Macedonian ancient heritage is undeniable (3)
The famous Byzantine historian Nikita Choniates was one of the most universally educated people of his time, from the second half of 12th and the first decades of 13th century. He was born around mid-12th century in Chonae, the region of Phrygia and died in Nicaea between the first and the second decade of 13th century. He was educated in Constantinople and wrote a work called History that covered the period of the reign of the Comnenus and Angelus dynasties, 1118-1204.
His understanding of the terms Macedonia and Macedonians was dual. He recognized the term Macedonia as the area around Andrianopolis, but not the one around Phillippopolis, which was a pallid understanding of the former Byzantine theme Macedonia in Thrace, which no longer existed in his time and was just a memory of past times. In his work, he used the terms Thracians, Macedonians and Thessalians several times, indicating the inhabitants of the historical-geographical areas with the same name in early 13th century.
Byzantine historian John Cinnamus, ca. 1143 – 1230 was a close friend to the Byzantine Emperor Michael I Komnenos. For the charge against the Serbs in 1162, Cinnamus said that “the emperor set off to the Macedonian country, in the town of Phillip (referring to the town of Phillipi in Macedonia) to settle the situations in Serbia”. This is the only mention of Macedonia by Cinnamus, so it is difficult to establish his understanding about this historical-geographical term with certainty.
Thessaloniki was a Macedonian metropolis in the 13th century!
George Akropolites, a 13th century Byzantine historian and diplomat who studied in Nicaea and later had confidential diplomatic duties in the court of the King of Nicaea, John III Vatatzes, wrote a history book which covered the period between 1203 and 1261, and his understanding of the term Macedonia was also very interesting. To him, Macedonia was a mix of the Byzantine military-administrative unit with the same name, expanded with the areas around Phillippopolis, that didn’t exist in his time, but at the same time, it indicated the eastern part of Macedonia in its historical-geographical meaning.
In only one case Vatatzes understood Macedonia in its expanded historical-geographical meaning and that was when he marked the areas between the towns of Serres and Skopje as Macedonian. In the line of Byzantine authors that used the terms Macedonia and Macedonians for the Slavic population that inhabited this historical-geographical region of Macedonia was the educated Byzantine Ephraim who wrote a chronicle in 1313 about the 1185 Norman invasion where he wrote that “they occupied the town of Thessaloniki, the Macedonians’ metropolis”. So, a metropolis of the Macedonians, not the Greeks, this being written in early 13th century, when the Macedonian Slavs already lived in Thessaloniki.
One of the Byzantine historians that used the terms Macedonia and Macedonians was the famous Nikiforos Grigoras, born in late 13th century, died in 1360. His understanding of the terms Macedonia and Macedonians was diametrically opposed to the authors from earlier centuries, and was not only characteristic for the 14th century, but for later centuries, as well. Namely, Grigoras abandoned the old understanding about Macedonia as a Byzantine military-administrative unit under the name Bulgaria as an anachronism for his time, and holds the same attitude towards the old and non-existent at the time, theme Macedonia in western Thrace.
According to Grigoras, “Macedonia was located at the borders of the Romeic area” in the Balkans, south of the borders of the Serbian Empire in the 14th century, and the town of “Thessaloniki was the capital and the first in the land of Macedonians”. He openly named Macedonians as such in mid-14th century, meaning he accepted the continuity of the Macedonian people in the area of Macedonia.
On the other hand, it is a fact that he never named the Macedonians as Bulgarians in his works. For clarification about what he understood about the term Macedonia, he named the Macedonian towns Thessaloniki, Devol, Berat, Debar and Cassandrea, but also mentioned the Macedonian towns occupied by the Triballians, or the Serbs – Skopje, Veles, Shtip, Prilep, Bitola and Strumica, which clearly defined the Macedonian border.
