Црна се чума зададе


Црна се чума зададе
там долу Македонија,
там долу Демир Капија.
Кој ќе се јунак избере
чумата да изгони
од жална Македонија.

Избрал се, ми се изнашол
млад Гоце Делчев војвода,
чумата да изгони
с' негова верна дружина.
Тој ојде Македонија
там долу Демир Капија.

Гоце на дружба говори:
Дружино, верна зговорна,
кога ќе вие врвите
низ моја града Кукуша
мајка ми ќе ве запраша:
Каде е Гоце војвода?
Вие ќе и нејзи кажете:
Гоце се, мајко, ожени
за мајка Македонија.

Виданка Георгиева

Добри Ставревски

Љубка Рондова


Гоце Делчев - цитати

Гоце Делчев - биографија

Delchev's death in NY Times

Гоце Делчев - видео

Гоце Делчев - слики


History of Macedonians 14

History of the Macedonian People - Constantine I and the Triumph of Christianity

History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 14 - Constantine I and the Triumph of Christianity

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

During the year 313 AD, from the great imperial city of Milan, Emperor Constantine, together with his co-Emperor Licinius, dispatched a series of letters informing all provincial governors to stop persecuting the Christians, thus revoking all previous anti-Christian decrees. All properties, including Christian places of worship, seized from them in the past were to be restored. This so called "Edict of Milan", by which the Roman Empire reversed its policy of hostility towards Christians, was one of the most decisive events in human history.

What brought on this sudden reversal?

Rational thinkers believed that Constantine had the foresight to realize that Christianity was a growing power and could be harnessed to work for the good of the empire. Christianity was a result of changing times and harnessing its power was of far greater benefit than following the current policy of attempting to destroy it.

Christianity at that time was disorganized and existed in cult form in sporadic pockets spread throughout the empire. Yet Constantine still had the foresight to see potential in it.

Christianity was a peripheral issue in Constantine's mind when he and his co-Emperor Licinius were about to face Maxentius and Maximin Daita in the greatest battle of their careers. It was at this decisive moment that Constantine experienced a vision which, not only changed his life but, was the turning point for Christianity.

In 312 AD, on the eve of the great battle, Constantine had an experience which swayed him towards Christianity. "A little after noon, as the sun began to decline...[Constantine] declared that he saw with his own eyes in the sky beneath the sun a trophy in the shape of a cross made of light with the inscriptions 'by this conquer.' He was astounded by the spectacle, as were the soldiers who accompanied him on the march and saw the miraculous phenomenon...But when he fell asleep God's Christ appeared to him with the sign which he had seen in the sky and instructed him to fashion a likeness of the sign and use it as a protection in the encounters of war." (Page 167, D. Fishwick, The Foundations of the West, Clark, Irwin & Company, Toronto, 1963).

I want to mention at this point that even though Constantine was swayed towards Christianity, he himself was personally devoted to Mars, the god of war, and Apollo, the god of the sun.

Whatever vision Constantine may have experienced, he attributed his victory to the power of "the God of the Christians" and committed himself to the Christian faith from that day forward.

Shortly after becoming involved with the Christians, Constantine discovered that there were many problems and a basic lack of unity within the Christian Church. Within the Christian realm there were those who took strict positions towards the behaviour of others because they had shown a lack of faith during the Christian persecutions. Yet others, like the Gnostics, had taken Jesus' message totally out of context. To work out these problems Constantine organized and chaired two synods, one in Rome in 313 AD and one in Arles, southern Gaul, in 314 AD. Even though much was accomplished there were still unresolved problems. Constantine could not get all parties to agree on a common Christian policy. Differences of opinion drove some factions to leave the main church and start separatist churches. One of these was the church of North Africa which possessed considerable power and resisted assimilation for over two centuries.

The Christian Church was not Constantine's only problem. There were difficulties with sharing power with his brother in law Licinius. The agreement of 313 AD, which had been born out of necessity not mutual good will, was beginning to unravel. Hostilities between the two emperors continued to build and erupted in 316 AD, in what later came to be known as the first war. Two battles were fought, the first at Cibalae in Pannonia and the second on the campus Ardiensis in Thrace. During the first battle Licinius's army suffered heavy losses. In the second battle neither side won a clear victory. A settlement was eventually reached which allowed Licinius to remain Augustus but required him to cede all of his European provinces, except for Thrace, to Constantine.

As part of the agreement with Licinius, Constantine announced the appointment of three Caesars on March 1st, 317 AD in Serdica (modern Sofia). Among the appointees were Constantine's two sons, twelve year old Crispus and seven month old Constantine. Licinius's twenty month old son Licinius was also named Caesar. Unfortunately the new agreement was fragile and tensions between the emperors were again surfacing. This was partly due to Constantine and Licinius not being able to agree on a common policy regarding the Christian religion and partly due to the suspicious nature of the two men. Licinius was growing uneasy with Constantine's relationship with the Christian power base. He saw Christians being promoted above their pagan counterparts and Christian soldiers getting the day off on Sunday. Furthermore a growing list of favours, powers and immunities were being granted to Christians, with which Licinius did not agree.

War erupted again in 324 AD and this time Constantine defeated Licinius twice, first at Adrianople in Thrace and then at Chrysopolis on the Bosporus near the ancient city of Byzantium. Licinius was captured but not executed because Constantine's sister, Constantia, pleaded with him to spare her husband's life. Some months later however, still suspicious of Licinius, Constantine ordered his execution. Not too long afterwards, the younger Licinius too fell victim to Constantine's suspicions and was also executed. Constantine was now the sole and undisputed master of the Roman Empire.

Immediately after his victory over Licinius in 324 AD, Constantine began the construction of his new capital, the "City of Constantine". This would be a Christian city fit for Kings that would not only rival, but would surpass the glory of Rome.

Power was where the Emperor was, and the Emperor was now in his own city in the hub of activity just at the edge of Greece.It was a purely a Greek city, it had the elements of Greek culture and tradition. It was a very un-Roman city in language and culture and not only imitated the Greek cities of Alexandria and Antioch but with time surpassed their cultural and academic achievements. Constantinople was going to be the power base of a new empire, a revival of Alexander the Great's Greek empire with a Christian twist. "This 'Eastern' or Byzantine empire is generally spoken of as if it were a continuation of the Roman tradition. It is really far more like a resumption of Alexander's Hellenic empire." (Page 478, H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Garden City Books, New York, 1961).[1]

While Constantine was building his new city, his mother Helena undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was instrumental in the building of the Churches of the Nativity at Bethlehem and Eleona on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives.

On November 8th, 324 AD Constantine formally laid out the boundaries of his new city, roughly quadrupling the territory of old Byzantium. While his architects were designing his new city, Constantine and his army, numbering about 120,000 troops, were established in Thessaloniki. Even before moving to Thessaloniki in 324 AD, Constantine had the old Thessaloniki harbour renovated and expanded to fit his fleet of 200 triakondores galleons and about 2,000 merchant ships.

By 328 AD the walls of Constantinopel were completed and the new city was formally ready for dedication in May 330 AD. Soon after the city was opened, Constantine ordered the construction of two major churches, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) and Hagia Eirena (Holy Peace) and began laying the foundation of a third church, the Church of the Holy Apostles.

Unlike Rome, which was filled with pagan monuments and institutions, Constantinople was essentially a Christian city with Christian churches and institutions. While Constantinople was shaping to be a Christian city, the prevailing character of Constantine's government was one of conservatism. His adoption of Christianity did not lead to a radical reordering of society or to a systematic revision of the legal system. Generally refraining from sweeping innovations, he retained and completed most of what Diocletian had set out to do, especially in provincial administration and army organization.

While implementing currency reforms, Constantine instituted a new type of coin, the gold solidus, which won wide acceptance and remained the standard currency for centuries to come. Some of Constantine's measures show a genuine concern for the welfare and morality of his subjects, even for the condition of slaves. By entrusting some government functions to the Christian clergy he actually made the church an agency of the imperial government. Constantine also showed great concern for the security of his empire, especially at the frontiers. Even though he made Constantinople his capital, Thessaloniki still remained a pole around which his empire was defended. Because of its secure harbour, Thessaloniki flourished economically and experienced much cultural growth.

Constantine campaigned successfully from 306 to 308 AD and again from 314 to 315 AD. He experienced action on the German frontier in 332 AD against the Goths and again in 334 AD against the Sarmatians. He even fought near his homeland in 336 AD on the Danube frontier. As he was getting of age, Constantine made arrangements for his succession and appointed to the position of Caesars, his three sons Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans, 317 AD, 324 AD, and 333 AD respectively. He then appointed his nephew Flavius Dalmatius, son of Constantius I and Theodora, Caesar in 335 AD. Unfortunately he never made it clear which of his successors was intended to take the leading role upon his death.

Between the years 325 and 337 AD, Constantine continued to support the Christian Church by donating generous gifts of money and by passing helpful legislation. His kindness to the Christians was not restricted to the city of Constantinople alone. He also founded the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Golden Octagon in Antioch. Even with all his kindness Constantine was not spared misfortune and shortly after Easter on April 3rd, 337 AD Constantine began to feel ill. He traveled to Drepanum, later named Helenopolis in honour of his mother, and prayed at the tomb of his mother's favourite saint, the martyr Lucian. From there he went to the suburbs of Nicomedia where he was baptized by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. A few weeks later on May 22nd, the day of Pentecost, Constantine died. His body was escorted to Constantinople and lay in state in the imperial palace. His sarcophagus was then placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles, as he himself had instructed in his will. His sarcophagus was surrounded by the memorial steles of the Twelve Apostles, symbolically making him the thirteenth Apostle.

Constantine's failure to specifically appoint his successor sparked a conflict among the Caesars in the palace. After eliminating Flavius Dalmatius and other rivals in a bloody coup, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans each assumed the rank of Augustus. Constantine's army, faithful from the day they crowned him until his death, vowed they would have no other but his sons to rule them. The army, in a violent bloodbath, killed everyone who did not qualify, including two of Constantine's half brothers. The only ones to escape were two of his nephews, Gallus and Julian.

At this point I would like to take a short diversion and examine what was happening throughout the empire.

As I mentioned earlier, while the Roman Empire was decaying, Germanic tribes were growing in strength and pressing from the north. Around 236 AD the Franks were descending upon the lower Rhine and the Alamanni were overrunning Alsace in France. Earlier I mentioned the Goths from southern Russia were overrunning the Black Sea pouring into the Aegean and attacking the province of Ducia.

