BIG Greek Lie 11

BIG Greek Lie 11 - Macedonian Monks Kiril and Metodi are Greek

(Many Greek believe Macedonian Brothers Kiril and Metodi are ethnically Greek)

By Risto Stefov

[NOTE: Our apologies to the Greek people if they find these articles offensive. Our objective here is NOT to create tension between the Macedonian and Greek people but rather to highlight the problem that exists within the Greek State and its institutions. As long as the Greek State denies our existence as Macedonians with rights and privileges, we will continue to publish these types of articles.]

Macedonia has been ravaged for its lands, its natural resources, its heritage, and its people but never for its identity and human contributions, that is, not until recently. What makes this particular incident sad and pathetic is that both Greece and Bulgaria are simultaneously laying claim to the contributions of Kiril and Metodi.

The Greeks claim that Kirilos and Methodios were ethnic Greek Monks from Thessaloniki who created the Cyrillic alphabet and gave it to the Slavs. A very generous "Greek gift" indeed. Although they don't explain how exactly Kirilos and Methodios were ethnic Greeks, they do say that they spoke Greek, a pre-requisite for being an ethnic Greek. After all they were born in Thessaloniki which according to popular modern Greek beliefs, Thessaloniki (Solun) is considered an "ancient ethnic Greek city".

To the Bulgarians Cyril and Methodius are "apostles" that delivered to them the first form of writing in their native Bulgarian tongue. To the Bulgarians, "Church Slavonic", the language spoken and taught by Kiril and Metodi, is synonymous with "Bulgarian". After all, according to modern popular Bulgarian beliefs, Solun (Thessaloniki), the birth place of Cyril and Methodius is Bulgarian Territory from Medieval times, from the time of the Great Bulgarian Empire.

So, who are we poor Macedonians to contest this and how can we compete with such great Greek and Bulgarian wisdom and know-how?

One can see why each side is desperately latching onto the idea that somehow Kiril and Metodi might belong to them, but can they not see the absurdity of it all? How can Kiril and Metodi, born in the capital of Macedonia, a pure Slavic city, not be Macedonians and simultaneously be both Greek and Bulgarian? Can they fool themselves any more?

Allow me to tell you a little more about Kiril and Metodi.

It was during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Michael III (842-867) that Solun had definitely established itself as the religious and philosophical center of the empire. This was the time when Kiril (Cyril) and Metodi (Methodius) set off on a series of missions to spread the doctrines of Christianity to various places in Eastern Europe and Asia.

I just want to mention here that by the eighth century AD the Macedonian eparchy was controlled by a Macedonian Archbishopric with its center located in Solun and bishoprics existed in eighteen towns including Lerin, Kostur, Voden and Serres.

The brothers Kiril and Metodi were Macedonians, natives of Solun, who were acclaimed as the "apostles" of the southern Slavs and the fathers of Slav literary culture. Kiril, the younger of the two, was given the name Constantine when he was baptized. It was much later that he received the name Kiril.

Kiril was very fortunate to have studied in Tsari Grad (Constantinople) at a young age and received his education from Leo the Grammarian and Photius, a prominent educator at the imperial university. Kiril was an extraordinary student and earned himself the nickname "the Philosopher". After he finished his education he was ordained deacon and later became professor of philosophy at the imperial school in Tsari Grad where he took over the chair from Photius. Soon afterwards he retired to the quiet solitude of a monastery. From there, in 861 AD, he was summoned by the emperor, Michael III, and sent on a mission to Christianize the Khazars of southern Russia who lived between the Dnieper and Volga Rivers.

The older brother Metodi was a well-liked, intelligent man who started his career in his father's footsteps. At first he served in the military in Solun. Later at age twenty he became governor of one of the Slav colonies in the Opsikion province in Asia. Then he became a monk and, like his brother, took part in a mission to Christianize the Khazars.

Kiril and Metodi were two of seven siblings. Their father Lev was a prominent Macedonian who served as assistant to the Solun military commander of the Pravoslav (Byzantine) army.

The careers of the Solun brothers took a turn for the better in 862 AD when Rostislav, the prince of Moravia, sent his ambassador to Tsari Grad seeking missionaries capable of teaching his people to read and write in their own language. Rostislav, fearful of his powerful German neighbours, sought the opportunity to strengthen his alliance with the Pravoslavs to counter-balance the German missionary influence in his kingdom. Rostislav preferred the ecclesiastical politics of Photius, now patriarch of Tsari Grad, over those of his western counterpart.

