2. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | History of Macedonia, Greece

Prior to 7 BC Macedonia was divided into small kingdoms, based mostly on extensive family ties and tribes.

At the beginning of 7 BC, King Perdiccas I brought these seperate kingdoms all under his scepter to form the United Kingdom of Macedonia. He built the first capital of the kingdom, the City of Aigai (The City of the Goats.) In the Old Testament Book of Daniel, Daniel predicted the time of Alexander the Great! Daniel described Alexander as a goat who attacked a ram, the King of Persia (Daniel, chapter 8 in the Old Testament.) Now here we must see something else that is important: When we say “Greece” today, we mean “the country of Greece,” which is not the same as Greece in the ancient time. In antiquity, Greece was mostly culture. The people shared the same culture, spoke that language, had gods and they all called themselves Greeks. There were more than 1000 states, some smaller and some bigger, from Spain to the Middle East and from the Black Sea down to northern Africa. But that was not a reason, in antiquity, for them to create a united state or to stop fighting with each other. In many cases Greek states came against one another in a war, fighting with allies that did not belong to the Greek culture. Greeks divided the world into Greeks and Barbarians (like the Jews who divided Jews and Gentiles, New Testament.)

At the beginning of the 5th century, the state of Macedonia participated in the Olympic games for the first time. The Olympic games were games only for Greeks. The athletes, from both sides, had to bring credentials verifying that they were Greek and representatives of a Greek state.

All of the Greek states had the opportunity to participate in the Olympic games. The Greek states experienced a cease fire during the Olympic games.. These games were related with a peace process. Three months before the games and three months after the games there was a cease-fire, everywhere among the Greeks, to allow for everyone’s participation in the games.

Officially, the first time, Macedonia participated in the Olympic games as a Greek state. The King of Macedonia himself, Alexander the First, represented Macedonia in the games. At this same time two other important events occurred, the birth of democracy in Athens and the beginning of close relations between the Macedonian kingdom and the democratic state of Athens.

The second part of 5th century BC (down south) was marked mostly by the civil war between Athens and Sparta. The Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BC, lasted 30 years, did damage to all who participated, even the winners, the Spartans. The war left everybody weak, without anyone able to become the leader among the Greeks – which gave opportunity for the rise of Macedonia.

In the beginning of the 4th century BC, a Macedonian king, Archelaus, decided to build a new capital of Macedonia close to the sea (Pella) which became the birthplace of both Philip II and his son Alexander III (Alexander the Great.)

The relationship between the Macedonians and Athens was always close. Athenian artists, teachers and philosophers were invited to teach, perform, and create in Macedonia. Among them was a Greek, Euripides who wrote the last of his plays, The Bacchae, in Macedonia. He died there and was buried in Pella.

In the mid-4th Century BC, Phillip the Second became the King of Macedonia at the age of 23. He participated in the Olympic games as a charioteer and he won. He also participated in the Isthmian games. After his victory in Isthmia, he announced himself as the leader of the Greeks against the Persians, to win another valid decoration for a campaign against Persia like Xerxes had done to the city of Athens. His campaign against Persia, a project for Philip, became the destruction of Athens, something which was totally crazy because Persia continued to be a super power having an army of more than one million five hundred thousand people and soldiers, an infantry actually, because they had also two hundred thousand cavalries. Macedonia was exceedingly small to face such an army.

Philip was assassinated at the age of 46 and immediately after his death his son Alexander became the next king. He was only 20 years old. When he was 13, his father Philip had brought him a famous teacher, Aristotle, from Athens. Aristotle became the tutor of Alexander until Alexander was 16 years old. When he was 16 years old, his father called him to become Head of the Cavalry and Assistant King. When his father was assassinated, he had four years of administration experience.

Alexander decided to complete the dream of his father. He developed the ancient city of Dion, (today an extensive archaeological park) where the worship of the twelve gods was practiced. In antiquity, Dion was a sacred city where the priests were prohibited to climb Mt. Olympus. Alexander started his campaign in Dion with 9 days of festivals dedicated to the gods and the muses. According to the Jewish historian Father Josephus, Alexander made an offering during the 9 days of festivals on the altar of Zeus. In his vision, Alexander saw in the place of the alter, a man dressed in a strange way. Alexander had never seen a man dressed liked the person of that vision in the place of the alter. The man spoke to him in Greek and said to him, “Don’t worry, it’s Me who is going in front of you to offer the victory to your army and the authority of Persia to you.”