By late third century most barbarian invasions were repealed but not entirely destroyed. During 321 AD the Goths were again plundering what is now Serbia and Bulgaria but were soon driven back by Constantine I. Then in 337 AD, pressed by the Goths, the Vandals were permitted to cross the Danube and enter Pannonia, part of modern day Hungary (west of the Danube). By the mid-fourth century the Hunnish people to the east were again building up forces and pressing on the Visigoths. The Visigoths, following the Vandal example, also entered Roman territory. But before any agreements could be reached they attacked Andrianople and killed the Emperor Valens. In spite of their violent ways the Visigoths were allowed to settle in what is now Bulgaria. Their settlement was conditional however, requiring their armies to submit to Roman rule. Each army was allowed to remain in the command of its own chief.

The major players in the barbarian armies of the time were Alaric of the Visigoths, Stilicho of the Pannonian Vandals and a Frank who commanded the legions of Gaul. Emperor Theodosius, a Spaniard, was in command of the Gothic auxiliaries. The true power, however, was in the hands of Alaric and Stilicho the two barbarian competitors who wasted no time in splitting the empire between themselves. Alaric took control of the eastern Greek speaking half and Stilicho took the western Latin speaking half.

At about the same time the empire was being split in two, the Huns appeared on the scene and began to enlist in Stilicho's army. Frequent clashes between east and west began to weaken the empire and opened the door for more barbarian invasions. Fresh Vandals, more Goths, Alans and Suevi all began to penetrate the frontiers of the empire. In 410 AD, amidst the confusion, Alaric marched down Italy capturing Rome after a short siege. By 425 AD the Vandals, of present day East Germany, and the Alani, of present day southeast Russia, overran Gaul and the Pyrenees and had settled in the southern regions of modern day Spain. The Huns were in possession of Pannonia and the Goths of Dalmatia. Around 451 AD the Czechs settled in Moravia and Bohemia. The Visigoths and Suevi, in the meantime, pressed their way westwards and ended up north of the Vandals in present day Portugal. Gaul meanwhile was divided between the Visigoths, Franks and Burgundians.

By 449 AD present day Britain was invaded by the Jutes, a Germanic tribe, the Angles and the Saxons who in turn were pushing out the Keltic British to what is now modern Brittany in France. The Vandals from south of Spain had crossed over into North Africa by 429 AD, occupied Carthage by 439 AD, and invaded, raided and pillaged Rome by 455 AD. After ransacking Italy they crossed into Sicily and set up a Vandal kingdom which lasted up to 534 AD. At its peak, which was around 477 AD, the Vandal kingdom occupied North Africa, Corsica, Sardinia, and the Balearic Isles. The Vandal kingdom was ruled by a handful of Vandals whose Vandal population numbered no more than eighty thousand men, women and children. The rest of the population consisted of passive non-Vandals who, under the Vandal occupation, found relief from the Roman burden of slavery and taxation. The Vandals had in effect exterminated the great landowners, wiped clean all debts to Roman moneylenders and abolished military service.

While the Vandals ruled the western Mediterranean, a great leader Attila was consolidating his power among the Huns east of the Danube. At its peak, Attila's empire of Hunnish and Germanic tribes stretched from the Rhine to central Asia. Attila was said to be the first westerner to negotiate on equal terms with the Chinese emperor.

For ten years, while he was passionately in love with Emperor Theodosius II's granddaughter Honoria, Attila bullied Ravenna and Constantinople. During his rule, Attila destroyed seventy cities, some of them in Macedonia, and came upon the walls of Constantinople forcing an uneasy peace on the emperor. The peace treaty however, in spite of her disappointment, did not include Honoria. Even though Honoria voluntarily offered to marry Attila, the emperor would not allow it. Attila was not disappointed.

In 451 AD Attila declared war on the Western Empire and invaded Gaul sacking most of the French cities down to south of Orleans. Just as Attila was ravaging Gaul, the Frank, Visigoth and imperial armies joined forces for a counter offensive. Before the year was over Attila's army was cut off at Troyes and the Mongolian overlord was forced out of France. Beaten but not destroyed Attila turned his attention southward, overrunning northern Italy, burning Aquileia and Padua, and looting Milan. Attila died in 453 AD and subsequently the Huns dissolved into the surrounding population and disappeared from history.

In 493 AD, after seventeen years without an emperor, Theodoric, a Goth, became King of Rome thus putting an end to the rule of god-Caesars and rich men. The Roman imperial system of western Europe and north Africa collapsed and ceased to exist. The Roman had come and gone but what remained was no longer Roman. The west, for almost five hundred years after its fall, experienced a period of decline, which later became known as the Dark Ages.

Out of the ashes of the Roman Empire rose a new empire known as the "Eastern" or "Byzantine" Empire. Many would agree that this was the revival or re-birth of Alexander the Great's old Hellenic empire. Some even called it the "stump" of Alexander the Great's empire.

Along with the re-birth of the Hellenic Empire, the Koine Greek language resurfaced and took its rightful place not only as the language of the intellectuals but also as the language of administration. The Latin language had neither the intellectual vigour nor the literature or science necessary to captivate intelligent men and women. Ever since its humble beginning the new empire was Greek speaking, a continuation of the Greek-Macedonian tradition.(pages 519,520,522, H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Garden City Books, New York, 1961)[2] [3] [4]It seems that Latin even lost its way in the west only to be replaced by the languages of the barbarians. While the Roman social and political structure was being smashed in the west, the east was embracing a renewed Greek tradition. Some say Constantine the Great may have been a Greek (page 450, H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Garden City Books, New York, 1961)[5] but it is more appropriate to say that he was half Illyrian half Greek, building a new Hellenic empire and following in the footsteps of his ancestors.

As I mentioned earlier, after Constantine's death his three sons inherited the rule of the empire. The west was to be shared between the eldest and youngest sons, Constantine II and Constans, while the middle son Constantius was to rule the east. Unhappy with the arrangement, a conflict broke out in 340 AD between Constantine II and Constans, resulting in Constantine II's death. After that Constans assumed sole rule of the west until he was deposed and executed by his own troops in 350 AD.

After Constans's death the army recognized one of its own officers. But in 351 AD the usurper's authority was challenged in battle and he was defeated. After that Constantius remained the sole ruler of the entire empire.

While Constantius set out west to personally deal with the usurper, he appointed his young cousin, Gallus, guardian of the east. Gallus unfortunately turned out to be a terrible ruler and quickly fell out of favour. After three years of rule Constantius had him executed.

In 355 AD, before embarking on an eastern campaign, Constantius recalled his last surviving cousin Julian and appointed him guardian of the west to defend the western frontier against the Franks and Alamans. Before sending him off, however, he had him married off to his sister Helena.

Unlike his brother Gallus, Julian was good at his job and in his five years of service he cleansed the western provinces of intruders and improved the western economy. Unfortunately, Julian was exceeding expectations and made Constantius uneasy. To alleviate his concerns, Constantius made an attempt to remove Julian but his effort failed. Julian was a great leader and the army in Gaul refused to give him up. In February 360 AD, with total disregard for Constantius's orders, the army in Gaul proclaimed Julian, Augustus. After some hesitation Julian accepted the position. Fortunately Constantius died before he attempted to remove him.

Having no capable heir to replace himself with, on his deathbed in 361 AD, Constantius appointed Julian his successor. Julian accepted the position and reigned as sole Augustus until June 363 AD.

Constantius was anti-pagan and introduced policies to exterminate pagan cults. Julian, on the other hand, was tolerant of all religions, especially Mithraism and encouraged all sorts of religious practices. In 356 AD, when Constantius was sole ruler of the empire, he decreed the death penalty for all those found sacrificing or worshiping idols. Julian, on the other hand, not only repealed the discriminatory decree but also removed Christians from office and discontinued the provision of subsidies for Christian projects including those for welfare. He even took a step further and proclaimed open and all-inclusive tolerance of all religions in the empire. Julian may have been a visionary but unfortunately he was ahead of his time. His policies of tolerance not only didn't work but conflicts between the various religions began to erupt.

One of Julian's accomplishments during his rule was the reformation of the Empire's educational system. He was responsible for widening the scope of subjects taught, made requirements that all teachers be licensed and forbade Christians to teach in state schools. Unfortunately for Julian, Christianity by now was so well rooted in his empire that many of his reforms were ignored. On the positive side, however, Julian initiated a number of great construction projects, including the massive fortification of the walls of Solun.

Julian died on June 26th, 363 AD from a spear wound during a campaign against the Persians in Asia. Julian was the last male of the house of Constantine. Due to his sudden death he had made no provisions for a successor. It was now up to the senior officers of his army to select the new ruler.

The man who accepted the call to duty was a young officer named Jovian, a Nicaean Christian. Flavius Jovianus (Jovian) was born in 331 AD at Singidunum, near modern day Belgrade. Jovian's first priority was to return Christianity to the empire, thus ending paganism and the religious rivalries introduced by Julian's reforms.

Nicaea was located in Bithynia in modern day northwestern Turkey and was an important city for Christianity. It was in Nicaea that Constantine I, in 325 AD, gathered a council to settle disputes caused by the "Arian views" of the Trinity.

Arius was an Alexandrian priest who believed that Christ was not of the same essence as God. After some deliberation the council disagreed with Arius's views. Instead they adopted what came to be known as the "Nicene Creed" which declared that "Christ and God were of the same essence". Among other things, the Nicaean council also decided when Easter was to be celebrated and summarized a number of important articles regarding the Christian faith.

Even under the powerful defense of the Constantine dynasty, which lasted approximately 70 years from 293 AD to 363 AD, the eastern empire was not immune to attacks. Earlier in this document I gave a preview of what happened in the western part of the empire, now let us turn our attention to the east.

Long before the Constantine dynasty came to power, while the Roman Empire was experiencing decay, the Persian Empire began to experience a revival. Iran became the Parthian center of culture, first under the Arsacids and later under the Sassanids. Around 241 AD Sassanian forces, under the leadership of Shapur, defeated the Kushan Empire. After a number of campaigns an Iranian dynasty once again came to rule the lands as far east as Indus. Not long after seizing Iran, Shapur's armies crossed into the Caucasus and seized Armenia, Georgia and Albania (north of modern day Azerbaijan).

After his successes in Asia, Shapur turned his attention westward and attacked Antioch. The city defenses turned out to be more formidable than expected and a stalemate was reached. To end the stalemate, Shapur, in 244 AD, was bribed by the Romans to stop the siege. The prize for Shapur's withdrawal was accession of Armenia and Mesopotamia.

