The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs

© Marcus A. Templar, 2008.

  • Abstract and Acknowledgement
  • Chapter 1. What is all about? Regional Stability and Security
  • Chapter 2. Ancient Macedonia and its people
  • Chapter 3. Slavs: New Invaders in Byzantium
  • Chapter 4. Ilinden Uprising: A “Macedonian” or a Bulgarian Act?
  • Chapter 5. The Transmutation of a Slav People to Macedonians
  • Chapter 6. The Establishment of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Chapter 7. Nationalism and Stability
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 2.

    Ancient Macedonia and its people

    A Broad-spectrum View of the Macedonian issue

    Ancient Macedonia

    Often the subject of what constitutes the geographic and historic Macedonia appears in publications and websites. Depending on the degree of one’s knowledge of the subject, the two may or may not become interchangeable. To elevate the confusion, historians and archeologists when writing about the history of Macedonia often use the term Macedonian Homeland. This part of the thesis deals with the explanation and interpretation of the three terms. Macedonian Homeland, Historic Macedonia, and Geographic Macedonia, must never be confused nor used interchangeably.

    Macedonian Homeland

    The demarcation of the boundaries of the Macedonian Homeland is very difficult to determine. Ancient sources are imprecise because most of them were Athenians and they did not know or appreciate the Macedonians living in an area that was far from Athens.

    Herodotus describes the south borders of Macedonia as being the River Peneios between Olympus and the Ossa Mountains coming to an agreement with the geographer Strabo. 1 He also acknowledged Macedonia as the area around the west foothills of Olympus and the Pieria Mountains, following the River Aliakmon to its southwest springs and then going up northwest on the Pindus Mountain range. 2 Both Herodotus and Thucydides considered the River Strymon in Greece as the eastern borders of ancient Macedonia. The Epirotan tribe of Orestes 3 of Upper Macedonia in the area of modern day Korce, Albania constituted the western borders of ancient Macedonia. Thucydides maintained that the northern borders of Macedonia laid the flow of the River Erigon (present day Crna Reka, the FYROM), also Mount Orbēlos (Bulgarian Pirin).

    map thesis The Former Yugoslav Republic of  Macedonia   A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 2

    The borders got more confusing as time passed as the ancient Macedonians occupied and annexed more territories, almost exclusively over present day Bulgaria and even reaching the Danube River. Modern scholars on historical Macedonia accept that its northern borders follow the line Bakarno Gumno (41° 16’21”N 21° 25’08”, present day Krushevo and Prilep areas), following the flow of Crna Reka to Kavadarci south of Demir Kapija Pass to Strumica, and from there to Sandaski, Bulgaria and ensuing the flow of the River Strymon to the Aegean Sea.

    Internally, the Macedonian Homeland was divided into Upper Macedonia and Lower Macedonia. Upper Macedonia included all the areas of the present day Grevena, Kozani, Kastoria, Pella, and Florina Prefectures in Greece, the Korce area of Albania, and the territories between Bitola and the Mountain Bakarno Gumno. The Macedonian areas on the north side of the present day borders between Greece and the FYROM on one hand and Crna Reka on the other were considered as Macedonian Paeonia.

    Lower Macedonia included the rest of the country with the Axios and Strymon Valleys and the Khalkidiki Peninsula. The coastline was quite different with the sea touching the second Capital city of Pella. That natural bay developed gradually to a lagoon, then a swamp, and today has become arable land. Fanula Papazoglu, a member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the FYROM, states,

    In this case it is not very important whether it is correct to apply the term “Illyrian” (in the narrower sense) to the cultural area of Bosnia and Dalmatia, since the earliest literary sources give the name of Illyrian to tribes living much further south, in the immediate vicinity of Macedonia (ancient Macedonia, of course; it is often forgotten that ancient Macedonia occupied only a relatively small part of the Yugoslav Macedonia of today!).” 4

    Historic Macedonia

    The borders of Historic Macedonia are another matter. Using the borders of the Macedonian Homeland as the basis, they expanded or contracted over the years from the conquest of the Hellenic states to the expansion of the area of present day Bulgaria, to the Middle East, present-day Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, partially India and definitely the modern nation-states of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The Bactrian Greek kingdom that was captured by Alexander the Great in 327 BC and lasted until 150 BC was the result of that expansion. On the African continent, the Macedonian Empire extended to present-day Libya and Tunisia. Upon the demise of the Empire, Historic Macedonia ceased to exist because from that point on Macedonia as well as the rest of Greece was part of the Roman Empire.

