History of the Macedonian People - The Early Macedonian Kingdom

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 3 - The Early Macedonian Kingdom

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

"Although the darker side of modern politics has cast its shadow in Macedonia and its people for decades, new light is beginning to shine in this area. Some of that incandescence derives from continuity in the past. The ancient Macedonians did not vanish, but continue to provide the world with endowments in education, religion, art, and architecture. They also provided their inheritors with ideals of world unity, religious freedom, and the invincibility of the human spirit. The brightness of the ancient Macedonians, therefore, shines into the present like the sunburst which best represents the radiance of ancient Macedonia." (Michael Dimitri)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of articles I introduced various independent discoveries relating to rock art, translations of prehistoric inscriptions, translations of words from ancient texts, and a number of prehistoric linguistic assessments.

In this article I will summarize the findings from parts 1 and 2 and provide my own assessment. For the remainder of the article, my main focus will be to present Macedonian events and actions, from the time of Perdiccas I to the time of Perdiccas II, which have been recorded in the annals of history.

It has been estimated that approximately fifty thousand years ago a glacier covered Europe. It is also known that the glacier's retreat began from the south and advanced northward. It is therefore safe to assume that the Balkans were the first lands in Europe to be thawed and to support life. It is also safe to assume that the first humans to resettle Europe came through the Balkans making it the oldest hospitable place in Europe since the latest ice age.

From analyzing cave drawings and rocks in Macedonia, we can deduce that the earliest "rock art" came into existence about forty thousand years ago. Rock art represents the earliest and most primitive form of written communication.

It is my belief that rock art began with the drawing of stick objects depicting simple messages. Over time rock art evolved into sophisticated shapes and patterns depicting more and more complicated messages. Once the artists realized the power of their "written message" there was no stopping them. Over time, pictographs evolved into symbols not only of objects, like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, but also of sounds, which make words. From the evidence discovered, Neolithic Macedonians, if I can call them Macedonians, may have been the inventors of the "phonetic language".

Because of the great number of rock art objects found, scientists are becoming convinced that the first phonetic alphabet may have originated in Macedonia. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of people like Dusko Aleksovski, the Republic of Macedonia is becoming the leader in rock art research.

Many prehistoric inscriptions and artifacts discovered in the southern Balkans in the past thirty years or so, were deemed to be of unknown origin. Scientists were unable to decipher them because they did not fit any of the "known" ancient or prehistoric languages. Thousands of these inscriptions have now been translated thanks to the efforts of dedicated scholars Vasil Ilyov, Anthony Ambrozic, Matej Bor, Anton Skerbinc, and many others. What was deemed an "impossibility" for mainstream scientists proved to be a simple task for the scholars of the Slavic languages. "Even an ordinary Slovene at a simple glance can tell you what they mean", says Anthony Ambrozic.

What is most interesting about these inscriptions, which puzzled scientists for many years, is that they are of "Slavic" origin. "No one ever thought of looking at them from a Slavic perspective because it was thought that Slavs did not exist in that region during this period." At least that is what mainstream science claims.

Archeologists and linguists are now in the process of collecting evidence that will not only prove that prehistoric Macedonians spoke a proto-Slav language but that they have Venetic roots which originated in Macedonia.

In part 2 of this series I mentioned that six inscriptions of Venetic origins have been found in Dura-Europos, a city in the Syrian desert founded by Alexander the Great, or more correctly by Alexander's lieutenant, Seleucus Nicator, of the post-Alexander Seleucid Empire.

"The Macedonians built Dura as a frontier town to control the river trade. Goods including silks, jade, spices, ebony, ivory, and precious stones were brought from the east and transferred onto camels for the desert leg of the journey, via Palmyra, to the Mediterranean.

Dura was an outpost bordering a clutch of kingdoms in unsettled times. It became an ethnic melting pot. Greeks, Byzantines, Persians, Christians and diaspora Jews lived and worked side by side. In 140 BC the nomads of Parthia in the east captured the city, which was then passed backwards and forwards between the Romans and the Sassanians, another Persian people. It was the Sassanians who finally destroyed Dura Europos in AD 256, possibly because of a revolt by the inhabitants." (http://pages.cthome.net/hirsch/dura.htm)

I have seen all six Dura-Europos inscriptions and translations but for the sake of saving space, I will only show one of them. Here is what Anthony Ambrozic, the translator of the inscriptions, has to say:

"The following six passages were found in different places of the Roman fortress of Dura-Europos on the Euphrates River. In view of the fact that the commander of the archers makes his dedication to Mithras in the Venetic language, as can be seen in the passage that follows, it is highly likely that there are other Venetic inscriptions at this site. Further research will undoubtedly reveal them. The passages that follow are only representative samples and by no means exhaustive." (Page 74, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany, a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms).

The passage I am going to describe appears on a relief of Mithras in a temple at Dura-Europos along the Roman Euphrates defense line. One of the dedicators (in the company of two distinguished acquaintances) is commander of the archers, Jaribol.

The Oblate is marked passage XXXXIV.

{Division and alphabetization:









"...May you save me the wife this fall so that she is healthy and that the fisherman grows...'AT JE' (?) [Guest-food] he is yours. May heaven also protect (?) you!"

Looser Translation:

"...May you save my wife in the fall so that she stays healthy and the little fisherman grows...'AT JE' is your [guest-food]. May heaven also protect you!"


DI (DE) - "so that, may" - DA is the current literal usage but DE and DI are also still in dialectal use. Please note that the last sentence DE is used with the same meaning.

MI - "to me, me" - dat., sing. of JAZ - "I"

HRANET - "save" from HRANITI - "to save, to preserve, to keep" - The symbol "8" for "H" had to be sought from Venetic sources since neither Greek nor Latin had anything undiacritical for the sound.

TO - "this"

JESEN - "fall, autumn"

ZHENO - "wife" - fem., acc,. sing. of ZHENA- the ZH comes from as far back as the ancient Venetic writings at Este, Italy.

H (K') - "so that" - still very much in dialectal usage - Again, please also note the "8."

JO - "her" - shortened from fem. acc., sing. form of ONA - "she"

SDRAJE - "health" - The form of a phonetic twin of ZDRAVJE, the current literal use.

JA - "to her, her" - This archaic and dialectal form is a repetition of JO (above) and has the same meaning, but the reflexivity of it is an idiom. The literal form now - fem., dat., sing. of ONA "she" - is JI.

JE - "is"

I - "and"

RASJA - "grows" - from RASTI - "to grow" - The form used has discarded the T between the two consonants.

RIBOLEUJC - "the fisherman" - "the fetus", in a colloquial fashion - This is a combination of RIBA - "fish" and LOV - "to catch, hunt."

"AT" (?) - It is impossible to guess what precedes these two letters.

JE -"is"

GOSTOJETOT (GOSTOJEDOT) - from GOST - "guest" and JESTI - "to eat" - This combinational form has no comparable dialectal, archaic, or literal form and will therefore have to remain rendered only in its basic components. It is realized that an exact translation is called for since the word is at the very core of Jaribol's votive intent, but anything more than the above would be presumptuous.

ON - "he"

JE - "is"

TOJI - "your, yours" - a somewhat archaic form in that even dialectically the current form would be TOJ and not TOJI

DE - "may, so that" - see DI supra

TE - "you"

ROJ - "paradise, heaven" - dialectal of RAJ

I - "and, also"

(VAR)J - "protect"}. (Pages 74-77, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany, a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms).

After translating the six passages here is what Ambrozic had to say. "Since scholars ascribe passage XXXXIV to 170 A.D., passage XXXXVII to 61 A.D., and passage XXXXVIII to 3 B.C., we can safely conclude that the Venetic speaking presence at Dura-Europos preceded the Roman annexation of 165 A.D.

Throughout the Seleucid (Macedonian) ascendancy between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C., the position of the commander (strategos) had been the privileged preserve of the scions of the original Macedonian conquerors. Upon the annexation of the site, the Romans adhered to this practice, if for no other reason than the lack of other sources of leadership in the far-flung border zone. Accordingly, we see a descendant of the erstwhile Macedonian rulers make a dedication to his god in the still extant Venetic language of his ancestors some four-and-a-half centuries after the conquest. The survival of the language may be attributed to the closed-circle, tight-knit Macedonian plutocracy reigning over the indigenous peoples in an hegemonic desert bailiwick.

Founded by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander's Macedonian generals (whose father had been a general of Philip of Macedon's), Dura-Europos, having languished buried mute on the banks of the Euphrates all these many centuries, now speaks to us about a people on another river, in another time, on another continent. In the fifth century B.C., Herodotus (I, 196), having found them on the lower Danube, called them Enetoi (Veneti)." (Page 86, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany, a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms).

Coincidental to the inscription research, linguistic research has also been conducted independently on various ancient texts. Hundreds of Macedonian words of Slavic origin have been found and translated from Homer's books. Macedonian inscriptions from Alexander's time have also been translated and proven to contain words of Slavic origin. Thanks to the efforts of Alexander Donski, Tashko Belchev, Odisej Belchevski, and others these discoveries have been brought out into the open.

Let's not forget that there are also vast regions in southern, central, and eastern Europe, including the Pelloponisos, which to this day still bear many Slav toponyms, some of which date back to prehistoric times.

On a different subject, it is my belief that a number of great wars took place in Macedonia between 1,200BC and 800BC which may have been responsible for the destruction of Macedonia's proto-Slav civilization. Based on Bronze Age evidence, found in the many urn-filled tombs in Macedonia, these wars may also have been responsible for decimating the Macedonian population.

Independent evidence of these wars can be found in Homer's epic stories, which places them before the 8th century BC.

I have not been able to find information about the scope and duration of these wars, however advancements in metal weapons made them lethal and devastating to Macedonians and surrounding populations.

Traumatized by the devastation, the war survivors lost their modern ways, became isolated, and sank back into tribal life. Defenseless and devoid of population the small Macedonian kingdom was now vulnerable to invasions.

