Modern Historians about Macedonia – John A. Fine

John V.A. Fine, ‘The Ancient Greeks: A Critical History’ Harvard University Press, 1983, pgs 605-608.


Since so little is known about the early Macedonians, it is hardly strange that in both ancient and modern times there has been much disagreement on their ethnic identity. The Greeks in general and Demosthenes in particular looked upon them as barbarians, that is, not Greek. Modern scholarship, after many generations of argument, now almost unanimously recognises them as Greeks, a branch of the Dorians and ‘NorthWest Greeks’ who, after long residence in the north Pindus region, migrated eastwards. The Macedonian language has not survived in any written text, but the names of individuals, places, gods, months, and the like suggest strongly that the language was a Greek dialect. Macedonian institutions, both secular and religious, had marked Hellenic characteristics and legends identify or link the people with the Dorians. During their sojourn in the Pindus complex and the long struggle to found a kingdom, however, the Macedonians fought and mingled constantly with Illyrians, Thracians, Paeonians, and probably various Greek tribes. Their language naturally acquired many Illyrian and Thracian loanwords, and some of their customs were surely influenced by their neighbours.

To the civilised Greek of the fifth and fourth centuries, the Macedonian way of life must have seemed crude and primitive. This backwardness in culture was mainly the result of geographical factors. The Greeks, who had proceeded south in the second millennium, were affected by the many civilising influences of the Mediterranean world, and ultimately they developed that very civilising institution, the polis. The Macedonians, on the other hand, remained in the north and living for centuries in mountainous areas, fighting with Illyrians, Thracians, and amongst themselves as tribe fought tribe, developed a society that may be termed Homeric. The amenities of city-state life were unknown until they began to take root in Lower Macedonia from the end of the fifth century onwards.”


for in 836, sources mention some Greek peasants called Macedonians (i.e their place of origin earlier, a geographic rather than an ethnic term) who sent a secret embassy to Constantinople to ask for boats to take them to a Byzantine terrirtory.

The Early Medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century By John A. Fine, page 105


Though peace was maintained in Byzantium the hostility of the Bulgars towars the Greeks remained, as can be seen by an inscription from Preslav – a town founded by Omurtag which later in 893, replaces Pliska as the Bulgarian capital.

The Sublim Khan Omurtag is divine ruler in the land where he was born. Abiding in the plain of Pliska he made a palace on the Tica [River] displaying his power to the Greeks and Slavs. And he constructed with skill a bridge over the Tica and he set up in his fortress four columns and between the columns he placed two bronze lions. May God grant that the divine ruler may press down the emperor with his foot so long as the Tica flows, that he may procure many captives for the Bulgarians and that subduing his foes he may in joy and hapiness live for a hundrend years. The date of the foundation [of PReslav was the Bulgar year] Shegor alem of the 15th indiction of the Greeks [821/22]

The Early Medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century By John A. Fine, page 106