Macedonia (ancient kingdom)
The Kingdom of Macedonia in 336 BC.
Attic Greek, Koine Greek
|•||808–778 BC||Caranus (first)|
|•||179–168 BC||Perseus (last)|
|Historical era||Classical Antiquity|
|•||Founded by Karanus||808 BC|
|•||Vassal of Persia||512/511–493 BC|
|•||Part of Persia||492–479 BC|
|•||Rise of Macedon||359–336 BC|
|•||Conquest of Persia||335–323 BC|
|•||Partition of Babylon||323 BC|
|•||Battle of Pydna||168 BC|
Macedonia or Macedon (//; Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonía; Ancient: [ma͜akedoní.a͜a]) was an ancient kingdom on the northern periphery of Classical Greece and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. It was ruled during most of its existence initially by the legendary founding dynasty of the Argeads, the intermittent Antipatrids and finally the Antigonids. Home to the Macedonians, the earliest kingdom was centered on 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.
Prior to the fourth century BC, Macedonia was a small kingdom in northern Greece, outside the area dominated by the great city-states of Athens, Sparta and Thebes, and at one time was subordinate to Achaemenid Persia. The reign of Philip II (359–336 BC) saw the rise of Macedonia, which would overthrow Persian rule and come to control the entire Greek world. With the innovative Macedonian army, Philip defeated the old powers of Athens and Thebes in the decisive Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and subdued them, while keeping Sparta in check. His son Alexander the Great pursued his father's effort to command the whole of Greece through the federation of Greek states, a feat he finally accomplished after destroying a revolting Thebes. Young Alexander was then ready to lead this force, as he aspired, in a large campaign against the Achaemenid Empire, in retaliation for the invasion of Greece in the 5th century BC, in which he succeeded.
In the ensuing wars of Alexander the Great, he was ultimately successful in conquering a territory that came to stretch as far as the Indus River. For a brief period his Macedonian Empire was the most powerful in the world, the definitive Hellenistic state, inaugurating the transition to this new period of Ancient Greek civilization. Greek arts and literature flourished in the new conquered lands and advancements in philosophy and science were spread to the ancient world. Of most importance were the contributions of Aristotle, a teacher to Alexander, whose teachings carried on many centuries past his death.
After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the following wars of the Diadochi and the partitioning of his short-lived empire, Macedonia proper carried on as a Greek cultural and political center in the Mediterranean region along with Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, and the Attalid kingdom. Important cities like Pella, Pydna, and Amphipolis were involved in power struggles for control of the territory, and new cities were founded, like Thessalonica by the usurper Cassander, which is now the second largest city of modern-day Greece. Macedonia's decline of influence began with the rise of Rome until its ultimate subjection after the Macedonian Wars.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Institutions
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
The name Macedonia (Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonía) comes from the Greek Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), deriving ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning "tall, taper", possibly descriptive of the people. It also shares the same root as the noun μάκρος (mákros), meaning "length" in both ancient and modern Greek. The name is originally believed to have meant either "highlanders" or "the tall ones", However, according to modern research by Robert S. P. Beekes, both terms are of Pre-Greek substrate origin and cannot be explained in terms of Indo-European morphology. 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 in his youth. In approximately 650 BC, the Argeads, an ancient Greek royal house led by Perdiccas I established their palace-capital at Aegae.
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). Herodotus mentions this founding myth when Alexander I was asked to prove his Greek descent in order to participate in the Olympic Games, an athletic event in which only men of Greek origin were entitled to participate. Alexander proved his (Argead) descent and was allowed to compete by the Hellanodikai: “And that these descendants of Perdiccas are Greeks, as they themselves say, I happen to know myself, and not only so, but I will prove in the succeeding history that they are Greeks. Moreover the Hellanodicai, who manage the games at Olympia, decided that they were so: for when Alexander wished to contend in the games and had descended for this purpose into the arena, the Greeks who were to run against him tried to exclude him, saying that the contest was not for Barbarians to contend in but for Greeks: since however Alexander proved that he was of Argos, he was judged to be a Greek, and when he entered the contest of the foot-race his lot came out with that of the first." The Macedonian tribe ruled by the Argeads, was itself called Argead (which translates as "descended from Argos").
