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Macedonia (ancient kingdom)

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Macedonia or Macedon (Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonía) was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south. The rise of Macedon, from a small kingdom at the periphery of Classical Greek affairs, to one which came to dominate the entire Hellenic world, occurred under the reign of Philip II. For a brief period, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, it became the most powerful state in the world, controlling a territory that included the former Persian empire, stretching as far as the Indus River; at that time it inaugurated the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greek civilization.

Name

The name Macedonia (Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonía) is related to the ancient Greek word μακεδνός, Makednos. It is commonly explained as having originally meant "a tall one" or "highlander", possibly descriptive of the people. The shorter English name variant Macedon developed in Middle English, based on a borrowing from the French form of the name Macédoine.

Early history and legend

The lands around Aegae, the first Macedonian capital, were home to various peoples. Macedonia was called Emathia (from King Emathion) and the city of Aiges was called Edessa, the capital of fabled King Midas. According to legend, Caranus, accompanied by a multitude of Greeks came to the area in search for a new homeland took Edessa and renamed it to Aegae. Subsequently, he expelled Midas and other kings off the lands and he formed his new kingdom. According to Herodotus, it was Dorus, the son of Hellen who led his people to Histaeotis, whence they were driven off by the Cadmeians into Pindus, where they settled as Macedonians. Later, a branch would migrate further south to be called Dorians.

It seems that the first Macedonian state emerged in the 8th or early 7th century BC under the Argead Dynasty, who, according to legend, migrated to the region from the Greek city of Argos in Peloponnesus (thus the name Argead). The Macedonian tribe ruled by the Argeads, was itself called Argead (which translates as "descended from Argos"). The kingdom was situated in the fertile alluvial plain, watered by the rivers Haliacmon and Axius, called Lower Macedonia, north of the Mount Olympus. Around the time of Alexander I of Macedon, the Argead Macedonians started to expand into Upper Macedonia, lands inhabited by independent Macedonian tribes like the Lyncestae and the Elmiotae and to the West, beyond Axius river, into Eordaia, Bottiaea, Mygdonia, and Almopia, regions settled by, among others, many Thracian tribes. To the north of Macedonia lay various non-Greek peoples such as the Paeonians due north, the Thracians to the northeast, and the Illyrians, with whom the Macedonians were frequently in conflict, to the northwest. To the south lay Thessaly, with whose inhabitants the Macedonians had much in common both culturally and politically, while to west lay Epirus, with whom the Macedonians had a peaceful relationship and in the 4th century BC formed an alliance against Illyrian raids.

Near the modern city of Veria, Perdiccas I (or, more likely, his son, Argaeus I) built his capital, Aigai (modern Vergina). After a brief period under Persian rule under Darius Hystaspes, the state regained its independence under King Alexander I (495–450 BC). In the Peloponnesian War, Macedon was a secondary power that alternated in support between Sparta and Athens.

Macedon during the Peloponnesian War around 431 BC

Involvement in the Greek world

Prior to the 4th century BC, the kingdom covered a region approximately corresponding to the Western and Central parts of province of Macedonia in modern Greece. A unified Macedonian state was eventually established by King Amyntas III (c. 393–370 BC), though it still retained strong contrasts between the cattle-rich coastal plain and the fierce isolated tribal hinterland, allied to the king by marriage ties. They controlled the passes through which barbarian invasions came from Illyria to the north and northwest. It became increasingly Atticized during this period, though prominent Athenians appear to have regarded the Macedonians as uncouth. Before the establishment of the League of Corinth, even though the Macedonians apparently spoke a dialect of the Greek language and claimed proudly that they were Greeks, they were not considered to fully share the classical Greek culture by many of the inhabitants of the southern city states, because they did not share the polis based style of government. Herodotus, being one of the foremost biographers in antiquity who lived in Greece at the time when the Macedonian king Alexander I was in power, mentioned:

"I happen to know, and I will demonstrate in a subsequent chapter of this history, that these descendants of Perdiccas are, as they themselves claim, of Greek nationality. This was, moreover, recognized by the managers of the Olympic games, on the occasion when Alexander wished to compete and his Greek competitors tried to exclude him on the ground that foreigners were not allowed to take part. Alexander, however, proved his Argive descent, and so was accepted as a Greek and allowed to enter for the foot-race. He came in equal first."