After the wars, the sparsely populated, war torn regions experienced population influx from neighbouring tribes. At the most southern tip of the Balkans, near the Mediterranean coast, the influx was predominantly from the Middle East. Further inland the influx was predominantly from the north and east.

It is believed that the prolonged isolation and unusual population influx caused great changes in some places in a relatively short period of time and almost none in others. The coastal people to the south, influenced by the more advanced Middle Eastern civilizations, developed a democratic political system and advanced agriculture, capable of sustaining large cities. The inlanders, on the other hand, influenced by their primitive neighbours advanced very little.

I have not found any information that would show whether or not a Macedonian civilization existed before the great wars. If it did, we can say that by 800BC Macedonia was on its way back to recovery, again re-asserting herself as a major force in the region and again headed on a collision course with her neighbours. It was now only a matter of time before another great war would take place and again engulf the entire region. Fortunately however, it would not be for another five hundred years.

Mainstream historians have attributed much to the ancient Greeks and almost nothing to the ancient Macedonians. The Greeks for example were civilized, "spirited and intelligent, were able to govern themselves. But the barbarians, being 'servile by nature', or spirited but stupid, or both servile and stupid could not govern themselves." (Page 7,8, Nicholas G. L. Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia). If that were the case shouldn't the Greeks have won the battle at Chaeronea?

If the Greeks were the most civilized and dominant people in ancient times as Hammond puts it, why don't they dominate the world today? Why are there so few Greek speakers in the world today (there were almost none at the start of the 19th century)?

Putting it another way, why are there virtually no Greek yet so many Slav speakers in Central and Eastern Europe today if that region was supposedly dominated by civilized Greek speakers? It has been scientifically proven that civilized people have greater influence over uncivilized ones. Conversely, uncivilized people have very little influence over civilized ones regardless of which ones are more dominant. Egypt is an excellent example of this.

Why are there so many people in such a vast territory today speaking derivatives of the prehistoric Macedonian language if the Greek language was supposedly the most dominant language?

Why is there not a single pre 1912 village in Macedonia that bears a Greek name or speaks the Greek language? If the primitive Slavs conquered and assimilated the so-called Hellenized and civilized Macedonians, why did they not adopt their more advanced language, culture, and toponomy?

The answer is very simple. The Macedonians were never Hellenized and thus retained their Slav language and culture from the time of the Veneti. Recent and independent DNA and genetic studies confirm that the Modern Macedonians are one of the oldest people living in the Balkans today. To think that an intellectually inferior race would replace a superior one is not only remote but also unscientific.

There is no doubt that today's Slavic languages are literary derivatives of Slavic dialects that existed in the various regions before the Slavic States were formed. Nevertheless, in order for dialects to exist, there had to be a common root or mother language at some point earlier in time. It is impossible for dialects to form without a root language. Also, the divergence in language and the formation of dialects is directly proportional to the age of the root language. The more divergent the dialects, the older the root language. Divergence in a language can be attributed to two factors, prolonged isolation and external influence. We know that the brothers Kiril and Metodi instituted a revision of the Macedonian language during the 8th and 9th centuries AD. We also know that the brothers did not invent but rather updated the Macedonian script to properly represent the natural evolution of the spoken language. The Macedonian oral language always existed and naturally evolved. Unfortunately, due to prolonged Roman influence, the written form of the Macedonian language was neglected. The brothers updated the written part of the Macedonian language in order to take advantage of its natural evolution and keep it phonetic. This is something the English language desperately needs. With a phonetic language no one would ever need years of lessons to learn how to spell.

Unlike the Macedonian language, which was spoken by all Macedonians through the ages, the Greek language was lost to a point of extinction, only to be resurrected and artificially imposed as the "katharevusa" in the late 19th century.

During the 8th and 9th centuries AD, free from Roman oppression and positively influenced by Christianity, the Macedonian civilization flourished and again rose to its former glory. (More on this in future articles). The Greeks, on the other hand, lost their ways and remained subordinate to the Byzantine and later to the Ottoman up until the 19th century.

According to Mario Alinei's theory of continuity, the Slavs have always existed where they exist today. With much certainty, I can make the same claim about the Macedonians. Supported by the theory of continuity and by recent independent DNA and genetic studies, the Macedonians are one of the oldest groups of people to exist in the southern Balkans. I have to also emphasize that this negates old beliefs that the modern Macedonians migrated to the Balkans during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries AD during the so-called Slav invasions. These politically motivated assertions are purely concoctions of 19th century Greek and Western scholars, fabricated to allow Greece to lay claims to Macedonian territory. Serbian and later Yugoslavian authorities went along with this idea for the sake of keeping the south Slav people unified under the slogan "one Slav people, one Slav nation". This, however, is not true. As has been shown, the Macedonians are a unique nation, different from other Slav nations, and have been this way for at least 3000 years. The Slovenians too, are making similar claims in that their roots also may run back to the prehistoric Proto-Slav Veneti.

There is evidence that shows "people moving" during the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries AD but these were not invasions as described by modern scholars, but rather refugee movements. Pressure and terror tactics from the invading proto-Turk and Tartar tribes from the north pushed the indigenous people off their lands sending them deeper and deeper into the Balkans. (More on this in future articles).

