UPPER MACEDONIA: HISTORICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW


MAP OF UPPER MACEDONIA ANCIENT REGIONS

ΚΑΤΕΒΑΣΤΕ ΤΟ ΚΕΙΜΕΝΟ ΣΕ ΜΟΡΦΗ PDF

Present-day Western Macedonia, a region bounded by mountain ranges of varying size and traversed by the river Haliakmon, belonged to the mountainous Upper Macedonia of antiquity, which extended beyond the borders of modern Greece and took in the river Erigon, lakes Achris (Achrid) and Prespa and the lands bounded by the Dautika, Babuna and Dren mountains to the north (fig. 1).

During the second millenium BC this region was a stopping-point in the migrations of the ‘far-wandering’ family of north-western Greek tribes, which included the Macedonians and the Dorians (Herodotus 1.56, 8.137-139; Thucydides 2.99). After a series of migrations, one branch of the family, the Argead Macedonians, who were ruled by the Temenidis, descendants of Temenos, the son of Heracles, settled in the area around Olympus. In the early 7th century BC, under their first known king, Perdiccas, they founded the state of Aegae. From Aegae which according to a later tradition was founded by the Argive Karanos in the 8th century BC and later from Pella, in about 400 BC, they continued to expand outwards for many centuries.

Upper Macedonia is mentioned for the first time in Herodotus -in two passages in particular. In the first (7.173.4) he describes the invasion of Thessaly by Xerxes’ army: ‘There was another way into Thessaly through upper Macedonia and Perrhaebea, near Gonnus -the pass, in fact, by which Xerxes’ army actually did come in.’ In the second (8.137-139), Herodotus narrates the adventures of Perdiccas (a descendant of Heracles and founder of the kingdom of Aegae), who, together with his brothers Gauanes and Aeropus, ‘had been expelled from Argos and had taken refuge in Illyria. Thence they crossed into upper Macedonia and went to the town of Lebaea’.

A clearer distinction between Upper and Lower Macedonia is provided by Thucydides in his narration of the clashes between the Athenians and the Spartans in northern Greece during the so-called ‘Peloponnesian War’ (2.99.1): ‘This force… prepared to descend from the mountains into the kingdom of Perdiccas in Lower Macedonia. In the interior there are Macedonians also -the Lyncestians, the Elimiots and other tribes -who are allies and dependants of the Macedonian King, but who have separate kings of their own. The part of the country on the sea-coast, known as Macedonia, was first acquired by Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and by his ancestors, who were originally Temenids from Argos… ‘. In the following two passages the distinction is equally clear: ‘(The Athenians) established themselves on the coast and made war in cooperation with Philip and the brothers of Derdas, who had invaded the country from the interior’ (1.59) and ‘The Macedonians… sent for further reinforcements of cavalry from their allies in the interior’ (2.100).

Strabo (7, C326) names four areas in Upper Macedonia that retained a certain degree of ‘freedom’ and autonomy under the Romans: ‘And in fact the regions about Lyncus, Pelagonia, Orestias and Elimeia used to be called Upper Macedonia, through later on they were by some also called Free Macedonia’. While discussing the natural river boundaries between Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia, the same author (7 frag. 12) links Upper Macedonia with the river Haliakmon: ‘The Peneius forms the boundary between Lower Macedonia, or that part of Macedonia which is close to the sea, and Thessaly and Magnesia; the Haliakmon forms the boundary of Upper Macedonia; and the Haliakmon also, together with the Erigon and the Axios and another set of rivers, form the boundary of the Epeirotes and the Paeonians.’

Referring to the Roman division of Macedonia into four merides (administrative districts) after the defeat of Perseus by Aemilius Paulus at Pydna in 168 BC, Livy mentions Upper Macedonia (‘trans montem Boram’) as being the fourth meris, centred on Pelagonia and bounded by Illyria and Epirus. He states that it was inhabited by the Eordoi, the Lyncestae and the Pelagones and included the regions of Atintania, Tymphaea and Elimeia.

According to modern historical research, Upper Macedonia consisted of the regions of Elimiotis with Tymphaea, Lyncestis, Orestis, Pelagonia with Derriopus, Eordaea, Atintania and Dassaretis. Most researchers agree on the inclusion of most of these areas, while those areas mainly to the north and north-west of Upper Macedonia and around Achrid that have not been included here could be allotted to the ‘other tribes in the interior’ mentioned by Thucydides (2.99), if indeed they were Macedonian and not Epirote. Certainly, part of Atintania and the area regarded as Dassaretis belonged to Epirus, while the area around Lynchnitis-Achrid can be included within Upper Macedonia. The drawing of these new boundaries of Upper Macedonia (which have been charted on a map produced by the Hellenic Army Geographical Service) has been based partly on historical research, both older and more recent, and partly on the findings of recent archaeological excavations, which have added a new dimension to the cultural physiognomy of Macedonia (map 1).

