, and the upheaval, decimation and ravaging inflicted on it during both the first Civil War (Pompey-Caesar, 49-48 BC) and the second (Brutus/Antony-Octavian, 42 BC), turned the province into a huge battlefield, with severely adverse consequences for the land and its inhabitants.

The construction of the Via Egnatia from Dyrrachion to Byzantium (in a second stage) as a continuation of the Via Apia on the Italian main land, and the settling of colonists (Dion, Cassandreia, Pella, Philippoi) and Italian merchants may have transformed the economic and demographic face of the country, but it did not bring about the latinization of the inhabitants, who retained their Greek personality and speech to the end.

In a pacified empire, living under the protection of the Pax Romana in the rearguard of military enterprises, and a senatorial province from 27 BC to AD 15 and from AD 44 onwards, Macedonia moved onto a different plane. In the "free" cities of Thessaloniki, Amphipolis and Skotoussa, as in the tribute paying (tributaries) cities, the communities in time adjusted to the new state of affairs ordained by Augustus, while preserving their ancient institutions of government (assembly, council and magistrates); new town-plans were laid out, grand building complexes (agoras, temples) now proclaimed the glory of new gods and earthly lords, honorific altars were erected for select members and officials in a display of gratitude, and fine marble funerary buildings were designed to perpetuate the memory of simple mortals and distinguished citizens after their death. And it is the countless inscriptions - often verbose in their attempt to flatter - that preserve names, professions, lists of ephebes, artists' guilds, dedicators, religious associations, immortalizing the passing moment and completing the mosaic of our knowledge of a region of the Ro man world that appears to follow the fortune of a disarmed province. It is the inscriptions that in form us about the existence of koina - those organizations that stood between the Roman ad ministration and the local authorities; about the holding of games called Pythia, Actia, Alexandreia Olympia; about the occasional transit of emperors and their armies, and the anchoring of fleets. And of course, about the preservation in the memory of the Macedonians of the man who glorified their name to the ends of the inhabited world.

Forgotten in its wilderness, the province of Macedonia strengthened the fortifications of its cities - often, indeed, demolishing the adjacent buildings - when, in the middle of the 3rd century, the Carpi, the Goths and the Heruls reached the Aegean, laying everything waste.

In the twilight of the Roman gods, and of all the other deities of oriental or Egyptian origins for whom the country had provided fertile ground on which to establish and disseminate themselves, Christianity offered to Thessaloniki, Philippoi, and Beroia, resignation, redemption and life beyond death, from as early as 50 BC, when saint Paul the Apostle of the Nations preached the new religion. It prepared the ground for the resurrection of the dead and also for the regeneration of the empire. An empire tossing and turning amidst the instability of opportunistic government by a host of ambitious contenders for power, an empire in the chaos of economic decline, threatened with the breaching of the integrity of its borders by the repeated incursions of barbarian tribes, and humbled by heavy defeats on the field of battle.

The assumption of power by Diocletian in AD 280 - an event that formed a landmark in the history of the Roman empire and laid the foundations for a new era - was of the greatest importance for Macedonia, as for the rest of the empire, leading as it did to a way out of the crisis.

Diocletian's administrative changes returned Macedonia to her natural boundaries. Part of the diocese of the Moesia was assigned to the praeses (ruler), who was responsible to the vicarious (vicar), the supreme governor. The situation was standardized first as a result of the changes made by Constantine the Great, according to which Macedonia, along with Thessaly, Epirus Vetus and Epirus Nova, Achaia and Crete formed the diocese of Macedonia, and then in the second half of the 4th century AD when the diocese of Macedonia, Dacia and Pannonia combined to form the prefecture of Illyricum, with its capital at Thessaloniki; there were further changes, however, at the beginning of the 5th century, with Macedonia divided into "Macedonia Prima" and "Macedonia Salutaris".

Macedonia's strategic importance at the crossroads of the major arterial roads in the Balkan peninsula meant that during the critical period marking the transition from the late Roman to the Byzantine period it was the object of benefactions from the royal house, despite the general upheavals of the times. Manifestations of this interest included the transfer of the capital to Thessalonica by Galerius Maximian, and the erection there of an imposing palace; the construction in the same city of a capacious dock yard by Constantine the Great (AD 322/323), and the choice of the capital of Macedonia as the headquarters of Theodosius the Great (AD 379/380) for his campaigns against the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The economic prosperity of Macedonia in the 4th and 5th centuries AD is at tested by the large numbers of quarries (Thasos, Prilep), furnaces for the smelting of metals, work shops for the construction of weapons and metal objects, pottery workshops and centers producing beads of glass-paste; there is also evidence for the existence of extensive farms, salt-flats, yarn dyers (Stoboi), the organizing of trade fairs ("Demetria") and the carrying on of a trade in leather. This prosperity was undoubtedly responsible for the imposing buildings (whether of a religious or secular character) brought to light in many places by the archaeologist's spade: basilicas, villas and fortifications.