The fact that there are so many Macedonians today who have retained their Macedonian language and culture without institutionalized support and have endured much oppression and many attempts at assimilation by other nations, shows that they have an immense desire and great determination to remain Macedonian. What is true today was probably true three thousand years ago when the small Macedonian kingdom was re-awakening in the aftermath of the horrible wars.

It is unknown who the first tribal kings of Macedonia were and how far back their line extended. Mainstream history places the birth of Aegae (the Argead Macedonian Royal House) around the start of the 7th century BC, with Perdiccas I as its first ruler. (Page 98, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990)

Before the Macedonians expanded their territory beyond the Kostur/Lerin mountainous regions their center was located at Rupishcha (Argos). Legend has it that the first ruler to establish the Argead house in Rupishcha was Caranus. He is believed to have been the first king to rule the Macedonian kingdom from approximately 808BC to 778BC. (http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/ConciseMacedonia/timeline.html)

It is my belief that Caranus was not a ruler at all but the name of a starting point used by the Macedonians to establish the beginning of their royal lineage. We can derive a more appropriate meaning for Caranus if we strip the Latin "us" to form Caran. Now if we convert Caran to its Macedonian equivalent we have Koren. The English meaning of the Macedonian word "koren" translates to "root" or "beginning". In other words, it is estimated that the lineage of the Argead Macedonian royal house began in approximately 800BC. Alexandar Donski has a different interpretation for Caran(us). "This name might be connected to the present day Macedonian noun 'kruna' (a crown). The name 'Karanche' is present in today’s' Macedonian onomasticon."

It took the small Macedonian kingdom about 200 years to build up its population before it was able to fully occupy the lush and fertile Phrygian abandoned lands of Voden.

We know from Herodotus that Perdiccas and his brothers moved the Macedonian center but no date for the move was given. "Herodotus (8.183) wrote that '[Perdiccas] came to another part of Macedonia and settled near the gardens named after Midas, son of Gordias...above the garden rises the mountain called Bermion, unassailable in winter'." (Page 65, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990). I believe this other part of Macedonia, to which Herodotus is referring is located near the city of present day Voden. Being capable of living in mountainous terrain, the Macedonians, I believe, descended to Voden via a more direct route over the mountains rather than following the Bistritsa River, as some historians have argued. Unconfirmed, is my belief that Aegae was established near Voden during the 7th century BC and became the second Macedonian capital. Hammond estimates that Perdiccas came to the throne in 650BC. (Page 11, Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia).

Beyond some stories about his younger days, there is little information written about Perdiccas and his accomplishments as the first king of Aegae.

Translated by George Rawlinson, here is what Herodotus has to say about Perdiccas. "Three brothers, descendants of Temenus, fled from Argos to the Illyrians; their names were Gauanes, Aeropus, and Perdiccas. From Illyria they went across to Upper Macedonia, where they came to a certain town called Lebaea. There they hired themselves out to serve the king in different employs; one tended the horses; another looked after the cows; while Perdiccas, who was the youngest, took charge of the smaller cattle. In those early times poverty was not confined to the people: kings themselves were poor, and so here it was the king's wife who cooked the victuals. Now, whenever she baked the bread, she always observed that the loaf of the labouring boy Perdiccas swelled to double its natural size. So the queen, finding this never fail, spoke of it to her husband. Directly that it came to his ears, the thought struck him that it was a miracle, and boded something of no small moment. He therefore sent for the three labourers, and told them to begone out of his dominions. They answered, 'they had a right to their wages; if he would pay them what was due, they were quite willing to go.' Now it happened that the sun was shining down the chimney into the room where they were; and the king, hearing them talk of wages, lost his wits, and said, 'There are the wages which you deserve; take that- I give it you!' and pointed, as he spoke, to the sunshine. The two elder brothers, Gauanes and Aeropus, stood aghast at the reply, and did nothing; but the boy, who had a knife in his hand, made a mark with it round the sunshine on the floor of the room, and said, 'O king! we accept your payment.' Then he received the light of the sun three times into his bosom, and so went away; and his brothers went with him. When they were gone, one of those who sat by told the king what the youngest of the three had done, and hinted that he must have had some meaning in accepting the wages given. Then the king, when he heard what had happened, was angry, and sent horsemen after the youths to slay them. Now there is a river in Macedonia to which the descendants of these Argives offer sacrifice as their saviour. This stream swelled so much, as soon as the sons of Temenus were safe across, that the horsemen found it impossible to follow. So the brothers escaped into another part of Macedonia, and took up their abode near the place called 'the Gardens of Midas, son of Gordias.' In these gardens there are roses which grow of themselves, so sweet that no others can come near them, and with blossoms that have as many as sixty petals apiece. It was here, according to the Macedonians, that Silenus was made a prisoner. Above the gardens stands a mountain called Bermius, which is so cold that none can reach the top. Here the brothers made their abode; and from this place by, degrees they conquered all Macedonia." (From the first Book of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, ~440 BC THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS, translated by George Rawlinson).

