Topics: Greco-Roman World - Macedonia (800s BC-146 BC)

Macedonia (800s BC-146 BC)

Macedonia or Macedon (from Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonía) was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula,[1] bordered by Epirus to the west, Paionia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south. Under Philip II, it achieved hegemony over neighbouring areas, including most states of mainland Greece. 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 Greek civilisation.

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 [5] 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 Herodot, 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 [6].

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).[7] It should be mentioned that 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 mountain 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.[8] 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 long Peloponnesian War Macedon was a secondary power that alternated in support between Sparta and Athens.[9]

Involvement in the Greek world

Prior to the 4th century BC, the kingdom covered a region approximately corresponding to the province of Macedonia of 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 Atticised during this period, though prominent Athenians appear to have regarded the Macedonians as uncouth.[10] 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 of the southerners.[9] Herodotus, being one of the foremost biographer 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 (most notably by the Athenian legislator Solon's famous σεισάχθεια seisachtheia laws).

Balkan conquests

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 Paionians, Thracians, and Illyrians. Among other conquests, he annexed the regions of Pelagonia and Southern Paionia.

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 BCE 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.


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.

Hellenistic era

Antipater and his son Cassander gained control of Macedonia but it slid into a long period of civil strife following Cassander's death in 297 BC. It was ruled for a while by Demetrius I (294–288 BC) but fell into civil war.

Demetrius' son, Antigonus II (277–239 BC), defeated a Galatian invasion as a condottiere, and regained his family's position in Macedonia; he successfully restored order and prosperity there, though he lost control of many of the Greek city-states. He established a stable monarchy under the Antigonid dynasty. Antigonus III (239–221 BC) built on these gains by re-establishing Macedonian power across the region.

What is notable about the Macedonian regime during the Hellenistic times is that it was the only successor state to the Empire that maintained the old archaic perception of Kingship, and never adopted the ways of the Hellenistic Monarchy. Thus the king was never deified in the same way that Ptolemies and Seleucids were in Egypt and Asia respectively, and never adopted the custom of Proskynesis. The ancient Macedonians during the Hellenistic times were still addressing their kings in a far more casual way than the subjects of the rest of the Diadochi, and the Kings were still consulting with their aristocracy (Philoi) in the process of making their decisions.

Conflict with Rome

Under Philip V of Macedon (221–179 BC) and his son Perseus of Macedon (179–168 BC), the kingdom clashed with the rising power of the Roman Republic. During the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, Macedon fought a series of wars with Rome. Two major losses that led to their inevitable defeat were in 197 BC when Rome defeated Philip V, and 168 BC when Rome defeated Perseus. The overall losses resulted in the defeat of Macedon, the deposition of the Antigonid dynasty and the dismantling of the Macedonian kingdom. Andriscus' brief success at reestablishing the monarchy in 149 BC was quickly followed by his defeat the following year and the establishment of direct Roman rule and the organization of Macedon as the Roman province of Macedonia.

Source: Wikipedia

Macedonia (800s BC-146 BC)
Macedonian Kingdom