So, Alexander with 30,000 in the infantry and 4,000 in the cavalry started his campaign, like a little ant against an elephant. His entrance to Asia was considered by the Persian administration to be a minor event so the Persian King Darius decided to engage only 100,000 of his cavalries and nothing else to face Alexander.

The first battle was at the banks of the River Granicus. The Persian cavalry was waiting for Alexander to come to the eastern bank, a cliff far above the level of the water. But his position was against him. Alexander came from the west and the western bank was almost on the same level as the water. It’s really a genius tactic strategy (and, most of all, the will of the Master of History, God) and it is considered to be a miracle. Alexander breached the river and passed on to the other side, destroying the cavalry of the General. The Apprentice Head of the Cavalry committed suicide. From Granicus, in three days, Alexander was in the city of Sardis. In four more days, he called for Ephesus and in a week, he finished with Miletus. He was like lightning; he was so quick that the Persians were shocked with his speed.

Alexander faced the Persian army in two more battles (in totally different battle fields) and not only defeated the Persian army but also took captive the royal family, except the King, who escaped and later was assassinated by his own Generals – because one of them wanted to take the throne of Persia for himself.

However, Alexander treated the Persian royal family with royal honors and he called the mother of Darius “Queen Mother.” Alexander made two brothers his personal advisers. Alexander took the responsibility to capture the assassinators of Darius and bring them to his brothers to judge them according to Persian law.

Alexander’s aim was to build a super-culture by marrying within the culture, creating a new super-culture from the positive elements of all of the cultures (the phenomenon of syncretism.) Alexander, considered a wise king, did not destroy cultures. Becoming an example, Alexander married a Persian princess called Roxane and he promoted the idea with his soldiers. So, 10,000 of the soldiers were married to Persian/Asian ladies.

Alexander met all the people of Asia as a pilgrim, not as a conqueror. The first thing Alexander did everywhere he went, was to venerate firstly a Divinity as it was expressed through all the people and according to the local habits. When he went in Babylon to venerate the patron gods of Babylon, the first thing he did was to go to the ruin demolished by Xerxes, the temple of Marduk (who was traditionally the patron god of Babylon.) He ordered it to be restored with his own money from his royal budget. He did the same everywhere, including Egypt. When he went to Egypt, he restored the worship of the holy cow (which had been stopped for two hundred years by the Persian administration.) This so astonished the priests of Egypt that they crowned him, automatically, Pharaoh of Egypt. On his way to Egypt, according to Flavius Josephus. Alexander decided to visit Jerusalem for the first time when the people of Jerusalem were celebrating the breaking of the Persian yolk (after 2000 years.) But because Passover was coming, the people of Jerusalem became nervous having a pagan king come to the city of Jerusalem for the celebrations of the Passover. If Alexander entered the city, then the city would be unclean.

So, there was a big discussion in the city of how to deal with the coming of the pagan king. Finally, they accepted the suggestion of the high priest of the year, Provis. The entire city, dressed in white, came out of the city to the top of the hill called Scopus (Mt. Scopus, home of the Hebrew University today.) From the top of Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem and the lower level of the temple could be seen. So, they organized his reception, as a liberator, up there.

When Alexander, with his army, approached and he saw this crowd all dressed in white and the high priest in the middle dressed with his most holy vestments (used by him only once per year, the most precious actually vestments were used on the day of Yom Kippur, the Day of atonement) Alexander stopped at a distance from his army, got off his horse, disarmed and put his armor on the ground. He walked in the middle, kneeled in front of the high priest, and venerated him.

When he went back to his army, one of his generals (really surprised) asked him, “What happened to you? In front of all Asia you bow down and kneel in front of a Jewish priest?” The answer from the general was, “First of all, I do not venerate a human with honor, as the high priest of his own god. I venerate the holy name of his god written on the golden plate of on his forehead. Secondly, the Persian, in the way he was dressed, is the person that I saw in Macedonia in the city of Dion during the sacrifices to Zeus, This is the person who spoke to me about the campaign, encouraged me to go on and promised to offer the victory to the army, and to put the authority of the Persians out from my hands.”

