We found in our archive the story “Macedonian ancient heritage is undeniable” written by Minevski in three parts, published than by MIA (Macedonian Information Agency).
The Macedonian ancient heritage is undeniable (1)
In the medieval original documentation, the name Macedonia for the territory, and Macedonians for the inhabitants that lived there as Macedonian people, have a full continuity, which means that in the Macedonians’ ethno genesis, the ancient Macedonians were also included, which mainly remained in these areas as indigenous population even after the arrival of the Slavs.
In the complex ethno genetic process, the native ancient Macedonians gradually took the Slavic language and the Slavs took the Christianity, the name Macedonia and the ethnic denomination Macedonians. The language from the region of Thessaloniki, that was fixed by the brothers Cyril and Methodius, played a great role in the Christianization of the Slavs in Macedonia, according to the historians that studied and study the history of Macedonia and the Macedonian people. The historical documents confirm that the terms Macedonia, Macedonians, Macedonian – gradually imposed themselves in Byzantium as unique names for the people, the territory and the language that was spoken in the areas of classic Macedonia.
In the middle ages, the territory where the Macedonian Slavs lived, then as a dominant Macedonian population, was called Macedonia, both from the people within and people outside the territory, and the people that lived there called themselves Macedonians, especially after the 14th century. In Byzantine sources from the 14th century, the territory of Macedonia was constantly named either Macedonia, or one of the terms Macedonian areas and Macedonian towns, according to historians that studied the history of Macedonia and the Macedonian people.
The borders of Macedonia were never disputed
According to Dr. Milan Boshkoski from the Institute of National History in Skopje, the Macedonian ancient historical, cultural and ethnical heritage related to the continuity of the names Macedonia and Macedonians is undeniable and is sublimated in the Macedonian medieval cultural, historical and ethnical right of the name Macedonia and Macedonians, which can be seen from the rich medieval original documentation. In order to follow the historical continuity of the name Macedonia, one has to begin with the oldest known sources related to Macedonia, according to him.
The name Ematija is the oldest known name of Macedonia and it was used by the ancient sailors that sailed north, and the oldest information about Macedonia can be found in Homer’s “Iliad”, which mentions the river Axios (Vardar), the Paeonians that lived by the river, the town of Amidon, the regions of Pierija and Ematija, and Pelagonija, by the name of the ancestor Pelagon. According to legends by ancient authors, the Macedonians got their name and the name of their country by the epic hero Macedon.
The Macedonians are considered to have added the many Brigian enclaves from which the Macedonian people were formed to their ethnical structure. With the expansion of the Macedonian country other tribes that were related to the Macedonians, or their allies that had their own rulers, such as the Paeonians, which were very similar in the language to the Macedonians merged with the Macedonian people.
As for the territory, the borders set by Phillip II, and defined in written form by Strabo, are generally accepted in the historian science. North was mount Bertisk, today’s northern Albanian mountains, mount Skard, present Shar Mountain, Suva Gora, Jakupica and the northern hills of Babuna, the areas north of Bilazora, present Veles, present Ovche Pole, Mount Kozjak and the Osogovo Mountains. That was the northern border.
The western border reached the Adriatic Sea, which the Romans called the Macedonian Sea, with the areas south of Ljesh, including the towns of Durres and Apollonia, all the way to Epirus. The mountains Olympus on the south-east and Pindus south-west were the most southern Macedonian border, which headed from south to south-east along the river Pseneios, or Pencha, the region of Thessaly, the Aegean Sea with Halkidiki and the island of Thasos, and on east up to the river of Mesta, the southern hills of the Rhodopes and Mount Pirin on the south-eastern side.
These are the Macedonian borders until its fall under Roman authority, but it is a fact that those borders were accepted by most Roman and other later authors.
The Romans tried to wipe out the name Macedonia!
In 148 BC Macedonia was turned into a Roman province with a constant Roman provincial governor. Much later, in 297, during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian, a new administrative reform was performed and the Roman kingdom was divided in 12 great dioceses, which consisted of 100 provinces. It is considered that with those reforms, three new provinces were created out of the province Macedonia: Thessaly, New Epirus and Macedonia.
As Dr. Boshkoski says, at the end of the 5th century, there were probably new administrative changes in Byzantine, perhaps as a consequence of the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. The Latin chronicler Comes Morcelin, who lived in Constantinople and was the secretary of Justinian I before he was crowned a king, in his log for the year 482 reported that the Gothic king Theodoric “devastated the two Macedonias and Thessaly” under the order of his uncle Valamir, and in the log for the year 517 he wrote about new attacks in which the two Macedonias and Thessaly were devastated again, and the Goth cavalry robbed all the way to Thermopylae and Old Epirus. The fact that two Macedonias were mentioned at the time could mean that beside the existing province of Macedonia Prima, there was also a Macedonia Salutaris, meaning that the second Macedonia was renewed, according to Boshkoski.