Dissatisfied with what he considered "small gains", Shapur tried again in 256 AD and this time snatched Antioch from the Romans. The city was taken by surprise and ransacked by Sassanian troops. Captives were carried off and resettled in various parts of Iran. Soon after the sacking, Emperor Valerian paid a visit to Antioch only to find the beautiful city in ruins, occupied by Iranian troops. The city was retaken by the Romans but before they had a chance to rebuild it, Shapur struck and took it again in 260 AD. In the process he shattered the Roman army of seventy thousand troops and captured Valerian. Luckily, Valerian had allies in Palmyra who came to his rescue. Even though they came too late to save Valerian, the Syrian and Arab troops attacked the Sassanian army inflicting on them considerable damage. After their defeat the Sassanians were kept in check by the Romans in the west and by the Palmyrans in the east.

While the Sassanians were kept down, the Romans slowly re-took Armenia through appointments of pro-Roman rulers to the Armenian throne. But that did not last long. After Shapur's death, his son Shapur II ceded the Sassanian throne and a new round of hostilities commenced that would last from 338 to 363 AD.

Trouble started when Shapur II, dethroned the Roman installed king of Armenia. Unhappy about the incident, Constantine reacted by making threatening statements about the power of his new Christian God, which provoked Shapur to take revenge on Christians in the Sassanian Empire.

Jovian finally brought the hostilities to an end after Julian's death. Unfortunately the price for peace was costly. Jovian had to give back the trans-Tigrine provinces which Diocletian seized earlier. He also had to concede a large portion of northern Mesopotamia, including the fortress of Nisibis, and the Roman claim to Armenia back to Shapur. If that was not enough, the cities of Singara and Nisibis were also surrendered to Shapur. For all these concessions all Shapur had to do was allow safe passage for the fleeing inhabitants of the cities and guarantee the neutrality of the pro-Roman king of Armenia.

Jovian died at the age of thirty-two on February 17th, 364 AD at Dadastana on the boundary between Bithynia and Galatia. His death was most probably due to natural causes. Some attributed it to overeating.

Was Jovian another Greek, or should I say Byzantine? Although official history does not record him as one, considering his name and where he was born, he could have easily been one.

At this point I would like to take another short diversion and present a famous figure of this era that is not only popular in Greece, but is famous worldwide.

To the Christians he is known by several names including Saint Nicholas, Sinter Klaus and Santa Claus. No one is certain when he was born but it was sometime in the middle of the fourth century. St. Nicholas was probably a native of Patara in Lycia, Asia Minor. There are far more legends about his miraculous good deeds than there are clear details about his life.

Nicholas, during his early career, was a monk in the monastery of Holy Zion near Myra and was eventually made Abbot by the founding Archbishop. When the See of Myra, the capital of Lycia, fell vacant Nicholas was appointed Archbishop. It is said that he suffered for his Christian Faith under Emperor Diocletian and was present at the Council of Nicaea as an opponent of Aryanism.

St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th the day he died and his soul entered Heaven. But most western countries today combine St. Nicholas's day with that of gift giving and celebrate both days together at Christmas.

The most famous story told about St. Nicholas has to do with three young sisters who were very poor. Their parents were so poor that they did not have enough money to provide for marriages. In those days, every young girl needed money for a dowry, to pay for her wedding and to set up house. Nicholas heard of this poor family and wanted to help but he did not want his involvement known. There are several versions to this story, but in one version, Nicholas climbed up the roof three nights in a row and threw gold coins down the chimney hoping that they would land in the girls' stockings, which had been hung by the fire to dry. As a result of the mysterious donations appearing in the stockings two nights in a row, two of the three girls had enough money to get married. Curious as to who the benefactor was, the next night the girls' father hid behind the chimney in wait. To his surprise, along came Bishop Nicholas with another bag of money. Nicholas did not want to be identified and begged the father not to tell anyone. But the father was so grateful for the good deeds that he could not hold back and told everyone what a good and generous man Bishop Nicholas was. This is how the story and later the tradition of gift giving and the stuffing of stockings started.

Nicholas, as a young man, studied in Alexandria, Egypt. While on one of his voyages during a storm, he saved the life of a sailor who fell from the ship's rigging. His actions earned him the title Patron Saint of Sailors. During another encounter he miraculously rescued some young boys from a vat of brine, thereby becoming the patron of schoolboys. The characteristic virtue of St. Nicholas, however, appears to have been for his love and charity to the poor. Because of this and the many legends surrounding his work, St. Nicholas is regarded as the special patron of seafarers, scholars, bankers, pawnbrokers, jurists, brewers, coopers, travelers, perfumers, unmarried girls, brides, and robbers. But most of all he is the very special saint of children.

Around 540 AD, Emperor Justinian built a church at Constantinople in the suburb of Blacharnae in St. Nicholas's honor. History and legend are intertwined in the story of Nicholas's life and he has been widely honoured as a saint since the sixth century. No less than 21 "miracles" have been attributed to him. Nicholas died at Myra in 342 AD.

After Jovian's sudden death in 364 AD a number of leading Imperial officials met in Nicaea to select a new emperor. After some deliberation a forty-three-year-old officer of the Imperial bodyguard named Valentinian was chosen. Valentinian, whose full name was Flavius Valentinianus, was a devout Christian born in 321 AD at Cibalis (modern Vinkovci) in southern Pannonia (perhaps another Greek?). Valentinian was not of noble blood and had risen through the ranks to become a great general. He had no great education but did have a bad temper and contempt for those with education. During his reign he was a competent soldier who took some interest in the administration but was overly trusting of his subordinates.

As soon as Valentinian was proclaimed emperor the army demanded that he select a co-emperor. By now it had become apparent that the empire could not be ruled by a single man. To help him rule his huge empire Valentinian appointed his younger brother Valens, emperor of the east. Although this was not the first time that co-emperors reigned over the empire, this would be the beginning of a permanent separation. Three decades later East and West would briefly be reunited under the leadership of Emperor Theodosius. Upon Theodosius's death, in 395 AD, the empire would again be divided between his sons Arcadius and Honorius. From this time forward the division would be permanent and East and West would be ruled separately.

In 367 AD Valentinian suffered a serious illness. After his recovery he learned that discussions had been taking place as to who might succeed him. To be safe Valentinian had his eight year-old son, Gratian, proclaimed Augustus.

Valentinian spent 365 to 375 AD in Trier where he conducted a number of campaigns against the Alamanni. In November 375 AD, enraged by offensive remarks made by some barbarian envoys, Valentinian died of a stroke. His associates, fearing mistreatment at the hands of Gratian's advisors, proclaimed Valentinian's four-year-old younger son Valentinian II, Augustus. Even though Gratian and Valens had no desire to see Valentinian II made Augustus, they agreed to allow him to rule Italy, Africa and Illyricum.

While Valens was occupied in Syria throughout the early 370s AD, keeping an eye on the Persians, a crisis was developing in the northern frontiers and war erupted. The Goths crossed the Danube in 376 AD, which I mentioned earlier, attacked Adrianople and killed Emperor Valens.

After Valens' disastrous defeat in 378 AD, Gratian appointed Theodosius emperor in the east. Theodosius' father was executed for having fallen out of favour with Valentinian I. In spite of that, Theodosius graciously accepted the job and immediately began to put his military talents to good use strengthening the East. Theodosius chose Solun as his base from which to wage war against the Goths.

On the western front in 383 AD, British troops, led by Magnus Maximus, rebelled and invaded Gaul. Unprepared to meet this threat Gratian's soldiers deserted him. Gratian was not very popular with his troops because he preferred to hunt and participate in sports over leading his men into battle. Unable to escape, Gratian was caught by Maximus in Lugdunum (Lyons) on August 25th, 383 AD and was murdered by Maximus's troops.

After Gratian's death, Valentinian II (Gratian's half brother) should have inherited the entire western half of the empire. Unfortunately, he was no more than a nominal ruler and allowed Magnus Maximus to exist. Italy was all he had and even there the real power was held by his mother Justina.

In 387 AD Maximus invaded Italy, forcing Justina and Valentinian to flee. Mother and son sought refuge in Solun with Theodosius where a counter force was put together which attached and defeated Maximus. Unfortunately Maximus's defeat cost Justina her life.

Valentinian II returned to Italy but quickly fell under the influence of his Frankish General, Arbogastes. Arbogastes was a treacherous man who slowly replaced all of Valentinian's important officers and government officials with his own loyal men. When Valentinian attempted to oust him, Arbogastes had him assassinated.

After Valentinian's death, Arbogastes placed Eugenius, a popular pagan philosopher, on the throne. His actions unfortunately did not sit well with Theodosius who, in 394 AD, sent his army to deal with Arbogastes. The two armies met in the passes of the Julian Alps near the river Frigidus. Theodosius decimated the army and captured and killed Eugenius. A few days later Arbogastes committed suicide.

With the removal of Eugenius and Arbogastes, Theodosius assumed control of the entire empire. Flavius Theodosius was born in Cauca, Spain in about 346 AD. As I mentioned earlier, Gratian appointed him emperor of the east in 378 AD.

Theodosius left his legacy in Macedonia in 390 AD when he massacred seven thousand Solunian civilians. As the story goes, while in Solun the local garrison, consisting mainly of Goths, was in bad favour with the Solunian citizens and during a riot a number of Goth officers were murdered and their bodies abused. Unhappy about the situation, Theodosius retaliated by sending yet another Gothic garrison to the city. During one of the chariot races the hippodrome gates were suddenly shut so no one could escape and the Goth soldiers took their revenge, murdering the spectators in cold blood.

When Ambrose, one of the high ranking bishops, found out about the massacre he was outraged and excommunicated the emperor, denying him access to the church for some months. Such a spectacle was unprecedented and for the first time an Emperor was under the control of a Bishop. After that Theodosius was totally under the thrall of Ambrose and ordered a full-scale assault on pagan practices. In 391AD the law banned all sacrifices, public and private, and all pagan temples were officially closed. Then in 392 AD all forms of pagan religious worship were formally prohibited everywhere in the empire.

Theodosius died on January 17, 395 AD leaving the empire to his two sons. The older son Arcadius was left in charge of the east and the younger, Honorius, was left in charge of the west. Unlike previous divisions where power was shared, this division was decisive and permanent. The accession of Arcadius and Honorius is widely viewed as the final division of the empire into two completely separate parts. Thus 395 AD was the official birth of what later came to be known as the 'Byzantine Empire' or as the Byzantines came to call it, the 'Roman Empire' (Romaiki Aftokratoria).

When Arcadius was made Emperor he was too young to rule alone so Flavius Rufinus his guardian, a praetorian prefect of the east, held the reins of power. Similarly, at his accession Honorius was only twelve years old so Theodosius had appointed Stilicho, as guardian to watch over matters of state for him. While Rufinus was the strong man in the east and Stilicho effectively controlled the west, both men were highly ambitious and unscrupulous.