With the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and its dismemberment by the western crusaders (Partitio Romaniae), the whole of Macedonia became subject to the Frankish kingdom of Thessalonica, of which Boniface, marquis of Montserrat was appointed ruler. Despite the fact that they had prevailed, however, the new lords had to cope both with rivalries amongst themselves, and with the expansionist visions of Kalojan, the Bulgarian tsar Ioannitzes, who in 1207, the year of his death, arrived with his armies before the walls of Thessalonica, having first captured Serrhai and taken prisoner Baldwin, emperor of Constantinople.

The situation became increasingly confused as time went on: the Bulgarian state was consumed by inter-dynastic quarrels and after the death of Boniface, the Frankish kingdom of Thessaloniki fell into the hands of guardians of minors: the new despot of the so-called "Despotate" of Epirus, the ambitious Theodore Komnenos Doukas Angelos (121 5-1230), brother of the founder of the state, Michael II Komnenos Doukas Angelos, systematically extended his pos sessions from Skodra in Illyria to Naupaktos (Lepanto) and, by steadily advancing his armies, succeeded in capturing the bride of the Thermaic gulf and dissolving the second largest Latin bastion in the Balkans (1224). He was defeated, however, by the Bulgarian tzar lvan Asen II in 1230, at the battle of Klokotnitsa, as a result of which his kingdom contracted to the area around Thessaloniki and shortly afterwards became subject to the rising power of the period, the empire of Nicaea. In December 1246, loannis III Vatatzes, after a victorious advance, during which he captured Serrhai, Melenikon, Skopje, Velessa and Prilep, entered the city of saint Demetrios in triumph, and installed as its governor the Great Domestic Andronikos Palaiologos.

Caught at the center of expansionist designs, struggles for survival and domination and at tempts to recover lost prestige, Macedonia re pulsed the attacks of the "Despotate" of Epirus, warded off the united armies of king Manfred of Sicily and Villehardouin, ruler of Achaia, and re captured Kastoria, Edessa, Ochrid, Skopje and Prilep, before eventually being incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, which was reconstituted on the morrow of 1261 with the capture of the Queen of Cities by Michael VIII Palaiologos.

These were ephemeral, "Pyrrhic victories", for the final page of the Byzantine epic augured the demise of a legend that had been kept alive for over a thousand years. The wretched condition of the empire in every sphere enabled the Serbs of Stephen Dusan to make deep advances to the south (1282ff.), and the mercenaries of the Catalan Company to devastate the Chalkidike and Mount Athos (1308ff.), fuelled fratricidal dynastic strife between the Palaiologoi and the Kantakouzenoi, and gave rise to social turbulence such as that provoked by the Zealots in Thessaloniki.

And as the fortresses of moral and material resistance, buffeted by the maelstrom of the times, fell one after the other on the altar of short- term political planning and superstitious delusion, the myopic response to the reality of the situation brought the pagan hordes to European soil and shackled the right hand of Western civilization and Christianity. The last defenders of cities and ideals - an outstanding example of whom was the restless Manuel, governor of Thessaloniki from 1369 and subsequently emperor in Constantinople as Manuel II - felt the death rattle of Serrhai (1383) as the 14th century expired, and heard the protracted screams of Drama, Zichna, Beroia, Serbia and Thessaloniki itself - once in 1395 and once, for the last time, in 1430 - with the crescent moon flying on its battlements.

Amidst the ruins of the nation, the only beacons of endurance for the enslaved population, the only points of reference to the glorious past for those who abandoned the sinking ship in good time, making their way to the West, were the books in which they took refuge in the harsh centuries that followed - the deeply philosophical treatises, the pained verses, the inspired compositions of men like Thomas Magistros, Demetrios Triklinios, Theodore Kabasilas, Gregorios Palamas, Demetrios Kydones, and the wise jurist Constantine Armenopoulos. The strikingly warm monuments of the Christian faith, created by named and anonymous mosaicists, painters of cosmic universe, architects of the un domed divine: in the Peribleptos at Ochrid (1295), in Saint Nikolaos Orphanos, in the Holy Apostles (1312- 1315), in Saint Elias (at Thessaloniki), in Saint Nikolaos Kyritzes (at Kastoria), in the Church of Christ at Beroia (1315), in the Basilica of the Protaton at Karyes on Mount Athos (end of the 13th century). In the field of myth, masters of the palette such as the painter Manuel Panselinos and his fellow artists Eutychios and Michael Astrapas and Georgios Kalliergis.

