When houses in Athens were still made of mud, Bylazora already had a palace, say archaeologists who explored Macedonia’s ancient cities. Where is the capital of the independent state of Paeonia, whose inhabitants had a strong culture and left significant material remains on the territory of present-day Macedonia?
The location of Bylazora near the village of Knezje in Sveti Nikole (in eastern Macedonia, in the Ovče Pole plateau) was first carried out by the archaeologist and professor Ivan Mikulčić. Archaeological excavations have been carried out on the site over the past two decades, which had revealed many interesting scientific discoveries.
The site was explored by archaeologists from the Texas Foundation for Archaeological and Historical Research (TFAHR), the Institute for Art History and Archeology of the Faculty of Arts in Skopje in collaboration with the National Museum of Sveti Nikole.
The latest research was led by Professor Dragi Mitrevski from the Institute of Art History and Archeology. Macedonian archaeologists have excavated layers from the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
Scholars say that at the time when Alexander the Great or Perdiccas II of Macedon ruled the Kingdom of Lower Macedon, there could only be Paeonic rulers in this area. They had gained independence from the Macedonian Empire to protect it from attacks from the north.
Thucydides mentions them, as the independent Paenoians, in the second half of the 5th century BC. They were independent from the Macedonian Empire, but in their service. The sources contain information that the largest Paeonian city is Bylazora and covered an area of 20 hectares.
According to Professor Mitrevski, the rulers of Paeonia took part in historical events and they minted coins themselves – Lyccei (also known as Lycpeios or Lyppeios), Patra, Audoleon, Leon, Dropion, all of them were powerful factors in this part of the world. Because of their independence, they sometimes strengthened themselves to the point that they even opposed the Macedonian Empire, but were generally in its service.
In the time of Alexander the Great, the Paeonians were the main generals of the army in Alexander’s campaign. They were a buffer zone and were deliberately kept in this position in the politics of ancient Macedonia – to protect them from the northern tribes so that Philip II of Macedonia could plan his campaign to the east.
Archaeologists believe that the exact territory of the independent Paionians could not be precisely defined because the boundaries could not be interpreted in the modern sense of the word.
But there are data in the sources – hydronyms and toponyms that say a lot.
An important place, for example, is the Bregalnica River, where their rulers were crowned. An important hydronym is Vardar and its valley, Sredno and Gorno Povardarje. The sources mention the northernmost Paionians – the Agrians who were in Skopje, Kumanovo, Kyustendil, opposite Gorna Struma.
According to Mitrevski, the Paionians are indeed the common name of related communities, tribes that shared the same language and culture, but each of them had their own tribal name. The Deropi are mentioned in the west and the most developed tribe Deroni in the south. There were the Doberi, Siro Paeonians. But some were independent Paionians – those who lived in Bylazora had their own politics, rulers, capital, their own system, and their own ruling palace.
The Paeonians are the only ones from this area Homer mentions them in the Iliad. Homer knew they were allies – they went behind the walls of Troy to fight on their side. When describing all the nations involved in the war, he mentioned the “Paeonians of the giant Axios”. They are mentioned as an important factor in historical events since the Late Bronze Age.
SOURCE: Written by Vesna Ivanovska-Ilievska for Faculty.mk (Macedonian)