The last mention of the name Macedonia in its broader historical-geographical meaning by Grigoras was related to the conquests of Serbian king Stefan Dushan in southern Macedonia in 1345, as well as during the occupation of John Kantakouzenos of Constantinople and his proclamation as king. Kantakouzenos, born in 1295 and ruled from 1347 to 1354, aside from being a talented general and an extraordinary statesman, was also the most prominent Byzantine writer of the 14th century. In his works he used the terms Macedonians and Macedonia very concretely and precisely. Speaking about the events in Byzantium from 1230 to 1321, Kantakouzenos said that Teodor Sinadin was “a governor of Prilep and the surrounding towns and regions of Macedonia” and in “Strumica, the governor was the son of the great logotet Demetrius Angelus, while the other son Michael Laskaris was a governor in Melnik, both towns in Macedonia”.
According to Kantakouzenos, towards the end of 1327, the king Andronikos III along with him as a domestic, “after he took the rest of the army (he left a part of it in Thrace) set off towards Macedonia to fight with the army of the old king from the western areas”, but was soon informed that the armies of the old king Andronikos II and the allied army of the Serbs “made camp near the Macedonian towns of Phillipi and Dramas”. Towards the end of 1345, as well as the following 1345 and 1346, the Serbian king and after his crowning in Skopje on 16th April 1346, the Emperor Stefan Dushan, conquered almost all of Macedonia, therefore the displeasure of statesman and writer Kantakouzenos about the lost territories of the Romeians on Macedonia.
Macedonia and the Macedonians from the 14th century to present day!
According to Prof. Dr. Milan Boshkoski from the Institute of National History in Skopje, the names Macedonia, Macedonians and Macedonian gradually imposed themselves as unique names for the people, the territory and the language spoken on the territory of classic Macedonia.
Gradually, through the middle Ages, the territory where the Macedonians Slavs lived as a dominant population was called Macedonia, from the inhabitants and foreigners, and the people that lived there started calling themselves Macedonians, especially from the 14th century onwards. In 14th century Byzantine sources, the areas in Macedonia were constantly called Macedonia, or the terms Macedonian areas and Macedonian towns were used. “Even the Serbian King Dushan signed under the law as the “Law of the pious, faithful and Christ-loving Macedonian King Dushan”, according to Dushan’s Code from 1349” – says Dr. Boshkoski.
Byzantine historian Chalkokondyles, born in Athens in 1425 and author of the ten-volume historical writing “History tales”, clearly used the term Macedonia and Macedonians to mark the territories conquered by the Serbian King Dushan. According to him, Thessaloniki, which he called Therma, was a pure “Macedonian town”, and when the Turkish sultan Bayezid I conquered Skopje, he made peace with the “princes of Macedonia”. Among the Macedonian towns conquered by the Turks in late 14th century, beside Thessaloniki and Skopje, were Ohrid, Prilep, Ber, Serres and others.
While writing about certain parts of Macedonia, he used the terms True Macedonia, Great Macedonia, Upper Macedonia and Mediterranean or Inner Macedonia. His understanding of Macedonia was not only in its ancient meaning, from the time of Phillip II, or from the time of the Roman province Macedonia, but more than that. With the modernization and expansion of the Macedonian borders in 14th and 15th century, the term was used as a term with an ethnical meaning, not just to the inhabitants of Macedonia.
According to Bertrand de la Broquiere, a knight from Burgundy, in his work “The Journey across the sea” Macedonia extended east to the river of Marica with the town Andrianopolis, or the former Byzantine theme Macedonia, while the other part of Macedonia was the region between Rashka and Greece. He called the people living in Macedonia Macedonians. He wrote that while riding down the valley of river Marica, he first went “through Greece and then we entered Macedonia”, or as he wrote “I arrived to Phillippopolis, the capital of Macedonia”.
Of course, there are many other original documents that confirm the continuity of the name and the people that lived in Macedonia, from ancient times, through the middle Ages, to present day. All of that confirms the Macedonian ancient historical, cultural and ethnical heritage related to the continuity of the names Macedonia and Macedonians. According to Dr. Boshkoski, that continuity was undisputedly sublimated in our medieval cultural, historical and ethnical right to that name as the name of our people and our country.
Written by Blaze Minevski