And it was precisely at this period, when the rumored impending judgment of the souls in heaven was menacing terrified mortals on earth with its sword, that there occurred a change in the consciousness of the Byzantine world which led oppressed Hellenism to an unprecedented self awareness, taking it back to the roots of its origins.

Faced with Ottoman predomination, the imposition of the Muslim religion by forced conversions to Islam where necessary, the arrival in Macedonia a few years after the fall of Constantinople of thousands of Jewish refugees from Spain, and the migrations of Vlachs- and Slav- speaking groups, the Greek element in the Empire - the "Romaioi" (Romans) as they were called by the Turks - acquired an inner strength and rallied round the Great Idea of casting off the foreign yoke and its alien language and religion. Through the encouragement of the crusading Orthodox Church, the preservation of Greek- speaking schools, and revolutionary remittances from the Greeks of the Diaspora, especially those in Italy, it kept alive its knowledge, its language and its dreams. And as time went on and the deep wounds of the first decades of slavery were forgotten, it achieved great things in commerce and trade, on the diplomatic front, in administration, and in public relations.


While ruined cities like Thessaloniki, victims of the conquest, were repopulated with peoples from every region of the Ottoman Empire, others, such as Giannitsa (Yenice), were new creations with a purely Turkish population. About the middle of the 15th century, Monastir had 185 Christian families, Velessa 222 and Kastoria 938. Thessaloniki, a century later, counted 1087 families and Serrhai 357. In Drama, Naousa and Kavala, the main language spoken was Greek. The same was true of  Serbia, Kastoria, Naoussa and Galatista. Stromnitsa, like Giannitsa, was a Turkish city. Jewish communities of some importance were to be found in Beroia, where there were equal numbers of Moslems and Christians, and in Serrhai, Monastir, Kavala and Drama. Few Slav speakers remained in the countryside of Eastern Macedonia - the remnants of Stephen Dusan's empire - though there were more in Western and the north of Central Macedonia.

The inhabitants, new and old, lived in separate communities, and were jointly responsible for the implementation of orders from the central authority, for the preservation of order and, most importantly of all, for the payment of taxes. The administration of the community was in the hands of the local aristocracy, which was permitted certain initiatives of a philanthropic or cultural nature. This local autonomy in matters of administration also extended to the hearing by archbishops of cases involving family and inheritance law, in accordance with Byzantine custom-law.

The administrative system of the Ottoman Empire was based on its military organization and, at the beginning of the period, the European conquests formed a single military and political district (the Eyalet of Roumelia), governed by the Beyrle Bey, a high-ranking official. In time, this broad unit was divided and Macedonia was broken up into smaller sections, of which Western Macedonia was assigned initially to the Sanjak of Skopje and later to those of Ochrid and Monastir. By contrast, both Central and Eastern Macedonia formed separate Sanjaks, with their capitals at Thessaloniki and Kavala respectively. The northern areas were assigned to the Sanjak of Kyustendil.

As during the Byzantine period, cereals, apples, olives, flax and vegetables were cultivated on the fertile plains of Macedonia. As the centuries passed, tobacco, cotton and rice were added to them. The creation of settlements in the mountainous areas and the intensification of stock-raising led to a reduction in the forested area. Trout from the rivers and lakes supplied the markets of Constantinople. From the numerous metal, silk and textile workshops - which owed much to the skills of the Jewish element - the empire ordered objects for daily use and also luxury goods. Goldsmiths, builders, chandlers, furriers, armoire's, dyers of thread and cloth-makers in a few years turned the villages and towns in which they settled into bustling production and distribution centers. They were a source of prosperity, economic strength, building activity, and intense competition. The caravans that trans ported the labor and skills of these craftsmen to Vienna, Sofia and Constantinople competed with the boats from the ports of Thessaloniki and Kavala, which discharged their cargoes at both ends of the Mediterranean. And since Hermes Kerdoos (the god of commerce) invariably walked hand in hand in Greece with Hermes Logios (the god of letters), as soon as the tempest of the conquest had subsided and the Greeks had gained control of trade and production, the Greek expatriates achieved great things in the free lands of Austro-Hungary, Germany, France and Italy (both before and after the fall of Constantinople); the church assumed a leading role, supplanting the imperial authority; thirst for knowledge and the imparting of knowledge led initially to the foundation of church schools and then to the building of community educational institutions, to which flocked not only the Greeks but also the Greek-speakers of the Balkans.

Through benefactions from wealthy Macedonians such as Manolakis (1682) and Demetrios Kyritzis (1697) from Kastoria, young men were educated in Beroia, Serrhai, Naousa, Ochrid Kleisoura and Kozani. Thanks to the inspired teaching of men like Georgios Kontaris, scholarch (head of school) at Kozani (1668-1673) Georgios Parakeimenos, headmaster in the same city (1694-1707), Kallinikos Varkosis. scholarch at Siatista (until 1768), and Kallinikos Manios in Beroia (about 1650), the Macedonians were able to partake of ancient and ecclesiastical literature and were initiated into the new achievements of science, which the intellectual pioneers of the Greek spirit were transporting from the educated West. There were many too however, who, either as refugees to the West or as willing emigrants, transmitted their own precious lights to the regenerated world of Europe: men like loannis Kottounios (1572-1657), lecturer in the Universities of Padua, Bologna and Pisa. Demetrios, the Patriarch's envoy to Wurtemberg (1559), and Metrophanis Kritopoulos, teacher of Greek in Venice (1627-1630).

Up until the beginning of the 19th century, though with a substantial break during the period of the Russian-Turkish confrontations (1736-38 and 1768-77), the Macedonian countryside prospered greatly and was at the same time the scene of unprecedented building activity. New villages were constructed and existing townships extended and beautified; amidst a climate of prosperity and expanding trade, two-storey archontika (mansions) were erected at Siatista, Kozani, Kastoria, Beroia and Florina; their tiled roofs, carved wooden ceilings, and elegant built in wooden cupboards, their reception rooms lavishly painted with floral, narrative and other motifs, and their spacious cellars and shady court yards, all reflected the wealth of their owners and the achievements of a popular art that skill fully combined the lessons of tradition with a wide variety of borrowings from East and West.

For some time after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the subject Christians of Macedonia were content to fulfill their Christian duties by using the churches that had escaped pillaging by the conquerors. As the flock steadily increased, however, and the old buildings began to feel the adverse effects of time, while the inhabitants grew more prosperous, the need to repair and beautify the houses of God under the jurisdiction of the Greek communities and also to erect new ones became inescapable. Painters from Kastoria, and then from Crete, Epirus, and Thebes, in guilds or individually, crisscrossed Macedonia from as early as the 15th century, and hymned the glories of the Orthodox faith with their palettes, some in a primitive style, others with a more academic, refined intent. Yet others from Hionades, Samarina, and Selitsa near Eratyra immortalized human vanity in secular buildings and, in the encyclopedic spirit of the age, portrayed philosophers, fantastic landscapes, the dream of the soul - Constantinople - and the vision of progress - cities of Western Europe.


And as the wheel of destiny, after many centuries, furrowed the roads of the final decision, and an unquenchable desire for freedom consumed petty interests and leveled out vainglorious vacillation, the national desire to cast of the unbearable yoke began to awaken. The year 1821 of the Uprising in the Peloponnesus lit up the peaks of mount Olympus and mount Athos. Al though the repressive measures taken by the Turkish army and the seizure of hostages in Thessaloniki did not dishearten the rebels of Emmanuel Pappas and the archimandrite Kallinikos Stamatiadis on Mount Athos and Thasos, who were thirsting for action, the insurrectionary' ignorance of military affairs and their lack of sup plies, together with the ease with which the Turks were able to mobilize large armies, strangled the movement at its birth. The uprisings on Olympus and Vermion met with a similar fate, ending in the tragedy of the holocaust of Naoussa.

After the liberation of southern Greece and the foundation of the free Greek state - the furthering of the Great Idea -spirits were restored and, with the invisible support of the Greek consulate in Thessaloniki, incursions began into Turkish-held Macedonian areas, to stir up arm bands. Tsamis Karatasos roused Chalkidike. So, too, did Captain Georgakis. The unfavorable turn taken by the Cretan Struggle, however, and the inability of Greeks and Serbs to make common cause once again prevented a general up rising of the Macedonians.

In the second half of the 19th century, the international conjunctures tended to favor the other peoples of the Balkan peninsula and inter national diplomacy adopted a hostile stance to wards Greek affairs. With the nationalist movements of Bulgaria rivaling the Turkish rulers in their anti-Greek attitudes, Macedonia, the apple of strife of the south Balkans, strove to preserve its Greek integrity by building schools and founding educational societies; it countered Slav expansionism with the historical reality and the Orthodoxy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and mobilized yet again its armed hopes and the youth of Free Greece. The Macedonian Struggle was in preparation. From the ill-fated year of 1875, from the inauspicious 1897, despite the genocide and the hecatombs of victims, the marshes of Giannitsa, the mountain peaks of Grevena, the forested ravines of Florina were trans formed into pages on which, at the turn of the 20th century, men like Pavlos Melas, Constantine Mazarakis-Ainian, Spyromilios, Tellos Agapinos (Agras) and so many others, known and anonymous, wrote the name of Macedonian re generation in their blood. In an empire on its way to collapse, despite the Young Turks' movement for renewal, and in opposition to a heavily armed, irrevocably hostile Bulgaria, with Serbia as an unreliable ally, Hellenism countered with the rights of the nation and, on 26th of October 1912, raised the flag of the cross in the capital of Macedonia, Thessaloniki. Behind it, 500 years of slavery that had not succeeded in creating slaves. Half a millennium of torture, persecution, murder, plotting, disappointment and falsification of history donned once more the blue and white and, with the sword of justice, opened the road to the modern age. The age of the Balkan epic and progress.

rivalry over Macedonia
After the foundation, in 1870, of aBulgarian church known as the Exarchate, ine in the north.

After the Greco-Turkish war of 1897, which proved a disaster for Greece, the Bulgarians managed to win over a considerable proportion of the Slav-speaking inhabitants of Macedonia. Thus it came about that on the feast day (20 July) of the Prophet Elijah in 1903 there was a Bulgarian rising, known as the Iliden rising, which the Turkish army soon bloodily suppressed. This rising led also to the destruction of numerous Greek communities and towns in Western and Northern Macedonia, including that of Krusovo. The rising, however, made plain the danger that Macedonia might be lost for ever which stimulated a general mobilization on the part of the Greeks. So it came about, in 1904, that the armed "Macedonian Struggle" began, lasting until 1908. During this period, units made up of volunteers from the free Greek state, from Crete and from other as yet unredeemed areas poured into Macedonia in solidarity with the local Greek Macedonian fighters. Together, they managed to check the spread of Bulgarian infiltration and to maintain the predominantly Greek character of the central and southern parts of Macedonia. It should not be overlooked that in many areas the volunteer units were made up principally of Slav-and Vlachs-speaking guerrillas, fighting on the side of the Greek cause. Their devotion to the Greek national cause led the Bulgarians to call them "Graikomans", that is, fanatical Greeks.

When the Greco-Bulgarian rivalry was at its height, various sets of statistics claiming to show the ethnological composition of Macedonia were published. The numerical data presented varied widely, since the statistics were based on different criteria and were intended to serve the national aspirations of their authors. The Bulgarians usually took the language spoken as their criterion, while the Greeks relied on the national consciousness of the specific population or its ecclesiastical affiliation to the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Bulgarian Exarchate. Perhaps closer to reality was the Turkish census conducted by Hilmi Pasha in 1904, which showed the numbers of Greeks and Bulgarians as follows:

Vilaet of Thessaloniki 207,317 373,227
Vilaet of Monastir 178,412 261,283
Summit 385,729 634,510

The armed Macedonian Struggle was cut by the Young Turk revolution of July 1908,which overthrow the absolutist regime of the Sultan. The Young Turks issued a general amnesty and promised equality of civil rights for all the nationalities. In those circumstances, the armed conflict between Greeks and Bulgarians and Serbs came to an end.

For the Greeks, the four years of fighting, which had begun in the most adverse conditions, eventually proved highly successful. Greek superiority in the south had been consolidated and there was now a powerful Greek presence in the disputed central zone. The morale of the indigenous population had burgeoned, and the Greeks of Macedonia were now in a position, alone, to withstand foreign designs upon their territory. The Macedonian Struggle had made it more than clear to the European Powers that the Greeks of Macedonia were to be the most important factor in molding the future of this Ottoman province.

This success must be attributed to the fact that the struggle attracted Greeks from the free State, from Crete and from the other still unredeemed areas, who fought side by side with the Greek Macedonians. In other words, the Macedonian Struggle involved the whole of the Greek nation in a way that only the Revolution of Greece, in 1821 and the Cretan risings of the 19th century had done.

The second factor in the success noted above should be sought in the point made by British historian Douglas Dakin namely, that the Greeks were fighting in an area in which the population was well-disposed and even related to them, with a profound devotion to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek idea even if not always speaking the language.


"MACEDONIA. History and Politics. Part One: Macedonia in History".
Center for Macedonians abroad. Society for Macedonian studies

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