1. Prehistoric period
  2. Geometric and Archaic periods
  3. Language
  4. Classical period
  5. Hellenistic period
  6. Roman period
  7. Byzantine period
  8. Frankish period
  9. Macedonia under Turkish Rule (the Tourkokratia)
  10. Modern times

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".

Prehistoric period

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 Yanitsa). 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 lron 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 protogeometric 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.

Geometric and Archaic periods

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, open ing 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 Makednon; from there ... it came to the Peloponnesos, 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 Hellenised, as has been asserted (Karst), for such Hellenisation 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.

Classical period

Although Herodotus and Thucydides, both of whom were aware of the genealogy of the Macedonian Argead or Temenids dynasty, made Perdikkas I the head of the family, and moreover at tributed to him the foundation of the state (first half of the 7th century BC), tradition records the names of kings earlier than Perdikkas (Karanos, Koinos, Tyrimmas). It was, however, only after protracted clashes with the Illyrians and the Thracians, and temporary subjection to Persian suzerainty (510-479 BC)- a period during which the Macedonians established themselves in "Lower Macedonia" - that the country acquired its definitive form and character. Through the organizational and administrative abilities of its first great leader, Alexander I, called the Philhellene, whose timely information to the southern Greeks contributed to the defeat of the Persian forces of Xerxes and Mardonios, the suzerainty of the Macedonian kingdom was extended both to the west of the lower Strymon valley and to the region of Anthemous. This brought economic benefits, including the exploitation of a number of silver mines in the area of lake Prasias (the first Macedonian coins were struck at this time), and the independent Macedonian principalities of west and north Macedonia were united around the central authority, recognizing the primacy of the Temenids king. The entry of the state into the history of southern Greece was sealed by the acceptance of Alexander I by the hellanodikai as a competitor in the Olympic games (probably those of 496 BC), in which, as we know, only Greeks were allowed to participate.

