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Soldier of Macedon 06-29-2009 06:04 AM

Macedonians in the East Roman Empire
I will start with a post from another thread, to provide a background for this topic and the below events.

[QUOTE]The fact that the Macedonia Theme was established well over 2 centuries after the invasion of the Slavic-speaking tribes from the Danube indicates that the local Macedonian populace and the relevant Slavic tribes lived in relative harmony after the initial turbulence. The Macedonia Theme included large parts of southern Thrace covering lands from the Sea of Marmara to the city of Adrianople, which was chosen as its capital, and was governed as a single administrative unit. Macedonia proper was not included in the new East Roman administrative unit as control of the region could not be guaranteed due to the rebellious inhabitants who had maintained their autonomous status. Segments of the Macedonian nobility who wished to avoid any further involvement in the rebellious attacks against the East Romans, and/or to avoid the impending Bulgar attacks and invasions, had much to lose with the breakdown of the East Roman system. A gravitation east towards the capital by way of partial Macedonian emigration appears to have taken place, inspiring the name of the Macedonia Theme.

Although the Slavic rebels of Macedonia spent time to recover from recent battles against the East Romans, the Slavic tribes of the Peloponnese erupted in revolt, turning on the East Roman establishment and in particularly their Greek-speaking neighbours. In the year 821, an individual known as Thomas, who was a Slavic-speaking soldier in the East Roman Army, had raised the banner of revolt in the Asia Minor provinces. Emperor Michael II was in a dire position as East Roman rule diminished in all the eastern provinces except Opsikion and Armeniakon, with Thomas actually being crowned as an emperor by the Patriarch of Antioch, also receiving support by the local Muslims hostile towards the East Romans. Eventually Emperor Michael II utilised the help of the Bulgar Khan Omurtag, who intervened in the civil war on behalf of the East Romans. Although Thomas the Slav had amassed a large army and territory within a relatively short period of time, not doubt including several thousand descendants of the Slavic-speaking rebels from Macedonia that were resettled in Asia Minor, and had spent over a year attempting to take Constantinople via siege, he was captured and killed in the year 823. The main reasons for the revolt led by Thomas the Slav was to support the “iconodules” during the Iconism struggles and also to stand up for the poor who were being bled dry by the East Roman system.[/QUOTE]
Prior to the events of Thomas the Slav, a battle took place between the empires of East Rome and Bulgaria that engaged the Macedonians in battle. [QUOTE]On 5 November 812 Mesembria fell. It was now clear to Michael that he must march once more against his adversary; and this time he must win. All that winter he spent gathering his troops, from every corner of the Empire; and in May 813 he set out. The following month, on the field of Versinicia near Adrianople, the armies came face to face; and on 22 June [B][U]John Aplakes, commander of the Macedonians on the left wing, led his men into the attack. The Bulgars fell back in confusion[/U][/B], and for a moment it looked as if the battle were over almost before it had begun. But then an astonishing thing happened: the Anatolian troops on the right, commanded by an Armenian named Leo, suddenly turned tail and fled from the field. At first, we are told, Krum stood incredulous; then he and his men fell on the luckless Macedonians and slaughtered them wholesale. ---- A Short History of Byzantium (Based on the Great Three-Volume Work)” by John Julius Norwich, page 126.[/QUOTE]