When word came that Emperor Michael was looking for capable missionaries, Photius decided that Kiril and Metodi were the most suitable candidates for the job. The Solun brothers, being Slav speakers themselves, knew the Solunian dialect of the Slav language well and accepted the task.

The old-Macedonian dialect was quite well understood by all the Slav tribes. Unfortunately, teaching the illiterate to read and write was easier said than done. Even though the Slavs had a written form of language described as "lines and incisions", it was not an easy language to learn.

Kiril was familiar with the Glagolic script but that was also too complex a language for illiterate people to grasp quickly. According to Tsarnorizets Hrabar, an advocate of Macedonian literacy, Kiril and Metodi first tried to use the Koine and then Latin alphabets, but proper pronunciation could not be achieved. Slav speech was far too complex to record with just Koine or Latin letters. Kiril was an intelligent man and solved the problem by constructing a new alphabet based on old Macedonian traditions. The pattern and some letters he based on the Koine alphabet but he enriched it by adding new letters. He borrowed some from the Glagolic script and some he fashioned from ancient Macedonian symbols that had traditional Macedonian meaning. "Peter Hill argues that Old Church Slavonic was more than merely a written dialect. It is naïve, he says, to imagine that this construction of a written language was possible without established tradition. Therefore it can safely be assumed that there was at least some tradition on which Cyril and Methodius could build. Presumably their familiarity with this tradition derived from the fact that they were Slavic themselves." (Page 198, John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1997)

When it was completed Kiril's alphabet consisted of 38 letters, each accurately and exactly representing a unique sound in Slav speech. The phonetic nature of Kiril's language made spelling words very simple. One only needed to learn the alphabet to have the ability to read and write. The same is true to this day.

In 862 AD Kiril and Metodi, along with a number of followers, arrived in Moravia in Rostislav's court. They immediately set out to work and to their surprise Kiril's vernacular was not only well understood but also became popular with the Moravians. The Pravoslav missionaries continued their work for a while, with much success, but were soon handicapped by the lack of Pravoslav bishops to ordain their priests. Also, their popularity with the Moravians displeased the German missionaries who saw them as competition and harshly objected to their presence.

German hostilities reached their peak when the German Emperor Louis forced Rostislav to take an oath of loyalty to him. The German prelate, the bishop of Passau, who had the power to ordain Pravoslav priests refused to do so out of contempt. Unable to continue their work the missionaries were forced to return to Tsari Grad. On their way back the Macedonian brothers took a detour through Venice where they learned that the Pope had excommunicated Photius, the Pravoslav Patriarch in Tsari Grad. Pravoslav missionaries and their liturgical use of the Macedonian language were vehemently criticized.

In 858 AD Emperor Michael III, on his own authority, deposed Patriarch Ignatius and replaced him with the more progressive Photius. The Pope, however, did not agree with Michael's decision and proclaimed his deeds invalid. At the same time the Pope denounced both Photius and the emperor.

When Pope Nicholas I found out that the Pravoslav missionaries were in Venice he summoned them to Rome. By the time they arrived, however, Nicholas had died and the political situation had changed for the better. In a turn of events Nicholas's successor, Adrian II, warmly welcomed the strangers, especially when he found out that they were bringing him an important gift. Kiril it seems had recovered some relics of Pope St. Clement when he was in the Crimea visiting the Khazars and offered them to Adrian as gifts.

When they arrived, Adrian conducted an investigation and found no misconduct on the part of the Pravoslavs. In his judgment he permitted Kiril and Metodi to receive Episcopal consecration and allowed their newly converted priests to be ordained. He also approved Slavonic to be used in liturgy.

Sadly, Kiril died on February 14, 869 AD in Rome and never made it back home. After Kiril's death Metodi pleaded with Pope Adrian to allow him to take his brother's body to Solun for burial but Adrian would not permit it. It was the wish of Kiril and Metodi's mother that if either son should die, the other would bring the body back for a decent burial in the family monastery. Unfortunately Adrian would not allow it claiming that it would not be fitting for the Pope to permit the body of so distinguished a Christian to be taken away. He declared that a man so famous should be buried in a famous place. Kiril was buried with great pomp in the church of San Clemente on the Coelian, where the relics of St. Clement had been enshrined.