I will not, at this point, get into the details of the family makeup of the Macedonian Royal House because it is very vague and conjecture at best. If you wish to learn more about it consult page 31, Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia or page 80, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon.

Herodotus continues "From the Perdiccas of whom we have here spoken, Alexander was descended in the following way Alexander was the son of Amyntas, Amyntas of Alcetas; the father of Alcetas was Aeropus; of Aeropus, Philip; of Philip, Argaeus; of Argaeus, Perdiccas, the first sovereign". In other words, the known kings of Macedonia before Herodotus's time reigned as follows: Perdiccas I, Argaeus, Philip I, Aeropus I, Alcetas, Amyntas I, and Alexander I.

Again, I have not been able to find much about the Macedonian Royal lineage and the accomplishments of the reigning kings up to Alexander I's reign (498-454).

Borza, in the beginning of chapter 5, in his book, "In the Shadow of Olympus, The Emergence of Macedon" describes the Macedonian kingdom during the reign of Amyntas I as weak, thinly populated, and surviving in the absence of external threat. Amyntas's territory of control during his reign included the central Macedonian plain and peripheral foothills, the Pierian coastal plain (Katerini) beneath Mt. Olympus, and perhaps the fertile, mountain-encircled plain of Almopia (Meglen). To the south lay the people of Thessaly and on the western mountains were the Molossians or people of western Epirus, tribes of non-Argaed Macedonians. Beyond lay the fierce Illyrians and east of the river Bistritsa lay the Paeonian and Thracian tribes.

As the Macedonian kingdom expanded and made its way to the lowlands and to the shores of the Aegean Sea, it was no longer isolated and began to enjoy the economic and cultural currents of the Aegean world as well as tangling in its politics.

After moving their capital to Aegae the Macedonians were no longer seen as a tribal but rather as a monarchic kingdom. Then, just as Alexander I was about to be crowned, the Macedonian Kingdom was seen as a power of influence. Unfortunately, it was still too weak to hold its own, militarily, against its powerful neighbours.

Unlike his father, Alexander I was born into a world of social turbulence and political change. With the rise of the Persian Empire and its westward movement, new conflicts were about to take place that would forever alter the balance of power in the Balkans.

In an attempt to encircle the Black Sea, Persian forces crossed over the Bosporus Strait around 513 BC, defeated eastern Thrace, and marched westward up to the Struma basin. Victorious over the Thracians, King Darius left Megabazus, one of his commanders, in charge of his forces and returned to Persia. After making peace with the rest of the Tharacian tribes, Magabazus deported some of the captured population to Asia, presumably for slave labour, and sent envoys to Macedonia to offer the Macedonians an opportunity for a peaceful settlement.

Fearing the Persian wrath, king Amyntas offered no resistance and graciously accepted the envoys. As the story goes, everything went well until the Persians demanded that Macedonian women entertain them for the night. That demand did not sit well with the Macedonians and the Persian envoys disappeared, never to be found.

Here is what Herodotus had to say. {As for Megabazus, he no sooner brought the Paeonians under, than he sent into Macedonia an embassy of Persians, choosing for the purpose the seven men of most note in all the army after himself. These persons were to go to Amyntas, and require him to give earth and water to King Darius. Now there is a very short cut from the Lake Prasias across to Macedonia. Quite close to the lake is the mine which yielded afterwards a talent of silver a day to Alexander; and from this mine you have only to cross the mountain called Dysorum to find yourself in the Macedonian territory. So the Persians sent upon this errand, when they reached the court, and were brought into the presence of Amyntas, required him to give earth and water to King Darius. And Amyntas not only gave them what they asked, but also invited them to come and feast with him; after which he made ready the board with great magnificence, and entertained the Persians in right friendly fashion. Now when the meal was over, and they were all set to the drinking, the Persians said- "Dear Macedonian, we Persians have a custom when we make a great feast to bring with us to the board our wives and concubines, and make them sit beside us. Now then, as thou hast received us so kindly, and feasted us so handsomely, and givest moreover earth and water to King Darius, do also after our custom in this matter." Then Amyntas answered- "O, Persians! we have no such custom as this; but with us men and women are kept apart. Nevertheless, since you, who are our lords, wish it, this also shall be granted to you." When Amyntas had thus spoken, he bade some go and fetch the women. And the women came at his call and took their seats in a row over against the Persians. Then, when the Persians saw that the women were fair and comely, they spoke again to Amyntas and said, that "what had been done was not wise; for it had been better for the women not to have come at all, than to come in this way, and not sit by their sides, but remain over against them, the torment of their eyes." So Amyntas was forced to bid the women sit side by side with the Persians. The women did as he ordered; and then the Persians, who had drunk more than they ought, began to put their hands on them, and one even tried to give the woman next him a kiss. King Amyntas saw, but he kept silence, although sorely grieved, for he greatly feared the power of the Persians. Alexander, however, Amyntas' son, who was likewise there and witnessed the whole, being a young man and unacquainted with suffering, could not any longer restrain himself. He therefore, full of wrath, spake thus to Amyntas:- "Dear father, thou art old and shouldst spare thyself. Rise up from table and go take thy rest; do not stay out the drinking. I will remain with the guests and give them all that is fitting." Amyntas, who guessed that Alexander would play some wild prank, made answer:- "Dear son, thy words sound to me as those of one who is well nigh on fire, and I perceive thou sendest me away that thou mayest do some wild deed. I beseech thee make no commotion about these men, lest thou bring us all to ruin, but bear to look calmly on what they do. For myself, I will e'en withdraw as thou biddest me." Amyntas, when he had thus besought his son, went out; and Alexander said to the Persians, "Look on these ladies as your own, dear strangers, all or any of them- only tell us your wishes. But now, as the evening wears, and I see you have all had wine enough, let them, if you please, retire, and when they have bathed they shall come back again." To this the Persians agreed, and Alexander, having got the women away, sent them off to the harem, and made ready in their room an equal number of beardless youths, whom he dressed in the garments of the women, and then, arming them with daggers, brought them in to the Persians, saying as he introduced them, "Methinks, dear Persians, that your entertainment has fallen short in nothing. We have set before you all that we had ourselves in store, and all that we could anywhere find to give you- and now, to crown the whole, we make over to you our sisters and our mothers, that you may perceive yourselves to be entirely honoured by us, even as you deserve to be- and also that you may take back word to the king who sent you here, that there was one man, a Greek, the satrap of Macedonia, by whom you were both feasted and lodged handsomely." So speaking, Alexander set by the side of each Persian one of those whom he had called Macedonian women, but who were in truth men. And these men, when the Persians began to be rude, despatched them with their daggers. So the ambassadors perished by this death, both they and also their followers. For the Persians had brought a great train with them, carriages, and attendants, and baggage of every kind- all of which disappeared at the same time as the men themselves. Not very long afterwards the Persians made strict search for their lost embassy; but Alexander, with much wisdom, hushed up the business, bribing those sent on the errand, partly with money, and partly with the gift of his own sister Gygaea, whom he gave in marriage to Bubares, a Persian, the chief leader of the expedition which came in search of the lost men. Thus the death of these Persians was hushed up, and no more was said of it.} (From the first Book of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, ~440 BC THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS, translated by George Rawlinson).

Borza does not quite agree with Herodotus's story but does agree that Gygaea's marriage to Burbares was real. Borza believes that it was Amyntas, not Alexander, who arranged the marriage as part of negotiating the Macedonian-Persian alliance. (Page 102-103, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Outside of the tall tales surrounding Alexander, I couldn't find any more information about Amyntas's reign. It is believed that Amyntas died in 498 or 497 BC and was succeeded by Alexander I the same year.

Life in Macedonia was relatively peaceful until 492 BC when a Persian expeditionary force, under the command of Mardonius, crossed over into Europe with orders to attack Athens. But before marching into Athens and with total disregard for the Macedonian-Persian alliance, Mardonius decided to attack local towns, captured Tracian and Macedonian civilians and made them slaves. The Persian action provoked the local people and prompted a counter attack. The Persian fleet was attacked and sunk by the Bryges (Phrygians) of Thrace as it attempted to navigate around Athos (Sv. Gora). Weakened by the attack, Mardonius could not fulfill his mission so he returned to Persia. Seeing his people enslaved by an ally did not sit well with Alexander.

The loss of the Persian fleet in 492 BC was only a minor setback for the Persian plans. The next scene to be played out would be two years later on the Athenian plains of Marathon.

With the accession of Xerxes to the throne in 486 BC, an enormous Persian force was prepared and in 480 BC, was led into Europe. The force was allowed to pass through Macedonia unchallenged.

As a Persian envoy, Alexander's diplomatic skills were tested in the winter of 480/479 BC, when the Persian commander Mardonius dispatched him to Athens to negotiate an Athenian surrender. In spite of his accomplished skills, no peaceful settlement could be reached and war broke out. The Macedonians fought on the Persian side against the Athenians. Although there is no reason given for his motives, Alexander seemed helpful to the Athenians. Some say that he was a double agent and played both sides against each other. There is evidence however, that suggests that Alexander did, on several occasions, warn the Athenians of Persian plans.

The Persian invasion of Athens proved unsuccessful. After Mardonius's death the invasion collapsed and the Persian expeditionary force abandoned its plans and made a hasty retreat back to Persia. With the Persians gone, Alexander was left with a couple of problems. On the one hand, he was facing the powerful Athenians to whom he had to answer for his involvement with the Persians. On the other hand, the Persian devastation in Thrace weakened the Thracian strongholds and made them easy prey for adventurers. The Thracian lands were rich in mineral deposits, very valuable, and very attractive to possess.

From what Herodotus tells us, Alexander played his part convincingly well with the Athenians. He was quick to point out the great deeds he did for them and the good will he had towards all Greeks. His pleading must have worked because the Athenians brought him no harm and most importantly, they continued to purchase lumber from his kingdom.

As for the eastward expansion, the Macedonians were not the only ones with desires to possess the mineral rich Thracian lands. After the Persians withdrew, the Greeks also made it clear that they too wanted a piece of the action. But Alexander was first to make his move and occupied the abandoned Crestonian territory, the hilly region between the Vardar plain and the Strumitsa valley. The Thracians, who disliked the Persians, chose to abandon their homes rather than submit to Persian rule, leaving their land unprotected.

With the newly acquired territory came the rich Dysoron silver mines that would yield much needed silver for the Macedonian mint.

Athens, unfortunately, was not pleased with Alexander's move so in 476 BC an Athenian expedition was sent to seize the lower Strumitsa valley, an area that was once a vital Persian supply base. After defeating and expelling the remnant Persians and local Thracians, Athens settled the area with some 10,000 Athenians. This was indeed troublesome for Alexander and by 460 BC, conflict between Macedonia and Athens was imminent. It appears that the Athenians were preparing to invade Macedonia. But, before they got their chance, rebellious Thracians who did not appreciate Athenian presence on their lands, especially the settlers, attacked them and annihilated their armies. This latest encounter not only saved Macedonia but also indirectly created a new Thracian-Macedonian alliance. As for the Athenians, for the next ten years or so they redirected their interests to the south and west leaving Macedonia and Thrace alone.

Herodotus seems to be silent about the last years of Alexander's reign, perhaps nothing happened which was of significance or worthy of reporting. It is believed that Alexander I, died of old age, at age 80, in 454 BC. Alexander's reign lasted 43 years from 497 to 454 BC.

Alexander fathered at least six children. Three were male and legitimate heirs to the Macedonian throne but it was his son Perdiccas who rose above all and became ruler and king.

What began as Athenian interests in the Aegean coastline to protect the Balkans from Persian invasions, over time, turned into an Athenian empire. By late 450 BC, Athens was exploiting the region for her own economic and military interests.

Coincidental with Alexander's death, Athens resumed her interests in the north and began to import more settlers. Her plans were to settle the northern and eastern coasts of the Thermaic Gulf near the Vardar-Galik delta. This was indeed a bold move but her crowning achievement did not materialize until the establishment of Amphipolis in 437 BC. I could not find any information about the Macedonian reaction to this but I am certain that Perdiccas was not too happy. It is unknown whether Perdiccas was a friend of Athens before this, but now for certain he had become an enemy. To make matters worse, Athens started an anti-Perdiccas campaign by openly supporting his enemies, including the rebellious factions within his own family. The stakes for Macedonia were high. Athens was a powerful empire, too powerful to challenge militarily. Also, she was a good customer of Macedonia's timber and pitch, which Perdiccas could not afford to lose. If he did nothing Perdiccas could risk losing the Dysoron mines, something he could not afford to do either. Athens, on the other hand, could profit from gaining the mines and could set up her own lumber industry on Macedonian land if Perdiccas did nothing to stop her.

As it turned out Athens had no intention of starting a war with Macedonia. Instead she believed that by supporting rebellious factions within the Argead house she could keep Perdiccas busy at home, too busy to notice Athenian incursions into the Struma basin where she was hoping to set up her own timber industry.

Because of this Athenian treachery, Perdiccas faced two decades of rebellions and unrest. Too weak to do anything, he allowed the Athenians to further settle the region uninterrupted.

"By 432 BC Perdiccas and Athens were at odds, and their hostility produced the opening northern volleys of the Peloponnesian war. To counter an Athenian policy directed against his throne, Perdiccas, sensitive to events building in Greece, attempted to start a general war by involving Athens in hostilities against the Peloponnesians, Sparta in particular. He encouraged the Corinthians to support a revolt of their loyal Chalcidic colony at Potidaea, which had been tributary to Athens since at least 446/5, and he stirred up rebellion against Athens among the Chalcidians and Bottiaecans. It was an aggressive foreign policy, and one wonders how Perdiccas hoped to support it with force." (Page 141-142, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

Predictably, the Athenian reaction was quick and decisive. In early summer of 432 BC, Athens sent a strike force to attack Perdiccas and quell the uprising. When they arrived, the Athenians realized that their force was too weak to do the job. They remembered what had happened to them the last time they clashed with the Thracians. Prudently, no engagement took place.

The Athenian commander sent for reinforcements and when they did arrive, they joined with the Macedonian rebels hoping to cut off Perdiccas from Chelcidice. Knowing he could not successfully engage them, Perdiccas convinced his allies to abandon their defenses and flee to the mountains. Even in the safety of the mountains the Macedonia-Chelcidice coalition was still no match for the reinforced Athenian army, but as luck would have it, time was on their side.

Concerned for their own interests, the Corinthians intervened by sending an army to counter Athens. In view of this counter check, Athens abandoned her plans and instead of attacking Perdiccas, she turned to him for assistance. But, as it turned out, this was another treacherous Athenian ploy to break up the Macedonian-Thracian alliance. In the end, Athens did prevail, but just barely.