The territory covered by the Macedonia Theme has since ancient times been a meeting point of Macedonians and Thracians that were loyal to the Macedonian Kingdom. The below text by George Finlay elaborates a little more on the same event:
[QUOTE]In the month of May, Michael again resumed the command of the army, but instead of listening to the advice of the experienced generals who commanded the troops, he allowed himself to be guided by civilians and priests, or by the suggestions of his own timidity. There were at the time three able officers in the army — Leo the Armenian, the general of the Anatolic theme ; Michael the Amorian, who commanded one wing of the army; and [B][U]John Aplakes, the general of the Macedonian troops.[/U][/B] Leo and Aplakes urged the emperor to attack the Bulgarians ; but the Amorian, who was intriguing against Theoctistos the master of the palace, seems to have been disinclined to serve the emperor with sincerity. The Bulgarians were encamped at Bersinikia, about thirty miles from the Byzantine army; and Michael, after changing his plans more than once, resolved at last to risk a battle. [B]Aplakes, who commanded the Macedonian and Thracian troops, consisting [U]chiefly of hardy Sclavonian recruits[/U], defeated the Bulgarian division opposed to him[/B]; but a panic seized a part of the Byzantine army; and Leo, with the Asiatic troops, was accused of allowing Aplakes to be surrounded and slain, when he might have saved him.[/QUOTE]
The native people of both Macedonia proper and the Macedonia Theme spoke a Slavonic tongue, and their distinction, particularly as soldiers, was proven in East Rome, Bulgaria and Serbia. Since the creation of the Macedonia Theme, the mix of Slavonic tribes, Macedonians and Thracians came to represent a powerful element in East Rome, centred around their capital Adrianople (Odrin). In addition to the example already cited regarding the Macedonian and Thracian troops that fought for East Rome against Bulgaria, some decades later, the same powerful combination was used to subdue the Slavonic rebels in the Peloponnese. Below is an excerpt from De Administrando Imperio, that cites an event that took place during the regency of Michael III (842-867)
[QUOTE]....and in the reign of Michael, the son of Theophilus, the protospatharius Theoctistus, surnamed Bryennius, was sent as military governor [B][U]to the Province of Peloponnesus with a great power and force, viz., of Thracians and Macedonians[/U][/B] and the rest of the western provinces, to war upon and subdue them. He subdued and mastered all the Slavs and other insubordinates of the province of Peloponnesus, and only the Ezeritai and the Milingoi were left, towards Lacedaemonia and Helos…….[/QUOTE]
Macedonia proper was under the control of Slavonic-speaking rebels as the above events unfolded, although the local population had since the second half of the 8th century been less rebellious towards East Rome. Bulgaria too, had increased its appeal, as with each year passing the Slavonic element in the local language prevailed completely over the tongue of the ruling class of Asian Bulgars and the official state tongue, which was Greek until then. With the baptism of Boris, and subsequently his subjects in Moesia (where the Bulgarian Kingdom was based), Macedonia proper was gradually absorbed into Bulgaria either by agreement or subjugation, which cemented the language and Christian faith in Boris' realm (led previously by Turkic Bulgars).