It is a well-known fact, then, that Upper Macedonia was a starting-point, a base for further expansion of the north-western Greek tribes, who, according to Herodotus, were known as Macedonians in the northern part of the region and Dorians in the southern part. According to Hesiod (8th century BC) Makedon was the brother of Magnetas, and both were the sons of Zeus and Thyia, the daughter of Deucalion and sister of Hellen. According to Hellanicus, a writer of the 5th century BC, Makedon was the son of Aeolus and grandson of Hellen. The importance of these ancient sources of which those just mentioned are but a small sample, lies in the fact that they show us how the southern Greeks perceived, from as early as the time of Homer, the unity of the Greek nation, of which the Macedonians formed an integral par -let us not forget, moreover, that the gods dwelt on Olympus.

Upper Macedonia, with the kingdoms of Elimeia, Tymphaea, Eordaea, Orestis, Lyncestis, Pelagonia and Derriopus, as well as other ‘upper tribes’, did not become socially and culturally isolated and weakened, as was, unfortunately, formerly claimed by researchers working only with a scant supply of archaeological and historical evidence. This fact has been demonstrated by the early dating, wealth, quality and character of the finds yielded by the systematic research at Aiani and elsewhere, which has made it necessary to re-examine earlier archaeological finds from a new perspective.

The discovery at Aiani of buildings and monumental tombs with related movable finds that date from the Archaic and Classical eras and automatically point to a unified Greek culture inevitably leads to the conclusion that organised cities with splendid architecture existed well before the unification of Macedonia as a whole under Philip II (359-336 BC), whom historians believe was responsible for founding the first cities/urban centres in Upper Macedonia. At the same time, the discovery of Archaic and Classical inscriptions, some of the earliest in the Macedonian region, provides tangible evidence of the ethnic identity of the Macedonians (figs 3, 4). The logical and inevitable conclusion is that, alongside the Argead Macedonians of Lower Macedonia, the Greek kingdoms of Upper Macedonia -Thucydides’ ‘upper tribes’– also possessed a high standard of living and culture in the 6th and 5th centuries BC.

The modern Prefectures of Kastoria, Florina, Kozani and Grevena formed part of Upper Macedonia, according to the division of Macedonia by ancient writers into Upper Macedonia (the mountainous part) and Lower Macedonia (the plains) (map 2). Upper Macedonia, then, consisted of individual kingdoms occupied by related ethnic groups-nations with a social and political system that was based, in the early years of their existence, on an agricultural and pastoral way of life. Within the geographical boundaries of the above prefectures lived the Orestae, the Lyncestae, the Eordoi, the Tymphaeans and the Elimiotae, who, up until late antiquity -despite the unification of the Macedonian kingdom, the development of cities as administrative centres and the Roman conquest- preserved their tribal organisation, as can be seen from the references to the ethnic appellation ‘Macedonian’ in the names the inhabitants gave themselves, e.g. Makedon Elimiotes (an Elimiot from Macedonia), Makedon Eordaios (an Eordaean from Macedonia). The final unification of Macedonia was achieved through the political and military genius of Philip II, who, through a continuous series of victories and skilful diplomatic manoeuvres, succeeded in integrating the kingdoms of Upper Macedonia, enlisting the nobles into the ranks of the hetaeroi (the King’s Companions or elite cavalry) and therefore weakening and breaking up the ruling houses. The annexation of Elimeia, as of the other regions ‘in the interior’, probably took place peacefully and was consolidated after the successful repulsion and crushing defeat of the Illyrians both by Philip (358 BC) and his general Parmenion (356 BC), who, like many other generals, came from Upper Macedonia (from Pelagonia, to be precise, north of the river Erigon, now called the Cerna).

It is certain that the ‘upper tribes’ made a decisive contribution to the victorious campaign to India, in which all of the Greeks ‘except the Spartans’ took part. Of the six brigades that Alexander the Great deployed in 330 BC, three of them came from Upper Macedonia, i.e. Elimeia, Orestis together with Lyncestis, and Tymphaea (Diodorus 17.57.2). Furthermore, they were governed for a long time by brigadiers (Coenus, son of Polemocrates from Elimeia; Perdiccas, son of Orontes, from Orestis; and Amyntas, son of Andromenes and later Polyperchon, son of Simmias, from Tymphaea), members of the royal houses of Upper Macedonia. Brigadiers like Craterus commanded brigades from other areas. Of the six brigades, three only were referred to by the term asthetairoi. This title, which was bestowed by Alexander the Great, was associated with a type of military honour awarded for exceptional services and was bestowed upon Macedonians from Upper Macedonia, who stood out for their resilience and endurance. In the 2nd century BC, and more specifically after the defeat of Perseus at Pydna in 168 BC, according to the settlement proclaimed by Aemilius Paulus at Amphipolis, Upper Macedonia became, as already noted the fourth meris. This status was probably preserved even after the defeat by the Roman army of the pretender to the Macedonian throne Andriscus in 148 BC, which led to Macedonia becoming a Roman province (provincia Macedonia), centred on Thessaloniki.

GEORGIA KARAMITROU-MENTESSIDI, DR. ARCHAOLOGIST

Source: https://www.mouseioaianis.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=343#myGallery1-picture(4)

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