Other founding myths served other agenda: according to Justin's, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Caranus, accompanied by a multitude of Greeks came to the area in search for a new homeland  took Edessa and renamed it Aegae. Subsequently, he expelled Midas and other kings and formed his new kingdom. Conversely, 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.
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, Crestonia 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). In 512/511 BC, Macedon became a vassal state of Achaemenid Persia during the rule of Darius Hystaspes. Following the Ionian Revolt, Persian rule over the Balkans loosened, including over Macedon. After having successfully suppressed the revolt, Mardonius re-subjugated Thrace and conquered Macedon, making it a fully subordinate part of Persia in 492 BC during the reign of king Alexander I (495–450 BC). The state eventually regained its independence during the same long reign of King Alexander I as well, following the Greco-Persian Wars. In the Peloponnesian War Macedon was a secondary power that alternated in support between Sparta and Athens.
Involvement in the classical Greek world
Prior to the 4th century BC, the kingdom covered a region approximately corresponding to the Western and Central parts of the 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 Atticised 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, one of the foremost biographers in antiquity who lived in Greece at the time when the Macedonian king Alexander I was in power, recorded:
"And that these descendants of Perdiccas are Hellenes, as they themselves say, I happen to know myself, and not only so, but I will prove in the succeeding history that they are Hellenes. Moreover the Hellanodikai, who manage the games at Olympia, decided that they were so: for when Alexander wished to contend in the games and had descended for this purpose into the arena, the Hellenes who were to run against him tried to exclude him, saying that the contest was not for Barbarians to contend in but for Hellenes: since however Alexander proved that he was of Argos, he was judged to be a Hellene, and when he entered the contest of the foot-race his lot came out with that of the 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 and 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).
Rise 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 in 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.
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.
Though Persian rule in the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper had ended for over a century, their influences, especially on the Macedonians and their Balkan neighbours (especially Thracians), remained strongly visible. As historians Roisman and Worthington state, to Macedonian rulers, Achaemenid stood as an example of statehood and mores. This is especially true of Philip II as he built his power and created many institutions to imitate those known from the Achaemenid Empire. Thus, inspired by Persian achievements, Philip established a Royal Secretary and Archive, and aimed at the elevation of the political as well as religious level, and he used a special throne (Gr. thronos) borrowed from the Achaemenid court to demonstrate his elevated rank. The institution of the Royal Pages (Gr. Paides Basilikoi) was probably inspired by Achaemenid prototype - among their duties, Arrian mentions mounting the king on his horse "in the Persian style". The status of Thrace in 342-334 under the Macedonian sway as a kind of regular satrapy resembled Achaemenid administrative practices, and the organization of the royal court, generally, followed in a fashion of the Achaemenid tradition. Some scholars deny Philip's international borrowings from Persian tradition, but it must be said that states do not develop in a vacuum. For an increasingly powerful Macedonia, the most immediate model of a great monarchy was Persia.
This section requires expansion with:
Philip's son, Alexander the Great (356–323 BC), managed to briefly extend Macedonian power not only over the central Greek city-states by becoming Hegemon of the League of Corinth (also known as the "Hellenic League"), but also to the Persian empire, including Egypt and lands as far east as present-day Pakistan and the fringes of India. Alexander helped spread the 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.
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 the end of the kingdom 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.
The political organization of the Macedonian kingdom was a three-level pyramid: on the top, the King and the nation, at the foot, the civic organizations (cities and éthnē), and between the two, the districts. The study of these different institutions has been considerably renewed thanks to epigraphy, which has given us the possibility to reread the indications given us by ancient literary sources such as Livy and Polybius. They show that the Macedonian institutions were near to those of the Greek federal states, like the Aetolian and Achaean leagues, whose unity was reinforced by the presence of the king.