Rivalries between the two men began to surface when Stilicho made claims that he too was asked by the late Theodosius to guard, at least in part, over Arcadius's affairs. The conflicting claims most certainly implied that the possibility for cooperation between the two rivals was diminishing and the two powers behind the thrones were headed on a collision course.

The inevitable happened when the Visigoths, who were settled along the Danube under the leadership of Alaric, rebelled. The barbarians smashed their way through the Balkans into Macedonia devastating all that was in their path. Stilicho, under the pretext of wanting to help the eastern empire, intervened and marched his troops into Macedonia. He did back off and withdrew when ordered by Rufinus, but not before leaving him a present.

During his withdrawal Stilicho left behind a few legions, commanded by a Gothic general named Gainas, with orders to deliver the troops to the Eastern Empire. As the troops marched into Constantinople Rufinus came out to greet them. Instead of extending their hands, the soldiers extended their swords and stabbed Rufinus to death. This was a gift from Stilicho to Rufinus for meddling in Stilicho's affairs. Unfortunately, this incident did irreparable damage to the relations between east and west.

With Rufinus dead and the Visigoths still rampaging Macedonia, Constantinople formally requested assistance from Stilicho. But in 397 AD when Stilicho was making his way into Macedonia, Alaric and his Visigoths disappeared. Stilicho's failure to remove the troublesome Goths forced Constantinople to negotiate directly with the barbarians. Alaric agreed to stop his aggressions and for his cooperation was made 'Master of Soldiers' in Macedonia and the Balkans.

It was unclear whether Alaric evaded Stilicho or Stilicho intentionally allowed Alaric to escape but Stilicho's failure to capture him cast suspicions that would have future consequences.

The real champion of the east turned out to be a woman named Eudoxia (Arcadius's wife) who mustered enough strength and repelled the Visigoth hostilities away from Constantinople . After her success, the strong-minded Eudoxia appointed herself to the rank of Augusta and ruled until she died of a miscarriage in 404 AD. Before dying she made sure her one-year old son Theodosius II was elevated to the rank of Augustus.

Four years later in 408 AD Arcadius died of natural causes leaving his empire to his son Theodosius II.

Stilicho was accused of plotting with Alaric to depose Honorius and for elevating his own son, Eucherius, to emperor of the west. A staged mutiny by his troops in 408 AD forced Stilicho to surrender and Honorius had him executed.

With Stilicho out of the way, Alaric marched on Rome and on August 24th, 410 AD he and his Visigoths sacked the city for three days until there was nothing left. Alaric died at Consentia in 410 AD.

It is my intention from here on to focus only on events that are relevant to the Eastern Empire and to Macedonia.

Even though Theodosius II succeeded his father without any violence, he was still an infant and the regency of Constantinople fell to a praetorian prefect named Anthemius. Anthemius was a competent leader and not only averted a food crisis in Constantinople but also established good relations with the west, repelled the Hun invasions from the north and confirmed peace with the Persians and with the cities along the Danube. Anthemius also made sure Macedonia and the Balkans were given enough aid to help them recover from the Goth devastations.

The sacking of Rome by the barbarians was a wakeup call for Anthemius who took extensive measures to make sure the same did not happen to Constantinople . So in 413 AD a major project was undertaken to build what was appropriately named the great 'Wall of Theodosius', which encircled the city beyond the original Wall of Constantine.

In 414 AD Theodosius II claimed his regency from Anthemius and proclaimed his fifteen-year-old sister Aelia Pulcheria, Augusta. Then in 416 AD when Theodosius II was fifteen years old, in his own right, he was declared ruler of Constantinople . Pulcheria continued to play a part in Theodosius's government but only as an administrator. Theodosius II was Augustus for forty-nine years and ruled the Byzantine Empire for forty-two years. This was the longest reign in the history of the empire. Theodosius II died in 450 AD from a spinal injury after falling off his horse while riding near the river Lycus.

The most memorable accomplishment in Theodosius's career was the 'Theodosian Code' which was published in 438 AD. The Code, made up of sixteen books which took eight years to put together, was a compilation of imperial edicts stretching back to over a century. After the Code's publication, a university was founded in Constantinople to teach philosophy, law and theology from a Christian perspective.

In 447 and 448 AD Constantinople experienced a number of earthquakes which destroyed most of the city, including large parts of the city walls and coastal defenses. Through the great efforts of its citizens repairs to the walls were made in haste and soon afterwards new walls with ninety-two towers were added between the repaired wall and the moat. The result was the famous 'triple defense' which repelled invaders and kept the city safe for another millennium.

After Theodosius II's death, the imperial succession was again thrown open to question for the first time in over sixty years. Theodosius left no heir except for his daughter Licinia Eodoxia who had married his cousin Valentinian III. There were, however, rumours that at his deathbed Theodosius willed Marcian, one of his aids, to be his heir. Some believe this story was a product of after the fact propaganda. Whatever the case, Aspar, a high ranking general, engineered Marcian's appointment with the help of Theodosius's sister, Pulcheria Augusta.

In any case, on August 25th, 450 AD Pulcheria was the one who gave Marcian the imperial diadem.

An Illyrian by birth, Marcian was born in 392 AD. He served as a tribune in 421 AD and fought against the Persians but due to illness he never took part in any actual battles. After this assignment, he served for fifteen years as a personal assistant to general Aspar.

Marcian's reign almost immediately began with a change in policy toward Attila and the Huns. In his last years, as I mentioned earlier, Theodosius II had given up fighting the Huns. To appease them and stop their attacks he had resorted to paying them huge indemnities. Shortly after his coronation, however, the new emperor refused to pay the Huns. Not surprisingly, Marcian's decision was supported by the city's aristocracy, which had been strongly opposed to paying indemnities. At the same time, Attila was too absorbed in imperial politics to deal with Marcian and before he could refocus his attention on the east, he died. Soon after his death his empire disintegrated. Marcian then quickly formed alliances with those peoples previously under Hun domination, including the Ostrogoths, and thwarted the Hun re-emergence. The remaining Huns were allowed to settle in Pannonia, Thrace and Illyricum and over time assimilated in the local populations.

Marcian, the last emperor of the House of Theodosius, died of gangrene in his feet in January 457 AD at age 65. He was buried in the Church of the Apostles next to his wife Pulcheria. He left no heirs to succeed him.

After Marcian's death, his son-in-law Anthemius was the most likely candidate for the throne, however, he did not have support from general Aspar. Aspar decreed that emperors should be chosen by the army, in the Roman tradition, and recommended Leo as the next candidate. Aspar's commanders dared not reject his choice and Leo was crowned emperor by the patriarch of Constantinople, Anatolius. Leo, born in 401 AD, was a Thracian by birth.

Even though Leo was emperor, the real power remained in the hands of Aspar, at least for the next six or seven years. Emperor Leo fond of his grandson, Leo, by his daughter Ariadne, had him raised to the rank of Augustus in October of 473 AD. Shortly afterwards Emperor Leo fell ill and died. He was succeeded by his six year old Grandson Leo II in January 474 AD. Leo II's father Zeno was regent at the time but about a month after Leo's death, Zeno raised himself to the rank of co-emperor. Then within a span of less than a year, young Leo II died. There were rumours that Zeno murdered his son to take away the throne.

Zeno was a Rosoumbladian from the province of Isauria in southeastern Asia Minor. Not long after his son's death, Zeno's misdeeds caught up with him. When he was investigated as a suspect in the murder of his son, other misdeeds surfaced. He was implicated in the executions of general Aspar and Aspar's son.

To avoid being prosecuted, Zeno fled Constantinople and went back to Isauria. In Zeno's absence, the senate chose a new emperor by the name of Basiliscus. Basiliscus was Emperor Leo's brother-in-law. Basiliscus, as it turned out, was even less popular than Zeno especially since he elevated his wife Aelia Zenonis to Augusta, his older son Marcus to Caesar and co-emperor, and his younger sons Leo and Zeno to Caesars. Another reason for his deep unpopularity was his open favouritism towards the Christian Monophysite creed. To the people of Constantinople this was heresy.

Basiliscus also fell out of favour with the powerful 'Master of Soldiers', Theodoric Strabo. Against Strabo's advice, Basiliscus promoted a notorious playboy named Armatus to the rank of Master of Soldier. Apparently Armatus was the empress's lover. As a result, one of his more powerful Isaurian generals named Illus, who had originally been party to the plot against Zeno, tired of Basiliscus's blunders left Constantinople to rejoin Zeno. Without the army's support, Basiliscus was virtually finished. At about the same time, Zeno felt the moment was right to leave exile and on August 476 AD marched on Constantinople unopposed. His first order of business was to exile Basiliscus, his wife and sons to Cucusus in Cappadocia, where they starved to death.

Zeno's reign lasted until 491 AD. During his rule, among other things, Constantinople experienced a four year Ostrogoth siege. The Balkans, including Macedonia, were ravaged repeatedly and depopulated by onslaughts of war upon war. Zeno left no obvious heir but Ariadne, Zeno's wife, recommended the position be given to Anastasius. Anastasius was an experienced official of the highest character and a credible man universally respected in the empire. He did his best to calm the theological animosities between the orthodox and the monophysite Christians. He built a great defensive wall fifty miles long along the Danube frontier to hold barbarian incursions in check. He also disbanded and sent home the troublesome Isaurian troops, who had made themselves very unpopular in his capital.

Anastasius died in 518 AD, well respected and with a full treasury. Anastasius did not leave an heir to the throne so once again it was up to the military to make the next choice. Being in the right place at the right time and having a lot of friends was all that Justin needed to get into politics. In spite of the fact that he was illiterate and probably more than 80 years old, Justin was elected emperor in 518 AD. Justin's reign is significant for the founding of a dynasty that included his eminent nephew Justinian I.

Justin was born in 435 AD, the son of an Illyrian farmer. Justin joined the army to escape poverty. Because of his military abilities he rose through the ranks to become a general and commander of the palace guard under the emperor Anastasius I. During Justin's later years, the empire came under attack from the Ostrogoths and the Persians. Unable to cope with the pressures of politics, Justin's health began to decline and on April 1st, 527 AD he formally named Justinian his co-emperor and successor. Justin died on August 1st, 527 AD and was succeeded by Justinian.

To be continued...

And now I leave you with this...

Western and Slav authors have done more to discredit the Hellenic contribution for this period (313 to 527 AD) than they have done to support it. Many authors agree that the Byzantine Empire was a re-emergence and continuation of Alexander the Great's old empire but at the same time they hardly hesitate to call it Roman.

What was Roman about it?

The Emperors were not Roman, the language was not Latin, the culture was not Italian and even the style of Christianity practiced was far from western.

So, what was Roman about it?

Let's look at it from another perspective. The Byzantine Empire, known to the Byzantiness as the Roman Empire (Romaiki Aftokratoriaria) had more Greek emperors than Roman, spoke the Greek language not Latin and smack in the middle of it was Greece not Italy.

Thessaloniki, not Rome, was the Byzantine Empire's second capital and cultural center. Greece, not Italy, was the center, heart and soul of the Byzantine Empire.

Unlike Rome which fell to the barbarians, Thessaloniki was never defeated or sacked by anyone and remained a Greek city in character and culture from the time it was founded by king Cassander, to well into the second millennium AD. Thessaloniki was a Greek city with its culture and tradition well intact and preserved. That is precisely why a Greek and not a Roman civilization re-emerged from Thessaloniki, flourished and reached its zenith around the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries AD.

Thessaloniki was the cradle of Hellenism. This is where the revival of the Hellenic language and culture began and spread throughout eastern Europe. That is precisely why more than six hundred million people today study the ancient Greek language, not Slavonic or Latin. Outside of the Roman and Slav propagandists, no one believes that the Byzantine Empire was anything but Greek, a continuation of Alexander the Greats' old Hellenic Empire.


Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity AD 150-750, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1989

A History of the Macedonian People, Institute of National History, Macedonian Review, 1979, Skopje.

Alexandar Donski, The Descendants of Alexander the Great of Macedon The Arguments and Evidence that Today's Greek Macedonians are Descendants of the Ancient Macedonians (Part One - Folklore Elements), Shtip/Sydney - 2004.

Apostolos Papagiannopoulos, Monuments of Thessaloniki, John Rekos & Co., Thessaloniki, 1980

F.E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism A History of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the Triumph of Christianity, Simon and Schuster, 1970.

Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, Atheneum New York, 1976

Vasil Bogov, Macedonian Revelation, Historical Documents Rock and Shatter Modern Political Ideology, Western Australia, 1998

H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Garden City Books, New York, 1961

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com


Сон да се освои светот

Кратка биографија на Александар III Македонски, од В. Илиевски, објавена во Илустриран Забавник. Кликнете на сликата за да ја видите во целосен размер!


И ние деца сме на Македонија


И ние деца сме на мајката земја,
на мајката земја, на Македонија.
На нашата земја, на Македонија.

И ние имаме право да живејме,
како и другите живот што живеат.
А ние страдавме, гладни умиравме.

Живот не жалевме, младост си дававме,
за наши правдини смели умиравме.
Парола имавме: Смрт или Слобода.

И ние деца сме на мајката земја,
на мајката земја, на Македонија.
На нашата земја, на Македонија.

Живот не жалевме, младост си дававме
за наши правдини смели умиравме.
Парола имавме: Смрт или Слобода,
Смрт или Слобода за Македонија. x2

Васка Илиева

Јонче Христовски

Сашо Гигов - Гиш


History of Macedonians 13

History of the Macedonian People - The Rise of Christianity a New Beginning

History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 13 - The Rise of Christianity a New Beginning

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

Alexander's ventures into Asia and Africa created trade routes and shipping lanes and opened up a world of new wonders that not only tantalized the senses but also fascinated the mind.

The intellectual bridge connecting Europe, Asia and Africa gave birth to new sciences, astronomies and philosophies that are unparalleled to this day. Scientists in India were debating atomic theory even before any of the Athenians, credited with inventing the subject, were born. The astronomers in Babylon not only possessed astrological charts but they were also aware of the orbits and spherical shapes of our planets, including that of earth. The Egyptians were applying geometry in figuring out property lines after the Nile floods even before the Europeans had any notion of mathematics. After Alexander's conquests all this knowledge became the possession of the Macedonians who centralized it in the libraries of Alexandria, Antioch, Solun (Thessalonika) and later in Tsari Grad (Istanbul), Ohrid and Sveta Gora (Athos).

In exploring the vast reaches of Asia, India and Egypt, the Macedonians, among other things, discovered new gods and new faiths. After studying them they not only enriched their own knowledge of the divine but also brought about a spiritual revolution that, with time, spread throughout the entire world.

After exploring the many deities and their cults, the Macedonians began to believe that the variously named gods might be different aspects of a single divine force. The newly discovered deities were in many ways similar to their own Olympian gods. For example Astarte and Isis were very similar to Aphrodite and Jupiter, Ahura and Baal were similar to Zeus. The intermingling of the various cultures, especially in cosmopolitan centers like Alexandria, Antioch and Solun, opened the door for deep philosophical debates questioning the nature, origins and purpose of the various gods. Fueled by revolutionary ideas, sophisticated theological theories began to emerge leading to the concept of a single divine being, a God who lives in heaven. Obviously there was enough evidence in the universe to warrant the existence of such a being, otherwise how would the universe work? However, there were some problems. How does a Supreme Being living in heaven communicate with his subjects on earth? The evolutionary mind, hard at work, managed to solve that problem as well by proposing the existence of a second God or the Son of God, a concept to which most of the world subscribes to this day. The Son of God would be a living God who would descend from the heavens to earth to spread God's message among his people.

Here I have given a simplified explanation of a complex problem. My intention was to show that as a result of the Macedonian conquests, the world was exposed to new and revolutionary ideas, which not only enriched our knowledge of the world but also revolutionized our religious beliefs. Christianity was born as a direct result of Macedonian intervention. The old Macedonians in the new world knew far too much to remain static and cast their Olympian hypothesis aside for a new reality. The Macedonian world had matured and had come a long way from the Homeric days and the mythical gods. As the millennium turned, the time was right for a new beginning. The new world surged forward with much vigour, challenging old beliefs. Even the well established Jewish religion, which already prescribed to a single supreme being, came under attack. It was precisely the re-interpretation of the Jewish religion that sparked the Christian movement which not only splintered from its Jewish roots but grew larger and enveloped most of the world. Christianity was a new force that would dominate the world, born out of necessity due to the cruelty of Roman rule, which drove the subjugated to a life of despair. Women refused to bear children because they knew their future was hopeless. Life was painful and the world was full of evil. By the turn of the first millennium the familiar old gods were nothing more than instruments of cruelty designed to serve the rich and powerful and cast the poor into oblivion. No nation suffered more cruelty at the hands of the Romans than Macedonia. Was it jealousy of Macedonia's unsurpassed glory, or was it Rome's fear of her rebellious nature?

As I mentioned earlier, after Perseus's defeat at Pydna in 168 BC, Macedonia was partitioned into four regions and became Roman territory. It was particularly during this period that Macedonia was robbed of its cultural treasures including the many monuments of art located in Solun, Pella and other culturally rich cities. Macedonia's treasures were transferred to Rome and paraded as trophies of Roman victories on Roman streets during triumph festivals. After 148 BC the four regions of Macedonia were united again but made into a Roman province with Solun as its capital. What is also interesting is that all city states and jurisdictions south of Macedonia, including Athens and Sparta, were also annexed and added to this large Roman province called Macedonia. This merger lasted for about one hundred and twenty years until 27 BC. In 27 BC Augustus separated the region to form the province of Macedonia and the province of Achaia. For one hundred and twenty years Solun, not Athens, was the capital or "mother city" of this vast province called Macedonia.

Solun was the most important city in Macedonia not only because of its prosperous economy due to its busy harbour and its close proximity to "via Egnatia" but also because of its great cultural and intellectual growth. Solun was an industrial city that profited immensely from its marine trade and from its close proximity to the military highway, via Egnatia, which facilitated much of the goods destined to Europe. Besides being of economic and intellectual importance, Solun, because of its surrounding wall, was also a great military fortress. The Macedonian King Cassander chose its location well and fortified the city for good reason. Solun was about the only city in Macedonia to withstand and repel the barbarian invasions of the 50s and 60s BC. Even Roman dissidents like the orator Cicero fled to Solun for safety during darker times. Solun had the elements of success and was destined to become a powerful city. During the Roman Civil War of 49 to 31 BC, Macedonia was turned into a battleground. At the time Solun backed the Imperial Army of Antony and Octavian turning the tide on the Republicans. After the Imperial victory at Philippi in 42 BC, the Macedonians of Solun erected a triumphant arch at the west gate of Vardar in honour of the victors. This show of loyalty not only saved Solun, but also allowed its citizens to earn their freedom and Solun to earn the status of a free city. A free city at the time enjoyed special privileges including the right to govern itself, hold free public meetings and to protect itself. This new found freedom allowed the city to grow and prosper, but more importantly, it attracted famous scholars, writers, philosophers, poets and teachers who made Solun their home and added to the city's intellectual wealth. By the turn of the new millennium, Solun was becoming an ethnically diverse cultural center that was beginning to rival Alexandria and Antioch.

When it came to philosophical debates about the nature of the gods, Solun was right up there with Alexandria and Antioch. Why was there such a preoccupation with the gods and why at this time?

There were two factors that influenced the creative thinking of the time. The first was the sophistication of an intellectually evolving society which, with the accumulation of knowledge, matured and grew out of its beliefs in the "mythical gods" of Homer. The second was the intellectual disgust in elevating mere humans, and cruel ones at that, to divinity. After Caesar was deified, deifications of emperors became common practice and even the cruelest men were made into gods. Worse were expectations that people of various races, cultures, religions and intellect would pay homage to these cruel men as if they were gods.

Was it not burden enough to live under their harsh rule, let alone pray to them for spiritual guidance?

This callous Roman behaviour led many to question their faith in such false gods. In time it became increasingly less likely that an educated man would support the cult of his parents, let alone his grandparents.

I want to mention here that outside of some mystical cults, no major religion except for Judaism was allowed to practice in the Roman Empire.

During the first century BC Jewish rival sects, called Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes competed for the attention of the Jews. While the Sadducees adhered strictly to the law of the Old Testament, the Pharisees were progressive thinkers, who produced many intellectual leaders. There was very little knowledge of the Essenes, that is, until 1947 when a set of manuscripts was discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea. The newly discovered scrolls, dating back to about 70 BC, were a record of some old pre Christian beliefs and practices that compared closely to those of the early Christians. Beliefs like the resurrection, rewards and punishments after death, etc., were already widely held before the birth of Jesus. So too was the notion of the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the destiny of God's chosen people.

The Jews were considered to be privileged citizens in the pre-Roman Macedonian kingdoms and were granted free practice of their faith. Later the Romans, for the sake of keeping the peace, followed suit and allowed the Jews to continue to freely practice their faith.

The Jews believed in monotheism, a single God, the kind of God that philosophers were debating about. The Jews, according to historic accounts, had been monotheists for at least two millennia. They were totally devoted and violently resisted change. Last we recall the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, in 168 BC, attempted to impose Macedonism on Jerusalem and provoked an armed revolt. With time the Macedonian culture and language did take hold and if not with the majority, many Jews accepted Macedonism. After the revolt, Jewish kings began to assume dual roles, those of king and high priest. Unfortunately, as client kings of foreign powers they were influenced more by politics and less by faith. Politics, especially during the Roman period, had more to do with interpreting the scriptures than faith. These differences of opinion over religious policies caused discontentment between the priesthood and regular rivalries broke out, fracturing Jewish society and leading it to irreconcilable disputes.

Rome refused to become entangled in Jewish affairs and entrusted Judea to the province of Syria, which at the time was ruled by a governor from Antioch. Local authority was entrusted to the Jewish client kings. These kings were hand picked by the Romans for their loyalty to Rome and for proving themselves sufficiently ruthless to their own people. One such "King of the Jews" was Herod who seized the Judean throne in 43 BC and was confirmed by Rome four years later. Herod himself was not a Jew and some believe he was a Macedonian or at least half Macedonian. Herod had a good relationship with Rome and in some ways this benefited the Jews. The peace that Herod brought during his rule allowed the Jews to prosper. The Jewish diaspora grew and established itself in all the great cities of the Roman Empire including Rome. Solun was no exception and a Jewish community sprang up there also.

The Macedonian adaptation of the Old Testament, composed in Alexandria and written in Koine, was widely used by the Jewish communities in the diaspora. The new composition unfortunately had an expansionist and missionary flavour which was quite alien to the original Testament and represented a departure from tradition

I want to mention at this point that the Jews believed that history was a reflection of Gods' activity and the Testament was a record of history. God guided man on his daily activities and therefore history was God's doing.

Herod died in 4 BC and his kingdom was divided between his sons Archalaus, Herod Philip and Herod Antipus, as bequeathed in his will. The arrangement unfortunately was not successful and fell apart around 6 AD. Conflict between the various factions continued to escalate until 60 AD when a full-scale rebellion flared up. Roman intervention did stop the extreme violence but did not end the conflict which waged on well into the next century until the Romans razed Jerusalem to the ground.

Human cruelty was not singularly a Roman trait but was a factor that preoccupied the minds of the new breed of philosophers. Many dreamt of a peaceful world free of evil and some tried to put their dreams into practice but none so successfully as Jesus of Nazareth.

Historically, little is known about Jesus the person. Most of the information about Jesus comes to us from the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which were written in the Mediterranean Koine language after his death. The new faith's destiny, however, was preordained by the writings in the Old Testament, which foretold of the fall of empires through the agency of God, not man. One like the 'son of man' will come on the clouds of heaven, embodying the apocalyptic hope of the Jews, and accompanied by a resurrection of the dead. Simply put, this was the blueprint and code of instructions for shaping the future faith.

It is important to understand that before Jesus' time the Macedonians were not just part of the spiritual evolution but they were the cause of it. In other words, they were the catalyst that accelerated the whole spiritual process and brought it to a boil. "Lightfoot finds in Alexander the Great the proof of the greatness of the step which Luke here records in Paul's work, and even says that 'each successive station at which he halted might have reminded the Apostle of the great services rendered by Macedonia as the pioneer of the Gospel!'" (Page 199, W. M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL. D., St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Hodder and Stroughton, London. 1894).

After Jesus' death, the Jews were well established throughout the great cities of the Roman Empire and free, at least from the Romans, to pursue their faith. Through their services to the empire, many prospered and were granted Roman citizenship. It is estimated that by the time of Jesus about four and a half million Jews lived in the diaspora in contrast to one million living in their homeland.

I must emphasize here that before Christianity took hold a large proportion of the people in the diaspora attending Jewish synagogues were not Jewish by race. They were not full Jews in a religious sense nor were they expected to obey all of the Jewish laws. Most of them were God fearing people who accepted and worshipped the Jewish God and were tolerated and permitted to mingle with the Jews. These people, many of whom were Macedonian and communicated with the real Jews in the Koine language, were not expected to become full Jews but were tolerated and allowed to penetrate the Jewish social circles, a precursor to Christianity.

The Jews were admired for their stable family life, the relationships they sustained between children and parents and for the peculiar value they attached to human life. The Jews were also admired for something unusual for the time. During the Herodian period, mainly in the large cities in the diaspora, they developed elaborate welfare services for the indigent, poor, sick, widows, orphans, prisoners and the incurable. All of these factors led to the development of the earliest Christian communities and were a principle reason for the spread of Christianity in the cities.

The combination of God-fearing people and the destitute produced converts to Judaism from all races and classes of people, educated and ignorant alike.

Judaism had the potential to become the religion of the Roman Empire but in order to do that it had to evolve and adapt its teachings and organization to an alien world. It had to give up the idea that its priests were descendants of the tribes of Aaron, temple-attendants of Levi, king and rulers of David, and so on and so forth.

For the true Jewish priests, heredity and the exact observance of the Jewish laws was very important. Unfortunately in the diaspora, religious rules were not always observed and exact heredity was a matter of guesswork, sometimes even fraudulent. This loose application of rules was resented by the conservative Jews and any corrective action taken was usually met with opposition, violence and schisms. The irreconcilable differences between the old conservative Jews and the new breed of liberal semi-Jews grew wider and eventually gave birth to Christianity, a totally new faith.

It was again the Macedonians, among this new breed of liberal Jews, who were the first to preach Jesus' message to the worshipers of Mitra (Mithra), Astart and Zeus as well as others outside the Jewish faith. It was among the Macedonians in Antioch in about 40 AD that the followers of Jesus came to be known as Christians for the first time.

In its refusal to allow Gentile Christianity, as it was then known, to flourish the conservative Jews employed every means, including persecution of its leaders, to stop its progression. Among the savage persecutors pursuing the Jewish Christians was Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, born in Tarsus. Saul was a Jew and a Roman citizen headed for Damascus in pursuit of Christians when he had a vision of Christ which changed his life. After that he himself converted to Christianity, took the name Paul and began to spread the "Good News" of Jesus until his death in Rome in 64 AD.

It cannot be said that Paul created Gentile Christianity but he was responsible for giving it impetus. Paul became an important factor in the spread of Christianity to Macedonia when he had a vision of a man, a Macedonian, urging him to "come to Macedonia and help us". Paul interpreted this vision as God's will to take the "Good News" of Jesus into Macedonia. "And when they had come opposite My'sia, they attempted to go into Bithyn'ia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by My'sia, they went down to Tro'as. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedo'nia was standing beseeching him and saying, 'Come over to Macedo'nia and help us.' And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedo'nia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Page 1044, The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Holman, Philadelphia, 1952).

There are some who believe that the man in Paul's vision was the Apostle Luke. Luke was a Macedonian, a physician by trade who Paul met for the first time in Troas. Luke may have had some connection to Philippi to have Paul sent there. It is unknown whether Luke was a Christian or not before he met Paul but he was certainly one afterwards. Luke was a great writer and composer of one of the gospels.

It was around 50 AD, when Paul set foot on European soil for the first time. That was in the Macedonian towns of Philippi, Solun (Thessalonica) and Beroea where he preached the word of Jesus (Acta apos., XVI, id. XVII). Around 52 and 53 AD he sent epistles to the people of Solun (Epist. Thess); then in 57 AD he came back to Macedonia to follow up on his progress. In 63 AD he again sent epistles to Macedonia but this time to the people of Philippi (Epist. Philipp).

Even before Paul went to Macedonia legend has it that Macedonia was visited by Jesus' mother Mary. "The Blessed Virgin excluded all other women from Holy Mountain, when she claimed it as 'Her Garden' after she was driven ashore by storms near the site of the present monastery of 'Iviron' USPENIE." (Page 41, Vasil Bogov, Macedonian Revelation, Historical Documents Rock and Shatter Modern Political Ideology, Western Australia, 1998). Holy Mountain or Sveta Gora as is known in Macedonia, is the holiest place in Europe and one of the greatest monastic centers of Christendom.

Initially, in his teachings, Paul had insurmountable problems trying to explain the nature of Jesus' doctrines through the Jewish faith and its laws to a Macedonian audience. However, by using well understood concepts of faith, which in themselves were somewhat of a departure from the original scriptures, the message was quickly understood. Paul was creative and by sticking to the most basic principles of Jesus' teachings and avoiding most of the six hundred and thirteen Jewish commands, he was able to convey his message. Surely no man could fulfill all six hundred and thirteen commands of the Jewish law? Was everyone then a sinner? In Paul's mind, this was not what Jesus was about. Jesus was about freedom and the liberation of law. Paul associated freedom with truth and in pursuit of truth he established the right to think. He accepted the bonds and obligations of love but not to the authority of scholarship and tradition.

If not by nationality then by spirit Paul was truly a Macedonian because he preached something familiar to the Macedonians. Paul spoke directly to the Macedonian people and they understood him without the use of interpreters. This means that he knew the Macedonian language well enough to captivate his audience. Paul's first mission to Macedonia took him to Philippi where he met a woman named Lydia, a fabric dealer. Lydia was a widow who sold cloth and textiles and was a rare example of a free woman who lived and worked in Macedonia. For some time, Lydia was exposed to Jewish religious practices which she had observed at a colony of Jews who had settled near her home in Thyatira. Lydia, along with her household, is believed to be the first Christian in Macedonia to be baptized by Paul. After Philippi, Paul's missionary journey took him to the beautiful Macedonian city of Solun where, in 50 BC, he established what later came to be known as the "Golden Gate" church, the first Christian church in Europe. According to the Bible, Paul, along with his friend Silas, spent about three weeks in Solun in a synagogue debating the "Good News" of Jesus with the Solun Jews. But much to his disappointment he could not sway them to see things his way. He persuaded some to join but the majority would not join and became hostile towards him. The real surprise, however, was that many non-Jewish Macedonians accepted the "Good News" of Jesus and embraced Christianity as their new faith.

I must mention at this point that the process of Christianization and the establishment of the Christian church was not that simple. The central and eastern Mediterranean, for the first and second centuries AD, swarmed with a multitude of religious ideas struggling to be spread out. Jesus' message was being rapidly propagated over large geographical areas and his followers were divided right from the start over elements of faith and practice. The new faith may have had spirit but it lacked organization. Many Christian churches sprang up and practiced a kind of diverse Christian faith. Each church more or less had its own "Jesus Story" based on oral traditions and the personal biases of its founders. It would be a very long time indeed before the Christian faith would be amalgamated into a single religion and achieve unity. In the meantime, besides the competing Jews, the Christians had found a new enemy, the Romans.

The Romans were tolerant of all religions and had no problems with what people believed. There were some conditions however. It was mandatory that all people in the Roman Empire participate in Roman religious festivities, pay homage to the Roman emperor and make regular sacrifices as required. This, unfortunately, for the more dedicated monotheistic Christians was not possible because some Roman traditions conflicted with Jesus' teachings.

The Romans did not know what to make of the Christians. For the most part they were peaceful people with no criminal records, they wanted nothing from the Romans but to be left alone to pray in peace yet they were somehow a danger to the stability of the empire. Even though the Christians were peaceful in nature, their attitude towards Roman traditions was in direct violation of Roman law. Besides, if the Christians disrespected the Roman way, what was to stop others from doing the same? It was Pliny the Younger who first made an example of these disobedient Christians by sentencing them to death for simply being Christian. Others then followed suit. During their trials Christians were offered a chance to renounce their Christian faith and obey Roman law. If they did, they were set free but those who refused were sentenced to a gruesome death.

Following the period after the death of Jesus, the Roman Empire began to experience its own problems, the least of which was Christianity. During the first century AD, Roman pursuit of wealth brought about social changes in the empire. Roman citizenship was no longer determined by one's nationality but rather by one's possession of wealth. Social status or position of power could also be achieved by wealth. One no longer needed to be Italian to become a Roman Senator or hold office in the Roman administration or be a high ranking officer in the Roman military. Successive Roman emperors aligned themselves more and more with the rich. Even some of the early Roman emperors like Trajan and Hadrian were not Italian but Spanish. Even the Roman soldiers were no longer Roman. Wherever there were problems in the empire, the armies sent to deal with them were raised from the local populations. Rome itself was also being challenged demographically. Besides the rich, the well off and the educated who were flocking to Rome to live the high life, Roman soldiers were bringing home brides from various places in the empire. As problems began to develop on the outskirts of the vast empire, central control became less and less effective. Military men were sometimes empowered with carrying on the responsibilities of the emperor and when the need arose, the army was empowered with appointing a new emperor general, a practice the Romans adopted from the Macedonians. The frontiers were long and difficult to hold, stretching from Britain, along the Rhine and the Danube, across the Caucasus and Anatolia, along the Tigris and the Syrian desert to Aqaba and from Egypt to Morocco. Even before the close of the first century AD, Roman leaders came to the realization that one emperor could no longer rule such a vast empire. Unfortunately for a long time no emperor was prepared to willingly give up or share his rule with another.

Besides the change in demographics, the Italians in Rome were beginning to be outclassed by a new breed of middle class intellectuals who preferred the use of the Koine language over Latin. Even in Rome local culture was shifting from conservative to intellectual and Romans and foreigners alike, including most emperors, preferred literary works written in the universal romantic Koine language instead of the dry and brisk Latin. Like the 19th century French language of Europe, Koine, fueled by the literary works of the sophists, began to experience a revival. There was a certain ambiance about the language which gave life and expression to its subjects. Koine was utilized heavily by intellectuals and academics all throughout the vastness of the empire, especially in Asia Minor and Alexandria. Koine was very popular not only with the sophists but also with the philosophers who by now had dedicated themselves to defining the new faith. Jesus' message was spreading like wildfire, captivating the minds of a new breed of philosophers and they in turn recorded their experiences not in the Aramaic language of Palestine nor in Latin, but in the international Koine, the language of the Macedonian elite. As evidenced by the inscriptions found in Dura Europos, of which I made mention earlier, the Macedonians also spoke another language, the language that today is referred to as Macedonian. Although history has no name for it, it is often mentioned as the native language spoken by the Macedonian soldiers. Koine may have been the language of the elite and of the institutions but it was useless when it came to bringing the word of Jesus to the uneducated masses living in the vast Roman Empire. It is well documented that, as Christianity spread from the cities to the towns and to the countryside, many of the scriptures written in Koine had to be translated to native languages. While neither the Macedonians before them nor the Romans saw any benefit in educating the peasants, the Christians did. This was happening as much in Egypt as it was in Macedonia. The word of Jesus was good for everyone including the village dueling peasant. But how does one communicate it to the uneducated masses? This was indeed a problem for the early Christians but through the written word Christianity translated the scriptures to the various native languages and began to educate the masses.

I want to make it clear here that the Koine language was the international language of commerce, introduced to the vastness of the Macedonian Empire by Alexander the Great. This was the language of the educated and elite, not of the masses of people throughout the empire. For the most part, the native people of all parts of the empire, who took part in the affairs of the empire, were educated in Koine. That did not preclude them however from speaking their native language. It is well documented that non Europeans in the ranks of the European elite not only spoke a second language, their native language, but were also known by a different name, their local native name.

While the Macedonians and later the Romans had no interest in local affairs, other than harvesting taxes, Christianity showed great interest in everyone irrespective of social status. In Jesus' eyes all men were created equal and in the image of God. The common people could identify with the Christian God and this had appeal for them. In contrast, deities of the Roman faith imitated "the all-powerful" Roman emperor sitting on his throne, far removed from the common man.

By making contact directly with the native people of the empire, the Christians began to institutionalize the local languages by giving them life through the written scriptures and through educating the masses to read and write. Unfortunately at the turn of the new millennium, in Europe at least, there were only three scripts available upon which to base the written word and these were Aramaic, Koine and Latin. Most local languages had far richer sounds than the existing written scripts could accommodate and in time had to be refined. For the Macedonians, this would take a few centuries but eventually a single refined universal script would emerge and bring Macedonia back into her former intellectual glory.

It seems that around the 4th century BC, in the name of progress, Macedonia abandoned its ancient native Venetic script in favour of the international Koine. Unfortunately, half a millennium of neglect left her native spoken language without a script. As we have seen, again as evidenced by the Dura Europos inscription, the Macedonians utilized Koine and Latin scripts, sometimes in combination, to express themselves in their native language. This may have been good enough for scribbling graffiti and writing casual letters but not for compiling literary works.

With time Christianity introduced the gospel to every race in every corner of the Roman Empire and with it came the written word, formalization and later the institutionalization of the modern written languages. The Macedonian language, to which history refers to as the language spoken by Alexander's soldiers, was no exception.

The development of the modern Macedonian language will be discussed in greater detail in later chapters. Look for it in future articles.

There are some who believe that the period between 27 BC and 180 AD was a period of wasted opportunity. It was a period of spending rather than of creating, an age of architecture and trade in which the rich grew richer and the poor poorer. It was an age when man's soul and spirit decayed. There were thousands of well built cities supplied by great aqueducts, connected to each other by splendid highways and each equipped with temples, theaters, amphitheaters and markets. The citizens of these great cities were well refined in attitude and mannerism, indicative of a civilized society. All this unfortunately was achieved on the backs of slaves who came from the vastness of the empire, including Macedonia. The slaves provided the manpower to build the cities, aqueducts, roads, temples and theaters. The slaves provided the labour to cultivate the soil and feed the masses. And the slaves provided the bodies that fuelled the blood sport that entertained the Roman citizenry so much.

It is unknown how many slaves suffered cruel deaths to civilize the glorious Roman Empire, the pride of the west, but I am certain the numbers were horrendous.

It is often asked, "Who were the Roman gladiators, who were the Christians fed to the lions, and who were the slaves that gave their lives to build the Roman Empire and entertain the Roman citizen?" Although history provides us with no answers, all we need to do is look at the aftermath of every Roman victory and count the numbers enslaved.

Macedonia was the last nation in Europe to fall into Roman hands but the first on mass scale to fall into Roman slavery. While the middle class Macedonian, among others, supplied the Roman Empire with enlightenment, the Macedonian slave, among others, supplied her with the necessary labour to build her civilization. Even though Macedonia, more so than any other nation in the history of the Roman Empire, had contributed to its development, modern Roman history mentions nothing of the Macedonians. The Macedonian people have received no credit for their contribution and the willing and unwilling sacrifices they made for the success of the Romans.

Even though it is well known that the Roman Empire was built on the foundation of Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire, its modern inheritors refuse to give Macedonia and the Macedonian people the credit they deserve.

Today's modern westerner speaks of the Roman Empire's accomplishments with great pride, forgetting that without Macedonia's contributions their precious empire would be an empty shell.

Every historian knows that the only contribution that the lumbering Roman Empire should be credited for is the construction of roads, cities and aqueducts. In terms of government it had none. At its best it had a bureaucratic administration that kept the peace but failed to secure it. The typical Roman was so overly preoccupied with pursuing "the loot" that he forgot to implement any free thinking and apply knowledge. He had an abundance of books but very few were written by Romans. He respected wealth and despised science. He allowed the rich to rule and imagined that the wise men could be bought and bargained for in the slave markets. He made no effort to teach, train or bring the common people into any conscious participation of his life. He had made a tool of religion, literature, science and education and entrusted it to the care of slaves who were bred and traded like animals. His empire, "It was therefore, a colossally ignorant and unimaginative empire. It foresaw nothing. It had no strategic foresight, because it was blankly ignorant of geography and ethnology." (Page 397, H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Garden City Books, New York, 1961). This is only a tiny sample of what an eminent western scholar and author thinks of the contributions of the Roman Empire.

Ironically we refer to the Romans as civilized and to the Macedonians as barbarian, knowing full well that Macedonia employed no slaves and Rome built its empire on the backs of slaves.

"Civilize: bring out of barbarous or primitive stage of society; enlighten, refine and educate." (Page 127, The Oxford Dictionary of Current English, Oxford University Press, 1991). I guess 19th century modern historians forgot to consult the dictionary for the word "civilized" when they wrote the modern history of the Roman Empire.

Without getting into the grossness of the Roman excesses and coliseum blood lusts, I believe I made my point that "the Roman Empire was neither civilized nor did it contribute as much as its proponents would have us believe".

Attacks mounted on Christianity apparently were not restricted to the Jews and Romans. As Christianity began to grow and make its way into Europe, it became a target for the intellectuals who had discovered it and identified it as the enemy.

The sophisticated Athenian intellectual found it difficult to accept Christianity especially since he was expected to abandon his long held beliefs. While the oppressed Macedonian found hope in Christianity, the freer Athenian was not content with leaving behind what truly defined him and his culture.

For better or worse Macedonia gave in and embraced Christianity. Her neighbours to the south, however, were too sophisticated for this modern phenomenon and clung onto their old beliefs.

"Athens in Paul's time was no longer the Athens of Socrates; but the Socratic method had its roots in the soil of Attica and the nature of the Athenian people. In Athens Socrates can never quite die..." "In this centre of the world's education, amid the lecture-rooms where philosophers had taught for centuries that it was mere superstition to confuse the idol with the divine nature which is represented, the idols were probably in greater numbers than anywhere else in Paul's experience." (Pages 238-239, W. M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL. D., St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Hodder and Stroughton, London. 1894).

Paul's mission to Athens yielded no converts. There is, however, something interesting that came out of Paul's discussions with the Athenians that gives us a glimpse of the Athenian attitude towards Paul and foreigners in general. In the University of Athens certain philosophers engaged Paul in discussion and some said, "What would this spermologos [ignorant plagiarist] say?" (Page 241, W. M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL. D., St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Hodder and Stroughton, London. 1894).

Spermolos is an Athenian slang that means "a worthless fellow of low class and vulgar habits, with the insinuation that he lives at the expense of others, like those disreputable persons who hang round the markets and the quays in order to pick up anything that falls from the loads that are carried about. Hence as a term in social slang, it connotes absolute vulgarity and inability to rise above the most contemptible standard of life and conduct; it is often connected with slave life, for the Spermologos was near the type of the slave and below the level of the free man; and there clings to it the suggestion of picking up refuse and scraps, and in literature of plagiarism without the capacity to use correctly." (Page 242, W. M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL. D., St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Hodder and Stroughton, London. 1894). Is this the superior race of men to whom our modern world owes its foundations?

After a short visit in Athens Paul was kicked out. From there he went to Corinth and after spending some time in Corinth he returned to Solun.

Christianity apparently retaliated against such intellectual attitudes by claiming that their philosophy had nothing to teach the Christians but folly and immorality.

Even though Christianity was beginning to gain confidence and take a more relaxed attitude towards these attacks, its doctrine was still divergent. Gnosticism was particularly strong in many areas of the empire and combined with pagan beliefs and myths not only diverted from Jesus' simple teachings but also infuriated many Christian fundamentalists to advocate the return to "simple faith". The Gnostics, in their attempt to "purify" Jesus' teaching and free them from their earthly bounds, had injected new ideas into Christianity most of which were based on myth and fantasies and were bordering on heresy.

The call to return to the "simple faith" was easier said than done. In the end "simple faith" was universally restored but not without the help of an emperor.

The start of the new millennium witnessed the death of the Roman Republic and the birth of Imperial Rome. The Augustan emperors may have brought peace to the empire but with it they also brought neglect, decline and decay. As I mentioned earlier, by 180 AD, there were unmistakable signs of decay. Besides the agricultural and economic decline, the empire opened its doors to anarchy when the adoptive system of choosing emperors was abandoned in favour of personal appointments. The first emperor to break with tradition was Marcus Aurelius who appointed his son, Commodus, as his successor. Unfortunately, Emperor Commodus, instead of ruling, spent twelve years (180 to 192 AD) drinking with the gladiators until he was strangled by his trainer. After a year of civil war Septimius Severus, an African rose to supreme power and in his eighteen years of rule he did his best to restore peace and order. Severus and his relations kept the empire functioning until 235 AD, when the last member of that family was assassinated.

The following fifty years witnessed bloodshed, misrule and civil war. The erosion of central power opened the doors for barbarian invasions and besides attacks from the various Germanic tribes and Franks on the west, a more serious push came from the Goths in the east. The Goths were a maritime people who lived in southern Russia and controlled the waterways from the Baltic, across Russia to the Black and Caspian Seas.

Unable to withstand their advance the Romans lost the eastern seas and allowed the Goths to enter the Aegean coastline and advance on Macedonia. Another group crossed the Danube in a great land raid in 247 AD, defeating and killing the Emperor Decius. The Romans eventually did muster enough strength and, in 270 AD, Claudius defeated the Goths driving them back to where they originated.

Further east, under the powerful Sassanid dynasty, the Persian Empire was revived and it too attacked the Romans, capturing the Roman Emperor Valerian in 260 AD. In 276 AD the Goths returned to raid the coasts of Asia Minor. Then in 284 AD Diocletian, an Illyrian born general, seized power in Rome and ruled for the next twenty years.

It was Diocletian who first seized the opportunity and introduced the share of rule. The empire was too great a task for one man to rule so Diocletian established a Board of Four Emperors. This was an old idea whose time had finally come. Unfortunately, this idea only worked while Diocletian was in power and fell apart after his retirement in 305 AD. Fortunately, the concept of sharing rule survived and after another round of destructive conflicts in 313 AD, Constantine emerged victorious as co-Emperor with Licinius.

One of the main failures that led to the decline of the Roman Empire was poor communication. Rome's geographical position in relation to its empire made her unsuitable as a world capital. Every order and every official document had to travel northward for half the length of Italy before it could turn east or west. Even though some of the more capable emperors set up their headquarters in the hub of activity this still did not solve the communication problem in its entirety.

One of Constantine's priorities after seizing power was to find a suitable location for his capital where communication would not be problem. Although Solun was contemplated for its cosmopolitan Macedonian culture, economy and defenses, Constantine opted for the city of Byzantium. After all was it not Byzantium that withstood Philip II's siege and survived? From a strategic point, Byzantium offered some advantages over Solun. Byzantium was located on the waters of the Bosporus that linked the Mediterranean with the Black Sea. It was the center of the Roman world and linked east with west. From a military perspective, ships could easily be dispatched east or west up the rivers and outflank every barbarian advance. Even Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Aegean and Adriatic coastlines were within a reasonable striking distance from Byzantium. From a commercial perspective, Byzantium was a lot closer to the eastern trade routes than Rome or Solun. In other words, Constantine chose Byzantium by careful planning and design, which in the long term gave his empire the advantage it needed to survive for nearly a millennium and a half, until 1453 AD.

Flavius Valerius Constantinus, or Emperor Constantine as he was later known, was born in Naissus in the province of Moesia Superior, the modern day Nish in Serbia, on 27 February in either year 271, 272, or 273 AD. His father was a military officer named Constantius (later named Constantius Chlorus or Constantius I). His mother, a woman of humble background, was named Helena (later named St. Helena). It has been said that Constantius and Helena were not married. Having previously attained the rank of tribune, provincial governor, and probably praetorian prefect, Constantius, on March 1st, 293AD, was promoted to the rank of Caesar in the First Tetrarchy organized by Diocletian. On this occasion he was required to put aside Helena and marry Theodora, the daughter of Maximian. Upon the retirement of Diocletian and Maximian on May 1st, 305 AD, Constantius succeeded to the rank of Augustus. Constantine, meanwhile, had served with distinction under both Diocletian and Galerius in the east. Kept initially at the court of Galerius as a pledge of good conduct on his father's part, he was later allowed to join his father in Britain and assisted him in a campaign against the Picts. When Constantius died, on July 25th, 306, at Eburacum (York), Constantine was at his side. The soldiers at once proclaimed him Augustus. Constantine henceforth observed this day as his dies imperii. Having settled affairs in Britain swiftly, he returned to the Continent where the city of Augusta Treverorum (Trier) served as his principal residence for the next six years. There too, in 307 AD, he married Maximian's daughter Fausta putting away his mistress Minervina, who had born his first son, Crispus.

At the same time Constantine was proclaimed Augustus, the Senate and the Praetorian Guard in Rome had allied themselves with Maxentius, the son of Maximian. On October 28th, 306 AD they proclaimed him emperor in the lower rank of princeps initially, although he later claimed the rank of Augustus. Constantine and Maxentius, although they were brothers-in-law, did not trust each other. Their relationship was further complicated by their scheming and eventually by the death of Maximian in 310 AD. Open hostilities between the two rivals broke out in 312 AD and Constantine won a decisive victory in the famous Battle of the Milvian Bridge. This made Constantine and co-Emperor and brother in law, Licinius the sole rulers of the Roman Empire.

To be continued...

And now I leave you with this...

Believe it! Christianity owes its roots to the Macedonians. Almost every book I read that deals with Christianity mentions Macedonians as contributors to founding Christianity. Alexander the Great opened the way to discovering the various religions that existed in Asia, Africa and India. Macedonians pondered and debated whether or not the gods of various cultures were indeed the same gods by different names. Macedonians were among the first philosophers to put forth the idea of one God. Is this a revelation? No it is not! The answer has always been in front of us inside all those books including the Holy Bible.

What surprised me the most is how widespread the use of the Koine language was during the Roman period. Even the original New Testament was written in Koine and later translated to the various languages of the Christian world.

As I said before, the Koine language was the common language or lingua franca of the Mediterranean people, including the Macedonians. It did not exclusively belong to the Athenians or to any other group of people in the Greek peninsula. Koine was also spoken by Thracians, Illyrians, Bythinians, Carians, Phrygians, Armenians, Lydians, Galatians, Paphlagonians, Lycians, Syrians, Cilicians, Misians, Cappadocians, Egyptians, Italians, Romans, etc., etc, of whom none were Greek nor did they live in the Greek peninsula.

Just because the modern Greeks were the first to lay claim to the Koine language, as their own, it doesn't make it so. When modern Greece was created for the first time in 1829, no one spoke the Koine language. The modern Greek language is a modern invention based on the Koine and unsuccessfully on the Attic languages. In fact, before 1829 more than 90% of the population of the Greek peninsula spoke anything but Greek. Do the math!

The people of western Greece spoke Squiptar (modern Albanian), the people of eastern Greece spoke Turkish, the people of northern Greece spoke Macedonian, the Pontics from Asia Minor who were brought into Greece by force during the 1920's spoke Turkish and the indigenous Vlachs spoke Vlach. It is well known that the Slav intruders that invaded the Greek peninsula down to the Peloponnesus during the early centuries and were assimilated among the Greeks during the 1830's, also did not speak Greek. Even the Cretans and Cypriots did not speak Greek before 1829.

So, who were the Greek speakers of 1829?

This is a question for those who claim that their precious Greek language was handed down to them from generation to generation from the ancient Greeks.

Give it up!


Alexandar Donski, The Descendants of Alexander the Great of Macedon The Arguments and Evidence that Today's Macedonians are Descendants of the Ancient Macedonians (Part One - Folklore Elements), Shtip/Sydney - 2004.

A History of the Macedonian People, Institute of National History, Macedonian Review, 1979, Skopje.

F.E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism A History of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the Triumph of Christianity, Simon and Schuster, 1970.

Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, Atheneum New York, 1976

W. M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL. D., St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, Hodder and Stroughton, London. 1894

Apostolos Papagiannopoulos, Monuments of Thessaloniki, John Rekos & Co., Thessaloniki, 1980

The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Holman, Philadelphia, 1952

D. Fishwick, The Foundations of the West, Clark, Irwin & Company, Toronto, 1963

Vasil Bogov, Macedonian Revelation, Historical Documents Rock and Shatter Modern Political Ideology, Western Australia, 1998

Will Durant, The Story of Civilization Caesar and Christ, A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from the Beginnings to A.D. 325, Simon & Shuster, Toronto, 1994.

H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Garden City Books, New York, 1961

The Oxford Dictionary of Current English, Oxford University Press, 1991).

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com