The name “Makednoi” or “Macedonians” is derived from the root mak-, as in the Greek adjective μακρύς (long), and originally meant the “tall ones” or “highlanders” in Greek. According to Herodotus, the Macedonians were the same tribe as the Dorians, who originally resided in the Pindus mountain range.
In the beginning of the last pre-Christian millennium, the Macedonians, whose main economic activity was animal husbandry, are found in the northern side of mount Olympos and around the ancient Macedonian mount (the mountains of Pieria).
Here, to the south of river Haliacmon, in Herodotus’ “land of Macedon”, on the foothills of the “Macedonian mount”, lays Aigai, the land with many goats, the first city of Macedon. Built at the beginning of the route that crossed the mountains and from the Macedonian basin led to the south, Aigai was an important centre playing a pivotal role in the region from as early as the 10th-8th century BC.
Isolated and safe in their self-sufficiency, which originated from their abundant livestock, their forested mountains and fertile valleys, the lack of ports and islands and thus their distance from any urge to turn to trade, to open up to the world and found colonies, the Macedonians, in the same way as the rest of the Greek tribes settled in the northernmost and north-westernmost regions, did not follow the economic, social and political developments that took place in the south and led to democracy; on the contrary, up until the 4th pre-Christian century, they preserved the traditional regime of monarchy. According to Herodotus, in the mid-7th century BC, when in southern Greece the old hierarchy fell into pieces, Perdiccas, a Dorian from Argos in Peloponnese, became king of Macedon and established the Temenid dynasty, which, according to legend, were true descendants of Hercules and, therefore, were no different from the kings in Iliad, who were similarly blood descendants of Zeus himself.
In the frontier tribe of the Macedonians, all institutions, customs and traditions typical of the Homeric society managed to survive while, at the same time, democracy was being established in the cities of the south. The ingenious king Philip II will, however, adopt several ideas and institutions from democracy, which he will integrate with old traditions to create the new political model of the “enlightened leadership”, the ideological foundation of the Hellenistic World states.
Written by: Aggeliki Kottaridi