It is unknown when exactly that change took place, but it is presumed it happened between the years 479 and 482. The last time that Macedonia Prima and Macedonia Salutaris are mentioned together as two provinces was in 535 in King Justinian’s 11th novel.
How did Macedonia become Sclavinia?
According the Byzantine historians and chroniclers, as well as other original information, in the changed political circumstances which required a different administrative division of Byzantium after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, as well as the strong barbaric attacks, especially after the attacks of the Slavs and their settlement on the Balkans, the content of the term Macedonia also changed.
After the settlement of the Slavs in Macedonia, a new term was promoted – Sclavinia, parallel with the term Macedonia. After forming the term Macedonia in western Thrace and its meaning in Byzantine administrative sense, it led to full mixing of the historical-geographical term Macedonia with its historical-geographical and administrative meaning transferred to the early middle Ages with the Byzantine topic of the same name. In that time the territory of Macedonia was mainly incorporated in the provinces of Mediterranean Dacia and Dardania.
After 550, the new crisis situations at the Danubian border required a different administrative division which the King-restorer finished. During a counting of the renewed fortresses and cities by Justinian I, the Byzantine court historian Procopius mentioned Macedonia as a province in historical-geographical borders, along the province of Dardania, which included a part of the present northern Macedonia.
The changed ethnical structure led to a different nomination of the territory of Macedonia and its citizens. The Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, in his book “Chronography” written between 810 and 815, and which dealt with the period from 284 to 813, speaking about the settlement of the Slavs on the Balkan Peninsula, or in Macedonia and a big part on the territory of Greece and Peloponnese, didn’t mention the term Macedonia at all. The areas that the Slavs settled on the Balkans and Macedonia, he called Sclavinia, while its citizens – Slavs.
After the settlement of the Slavs on the Balkans during late 6th and early 7th century, the term Macedonia was rarely used by the medieval authors from that period. The Byzantine territories settled by Slavs were already lost to the kingdom.
During late 8th and early 9th century, Byzantium created the theme of Thrace, the first theme in the European part of its ruling, and soon the theme Macedonia was formed in Western Thrace. It has been argumentatively claimed that the forming of the theme Macedonia in Thrace was done mainly by the escaped citizens of Macedonia, or Macedonians, as well as refugees from other parts of the Balkan.
Macedonian ancient heritage is undeniable (2)
With the weakening of the theme system in Byzantium during the second half of the 9th century, and particularly in the 12th, the term Macedonia was being less and less used in its thematic and administrative meaning and under the influence of classicism the term Macedonia in its classic, historical-geographical meaning was being restored.
When did the Slavs start calling themselves Macedonians?
Since then, the term was gradually used not only to mark the territory of Macedonia in its ancient meaning, but the use by its inhabitants that they were from Macedonia or that they were Macedonians became more frequent. This nomination was gradually accepted by the new inhabitants, the Slavs, who started naming themselves Macedonians after the territory and the people that they assimilated, according to Dr. Boshkoski.
“The relationship between the Slavs and the native Macedonians and their life together is a question that is always asked when it is discussed about the Macedonians’ continuity. The native Macedonians from the period when the Slavs inhabited this region were mainly Romanized and Hellenized Macedonian population which was a mix from the remains of the old Macedonians and the many Romanian and “barbarian” colonists that survived the Slavic inhabitation, while only a small number of those who took shelter in the high mountain places managed to preserve their ethnic marks.
On the other hand, according to other authors, it can be certainly claimed that the ancient Macedonians actually merged into the Slavic sea and forever disappeared from the world history scene. According to Prof. Dr. Stjepan Antoljak, the name Macedonians transferred into the memory of the newly inhabited Slavs, who were called Macedonians by the Byzantine authors starting from the 10th century” – says Dr. Boshkoski.
Immediately before the arrival of the Slavs in Macedonia, the majority of the population consisted of Macedonians, Paeonians, Romanized people and other smaller ethnic groups and the language of the native remained in use, beside the official Latin. This fact is confirmed by the high rate of presence of the name Makedo and other typical Macedonian names in the region of Macedonia throughout the Roman period.
Relating the name Macedonia to the Slavs in Macedonia
The first time that the name Macedonia was mentioned in relation to the Macedonian Slavs was by Anastasius the librarian and it was about a Byzantine military expedition against the Slavs in 759. Anastasius clearly differentiated Slavs and Bulgarians, as well as the Byzantine administrative unit, or the theme Macedonia, from Macedonia in its ancient meaning, which was now inhabited by Slavs. He wrote that “in the 18th year of his reign, Constantine captured the Sclavinias in Macedonia, and conquered the others.”
