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Soldier of Macedon 05-10-2010 07:35 AM

Macedonians, Maedi, and the legend of Spartacus
In the year 146 BC, Macedonia was finally conquered and became a Roman province, with several hundred thousand Macedonians slaughtered and enslaved, including the royal family, who were taken to Rome as hostages. Several destructive waves of attack by the Romans and their local mercenary allies took place, who wreaked havoc in the villages, towns and cities of Macedonia. With the construction of the Via Egnatia completed towards the end of the 2nd century BC, the Romans were able to expedite the flow of resources to their new garrisons and settlements, and further cement their control in the region.

[B][U]Macedonia prior to Roman subjugation[/U][/B]

The people of Thracian origin constituted the largest element in the overall population of Europe in antiquity ([I]Herodotus, V. & Pausanias, 1, 1, 16.[/I] [url][/url]), and they lived in the regions that are today known as being overwhelmingly dominated by the Slavic linguistic group, which also happens to be the largest in Europe. Consequently, there is no doubt that the majority of the Thracian people evolved into what are now known as speakers of Slavic languages. Like their modern equivalents in today's Slavic-speaking world, the Thracians were unable to capitalise on their numerical superiority, largely due to tribal divisions and interference from other neighbouring peoples. Therefore, unity among all of the tribes in Thrace, let alone those of Thracian origin overall, was constantly found lacking. The inhabitants of Macedonia were largely Thracian by origin ([I]Strabo, 7, 7, frg 1.[/I] [url][/url]), like their neighbours, the Maedi. The homeland of the Maedi was located between the middle of the river Struma on the west and the beginning of the river Mesta on the east, which corresponds near exact to the Pirin region of eastern Macedonia (usurped by Bulgaria during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13). It is important to highlight that, although some regions in northern and eastern Macedonia such as Skopje and Pirin may not have always been labelled as Macedonian, they certainly came to be during the life of the Roman Republic/Empire, resulting from a number of circumstances such as former legacies of regional influence, population movements, population growth and expansions, provincial restructures and border alterations.

[B][U]Homeland of the Maedi[/U][/B]

When Alexander was only 16, Phillip had left him in charge of affairs in Macedonia while he travelled to the far eastern coast of Thrace to attack Byzantium. That Phillip and the Macedonian army would have had to travel across or past the territory of the Maedi, would not have gone unnoticed by the latter, and, when the first opportunity presented itself, they began to stir up trouble and revolt against Macedonian rule. Alexander met the challenge of the Maedi with supreme confidence and soundly defeated them in 340 BC. He also followed in his father's footsteps and established a new settlement named after himself, that was known in Greek as Alexandopolis. The exact location of the settlement remains unknown as it did not gain any significance of worth. Although the territory of the Maedi was absorbed within Macedonia's expanding borders, and subsequently became allied with the Macedonians, animosity continued to exist, with the Maedi again rebelling during the reign of Phillip V and joining the Romans as allies during the reign of his son Perseus ([I]Titus Livius, 42, 19. & 28, 5.[/I] [url][/url]). Therefore, the Maedi are almost certainly one of the tribes that assisted the Romans during their military actions against the Macedonians, although, as the Romans would learn, their allegiances were kept true only to their own tribe.