The king (Βασιλεύς, Basileús) headed the central administration: he led the kingdom from its capital, Pella, and in his royal palace was conserved the state's archive. He was helped in carrying out his work by the Royal Secretary (βασιλικὸς γραμματεύς, basilikós grammateús), whose work was of primary importance, and by the Council. The title "king" (basileús) may have not officially been used by the Macedonian regents until Alexander the Great, whose "usage of it may have been influenced by his ambivalent position in Persia."
The king was commander of the army, head of the Macedonian religion, and director of diplomacy. Also, only he could conclude treaties, and, until Philip V, mint coins.
The number of civil servants was limited: the king directed his kingdom mostly in an indirect way, supporting himself principally through the local magistrates, the epistates, with whom he constantly kept in touch.
Royal succession in Macedon was hereditary, male, patrilineal and generally respected the principle of primogeniture. There was also an elective element: when the king died, his designated heir, generally but not always the eldest son, had first to be accepted by the council and then presented to the general Assembly to be acclaimed king and obtain the oath of fidelity.
As can be seen, the succession was far from being automatic, more so considering that many Macedonian kings died violently, without having made dispositions for the succession, or having assured themselves that these would be respected. This can be seen with Perdiccas III, slain by the Illyrians, Philip II assassinated by Pausanias of Orestis, Alexander the Great, suddenly died of malady, etc. Succession crises were frequent, especially up to the 4th century BC, when the magnate families of Upper Macedonia still cultivated the ambition of overthrowing the Argead dynasty and to ascend to the throne.
The king was the simple guardian and administrator of the treasure of Macedon and of the king's incomes (βασιλικά, basiliká), which belonged to the Macedonians: and the tributes that came to the kingdom thanks to the treaties with the defeated people also went to the Macedonian people, and not to the king. Even if the king was not accountable for his management of the kingdom's entries, he may have felt responsible to defend his administration on certain occasions: Arrian tells us that during the mutiny of Alexander's soldiers at Opis in 324 BC, Alexander detailed the possessions of his father at his death to prove he had not abused his charge.
It is known from Livy and Polybius that the basiliká included the following sources of income:
- The mines of gold and silver (for example those of the Pangaeus), which were the exclusive possession of the king, and which permitted him to strike currency, as already said his sole privilege till Philip V, who conceded to cities and districts the right of coinage for the lesser denominations, like bronze.
- The forests, whose timber was highly valued by the Greek cities to build their ships: in particular, it is known that Athens made commercial treaties with Macedon in the 5th century BC to import the timber necessary for the construction and the maintenance of its fleet of war.
- The royal landed properties, lands that were annexed to the royal domain through conquest, and that the king exploited either directly, in particular through servile workforce made up of prisoners of war, or indirectly through a leasing system.
- The port duties on commerce (importation and exportation taxes).
The most common way to exploit these different sources of income was by leasing: the Pseudo-Aristotle reports in the Oeconomica that Amyntas III (or maybe Philip II) doubled the kingdom's port revenues with the help of Callistratus, who had taken refuge in Macedon, bringing them from 20 to 40 talents per year. To do this, the exploitation of the harbour taxes was given every year at the private offering the highest bidding. It is also known from Livy that the mines and the forests were leased for a fixed sum under Philip V, and it appears that the same happened under the Argead dynasty: from here possibly comes the leasing system that was used in Ptolemaic Egypt.
Except for the king's properties, land in Macedon was free: Macedonians were free men and did not pay land taxes on private grounds. Even extraordinary taxes like those paid by the Athenians in times of war did not exist. Even in conditions of economic peril, like what happened to Alexander in 334 BC and Perseus in 168 BC, the monarchy did not tax its subjects but raised funds through loans, first of all by his Companions, or raised the cost of the leases.