A particularly interesting use of the name Macedonia was by the Byzantine King Michael II in early 9th century. In his letter from 10th April 824 sent to the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ludwik the Fair, the Byzantine king reported about events that happened during his reign. He reported about the heavy traumas that the Byzantine Empire survived during Tomas the Slav from 820-824, writing “after he conquered our boats and dromons, he could come in parts of Thrace and Macedonia. By going there, he besieged our town (referring to Constantinople) and surrounded it with the fleet in December 821.
Further in the letter it was pointed out that Tomas the Slav had many insurgents from different regions in his lines, such as “regions of Mysia, Europe, Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly and the Sclavinias that were around”.
Constantine VII “the purple-born” was one of the most significant Byzantine authors from early- and mid-10th century that used the terms Macedonia and Macedonians in their ancient meaning by calling the Slavs from that territory with that name, even though most of Macedonia’s territory was under Bulgarian command at the time. His works contain very important information about the Southern Slavs on the Balkans, the Macedonian Slavs and the Slavs in Greece and Peloponnese.
Unlike many of his contemporaries or medieval authors from the 10th and 11th century, he managed to successfully make a difference between the Byzantine theme Macedonia, located in western Thrace, and Macedonia in its ancient meaning with its historical-geographical borders.
“The information from Constantine VII about the lion as a crown of the Macedonians since the ancient period is the oldest written data about the tradition of the lion as crown of the Macedonians. That is why the coins with lion’s face of the Macedonian kings, who were dressed in lion’s skin, were valued more than any jewel or royal diadem. His testimony about the region of Strymon is very interesting. He wrote that the theme Strymon merged with Macedonia but did not regard it as a theme, but as a gorge that was used by Scythians rather than Macedonians, after Justinian Rinomet moved them to the mountains of Struma and the natural gorges”.
What is important is that Constantine VII never used the term Bulgarians to describe the Macedonian Slavs, or the Macedonians that were under Bulgarian command during his reign, which showed that he clearly differentiated the Macedonians from the Bulgarians. He used the terms Slavs, Scythians and barbarians to describe the Slavs in Macedonia and he remained consistent with his use of the term Macedonia as a land that was inhabited by the Slavs, at the same time ignoring the term Bulgaria for the territories that the Bulgarians conquered from Macedonia.
Macedonia was still Macedonia even in 1018!
The Byzantine historian Leo the Deacon, born in Asia Minor circa 950, wrote about history in 10 books about the period from 959 to 976, but also about events that happened until 989. He used many ancient and early-byzantine authors as reference in his books. In one of his ten books there is a detail description of the Battle at the Gates of Trajan from 17th August 986 when the Macedonian army, led by Aron and Samoil, won a glorious victory over the Byzantine army led by Emperor Basil II.
“An interesting thing is that Leo the Deacon called the inhabitants of the medieval Macedonian state, whose first king was Samoil, Scythians and Mysians. Beside these names for the Macedonian Slavs, he also used the terms Macedonia and Macedonians to mark the territory and inhabitants that lived in that territory. The primary meaning of that term was its ancient one and represents a negation of the imposed term Bulgaria for the territory of Macedonia under Bulgarian command, while the term Macedonians, borrowed from the ancient authors, was used to mark the Macedonian Slavs from south-east and southern Macedonia, that remained in the Byzantine Empire for much of Samoil’s reign” – says Dr. Boshkoski.
The Byzantine historian John Skylitzes represents one of the most important historical sources about the history of the Macedonian medieval kingdom. In his historical book that represents a continuation of the “Chronicles” from Teophanes he covered the period between 811 and 1057. He wrote it during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos and his understanding of the term Macedonia was particularly clearly differentiated.
According to him, the term Macedonia indicated a Byzantine administrative unit, or a theme, Macedonia, in western Thrace, which coincided with the information that Samoil rampaged in that Macedonia, too. It indicated an area that was called that way because a great number of Macedonians were forcefully inhabited there several centuries before.
Another mention of the name Macedonia by Skylitzes was when he described the earthquake from 1037. He wrote: “In 6546 (1037), 6th Indict (2nd November) in 10 A.M. there was an earthquake and the ground continued to shake until the end of January. There was famine in Thrace and Macedonia, Strymon and Thessaloniki, all the way to Thessaly”.
His younger colleague John Zonaras, who was a dignitary at the Byzantine court and head of the court’s office, had a dual approach to the term Macedonia. Namely, as with most Byzantine authors from the 11th and 12th century, Zonaras also used the term Macedonia as an administrative term for the Byzantine theme Macedonia in western Thrace, but on another occasion he used the term to indicate Macedonia in its ancient, historical-geographical borders.
Byzantine writer Anna Komnene wrote her “Alexiad” in mid-12th century, a book where she described the history of her father Alexios I Komnenos’s reign. Her book consisted of 15 volumes, using the name Macedonia on two occasions when writing about the ancient history of the Macedonians, and on all other occasions she used the term to indicate the theme Macedonia in western Thrace, thus making a strict difference between ancient Macedonia and the province Macedonia in Byzantium” – says Dr. Boshkoski.
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