The high priest ignored all that Alexander said. He led Alexander to the temple, not through the city, but from the eastern gate, the gate of the prophecy that says the Messiah would enter in the temple. He brought him to the yard of the Gentiles where Alexander offered sacrifices to the God of Israel, according to the instructions of the Jewish high priest. After the sacrifices, the high priest brought out of the temple the scroll of Daniel. He read to Alexander Daniel chapter 8th chapter which speaks about the Greek king who was going to break the Persian yolk. Alexander admitted that Persian of the prophecy was himself. He offered the people of Jerusalem special privileges and three thousand lambs for the sacrifices of the Passover and then he continued on his way to Egypt.

Alexander, apart from fighting against the Persian army, against the assassination of King Darius, won tribes from the margins of the Persian empire. Alexander became the number one city builder of history. During the 10 years of his reign he built hundreds of new cities. Each city followed the same model, the model that his teacher Aristotle had taught him to respect as the ideal city, the city of democracy. This is how Athenian culture, the culture of democracy, became a world heritage culture.

Many of the cities Alexander built were called Alexandria. Fourteen Alexandria’s still exist today. For example, the city of Islamabad in Pakistan is one of the seven Alexandria’s that Alexander built during his campaign. Only one, today, keeps the original name – Alexandria of Egypt.

During this same time, a lot of new cities were also built in the Middle East. Incredibly famous is the complex of 10 Greek cities of Decapolis, mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 4: 23-25), a place where Jesus taught and performed miracles. Scythopolis, the capital of Decapolis, was built 32 km south of Nazareth. Sepphoris became the capital of Galilee and is 4 km east of Nazareth, the place where Jesus grew up.

People of the East, especially the Middle East, were bilingual for more than 300 years. That explains how Jesus used New Testament terminology that is missing from the Jewish vocabulary. He uses terms that are Greek, non-translatable terms, like the term mystery, and the term logos, and so on.

Alexander died at the age of 33. He left behind a totally new road, the Hellenistic Road, a road which would have a common language for people to use to communicate, and a common culture. The advanced culture of Athens with the principles of human rights, equality in front of the law and principles and values developed in Athens at the time of democracy.This is the time when we have the translation of the Old Testament into Greek by Alexander’s successor, Ptolemy II of Egypt, and this is how the old ancient world prepared for the day of the gospel.

When Alexander died, and according to the prophecy of the Old Testament Daniel,

Alexander’s empire was divided into four, but not for his offspring.

It was divided among four of his Generals – every one of them trying to grasp a symbol of Alexander’s authority.

1. Peridiccus got his slave with the state seal. Ptolemy got his body and he brought Alexander’s body down to Alexandria and buried him there.

2. Cassander, his brother in law, got Queen Roxane, who was pregnant, and he brought Queen Roxane to Macedonia. Cassander claimed himself King of Macedonia, and the protector of the royal family, Alexander’s mother, and Alexander’s wife. Alexander’s son, Alexander IV, was born in Macedonia and was born a king. Cassander kept them in the custody of the city of Amphipolis until Alexander IV became 16 years old – the time when he had to initiate him to his royal duties. But instead Cassander assassinated Alexander IV, his mother and his grandmother and became the absolute King of Macedonia, starting a new dynasty in Macedonia. Cassander’s dynasty reigned until 168 BC when the last Macedonian King, King Perseus, was defeated, captured, and brought home alive where, after he was humiliated badly, he committed suicide. The Romans at once claimed the Kingdom of Macedonia a Roman province, but soon afterward, in Macedonia, there was a rebellion led by somebody who looked like the King Perseus and claimed to be his youngest son, Andriscus, which made the Romans really scared and the Romans were severe to the people of Macedonia.

When, in 148 BC, Andriscus was assassinated, the Kingdom of Macedonia (a Roman providence) was divided into four portions, with communication restrictions between the people of the four portions – to keep the people subject to the Romans.

1. Eastern Macedonia was called Portion Number 1 and had as its sub-capital the city of Amphipolis. Portion Number 1 also included the City of Neapolis and the City of Philippi (from where, some centuries later, the gospel started its way west.)