Perdikkas II, the first-born son of Alexander I, who ruled for forty years (454-412/13 BC), not only had to face dynastic strife, but also had to be continuously on the alert to deal with the problems created for him by the Thracian tribes and the Lynkestai and Elimeiotai on one hand, and on the other by the doubtful outcome of the Peloponnesian War, which threw the Greek world into turmoil in the 5th century BC, bringing Athenian and Spartan armies, at various times, into the heart of Macedonia. Acting always according to the dictates of political advantage, Perdikkas II proved himself a skillful diplomat and a wily leader, astute in his decisions and flexible in his alliances, and set as the aim of his diplomacy the preservation of the territorial integrity of his kingdom. The completion of the internal tasks that Perdikkas II was prevented from accomplishing by the external situation fell to his successor, Archelaos I; he is credited by the ancient sources and modern scholarship alike with great sagacity and with sweeping changes in state administration, the army and commerce. During his reign, the defense of the country was organized, cultural and artistic contacts with southern Greece were extended, and the foundations were laid of a road network. A man of culture himself, the king entertained in his new palace at Pella, to where he had transferred the capital from Aigai, poets and tragedians, and even the great Euripides, who wrote his tragedies Archelaos and The Bacchae there; he invited brilliant painters - the name of Zeuxis is mentioned - and at Dion in Pieria, the Olympia of Macedonia, he founded the "Olympia", a religious festival with musical and athletic competitions in honor of Olympian Zeus and the Muses. By 399 BC, the year in which he was murdered, Archelaos I had succeeded in converting Macedonia into one of the strongest Greek powers of his period. In the forty years following the death of Archelaos I , Macedonia formed a field for all kinds of conflict and realignments, and was the object of competition between kings who reigned for very brief periods; the country was ravaged by the savage incursions of the Illyrians, captured by the Chalkidians, and obliged to yield to the demands of the Athenians; despite all this, however, it recovered to some degree with Amyntas III on the throne and, with the accession of Philip II (359 BC), succeeded in regaining its self-belief and recovering its former strength. This charismatic ruler, whose strategic genius and diplomatic ability transformed Macedonia from an insignificant and marginal country into the most important power in the Aegean and paved the way for the pan-Hellenic expedition of his son to the Orient, was an expansive leader who had the breadth of vision to usher the ancient world into the epoch of the Hellenism of three continents. During the course of his tempestuous life, he firmly established the power of the central authority in the kingdom, reorganized the army into a flexible and amazingly efficient unit, strengthened the weaker regions of his realm through movements of population, and, abroad, made Macedonia incontestably superior to the institution of the city-state which, at this precise period, was facing decline. His unexpected death at the hands of an assassin in 336 BC, in the theater at Aigai on the very day of the marriage of his daughter Cleopatra to Alexander, the young king of the Molos sians, brought to an end a brilliant career, the final aim of which was to unify the Greeks in order to exact vengeance on Persia for the invasion of 481-480 BC; Macedonia, in complete control of affairs in the Balkan peninsula, was ready to assume its new role. A fascinating sequence of political events with a highly favorable outcome and military victories with world-wide repercussions, the resolution of a number of intractable problems of an inter-state nature, and a series of inspired programs and visions implemented with great success in a short space of time - these are the component elements in the panorama of the life of the great general and civilizer Alexander III, who was justly called the Great and who has passed into the pantheon of legend. And if his victories at Granikos (334 BC), Issos (333 BC), Gaugamela (331 BC) and Alexandria Nikaia (326 BC) may be thought of as sons worthy of their father, bringing about the overthrow of the mighty Persian empire and distant India, the prosperous cities founded in his name as far as the ends of the known world were his daughters - centers of the preservation and dissemination of Greek spirit and culture. From this world of dar ing and passion, of questing and contradiction the robust Hellenism of Macedonia carried the art of man to the ends of the inhabited world, bestowing poetry upon the mute and, in the infancy of mankind, instilling philosophical thought. In the libraries that were now founded from the Nile to the Indus, in the theaters that spread their wings under the skies of Baktria and Sogdiana, in the Gymnasia and the Agoras Homer suckled as yet unborn civilizations, Thucydides taught the rules of the science of history, and the great tragedians and Plato transmitted the principle of restraint and morality to absolutist regimes. Alexander's contribution to the history of the world is without doubt of the greatest importance: his period, severing the "Gordian Knot" with the Greek past, opened new horizons whose example would inspire, throughout the centuries that followed, all those leaders down to Napoleon himself who left their own mark on the course of mankind in both the East and the West.

Despite the unfavorable outcome of affairs on the external front, however, and despite the restraining intervention of the Romans at the ex pense of the territorial integrity of the country, which was deprived of its possessions in south ern Greece and Asia Minor (197 BC), Philip's V prestige and influence was revealed long ago by dedications at the most famous Greek sanctuar ies (Delos, Rhodes, Karia). His dynamism with re gard to the vision of a great and powerful Mace donia is attested by his internal policy during the final decade of his rule (188-179 BC): during these years, the planned exploitation of the mines, the granting to the cities in the kingdom of the right to mint coins, the imposition of harbor dues, the increasing of taxation and the provision of grants to encourage child-bearing, all led not only to recovery but also to the accumulation of wealth.

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 vigour of the state up to the very eve of its collapse.

Roman period

This, then, was the end of the kingdom be neath Mount Olympus, which had been the com mon point of reference for all the Hellenistic king doms 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 for eign conquerors, a conservative country, cer tainly, devoted to its traditional institutions, so dif ferent from the immense new empires of the Se leucids and the Ptolemies, with their heterogene ous populations. Far removed from the deifica tion of leaders, from vainglorious titles, from the appellations and dooms of excess, Macedonia confronted its destiny as once its Stoic king Anti gonos II Gonatas had confronted the highest of fice, which had been bestowed upon him: as glo rious slavery!

A menace to the Roman Senate, the land of Alexander was divided into four merides (por tions), or economic and administrative districts, and the possession or sale of landed property between them was forbidden, as was intermar riage. 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 re gime, 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) Mace donia now belonged to the past, even as a pro tectorate: 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 bur densome 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 bar barian 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 Dyr rachion to Byzantion (in a second stage) as a continuation of the Via Appia on the Italian main land, and the settling of colonists (Dion, Cassan dreia, Pella, Philippoi) and Italian merchants may have transformed the economic and demograph ic 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 protec tion of the Pax Romana in the rearguard of mili tary 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 Sko toussa, as in the tribute paying (tributariae) cities, the communities in time adjusted to the new state of affairs ordained by Augustus, while preserving their ancient institutions of government (assem bly, 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 sim ple 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, immor talizing 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, Alexan dreia 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 his tory of the Roman empire and laid the founda tions for a new era - was of the greatest impor tance for Macedonia, as for the rest of the em pire, 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 praes es (ruler), who was responsible to the vicarius (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 dio cese of Macedonia, Dacia and Pannonia com bined to form the praefecture 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".

Byzantine period

Macedonia's strategic importance at the crossroads of the major arterial roads in the Bal kan peninsula meant that during the critical peri od marking the transition from the late Roman to the Byzantine period it was the object of bene factions from the royal house, despite the gener al upheavals of the times. Manifestations of this interest included the transfer of the capital to Thessaloniki by Galerius Maximian, and the erection there of an imposing palace; the con struction 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 product ing 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 respon sible for the imposing buildings (whether of a re ligious or secular character) brought to light in many places by the archaeologist's spade: basili cas, villas and fortifications.

It was upon this world, a world deeply influ enced by Christianity, a world that slowly and surely cast off its Roman toga to don the Byzan tine purple, a world sorely tried by the incursions of the Goths, the Avars, and all the others who had designs on its wealth and power, that faith in mission of the "God of mercy" erected the thousand-year empire of the East, to guide and enlighten the West. It raised the cross of the Res urrection as far afield as the banks of the Da nube, in castles, in churches adorned with mosaics, and in bath-houses. Proclaiming the glory of men like Justinian I, the courage of a Heraklios, the majesty of Constantine VII Porphyrogennitus. In the face of the Avars and the Slavs, the Bul gars and the Arabs.

As the countryside was depopulated by the repeated barbarian incursions and the majority of the inhabitants sought refuge and protection in the urban centers, the cities were transformed into centers of intense commercial and cultural activity. Ports like those of Thessaloniki and Christoupolis (Kavala), with their granaries and heavy traffic in sea-faring ships, and also pros perous cities in the hinterland, such as Herakleia Lynkestis, Bargala, Serrhai and Philippoi, were adorned with brilliant buildings; their fortifications were strengthened, and their old urban tissue was abandoned as new programs of urban development were implemented (to which the destructive earthquakes of the 7th century made their contribution).

It was at this period, moreover, that the ad ministrative system of "themes"(districts), al ready tested in areas of Asia Minor exposed to great danger, was introduced to the European regions of the empire. The characteristic features of this system were the concentrating in one and the same person of military and political au thority, and a change in the composition of the ar my. Macedonia was divided between two "themes" - the "theme of Thessaloniki" (from the Pindos range to the Strymon river) and the "theme of Strymon" (the modern counties of Ser rhai, Xanthe and Rhodope), the latter with its capital at Serrhai.

The integration of the Slavs into Byzantine so ciety (9th century AD), the result partly of their conversion to Christianity by Cyril and Methodios and partly of the extension of Byzantine influence to the interior of the Balkans, had direct conse quences for Macedonia, whose cities benefited from the peace that now prevailed. Thessaloniki evolved into an important cosmopolitan center to which flowed merchandise from East and West. Churches were erected at Kastoria and Beroia and adorned with wall-paintings in which were crystallized the basic elements of large-scale art after the triumph of Orthodoxy and the triumph of the icons.