Over the 4th century Macedon became more politically involved with the south-central city-states of Ancient Greece, but it also retained more archaic features like the palace-culture, first at Aegae (modern Vergina) then at Pella, resembling Mycenaean culture more than classic Hellenic city-states, and other archaic customs, like Philip's multiple wives in addition to his Epirote queen Olympias, mother of Alexander.

Another archaic remnant was the very persistence of a hereditary monarchy which wielded formidable – sometimes absolute – power, although this was at times checked by the landed aristocracy, and often disturbed by power struggles within the royal family itself. This contrasted sharply with the Greek cultures further south, where the ubiquitous city-states mostly possessed aristocratic or democratic institutions; the de facto monarchy of tyrants, in which heredity was usually more of an ambition rather than the accepted rule; and the limited, predominantly military and sacerdotal, power of the twin hereditary Spartan kings. The same might have held true of feudal institutions like serfdom, which may have persisted in Macedon well into historical times. Such institutions were abolished by city-states well before Macedon's rise

Philip II, King of Macedon

Amyntas had three sons; the first two, Alexander II and Perdiccas III reigned only briefly. Perdiccas III's infant heir was deposed by Amyntas' third son, Philip II of Macedon, who made himself king and ushered in a period of Macedonian dominance of Greece. Under Philip II (359–336 BC), Macedon expanded into the territory of the Paeonians, Thracians, and Illyrians. Among other conquests, he annexed the regions of Pelagonia and Southern Paeonia.

Kingdom of Macedon after Philip's II death

Philip redesigned the army of Macedon adding a number of variations to the traditional hoplite force to make it far more effective. He added the hetairoi, a well armoured heavy cavalry, and more light infantry, both of which added greater flexibility and responsiveness to the force. He also lengthened the spear and shrank the shield of the main infantry force, increasing its offensive capabilities.

Philip began to rapidly expand the borders of his kingdom. He first campaigned in the north against non-Greek peoples such as the Illyrians, securing his northern border and gaining much prestige as a warrior. He next turned east, to the territory along the northern shore of the Aegean. The most important city in this area was Amphipolis, which controlled the way into Thrace and also was near valuable silver mines. This region had been part of the Athenian Empire, and Athens still considered it as in their sphere. The Athenians attempted to curb the growing power of Macedonia, but were limited by the outbreak of the Social War. They could also do little to halt Philip when he turned his armies south and took over most of Thessaly.

Control of Thessaly meant Philip was now closely involved in the politics of central Greece. 356 BC saw the outbreak of the Third Sacred War that pitted Phocis against Thebes and its allies. Thebes recruited the Macedonians to join them and at the Battle of Crocus Field Phillip decisively defeated Phocis and its Athenian allies. As a result Macedonia became the leading state in the Amphictyonic League and Phillip became head of the Pythian Games, firmly putting the Macedonian leader at the centre of the Greek political world.

In the continuing conflict with Athens, Philip marched east through Thrace in an attempt to capture Byzantium and the Bosphorus, thus cutting off the Black Sea grain supply that provided Athens with much of its food. The siege of Byzantium failed, but Athens realized the grave danger the rise of Macedon presented and under Demosthenes built a coalition of many of the major states to oppose the Macedonians. Most importantly Thebes, which had the strongest ground force of any of the city states, joined the effort. The allies met the Macedonians at the Battle of Chaeronea and were decisively defeated, leaving Philip and the Macedonians the unquestioned master of Greece.

The Alexandrian Empire at the Time of its Maximum Expansion

Philip's son, Alexander the Great (356–323 BC), managed to briefly extend Macedonian power not only over the central Greek city-states, but also to the Persian Empire, including Egypt] and lands as far east as the fringes of India. Alexander's adoption of the styles of government of the conquered territories was accompanied by the spread of Greek culture and learning through his vast empire. Although the empire fractured into multiple Hellenic regimes shortly after his death, his conquests left a lasting legacy, not least in the new Greek-speaking cities founded across Persia's western territories, heralding the Hellenistic period. In the partition of Alexander's empire among the Diadochi, Macedonia fell to the Antipatrid dynasty, which was overthrown by the Antigonid dynasty after only a few years, in 294 BC.

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