Modern historians about Macedonia - Charles Edson

Charles Edson ‘Ancient Macedonian Studies in honor of Charles F. Edson’

“After the end of the Bronze Age another migration of peoples entered the Greek peninsula. These peoples, whom modern scholars call ‘West Greeks’ and of whom the most important single element was the Dorians, came from the rugged Pindos mountains of northwest of the Greek peninsula proper. But the Pindos area with little arable land could not support the expanding population and the lands to the south could no longer receive immigrants from the north. Important West Greek elements remained in the Pindos. These are those whom Herodotus called ‘Makednon ethnos’ and there developed a gradual movement towards the northeast across the Pindos range into the region which was to become known as ‘Upper Macedonia.’ By around 700 we find ‘Macednic’ tribes occupying the eastern slopes of the Pindos.

Among these tribes were the Orestai in the area of Lake Kastoria. From Orestis - as the regions was called - came a clan called the Argeadai, ‘descendants of Argeas”, whose kings claimed descent from the Temenid kings of Argos and thus from Herakles. The validity of this claim was never challenged in antiquity. The Argeadai, in search of fertile land for settlement, moved eastward and occupied the coastal plain along the northwestern shore of the Aegean Sea between Mount Olympus and the Haliakmon River. They expelled the Pieres, who left their name to the region called after them, Pieria. In northwest Pieria, close to the Haliakmon, the kings founded their citadel Aigai where the royal tombs were situated. The next step in the expansion of the Argead kingdom was the expulsion of the Bottiaians. These two regions, Pieria and Bottiaia, were to become the heartland of the kingdom. Unlike their ‘Macednic’ relatives in Upper Macedonian the Argead Macedonians were exposed to all the political and economic currents and cultural influences of the Aegean world.

The basic institutions of the kingdom were those of early Greeks. At the head of the folk was the king who was the war commander and was responsible for the relations of his people with the gods. An assembly of the fighting men chose the new king from the available males of the royal family, usually the oldest son of the former king, and could express the desires and attitudes of the folk. Of high importance were the king’s Companions, the hetairoi. They were the king’s personal retainers. They fought for him in battle and in peace served as he desired. In return they received land grants and other perquisites. In social status and function they recall the Homeric hetairoi of the Achaian rulers. This personal relationship of mutual benefit and obligation was to become the specifically Macedonian system of government. It was solemnized by the festival of the Hetairideia in honour of Zeus Hetairides at which the king presided.

This society had its peculiar customs and practices. There are traces of the blood feud. A Macedonian who had not yet killed an enemy was obliged to wear a halter around his waist. The marriage ceremony was the severing of a loaf of bread by the bride and groom, who then tasted the two portions. Feasting and wassail were the relaxations of the aristocracy and hunting their passionate avocation. In the early spring of each year the formal purification of the army, headed by the king, took place with the fighting men in full panoply. A sham battle ended the purification. Although the basic religion of the Macedonians was Greek, as is shown by the names of the months and by the belief that the folk descended from Makedon, son of Zeus, and the royal family from Herakles, there was strong Thracian influence from the peoples the Macedonians had expelled or subdued. This is the origin of the emotional Sabazios worship among the Macedonians with its local variant of the satyrs, the Sauadai, and bacchantes, Klodones and Mimallones. It is little wonder that to the Greeks of the city-states this society should seem alien, un-Hellenic, or, as they would say, ‘barbarian’.””

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 05 December 2006 )