Athens then turned her attention to suppressing the rebellions in Chalcidice and left the Macedonian king alone. The uneasy peace unfortunately, had its price. Perdiccas was forced to abandon his allies and withdraw his support from Chelcidice. For his cooperation and for his promise to protect Athenian interests in the north, Athens returned the occupied lands at Therme and withdrew her support from the rebellious factions in Perdiccas's family.

This uneasy relationship between Macedonia and Athens didn't last too long. In 429 BC, Athens was again preparing to invade Macedonia, this time with Thracian help.

At the same time Athens was squeezing Perdiccas for concessions, she was befriending the Thracian tribal chiefs with handsome tributes and gifts.

Athens planned to have the Thracians attack Macedonia from the north while her fleet attacked from the south. The Thracians did as expected and emerged from behind the Rhodopi mountains, invaded Macedonia, and moved into the lower Vardar valley. Outnumbered, the Macedonians fled up the mountains and regrouped in their traditional strongholds.

Borza believes that this latest Athenian change of heart towards Macedonia was provoked by Perdiccas's secret dealings with Athens enemies, the Peloponisians. (Page 146-147, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon, New Jersey, 1990).

This time Athens was determined to destroy Macedonia and rid herself of those meddlesome Argeads once and for all, but circumstances would rob her of this victory as well.

While the Thracians were advancing on Aegae, a sizable cavalry force from western Macedonia arrived just in time to repel them. The force was not strong enough to subdue the Thracians, but it was intimidating enough to stop their advance. Even though no engagement took place, the Thracian attack was averted.

Problems at home prevented Athens from sending the fleet so the attack from the south never materialized.

With the Thracians roaming the Macedonian lowlands, Perdiccas knew there would be no easy solution so he turned to diplomacy and offered the Thracians a peaceful way out. To show that he was sincere, he offered the marriage of his own sister Stratonice to the nephew of one of the Thracian chiefs.

Perdiccas's problems unfortunately, were not over. A new threat was beginning to surface, this time from within Macedonia. I couldn't find any information detailing the problem but in 424 BC, king Arrhabaeus of Lyncestia (Bitola/Ohrid region) became hostile to Perdiccas. Unable to quell him on his own, Perdiccas turned to the Spartans who themselves were desperately looking for allies in the north. By acquiring the assistance of a Thessalian friend, Perdiccas was able to provide passage for 1,700 Spartan hoplites through Thessaly. When Athens got wind of this, she immediately reacted by breaking relations with Macedonia and sent reinforcements to her colonies in Chalcidice. Still desperate to make allies, when the Spartans arrived in Lyncestia, instead of attacking Arrhabaeus as they had agreed with Perdiccas, they asked him to become a Poloponnesian ally. Given the choice between fighting the Spartans or joining them, Arrhabaeus chose the latter and agreed to finance part of the Spartan campaign. Arrhabaeus was spared for now but Perdiccas was unhappy with the outcome.

Loose on the northern frontiers, the Spartans wreaked havoc on the Athenian towns and outposts. As a result of these encounters, Athens, in the future, would be re-considering policies regarding venturing to the north.

Unhappy with the Spartan outcome, Perdiccas turned to the Illyrians who were more than happy to subdue Arrhabaeus. After arriving in Lyncestia however, the Illyrians had a change of heart. Instead of attacking Arrhabaeus, they decided to join him and attack Perdiccas instead. When Perdiccas's army got wind of this they broke ranks and fled to the mountains in panic.

Perdiccas was now in serious trouble. Besides the Athenians, Perdiccas now had three more enemies closing in on his kingdom, Arrhabaeus from the north, the Spartans from the south, and the fierce Illyrian fighters on the loose.

What was Perdiccas to do?

To be continued...

And now I will leave you with this:

Many of you have written encouraging notes to use western and foreign sources because you believe they are neutral and impartial. Let me assure that I have and I will. Also, allow me to remind you that foreign scholars are like foreign soldiers who will do their best as long as it serves their own interest. The true fighters are those who will go the extra mile for Macedonia because they are patriots and not because it serves their personal interests. I can assure you that the true fighters and patriots of Macedonia will always be the Macedonians and not the foreigners. Let us give our Macedonian scholars the respect they deserve. They are our soldiers who will protect our history and culture, they are our patriots who will fight our battles to the end and will safeguard our nation's honour.


Michael Dimitri, The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia, 1992.

Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks.

Eugene N. Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus, The Emergence of Macedon.

Jozko Šavli, Matej Bor, Ivan Tomazic, VENETI: First Builders of European Community.

George Nakratzas M.D., The Close Racial Kinship Between the Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks, Macedonia and Thrace.

Anthony Ambrozic, Gordian Knot Unbound.

Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany.

Anthony Ambrozic, Journey Back to the Garumna.

Nickolas G. L. Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia, Sidwig and Jackson, London 1991.

Vasil Ilyov, Macedonian Artifacts, Ancient Inscriptions and their Translations, http://www.unet.com.mk/ancient-macedonians-part2/index.html.

Macedonian Rock Art: http://www.unet.com.mk/rockart/angliski/prva.htm.

Macedonian History: http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/ConciseMacedonia/timeline.html

Dura-Europos: http://pages.cthome.net/hirsch/dura.htm

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com