After Kiril died Metodi took over the cause and leadership of the mission from his brother. Having been consecrated, he obtained a letter of recommendation from the Pope and the Holy See and quickly returned to his duties. At the request of Kozzel, prince of Pannonia, who at the time wanted to revive the ancient archdiocese of Sirmium (now Mitrovitsa), Metodi was made metropolitan (Archbishop). He was given a large area of responsibility with boundaries that extended to the borders of Bulgaria. Unfortunately as the political situation in Moravia was shifting, Metodi's title and his papal approval did not mean much to the western missionaries, especially the Germans who began a smear campaign against him. To make matters worse Rostislav's nephew, Svatopluk, allied himself with Carloman of Bavaria and had his uncle driven out. After that it did not take long before Metodi was in trouble again.

In 870 AD Metodi was summoned before a synod of German bishops. They found him guilty of misconduct, no doubt on trumped-up charges, and locked him up in a leaking jail cell. It took two years of pleading before Pope John VIII could get him out. Unfortunately, to avoid further controversies Pope John withdrew his permission to use Slavonic, a barbarous language as he called it, for any purpose other than preaching. At the same time he reminded the Germans that Pannonia was never German and since age immemorial it belonged to the Holy See.

After his release Metodi continued his work in Moravia but there too he got into trouble. Metodi did not approve of Svatopluk's wicked lifestyle and made his displeasure public. In retaliation Svatopluk reported Metodi to the Holy See. He accused him of conducting divine worship in Slavonic and of heresy, charging that he omitted the words "and the Son" from the creed. At that time these words where not yet introduced everywhere in the west.

In 878 AD, as a result of Svatopluk's accusations, Pope John VIII summoned Metodi to Rome and conducted an inquiry. Metodi, a serious man and a dedicated Christian, was able to convince the Pope both of his devotion to his religion and of the necessity to use Slavonic liturgy. Even though Pope John was in agreement with Metodi on most matters, he had certain reservations about the use of the Slavonic language. It seems that some of the western missionaries perceived the Slavonic language as a threat to their own mission and did everything in their power to condemn it. They alleged that, being created by mere men, the Slavonic language was not from God and that God had created the three principal languages, Hebrew, Koine and Latin. Metodi however fought back with equally persuasive arguments, counter-claiming that God did not create the Hebrew, Koine, or Latin languages. God created the Syrian language which Adam and the people after him spoke until the flood. Then during the building of the Tower of Babel, God distributed the various languages among the people and created the written form of the languages. His arguments may have bought Metodi some time but he was still in trouble with the German missionaries.

Seeing that he could not easily get rid of him, Svatopluk used his influence as king and persuaded the Pope to appoint Wiching, a known adversary, to work with Metodi. The German (or French) priest Wiching was brought in to assist Metodi as one of his bishops. Wiching was an implacable opponent of Metodi who worked against him tirelessly. This unscrupulous prelate continued to persecute Metodi even to the extent of forging pontifical documents.

After Metodi's death Wiching obtained the archiepiscopal see, banished Metodi's followers and undid as much as he could of Metodi's work in Moravia.

When Wiching was appointed as his assistant, Metodi must have realized that he was fighting a losing battle. In the last four years of his life he took a break from missionary work and translated most of the Bible from Koine to Slavonic. Metodi died in 885 AD probably from exhaustion. His funeral service was carried out in Koine, Slavonic and Latin. Metodi was very popular with the people and many came to his funeral to pay their last respects.

I just want to add here that Saints Kiril and Metodi were always celebrated in the lands of their missions and after 1880 they were also celebrated throughout the entire western world.


The Pravoslav (Upright and Glorious) Empire was multi-cultural and multi-ethnic in the modern sense of the word. Nationalism was not yet invented and no defined ethnicities existed at the time. If language can be used as an indicator of ethnicity, as the modern Greeks prefer to do, then Kiril and Methodi spoke both Slavic and Koine. Of course before the written Slavic language became codified, the Koine language was the official written language of the Pravoslav (Christian Orthodox) Church. As high ranking clergy of the Orthodox Church it was a requirement for Kiril and Methodi to speak and write in the Koine language.

If there was no written form of the Slavic language and if indeed Kiril and Methodi were Greek, how did they learn to speak Macedonian (Slavic)? Did they learn to speak the indigenous Macedonian language from their mother? If that were the case then their mother couldn't have been Greek. We know their father was not Greek. What self respecting "Greeks" would name their child "Lev", a Slavic name?

If their mother and father were not Greek then Kiril and Methodi were definitely not Greek either!

This makes the Greek claim that "Kirilos and Methodios" were Greek, another BIG Greek lie.

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