The hypothesis that Spartacus was of the Maedi tribe was first raised by K. Ziegler in 1955, who suggests that there was a mistake in Plutarch's text, where, rather than the word '[I]nomadikon[/I]', what was really intented was the tribal name of '[I]maidikon[/I]' ([I]The Histories of Sallust, Patrick McGushin.[/I] [url][/url]). It remains the most valid and accurate probability as there is reason for indicating Spartacus' tribal name, but not much for indicating that he was 'nomad'. Possibly recognising that resistance against the Romans would be fruitless or come at great cost, Spartacus joined other Thracian mercenaries in the service of Rome, and eventually established himself as a Roman soldier. At some point however, he deserted the Roman army along with many of his compatriots, some of whom went their own ways, others forming alliances with the Persian ruler of the Pontus, Mthridates VI. Those that did join the Persian ruler against the Romans, saw an opportunity to harass their neighbours, and at some point prior to 84 bc, during the first Mithridatic War, the Maedi again raided Macedonia. By this time, however, Macedonia was controlled by the new Roman overlords, and they ensured swift retribution against anybody that threatened their interests. The Maedi paid severely for their raids in Macedonia, and saw their territory ravaged by the Romans under the leadership of their general Sulla. This event coincided with the Roman process of regaining territory that had previously fallen in the hands of Mithridates' local allies, and may also be when Spartacus was captured and enslaved along with his wife, a prophetess that also belonged to the Maedi tribe. The fact that his wife was with him when captured suggests that Spartacus was caught in a vulnerable state at the time and was not militarily prepared, rendering the possibility of his involvement in the more recent raids in Macedonia as unlikely. In any case, the fact remains that at some point both Spartacus and his wife were enslaved, with the fate of the latter remaining unknown. Spartacus himself was sold as a slave to the Roman gladiatorial school in Capua, situated near Mount Vesuvius and owned by Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Batiatus. The school housed approximately 200 slaves who were largely Thracian and Gallic by origin, which ensured that, at the time of the rebellion in 73 BC, there were at least 78 individuals that joined in the rebellion led by Spartacus and the Gallic gladiators Crixus and Oenomaus. Several more slaves and even freemen joined Spartacus as he travelled with his forces through Romans towns, looting their treasures and liberating their slaves, until they reached the relatively safe confines of Mount Vesuvius ([I]Appian, Civil Wards, XIV.[/I] [url]*.html[/url]). Spartacus is likely to have received some sort of formal education in addition to his military training as a Thracian native and a Roman soldier, with descriptions about him forming the image of a tactically intelligent character and accomplished strategist. The following he had gathered along with the cultured image he came to represent earned him the fanciful reference of being more 'Hellenic' than Thracian by the 2nd century AD writer Plutarch, who surely had in mind the same perception as Isocrates did back in the 4th century BC, where the point was clearly made that the name of 'Hellas' was distinctive no longer of race but of intellect, and the title of 'Hellene' a badge of education rather than of common descent ([I]Isocrates, Panegyricus, 50.[/I] [url][/url]).

The actions of Spartacus and his followers came to represent an expression of freedom against the oppressive circumstances endured by slaves of all persuasions in Roman society. As the rebellion began to take shape, full of energy and symbolism, the intentions of the rebels began to gain clarity. Spartacus began to contemplate an invasion of Rome itself, which led to a strong response from the Roman army, elevating the movement to legendary status in history. A number of failed attempts to capture the rebels ended with severe defeat for the Romans, unable to match Spartacus' men in military might. These and subsequent battles against the rebels led by Spartacus came to be known as the Third Servile War. Eventually though, facing continual Roman attacks and lacking proper support and resources to sustain themselves and their actions, the movement began to crumble. In the year 71 BC, a ferocious and decisive battle took place between the Roman legions of Crassus and Spartacus' men. Lacking the discipline of seasoned soldiers, the rebels broke ranks and began to scatter and fight in smaller groups, which forced Spartacus to direct all of his forces to face the Roman onslaught head on. Spartacus met his death during this final battle against the Romans. As described by Appian, he was:
[QUOTE][I]............wounded in the thigh with a spear and sank upon his knee, holding his shield in front of him and contending in this way against his assailants until he and the great mass of those with him were surrounded and slain. The Roman loss was about 1000. The body of Spartacus was not found[/I] ([I]Appian, Civil Wards, XIV.[/I] [url]*.html[/url]).[/QUOTE]
The effects of Spartacus' movement were fundamental for Roman society, driving change and initiating the concept of greater rights for slaves in the Roman Republic/Empire. Almost immediately after the event, the Romans appear to have begun treating their slaves much better than before ([I]Davis, Readings in Ancient History, p.90[/I]). However, it would take well over a century for this concept to mature enough in Roman society so that it could manifest itself in the legal system, which is exactly what began to happen during the reign of Emperor Claudius, who decreed that all sick or worn out slaves that were abused by their masters were to be freed, and if any of the masters killed their slaves due to the abovementioned reasons, they would be liable to the charge of murder ([I]Seutonius, Life of Cladius, 25.[/I] [url]*.html#25[/url]).