    Macedonism%20of%20the%20Slavs img 1 The Former Yugoslav Republic of  Macedonia   A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 2

    Map of Historic Macedonia between 334 BC – 324 BC. 5

    While the FYROM scholarship extends the northern borders of Historic Macedonia to coincide with the present northern borders of their country, the correctness of this assertion is disputable. When one wants to consider territories solely inhabited by ancient Macedonians, one cannot consider as part of the Macedonian Homeland peoples other than Macedonians as is the case of Paeonia. Most of the present territory of the FYROM was Paeonian, with the area of Skopje and Tetovo in Dardanian hands. As mentioned above, the Macedonian Homeland and the Historic Macedonia are not interchangeable.

    Having established the difference between Geographic Macedonia, Historic Macedonia, and the Macedonian Homeland, the remaining point to consider is the status of the Paeonians. Although the name Paeonia reminds us of the Attican demos of Paeania, the ethnic nature of the Paeonians is still a mystery among authoritative historians; however, it is certain that they were not a Macedonian tribe. Not one respected historian will dispute this fact. Simply, we do not have any primary sources of the ancient world to offer us convincing evidence pointing to the ethnic nature of ancient Macedonia’s northern neighbors, the Paeonians.

    It makes no sense to include the area of the FYROM into Macedonian Homeland since the Macedonians lived in the Macedonian Homeland, not in Paeonia. If one wants to include non-Macedonian people within Macedonian territories, one should include the Greek states of the south since Macedonians were of the Greek tribes. To incorporate into Macedonia non-Macedonian peoples, i.e. Paeonians, and exclude the Greek states, one must question why not include the Thracians to the east and northeast of ancient Macedonia? Philip V conquered the pure Paeonian areas, located north of the present day Greek borders in 217 BC. 6 He never conquered the Dardanian Illyrian town of Scupi, present day Skopje.

    The accusations that the Macedonians were barbarians began in Athens and were the result of political fabrications based on the Macedonian way of life and not on their ethnicity or language. 7 The Athenian orator, Demosthenes, traveled to Macedonia twice for a total of nine months and knew what language the Macedonians spoke. It is obvious from the text that the name-calling of Demosthenes was clearly an epithet directed to Phillip II on a personal level. Accusations from one politician to another do not apply to the people of a region or the entire state. These attacks were purely personal. 8 Simply Demosthenes hated Philip because of political considerations because he wanted Athens and Thebes to lead the Greeks not Macedonia whose king, Philip II, was a sworn enemy of Athens and democracy. Demosthenes called Philip “barbarian,” a very common and humiliating cuss directed at a Greek. ”Barbarian” was the epithet of a “non-Greek” or someone who spoke an incomprehensible language. The Lexicon Liddell and Scott includes a number of examples in which the word barbarian in antiquity did not necessarily mean, a foreigner or non-Greek speaker. It exactly states, “after the Persian wars the word took contemptuous meaning with the meaning of peasant, uneducated, monstrous” as in Aristophanes, Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon Anabasis, and Aristotle. 9

    Nevertheless, regarding Demosthenes addressing Philip, as “barbarian,” even Badian does not find it strange stating, “it may have nothing to do with historical fact, any more than the orators’ tirades against their personal enemies usually have.” 10 He is correct because it is well known that the profession of a lobbyist is nothing new. In the ancient Greek world, a lobbyist was also a representative of another state, tribal or not and because of it he was called πρόξενος or proxenos, which was a political and diplomatic post. 11 It is the equivalent of the present day ambassador. During that time, the Boeotian Thrason employed by the Athenians represented Athens’ interests in Thebes and the Athenian Demosthenes, the orator, represented the interests of Thebes in Athens. 12 At that point Thebes’ power was on the rise and if Athens and Thebes were allied the only power they had to consider was Macedonia. Demosthenes’ job as a paid representative of Thebes included his duty to discredit Philip and the only way to do it was by attacking him on a personal level. This is the reason Aeschines called Demosthenes a Theban lobbyist and a traitor to Athenian interests. 13 For someone like Demosthenes who inherited so much money but he was left penniless, money was a prime motivator to call the person who directly threatened his welfare as Philip did, a barbarian. Due to the fact that the speech took place after the Persian Wars, the term Barbarian had the meaning of crude, monstrous, etc.

    Macedonism%20of%20the%20Slavs img 2 The Former Yugoslav Republic of  Macedonia   A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 2

    We encountered similar inimical behavior of Demosthenes’ against Philip with Thucydides’ behavior against the Acarnanians. Thucydudes states that the Aetolian tribe of Euritanes was barbarian “eating the meat raw” only when the Athenians encountered a political conflict with the Aetolians. 14 The Macedonian way of life differed in many ways from the southern Greek way of life, which was common among the western Greeks such as with the Chaones, Molossians, Thesprotians, Acarnanians, and Aetolians. 15 Macedonian state institutions were similar to those of the Mycenean and Spartan. 16 Moreover, it is stated by Herodotus that a number of Peloponnesian cities inhabited by Lacedaemonians, Corinthians, Sicyonians, Epidaurians, Troezinians, and Hermionians, with the exception of Hermionians, were of Dorian and Macedonian blood. These people lived in cities located in Peloponnesus, which makes the Macedonians as Greek as the Dorians. 17

    Geographic Macedonia

    The geographic territory of Macedonia is a result of political maneuvering and occupation of the area by powers that did what they saw fit in order to administer the area. The end of Historic Macedonia, upon the demise of the Macedonian Empire, was the beginning of a new term, Geographic Macedonia. Macedonia’s geographic territory depends on the period one describes and on contemporary political needs and agendas. In some cases, Geographic Macedonia was not even close to the territories that in general are considered “Macedonia.” At present, Geographic Macedonia is the area of Greek Macedonia, Bulgarian Macedonia – Province of Blagoevgrad, the FYROM, and the Albanian territories around lakes Prespa and Ohrid.

    Geographic Macedonia in medieval and modern times did not necessarily coincide with the Macedonian Homeland. In some cases, Geographic Macedonia included areas of present-day Albania, or as Macedonia Secunda the whole territory of the FYROM. In other cases, the Thema of Macedonia was in the area of Adrianople (Edirne) away from the Macedonian Homeland as the following entry states:

    Thema of Macedonia, which is attested to for the first time in 802, was established and extended eastwards of the Nestos river into a large section of Thrace, i.e. it was not identified with the geographical boundaries of Macedonia. A little later the Thema of Thessaloniki was established, which extended to Central and West Macedonia, and the thema of Strymon in Eastern Macedonia. 18

    Origin of the Ancient Macedonians

    Before the Trojan War, one Indo-European tribe, recognized later under their exonym as Makednoi 19 and living on the mountain range of Pindus, split into branches and took routes in different directions. Three branches, Hylleis, Dymanes, and Pamphyloi utilized the area just northwest of the Corinthian Gulf called Dryopis as their staging area but apssing to Pelopenneus they received the exonym “Dorians” and the area they lived, Doris, in honor of Dorus their legendary ancestor and son of Hellēn, the nominal father of the Greeks. From there, some of them reached the area of what presently is Boeotia, and others passed into Peloponnesus from the Isthmus of Corinth (20 years before the Trojan war) and the Rhium /Antirhium strait. One of them went north to Thessaly just south of Olympus and then, using as their guide the current of the River Pēnius toward the Thermaic Gulf, moved northward and established themselves in the area northeast of Olympus Mountain where they pushed out the Thracian tribe of Pieres 20 and built the city of Dion 21 in honor of Zeus. 22 Dion was the sacred city of the Macedonians until the appearance of Christianity.

    According to Herodotus, in the early stages of the Hellenic race and after the great flood, a Hellenic tribe lived in Phthiotis, an area in South Thessaly (present day in the very north-eastern point of the Prefecture of Phthiotis) under the leadership of Dorus, Hellēn’s son (pronounce hĔllēn ˜λλην).

    Phthiotis was the country in which the Hellenes dwelt, but under Dorus, the son of Hellen, they moved to the tract at the base of Ossa and Olympus, which is called Histiaeotis; forced to retire from that region by the Cadmeians, they settled, under the name of Macedonians, in the chain of Pindus. Hence they once more removed and came to Dryopis; and from Dryopis having entered the Peloponnese in this way, they became known as Dorians. 23

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    The above statement makes the Dorians one of the Macedonian offspring. One of the arguments that is often heard is that the ancient Macedonians were one of the Illyrian tribes, but the Macedonians were using translators when they were communicating with the Illyrians. This means the Macedonians and the Illyrians did not speak the same language. For instance, Perseus, the Macedonian king, sent Adaeus of Berroia (who spoke only Greek) and Pleuratus, an Illyrian, as translators on a mission to the Illyrian king Genthius (169 BC). Pleuratus was an exile living in Perseus’ court. 24 There is evidence that the Illyrians and the Macedonians were vicious enemies.

    One of the myriad pieces of evidence that proves the ancient Macedonians (to be omit) were Greeks is their participation in the Olympic Games at Olympia, Elia. 25

    Members of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the FYROM and Hellenism of ancient Macedonia

    Respected members of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the FYROM such as Fanula Papazoglu on page 4 of her dissertation states: “Macedonia, disappearing as a state, stopped having rights in history but the Macedonian people did not disappear. They continued to live in the framework of the new political community – the Roman state, having kept ethnic characteristics, language, religion and customs,” and on page 333 of the same, “Macedonia, a Province of Greek language.”

    Other individuals and periodicals of the FYROM Academy of Sciences and Arts in various studies have accepted the Hellenic origin and culture of the ancient Macedonians. Ivan Mikulčić points out, “The northern periphery of the Greek world, inhabited by ancient Macedonians and other peoples and tribes, wasn’t developed for democracy as the most developed social system at that time.” 26

    The publication Macedonian Heritage adds, “During the early archaic period at the Macedonian territory, the Dorian tribal groups came across over the Pindos Mountain. They established several early principalities partially by chasing away the local Paeonian tribes. Those [Dorian] tribal groups were the ancient Macedonians.” 27

    Vera Bitrakova-Grozdanova feels, “The lower part of Vardar [Greek Axios] is certainly the area south of Demir-Kapija gorge that entered Hellenic cultural sphere very early and already before 600 BC the material culture is thoroughly Hellenised.” 28 In addition, Vera Bitrakova-Grozdanova writes,

    The Art of Antiquity left in the region of Ohrid a great number of traces of its own presence. Illyrian forts imported goods from Greek centers and imitated them in a modest fashion. Political advancement of the Macedonians and their domination enabled cultural influx that manifested itself through products of crafts and alphabet. From the times of Phillip II deeper advances in the area of Lychnidos [Lake Ohrid] are attested. Cultural influences of the Graeco-Macedonian world are present. Rich Hellenistic culture arrived at Illyrian soil. 29

    The publication Arheologija remarks,

    Certain proto-populations occupying distinct areas of the Balkans could be distinguished on the territories of the cultural groups: in western part of the Balkans the proto-Illyrians, in the east the proto Thracians, in the south the Hellenes, in the northern part of the Balkans the proto Daco-Mysians and in the southwest of the Central Balkans the proto-Bryges. 30

    No mention of the Macedonians has been made since they were Hellenes or Greeks. Paeonia was located in the middle of the present day FYROM having Astibus (Štip) as its capital and Vylazora (Veles) as one of the most important cities. Professor Fanica Veljanovska declares, “Paeonians, a people who during the first millennia BC inhabited the border area between the three great paleo-balkanic peoples - Illyrians, Thracians and Greeks.” 31 Veljanovska mentions no Macedonians since she considers the Macedonians Greeks.

    Vera Bitrakova - Grozdanova asserts, “Greek epigraphic monuments created before definitive Roman domination of our area are to be found in modest quantity.” 32 Moreover, Dr. Bitrakova-Grozdanova states, “Study of the inscriptions speaks about epigraphic characteristics of the neighboring Macedonian - Hellenic world.” 33 She also mentions, “Having the central position in this part of the Balkans, Paeonia, apart from receiving influences from the Hellenic south, wasn’t an exception with regard to influences from Illyrian and Thracian sphere.” 34 Dr. Bitrakova-Grozdanova would not have made such a statement if she did not feel that the Macedonians were Greeks living south of Paeonia.

    Viktor Lilčić describes life in Paeonia and the northern part of Upper Macedonia (Pelagonia):

    The quantitative ceramic material used to be produced with the usual process including the labor of persons. Partly because of that, partly because of the traditions that had taken roots into our soil, which with centuries before that used to be watered with Hellenic spirit and Hellenistic way of life, the use of the building ceramics had been brought to minimum. 35

    Pelagonia on the other hand was the area just north of Lyngistis (Florina-Bitola) and its inhabitants were Molossian speaking Macedonians of Upper Macedonia. Statements about Pelagonia made by Ivan Mikulčić, an excellent archaeologist, are the first to concur that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks. Mikulčić states, “We are not to be amazed that in the archaeological material of Pelagonia we have a rarely great wealth of reflections of all pronounced cultural events in the relations between middle-Danubian and Graeco-Aegean world.” 36 In addition, he determines, “in a such great chronological distance in the life of ancient Pelagonia two stages are visible: development and existence in the frames of Hellenic culture and later the Roman one.” 37 “Even in the last decades of 5th century stabilization in all spheres of social life is established. As first sign of the new time import from Graeco-Macedonian south appeared as well as fortified settlements that later grew into urban centers with character of economic and religious nuclei of the region.” 38

    Macedonism%20of%20the%20Slavs img 4 The Former Yugoslav Republic of  Macedonia   A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 2

    The present-day Hellenic nation is the result of the social, civic, and linguistic amalgamation of more than 230 tribes speaking more than 200 dialects 39 that claimed descent from Hellen, son of Deukalion. “When we take into account the political conditions, religion and morals of the Macedonians, our conviction is strengthened that they were a Greek race and akin to the Dorians. Having stayed behind in the extreme north, they were unable to participate in the progressive civilization of the tribes which went further south 40 Most historians have assessed the Macedonian state of affairs in a similar fashion. The Macedonians were a Hellenic group of tribes belonging to the Western Greek ethnic group.

    The Macedonians incorporated the territory of the native people into Macedonia and forced the Pieres, a Thracian tribe, out of the area Bottiaia to Mt. Pangaeum and the Bottiaiei. They further expelled the Eordi from Eordaia and the Almopes from Almopia and they similarly expelled all tribes (Thracian, Paeonian, Illyrian) they found in areas of Anthemus, Crestonia, Bysaltia and other lands. The Macedonians absorbed the few inhabitants of the above tribes that stayed behind. They established their suzerainty over the land of Macedonia without losing their ethnicity, language, or religion. 41

    They also incorporated the lands of the Elimeiotae, Orestae, Lyncestae,Pelagones, and Deriopes ,all tribes living in Upper Macedonia who were Greek speakers, but of a different (Molossian) dialect from that spoken by the [ancient] Macedonians. 42

    Then, living with savage northern neighbors such as Illyrians, Thracians, Paeonians and later Dardanians, the Macedonians physically deflected their neighbors’ hordes forming an impenetrable fence denying them the opportunity to attack the Greek city-states of the south.( which is why omit) This is the reason they are considered the bastion of Hellenism.

    The evidence above shows that the ancient Macedonians were one of the Hellenic groups of tribes speaking a Greek dialect and having the same institutions as the Spartans and especially the Greeks of the Western group of nations. Thus, the fallacies emanated from the FYROM and its diaspora are strongly repudiated.

    Borza, agreeing with Hammond states, “First, the matter of the Hellenic origins of the Macedonians: Nicholas Hammond’s general conclusion that the origin of the Macedonians lies in the pool of proto-Hellenic speakers who migrated out of the Pindus mountains during the Iron Age is acceptable.” 43 This is an excellent basis for the beginning for the challenge on the Macedonism of the Slavic population of the FYROM. Since two of the greatest authorities on Macedonia agree that the origin of the ancient Macedonians “lies in the pool of proto-Hellenic speakers who migrated out of the Pindus mountains during the Iron Age,” 44 there is no doubt that they are related to the rest of the Greeks. Thus, the qualification of the term Greek and the degree of affinity or relation between Greek tribes is the key to the question of whether the Macedonians were Greeks or they were simply a related branch as the Illyrians or even Thracians.

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    Want more of this? See these Posts:

    1. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 1
    2. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 5
    3. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 6
    4. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 4
    5. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 3
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    One Response to “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 2”
    1. Dimitri says:

      Thank you for a very concise but thorough exposition of ethnological, geographical and historical data.