Before 1204, the year in which Constantino ple was captured by the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, Macedonia was shaken by the uphea vals and the ravaging and taking of prisoners at tending successive invasions by the Bulgarians, first under Symeon (AD 894-927) and then under Samuel (AD 989-1018), and suffered the humiliation of seeing its capital fall into the hands of Arab pirates (AD 904); almost three hundred years later, the same city, along with others (Kastoria and Serrhai) was captured after a siege by the Normans of Sicily (AD 1185). This is the reason that the 9th and 10th centuries in Macedonia have no great achievements to show in the sphere of cultural activity. A contributing factor in this was, of course, the strict centraliza tion that informed the policy of the Macedonian dynasty. By contrast, the 1 1th and 12th centuries bestowed upon the north Greek administrative division men of the church and of letters, of the stature of Theophylact Hephaistos (the famous archbishop of Bulgaria, with his see at Ochrid), Michael Choumnos (metropolitan of Thessaloniki), and Eustathios Kataphloros (Metropolitan of Thessaloniki and a famous scholiast on classical texts). They contributed to a flowering of ecclesiastical architecture and church painting (Beroia, Edessa, Melenikon, Serrhai, Ayios Achillios, Thessaloniki, Mount Athos, Nerezi, Kastoria and Ochrid) of such intensity that these churches formed models for creations in other Balkan lands and as far afield as Russia and Georgia in the East and Sicily and north ern Italy in the West. Wall-paintings of the quality of Saint Panteleimon at Nerezi (1162) - a typical example of Komne nan painting, with its pronounced depiction of passion and its soft lines in the rendering of bod ies, tall and elegant in their other-worldly Man nerism - or of the Latomos monastery in Thessa loniki (2nd half of the 12th century), and of the Anargyroi at Kastoria and Saint Nikolaos Kasnit zes in the same city (12th century), with their re fined academic style; these are all undoubtedly points of reference for the artistic production and achievement of this age, before the empire was dismembered by the Latins and divided into king doms, baronies, and counties. And, of course, we should not forget the superb compositions of the portable icons and mural mosaics.

Frankish period

With the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and its dismemberment by the western crusad ers (Partitio Romaniae), the whole of Macedonia became subject to the Frankish kingdom of Thes saloniki, of which Boniface, marquis of Montfer rat 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 tzar Ioannitzes, who in 1207, the year of his death, arrived with his armies before the walls of Thessaloniki, having first captured Ser rhai and taken prisoner Baldwin, emperor of Con stantinople.

The situation became increasingly confused as time went on: the Bulgarian state was con sumed by inter-dynastic quarrels and after the death of Boniface, the Frankish kingdom of Thes saloniki fell into the hands of guardians of mi nors: the new despot of the so-called "Despotate" of Epirus, the ambitious Theodore Komnenos Doukas An gelos (121 5-1230), brother of the founder of the state, Michael II Komnenos Dou kas Angelos, systematically extended his pos sessions from Skodra in Illyria to Naupaktos (Le panto) and, by steadily advancing his armies, succeeded in capturing the bride of the Therma ic 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 em pire of Nicaea. In December 1246, loannis III Va tatzes, 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 condi tion 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 Chalkidi ke and Mount Athos (1308ff.), fuelled fratricidal dynastic strife between the Palaiologoi and the Kantakouzenoi, and gave rise to social turbu lence 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 Constantino ple as Manuel II - felt the death rattle of Serrhai (1383) as the 14th century expired, and heard the protracted screams of Drama, Zichna, Be roia, Servia 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 bea cons 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 cen turies that followed - the deeply philosophical treatises, the pained verses, the inspired compo sitions of men like Thomas Magistros, Demetrios Triklinios, Theodore Kabasilas, Gregorios Pala mas, 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 undomed di vine: 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 Pro taton at Karyes on Mount Athos (end of the 13th century). In the field of myth, masters of the pal ette 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 impo sition of the Muslim religion by forced conver sions to Islam where necessary, the arrival in Macedonia a few years after the fall of Constan tinople of thousands of Jewish refugees from Spain, and the migrations of Vlach- and Slav- speaking groups, the Greek element in the Em pire - the "Romaioi"(Romans) as they were called by the Turks - acquired an inner strength and ral lied round the Great Idea of casting off the for eign yoke and its alien language and religion. Through the encouragement of the crusading Or thodox 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 administra tion, and in public relations.

Macedonia under Turkish Rule (the Tourkokratia)

While ruined cities like Thessaloniki, victims of the conquest, were repopulated with peoples from every region of the Ottoman Empire, others, such as Yanitsa (Yenice), were new creations with a purely Turkish population. About the mid dle of the 15th century, Monastir had 185 Chris- tian families, Velessa 222 and Kastoria 938. Thessaloniki, a century later, counted 1087 fam ilies and Serrhai 357. In Drama, Naousa and Ka vala, the main language spoken was Greek. The same was true of Servia, Kastoria, Naousa and Galatista. Stromnitsa, like Yanitsa, 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 separ ate communities, and were jointly responsible for the implementation of orders from the central au thority, 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 cer tain initiatives of a philanthropic or cultural na ture. This local autonomy in matters of adminis tration also extended to the hearing by archbish ops 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 beyrlebey, a high-ranking official. In time, this broad unit was divided and Macedonia was brok en 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 Macedo nia 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, ap ples, olives, flax and vegetables were cultivated on the fertile plains of Macedonia. As the centu ries passed, tobacco, cotton and rice were ad ded to them. The creation of settlements in the mountainous areas and the intensification of stock-raising led to a reduction in the forested ar ea. 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 em pire ordered objects for daily use and also luxury goods. Goldsmiths, builders, chandlers, furriers, armourers, 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 pros perity, economic strength, building activity, and intense competition. The caravans that trans ported the labour and skills of these craftsmen to Vienna, Sofia and Constantinople competed with the boats from the ports of Thessaloniki and Ka vala, 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 Lo gios (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 Con stantinople); 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 in stitutions, to which flocked not only the Greeks but also the Greek-speakers of the Balkans.

Through benefactions from wealthy Macedo nians 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, schol arch (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 ecclesiasti cal 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 pre cious 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 pros pered 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 ar chontika (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 lav ishly painted with floral, narrative and other mo tifs, 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 Byz antine Empire, the subject Christians of Macedo nia 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 Kasto ria, and then from Crete, Epirus, and Thebes, in guilds or individually, criss-crossed Macedonia from as early as the 15th century, and hymned the glories of the Orthodox faith with their pal ettes, 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, por trayed philosophers, fantastic landscapes, the dream of the soul - Constantinople - and the vision of progress - cities of Western Europe.

Modern times

And as the wheel of destiny, after many cen turies, furrowed the roads of the final decision, and an unquenchable desire for freedom con sumed petty interests and leveled out vainglori ous vacillation, the national desire to cast of the unbearable yoke began to awaken. The year 1821 of the Uprising in the Peloponnese 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 Em manuel Pappas and the archimandrite Kallinikos Stamatiadis on Mount Athos and Thasos, who were thirsting for action, the insurrectionaries' 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 Bermion met with a similar fate, ending in the tragedy of the holocaust of Naousa.

After the liberation of southern Greece and the foundation of the free Greek state - the fur thering of the Great Idea -spirits were restored and, with the invisible support of the Greek con sulate 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 com mon 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 move ments 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 found ing educational societies; it countered Slav ex pansionism with the historical reality and the Or thodoxy 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 Yanitsa, the mountain peaks of Gre vena, the forested ravines of Florina were trans formed into pages on which, at the turn of the 20th century, men like Pavlos Melas, Constan tine Mazarakis-Ainian, Spyromilios, Tellos Agapi nos (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 Ma cedonia, 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.

Copyright © 1995 Ekdotike Athinon S.A.