The king could grant the atelíē (ἀτελίη), a privilege of tax exemption, as Alexander did with those Macedonian families which had losses in the battle of the Granicus in May 334: they were exempted from paying tribute for leasing royal grounds and commercial taxes.
Extraordinary incomes came from the spoils of war, which were divided between the king and his men. At the time of Philip II and Alexander, this was a considerable source of income. A considerable part of the gold and silver objects taken at the time of the European and Asian campaigns were melted in ingots and then sent to the monetary foundries of Pella and Amphipolis, most active of the kingdom at that time: an estimate judges that during the reign of Alexander only the mint of Amphipolis struck about 13 million silver tetradrachms.
All the kingdom's citizen-soldiers gathered in a popular assembly, which was held at least twice a year, in spring and in autumn, with the opening and the closing of the campaigning season.
This assembly (koinê ekklesia or koinon makedonôn), of the army in times of war, of the people in times of peace, is called by the king and played a significant role through the acclamation of the kings and in capital trials; it could be consulted (without obligation) in matters of foreign policy (declarations of war, treaties) and for the appointment of high state officials. In the majority of these occasions, the Assembly did nothing but ratify the proposals of a smaller body, the Council. It was also the Assembly which voted the honors, and sent embassies, during its two annual meetings. It was abolished by the Romans at the time of their reorganization of Macedonia in 167 BC, to prevent, according to Livy, that a demagogue could make use of it as a means to revolt against their authority.
The Council was a small group formed among some of the most eminent Macedonians, chosen by the king to assist him in the government of the kingdom. As such it was not a representative assembly, but notwithstanding that on certain occasions it could be expanded with the admission of representatives of the cities and of the civic corps of the kingdom.
The members of the Council (synedroi) belong to three categories:
- The somatophylakes (in Greek literally "bodyguards") were noble Macedonians chosen by the king to serve to him as honorary bodyguards, but especially as close advisers. It was a particularly prestigious honorary title. In the times of Alexander there were seven of them.
- The Friends (philoi) or the king's Companions (basilikoi hetairoi) were named for life by the king among the Macedonian aristocracy.
- The most important generals of the army (hégémones tôn taxéôn), also named by the king.
The king had in reality less power in the choice of the members of the Council than appearances would warrant; this was because many of the kingdom's most important noblemen were members of the Council by birth-right.
The Council primarily exerted a probouleutic function with respect to the Assembly: it prepared and proposed the decisions which the Assembly would have discussed and voted, working in many fields such as the designation of kings and regents, as of that of the high administrators and the declarations of war. It was also the first and final authority for all the cases which did not involve capital punishment.
The Council gathered frequently and represented the principal body of government of the kingdom. Any important decision taken by the king was subjected before it for deliberation.
Inside the Council ruled the democratic principles of isegoria (equality of word) and of parrhesia (freedom of speech), to which even the king subjected himself.
After the removal of the Antigonid dynasty by the Romans in 167 BC, it is possible that the synedrion remained, unlike the Assembly, representing the sole federal authority in Macedonia after the country's division in four merides.
Regional districts (Merides)
The creation of an intermediate territorial administrative level between the central government and the cities should probably be attributed to Philip II: this reform corresponded with the need to adapt the kingdom's institutions to the great expansion of Macedon under his rule. It was no longer practical to convene all the Macedonians in a single general assembly, and the answer to this problem was the creation of four regional districts, each with a regional assembly. These territorial divisions clearly did not follow any historical or traditional internal divisions; they were simply artificial administrative lines.
This said, it should be noted that the existence of these districts is not attested with certainty (by numismatics) before the beginning of the 2nd century BC.
- Roisman & Worthington 2010, Chapter 5: Johannes Engels, "Macedonians and Greeks", p. 92.
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- Herodotus. Histories, 5.22.
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