Relations between Upper and Lower Macedonia

This essay wants to bring in light the complicated if not at certain times adverse relations between the kingdom of ancient Macedon and the kingdoms of Upper Macedonia. Contrary to popular belief there was almost always a rivalry between Mountain kingdoms and the Macedonia state, resembling the one of the greek city-states, since as always happening in the greek world, no greek kingdom/city-state ever saw positively the subjection in one or the other way to someone else.

As a matter of fact, before Philip’s time, these mountain kingdoms were independent. Lyncestis was the northern kingdom having at its borders Lake Lychnitis. Lyncestis bordered in the south Orestis and to the south-east again was lying Elimiotis. We could found south of Elimiotis, Tymphaea. Usually these kingdoms are described by geographers as Upper Macedonia.

Hecataeus and Strabo identified these mountain Macedonian kingdoms as of Epirote stock. We could also assume Pelagonia found on the north of Lyncestis was most likely in 4th century BC it a part of Lyncestis. A good evidence pointing to this is the Lyncestian noble, Menelaus son of Arrhabaeus who is termed “o Pelagon” in the Athenian decree of 362.
Out of all Macedonians during 429 BC, Antiochus of Orestis sent a contigent of 1,000 troops with its commander the Paraueaean king Oroedus to join Epirotes in the invasion of Acarnania. Later in decrees of the Molossian Koinon It is listed 15 sunarxontes from the various states of the alliance. These include an Orestian and a Parauaean. This shows apparently due to the pressure of Macedon, Orestis was forced to turn west for some guarantee against annexation from Macedon.

From the other hand, Lyncestis with all surviving evidence we cant relate it politically with Epirus but has a great share in the attested hostility to Macedonia. As a matter of fact the house of Lyncestis is given in ancient sources during Arrhabaeus, son of Bromerus reign, struggling for independence against Perdiccas of Macedon and his ally, the Spartan Brasidas. Lyncestians were again forced to seek allies and they found them among Illyrians. It was one of the first instances of the turbulent relations between Upper Macedonia and Lower Macedonia.

The same story with different protagonists took place during Archelaus reign. The Macedonians again were in war with Lyncestians (Arrhabeus and Sirrhas) who were struggling to avoid annexation from Macedon.

In the case of Menelaus the Pelagonian we can assume as the eminent prof. Bossworth says in his “Philip and Upper Macedonia” “he fled Lyncestis when the kingdom was annexed by Philip, finding refuge and politeia in Athens”. He continues “The upper kingdoms then had a constant struggle to preserve their independence and fostered alliances with the peoples to the west and north. On the other hand the policy of the kings of Macedon was to make the recalcitrant mountaineers truly ξύμμαχα και υπήκοα. One line of approach was direct annexation attempted disastrously by Perdiccas II and successfully by Philip.”

Things were so tentative that forced Archelaus to marry his elder daughter to an unnamed king of Elimiotis in order to prevent a coalition between Elimiotis and her northern neighbour Lyncestis against Macedon.

Again Prof. Bossworth is clear “Lyncestis probably co-operated with the Illyrian invaders as before in the war against Archelaus, the chaos in lower Macedon at the accession of Amyntas was an ideal time to avenge the annexation attempted by Perdiccas and probably by Archelaus”.

Another bright example is taking place at the time when Philip took as his wife Cleopatra. Its interesting to bear in mind Attalus’s bitter statement “now genuine heirs will be born and not bastards” as a scorn probably to Alexander. But things tended to be more complexed and as prof. Bossworth says “The royal house of Macedon was no longer a blend between east and west but a dynasty of the plain, and the Upper Macedonians, so far acquiescent in the rule of Philip, may have felt threatened with eclipse and subjection rather than incorporation in the regime.”

A great revelator of the dramatic differences that separated Upper and Lower Macedonia and the struggle of the former for keeping their independence was the murder of Philip at Aegae. Assassin of Philip was Pausanias of Orestis and the Lyncestian sons of Aeropus were alleged to have joined the conspiracy, thus were killed right afterwards as conspirators. Actually the only victims mentioned in the sources are these two sons of Aeropus, Arrhabeus and Heromenes, both Lyncestians and certainly if not of royal stock, at least nobles. Obviously in case these Lyncestians were not rivals or a threat to the throne then they certainly must have participated in Philip’s murder. Anyway this is another ample evidence of the way the nobles of Upper Macedonia like Heromenes and Arrhabaeus saw the ‘incoporation’ of their native kingdoms into the ‘united’ Macedonian state and reveals even at the time of Philip, many of them were not prepared to be ruled by the lower plain, hence we had the specific action.

We should mention that ancient sources give also hints that another noble of Upper Macedonia, Alexander of Lyncestis took part together with his brothers, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus in the plot against Philip’s II life. However Alexander of Lyncestis managed to survive by recognizing immediately after the murder, Alexander as king. (Arr 1,25.2 ; Curt 7.1.6-7 ; Justin II.2.2)

Tensions between Upper and Lower Macedonia can be seen just before Alexander leaves Macedonia together with his army, starting his Asian expedition. Parmenion and Antipater had advised him to marry and procreate before he leaves, making certain there is going to be a full Argead heir, nomatter what was the future of Alexander and his Asiatic conquest. Perhaps it can be traced a strong willing both to Parmenion and Antipater to marry Alexander with one of their daughters. However Alexander refused and one of the reasons easily could be as prof. Bossworth says “a marriage with a wife from the Lower plains would exacerbate the upper peoples and risk revolt, while marriage with a princess from Upper Macedonia might ebrade feelings among the remnants of Attalus’s supporters.

Someone could argue that the mountain Macedonians were successfully incorporated with one or the other way into Macedonian state during Alexander’s reign. Fact is after centuries still there was an ample evidence of discomfort between Upper mountain kingdoms and Lower. As seen in 196 BC, Romans declared the people of Orestis independent because they had adhered to the Roman cause in the recent war against Philip V. (Polyb 18.47.6; Liv 39.23.6)

We can conclude that like in the case of the greek city-states, Philip and even more his predeccessors tried to assert themselves and their rule by a forceful annexation of Upper Kingdoms and as most of the times this was proved unsuccessful, another successful way to accomplish it were politically oriented marriages, with brightest example Philip himself. Despite modern inventions, unification in classical times was considered at certain cases as forceful, such the one of the Upper Macedonian kingdoms and the greek city-states. Nonetheless it proved to be a successful way to the broader plans of Argead monarchs. The PanHellenic conquest of Persia and the spread of Hellenic language and culture!!

Bibliography: ‘Philip II and Upper Macedonia’ by A. B. Bossworth

Related posts:

Trejo says:

I have hard time finding useful blog posts, because there is so much crap on the internet now, but this is really interesting stuff. Thanks a lot for posting!