Macedonian (Ancient Kingdom) is a historical region that spread from parts of northern Greece to the Balkan Peninsula. The ancient kingdom of Macedonia (also known as Macedon) was a crossroads between Mediterranean and Balkan civilizations.
Macedonian became the world’s largest empire under Alexander the Great’s reign in the 4th century B.C. Ever since the Republic of Macedonia formed in 1991, Macedonians and Greeks consistently sparred over which country gets to claim the history of ancient Macedonia as its own.
Macedonia was a small kingdom centred along the Aegean Sea on the northeastern part of the Greek Peninsula.
Greek political power was concentrated in southern city-states such as Athens, Sparta and Thebes until Macedonian king Phillip II conquered these areas during the first half of the 4th century B.C.
King Phillip II
The League of Corinth, or the Hellenic League, was formed by King Phillip II to strengthen his military forces. Most Greek states were unified as a single political entity for the first time in history.
Macedonia was known for its military prowess in ancient times. In the reign of Phillip II, he introduced a unique type of infantry known as the Macedonian phalanx. Each soldier carried a long spear (called a sarissa), about 13 to 20 feet long. The Macedonian phalanx formed a wall of spears, which was considered nearly impenetrable.
Phillip II dreamed of conquering the Persian Empire, the largest in the world. He was murdered in 336 B.C. in Aigai, the capital city of Macedonia before he could realize his vision. His son, Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military minds in history, came to power and finished the work his father had started.
Alexander The Great
Alexander the Great was a great leader who conquered many parts of the world, like India and made his own rules. During that reign, they have some characteristics; charismatic, ruthless, brilliant and bloodthirsty. His thirteen-year reign as King of Macedonia changed the course of both European and Asian history.
During the reign of Phillip II, Aristotle tutored the teenage Alexander. Aristotle is credited with Alexander’s diplomatic skills and habit of carrying books on his military campaigns.
Quoted from Aristotle:
Man is a Political Animal.
After his father’s assassination, Alexander took the throne at the age of 20. Assembling an army of more than 43,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry members, he quickly harnessed the military forces of the Hellenic League.
The Macedonian army crossed into northwest Turkey across the Hellespont (today’s Dardanelles) in 334 B.C. In one long military campaign that lasted 11 years, he conquered the Persian Empire, making Macedonia the world’s largest, most powerful empire.
From Greece to India, Alexander the Great’s Macedonian Empire spanned. It is unknown what caused his death in 323 B.C. in the ancient city of Babylon, in modern-day Iraq. He was just 32 years old.
After Alexander the Great died, his Macedonian Empire quickly crumbled because he left no direct heirs. The Macedonian territory was divided up by military generals in a series of civil wars.
Plutarch, among other ancient Greek biographers, speculated that Alexander had been poisoned. However, modern medical historians suggest he may have died of natural causes, including malaria or an abdominal infection (brought on by heavy drinking).
Macedonian Arts and Sciences
Ancient Macedonia was a culture rich in artistic achievements and scientific advances. Aristotle, considered by some to be the father of western philosophy, may have written some of his most important works during the reign of Alexander the Great, including treatizes on physics and metaphysics (a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of reality). It was a time of extravagance and wealth in the Greek world after Alexander’s death, known as the Hellenistic Period. Places of entertainment and leisure, such as parks and theatres, proliferated.
A style of Greek drama called New Comedy became popular. While earlier Greek comedies parodied public figures and events, New Comedy focused on the fictional trials of ordinary citizens.
Alexandria, an ancient Egyptian town thought to be founded by Alexander the Great, became a significant hub of science during this period. Greek mathematician Euclid, who taught in Alexandria, founded the study of geometry with his mathematical treatise The Elements.
Archaeologists discovered a wall painting showing Hades abducting Persephone to the underworld in one of the tombs at Aigai, the tomb of Persephone. It’s one of few existing depictions of mystic views of the afterlife from this period of Greek history.
Archaeologists began to explore the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in the late 19th century while the region was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
During World War I, soldiers fighting on the Macedonian Front along the Greek border uncovered ancient Macedonian artefacts while digging trenches. British and French forces on the Macedonian Front employed archaeologists to work alongside troops in the tracks, occasionally using Bulgarian prisoners of war as workmen for their excavations.
They unearthed dozens of prehistoric Bronze Age burial mounds.
The city of Vergina, in northern Greece, is home to the most important ancient Macedonian archaeological site: the ruins of Aigai.
The monumental palace uncovered is considered one of the most significant, lavish buildings of ancient Greece, with colourful mosaics and elaborate stucco ornamentation. The site contains more than 500 burial mounds dating from the eleventh to second century B.C.
A burial mound called the Great Tumulus was discovered in 1977, under which four Macedonian kings were buried, including Phillip II. During one of his early campaigns, Phillip suffered a crippling lance wound matched to a massive hole in one of his leg bones.
Now Today, Macedonia in the Modern world.
After declaring independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia was formed on the Balkan Peninsula northwest of Greece. Greece and Macedonia have since sparred over who owns the history of ancient Macedonia.
The Greeks consider the dynasties of Phillip II and Alexander the Great to be part of Greek history, and they have contested the Republic of Macedonia’s use of the Greek name for decades.
In some circles, Greeks think that Greece’s northern region (also called Macedonia) is being claimed by its northern neighbour by using the name “Macedonia.” As a result, some international organizations, such as the European Union and NATO, refer to Macedonia as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia..”