Spartacus remains a legendary figure in history.

Risto the Great 05-11-2010 12:50 AM

I did not realise he was such a significant person from a Macedonian perspective. I cannot believe the Thracians are afforded such little research by historians. It would appear the lack of written language has confined them to virtual anonymity.

He was a hell of a guy!

Soldier of Macedon 05-11-2010 01:44 AM

Indeed he was RtG, and he also happens to descend from the region where our brothers and sisters in Pirin (eastern Macedonia) have lived for centuries on end. Hopefully more people can come to have an appreciation for this figure and the Maedi tribe of Thrace, and the rich historical heritage of the Pirin region between Struma and Mesta.

TrueMacedonian 05-11-2010 09:45 PM

I have to agree with RTG on this article. From a Macedonian perspective he was significant. Another great article SoM.

Soldier of Macedon 05-12-2010 12:53 AM

Thanks TM.

If you happen to come across any information regarding Spartacus that hasn't been cited above, please put it up here. I have another couple of sources from Titus Livius which I will add to the article above soon, mainly regarding the Macedonian-Maedi relations.

Mikail 05-12-2010 01:21 AM

Very interesting. Well done SoM.

This passage I find fascinating[QUOTE] the title of 'Hellene' a badge of education rather than of common descent (Isocrates, Panegyricus, 50. [url][/url]). [/QUOTE]

A Hellene is someone who is educated. This is worth exploring further. How many other references are there attributing to this fact?

Soldier of Macedon 05-12-2010 01:28 AM

The Bible is a good source for such references, where the epithet of 'Hellene' can mean either non-Jew (Heathen) or cultured/educated (when ranged against barbarians).

Risto the Great 05-12-2010 01:52 AM

Now it means someone who is broke.

Mikail 05-12-2010 02:12 AM

That's good. What Good 'Greek Orthodox' Christian would go against the 'Vivlio'? Do you have those references SoM? Let's show these Barbarians they are no Hellene.

I of Macedon 05-12-2010 06:57 AM

[QUOTE=Soldier of Macedon;52533]
The people of Thracian origin constituted the largest element in the overall population of Europe in antiquity ([I]Herodotus, V. & Pausanias, 1, 1, 16.[/I] [url][/url]), and they lived in the regions that are today known as being overwhelmingly dominated by the Slavic linguistic group, which also happens to be the largest in Europe. Consequently, there is no doubt that the majority of the Thracian people evolved into what are now known as speakers of Slavic languages. [/QUOTE]

As I presented from another thread “the expansion of the Slavic peoples to become the most numerous ethno-cultural group(s) in East Central Europe, the Balkans and Russia by the ninth century AD was also too rapid to be explicable as a natural demographic explosion (Barford 2001: 16; Urbanczyk 2005; 142). ‘The rate of reproduction involved to fill the new territories with descendants of a small original population, no matter how the figures are calculated, is biologically impossible’ (Barford 2001: 46)”. [url][/url]

Yet during the period the Thracians begin to disappear according to modern writers (though I never quite understood whether they mean the name or the people - strangely its all but never clearly specified). And as we know and as SOM also pointed out the Thracians resided in the same areas of Eastern Europe as the slavic speakers do today. The most important point however is that Thracians generally or perhaps exclusively were known as such because they resided in the region of Thrace, whilst the others who are regarded as belonging to the Thracians and that lived outside the area of Thrace all along from the Balkans to Russia didn’t identify themselves as Thracian (from what I understand please correct if I’m wrong), yet they were related to them. The strange irony to this is that researches, historians or pro-slavists etc. Can’t seem to connect those dots to form some logical conclusion (or even close to it), instead they prefer to state that the Thracians are extinct whilst the Slavs came from ummm, Mars, God :blushing: Thus in conclusion because “Slavs” begin around 6th century it creates the perception that they have no “real” ancient ancestors, thus claiming that they have connections to Thracians, Illyrians, Macedonians etc is noted as ridiculous - strange what happens when a system begins to command history.

By the way good thread SOM.

Oh, and Hollywood should make a new Spartacus movie, I think.

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