2. Portion Number 2 was the center of Macedonia which had as the capital of the province, the City of Thessaloniki.

3. Portion Number 3 was western Macedonia, with the capital of the kingdom, the City of Pella, and included the City of Berea and Mount Olympus, the Holy Land of all the ancient Greeks.

4. Portion Number 4 was Northern Macedonia which is more or less at the same place where there is now a modern Slavic state having this name.

Theodosius I, at the end of the 4th century AD, divided the empire into eastern and western – in order to make both of his sons’ emperors. Macedonia was included in the eastern Roman empire, known also with the old name of its capital, the Byzantine Empire.

In the 7th century AD, for the first time, the Slavs crossed the Danube River, coming south to find a better economic future.

By the 9th century a lot of Slavs dwelt as immigrants in the terrain of Macedonia. This is the time when the emperor began a campaign to Christianize the Slavs. For that reason, the emperor charged two Thessalonian brothers, Cyril and Methodius, to to Christianize the Slavs – to learn the Slavic language, to make the Slavic language into a written language and to compose the Cyrillic alphabet to translate the Bible into the Slavic language. Cyril and his brother, Methodius, did what Martin Luther did 7 centuries later for the Germans. Martin Luther is known as one of the greatest reformers of church history but sometimes we forget that Martin Luther is also the father of the German alphabet. Up to this time the German language was not yet a written language. Martin Luther organized the German language, according to ancient Greek/Latin grammar, making German a written language in order to translate the Bible into German.

At the middle of the 15th century, the Eastern Roman empire, the Byzantine Empire, collapsed and the Ottomans became the rulers of all the former Eastern Roman Empire.

At the end of the 15th century, the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, expelled all the Jews of Spain and Portugal. Thousands of them came to find a new homeland in Macedonia. The City of Thessaloniki at that time became a big Jewish city and remained the biggest Jewish city until the time of the Holocaust in 1943, competing with Kiev, Ukraine.

When the Ottomans came to the city of Neapolis during the 15th century it became a major station of their cavalry. The city of Neapolis was renamed to Kavala, from the word ka-va-la-ri-a, which is its present name. The original ancient name is Neapolis, meaning New City. The Muslims descended in Kavala – today with approximately 100,000 people, which is about 1% of the Greek population. The minarets of mosques are in present day Kavala. Right after the 1922 genocide of the Greeks in Turkey there was an exchange of population between the two countries, Greece, and Turkey. Three hundred thousand Turks from Greece went to Turkey and approximately 2 million Greeks from Asia Minor came to Greece. Some people made a referendum among themselves to identify themselves as Greek Muslims, not Turks, which is the reason they were not included in that exchange of population by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1922.

All of the cities in Macedonia were under Ottoman administration until 1912, the beginning of 20th century. At that time three states of the area, Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria came together, made an alliance and they decided to claim the war against the Ottoman Empire, to push the Ottomans out of Europe. They pushed them out to Eastern Thrace.

They came together again to divide the liberated land of Macedonia, which had also become the main pot of gold of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913.) It was decided that Macedonia would be divided according to population, so 60% was given to Greece, and 40% was divided between Bulgaria and Serbia. Because the relations between Greece and Bulgaria were not very good that time,unlike the good relations between Greece and Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria came to a second agreement. Bulgaria agreed not to use the name Macedonia for the terrain which was incorporated into the Bulgarian state. Bulgaria also agreed to change all the names of the cities and the villages, which were Greek, into Slavic named cities. There was also an exchange of population. Bulgarian Macedonians that were dwelling in the Greek part were moved to Bulgaria. Greek Macedonians went to Greece. The situation with Serbia was better, so the two states decided not to disturb the populations and to change history. For that reason, it was not a surprise when in 1950 Tito divided Yugoslavia into inner republics, and named most of the south Macedonia.

In antiquity the people of Thasos were the ones who initially built the city port of Neapolis/Kavala, in the 7th century BC, to help themselves transport pine wood, raw material – very important for building the ships of that time from the mainland. We are Christians today, in the west, because one day in the middle of the first century AD, a ship came bringing a person holding some scrolls. These scrolls were the New Testament, the message of the Gospel. Neapolis/Kavala, Greece is the gate of the Gospel for all the western world.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *