A Dictionary of the Ancient World – Macedon

Macedon. Outlying Greek kingdom north of Thessaly, inland irom the Thermaic Gulf, on the northwest Aegean coast. In modern reference, the name Macedon usually refers to the political entity, as opposed to the general territory called Macedonia. Macedon’s heartland was the wide Thermaic plain, west of the modern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where the rivers Haliacmon and Axius flowed close together to the sea. The widely separated upper valleys of these rivers supplied two more regions of political and economic importance. Elsewhere the country was mountainous and forested. Its name came from an ancient Greek word meaning highlanders.

Macedon was inhabited by various peoples of Dorian-Greek, Illyrian, and Thracian descent, who spoke a Greek dialect and worshipped Greek gods. Prior to the mid-400s b.c. Macedon was a mere backwater, beleaguered by hostile lllyrians to the west and Thracians to the east, and significant mainly as an exporter of timber and silver to the main Greek world.

Unification and modernization came gradually, at the hands of kings of Dorian descent. Alexander I “the Phtlhel-lene” (reigned circa 485-440 b.c.) began a hellenizing cul­tural program and minted Macedon’s first coins, of native silver. The ruthless Archelaus I (413-399 b.e) built forts and roads, improved military organization, chose pella as his capital city, and glorified his court by hosting the Athenian tragedians euripides and agathon (both of whom died in Macedon).

Macedon emerged as a major power in the next century. The brilliant Macedonian king Philip B’ (359-336 b,c.) cre­ated the best army in the Greek world and annexed terri­tory in thrace, Illyris, and Greek Chalkidice, then subjugated Greece itself (338 b.c). His son and successor, Alexander the great (336-323 b.c.)/ conquered the Per­sian Empire and made Macedon, briefly, the largest king­dom on earth.

In the turmoil after Alexander’s death, Macedon was seized by a series of rulers until the admirable king Antigonus  anchored a new, stable dynasty there (circa 272 LG.). This century saw Macedon as one of the three great Hellenistic powers, alongside Ptolemaic Egypt  and the Seleukid empire. Macedonian kings controlled Greece, with garrisons at corinth, at the Athenian port of piraeus, and elsewhere. In 222 b.c. the Macedonian king Antigonus III captured the once-indomitable city of sparta.

To counter Macedonian domination, there arose two new Greek federal states, the Achaean and Aetolian leagues (mid-200s b.c). The Macedonian king philip v (221-179 b.c.) punished the Aetolians but came to grief against a new European powerthe Italian city of home. Philip’s two wars against Roman-Aetolian armies in Greecethe First and Second Macedonian wars (214-205 and 200*197 bx.)—ended with Macedon’s defeat and the Roman liberation of Greece (196 b.c.).

Macedon’s last king was Philip’s son Perseus (179-167 b,c.)> After defeating Perseus in the Third Macedonian War (171-167 b.c*), the Romans imprisoned him and dis­mantled his kingdom. In 146 bc. the region was annexed as a Roman province, called Macedonia.


“A Dictionary of the Ancient World” by


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