TrueMacedonian, I see that you have posted information on Aplakes elsewhere, good information, if you have anything further to add in relation to the above, please do so.

Soldier of Macedon 06-29-2009 07:07 AM

Check the below link:


Does anybody have any further information regarding the texts cited below? It would be good to confirm the sources and their accuracy, as it provides a greater insight to the circumstances of the time.

[U]Miracles of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki[/U]
[QUOTE]The Miracles of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki is considered the most significant work of early Byzantine literature; the first volume, containing an account of the Slavs' attack on Thessaloniki on St. Demetrius' day, was written by John, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. Regarding the attack he writes: "In the field by the holy temple, a man saw a not very numerous barbarian army (as we counted them together up to five thousands), but very strong, as it consisted of selected experienced fighters... and until late in the night they fought, and the people of the victor [the protectors of Thessaloniki] exposed themselves to great risk while they attacked and retreated, because as said, [B]they had the selected flowers of the entire Slavic people for their opponents. Finally, when help arrived, the Barbarians were expelled and they retreated[/B]."[/QUOTE]
No author cited in link.
[QUOTE]Byzantine documents provide information about the siege of Thessaloniki by the Avaro-Slavs in 586: "If one would imagine that all [B][U]Macedonians, Thracians[/U][/B] and Achaeans gathered in Thessaloniki at that time, all of them together would not represent even a small part of that barbarian multitude which then besieged the town."[/QUOTE]
[U]Letter of Michael II to Louis le Debonnaire[/U]
[QUOTE]Concerning the use of the term Macedonia in the early 9th century, the letter sent by Byzantine Emperor Michail II (reigned 820-829) to Louis le Debonnaire on April 10, 824 is intriguing. Michail wrote of the 821-824 rebellion of Thomas the Slav: "Thomas... by taking our ships and boats, had the possibility to come into (some) parts of [B]Thrace and Macedonia[/B]. In such a quick action, he besieged our town [Constantinople] and surrounded it with the fleet in the month of December, Indiction 15 [December, 821]." Furthermore, in his letter to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Michail writes that among the rebels, Thomas had people from the "areas in Asia, Europe, [B]Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly and from the surrounding sclavenes".[/B] Apparently, Michail II in referring to Macedonia in the first case meant the theme Macedonia, and in the second case as a geographical and historical entity. By the expression "the surrounding sclavenes", he meant the Slavs, Macedonian Slavs foremost.[/QUOTE]
[U]John Cametinae, On the Capture of Salonika[/U]
[QUOTE]Comenyat, author of On the Takeover of Thessaloniki (by the Arabs in 904) gives a number of details about the Macedonian Slavs, mentioning also the Draguvites, Sagudats, Strymians and others who as compact Slavic populations lived near Thessaloniki. Comenyat writes: "Our homeland, my friend, is Thessaloniki and, first of all, I am going to introduce that town to you... [B]the great and first town of the Macedonians[/B]..."[/QUOTE]
No author cited in link.
[QUOTE]However, there is written record which states that during the invasion of Crete by Nichephorus Phocas in 961, the Byzantine emperor "gathered ships and selected infantry of [B][U]Thracians, Macedonians and Sclavesians[/U][/B]".[/QUOTE]

Mr. MASO 06-29-2009 07:07 AM

You guys just get more interesting. Awesome

Risto the Great 06-29-2009 07:22 AM

Interesting work SoM.
It is an era that has not had much attention and well worth the review.

Soldier of Macedon 06-29-2009 07:54 AM

That is why I thought it deserves the exposure, the Macedonian people survived and the Macedonian identity seems to have transcended traditional borders. The relationship between the Slavonic tribes with the Macedonians and Thracians is an interesting one, it is clearly evident that the Macedonian and Thracian soldiers were speaking a Slavonic tongue.

I find it interesting that the inhabitants of rump Macedonia remained outside of East Roman control while the people of the Macedonian coast, eastern fringes and Thrace, were absorbed in the theme system earlier, given that most spoke a Slavonic tongue. Macedonia was more resilient, producing chieftan Perbund that hailed from Salonika in the 7th century and even the priest (Niketas) who became Patriarch of Constantinople in the 8th century, it retained its autonomous nature, as did her inhabitants.

Soldier of Macedon 06-29-2009 08:08 AM

Here is some more information, this time concerning the Macedonian Dynasty that raised East Rome to its glory years.

[QUOTE]The question of the origin of the founder of the Macedonian dynasty has called forth many contradictory opinions, mainly because sources vary greatly on this point. While Greek sources speak of the Armenian or Macedonian extraction of Basil I, and Armenian sources assert that he was of pure Armenian blood, Arabic sources call him a Slav. On the one hand, the generally accepted name "Macedonian" is applied to this dynasty, but on the other hand, some scholars still consider Basil an Armenian, and still others, especially Russian historians prior to the seventies of the nineteenth century, speak of him as a Slav. The majority of scholars consider Basil an Armenian who had settled in Macedonia, and speak of his dynasty as the Armenian dynasty. But in view of the fact that there were many Armenians and Slavs among the population of Macedonia, it might be correct to assume that Basil was of mixed Armeno-Slavonic origin. According to one historian who has made a special study of Basil’s time, his family might have had an Armenian ancestry, which later intermarried with Slays, who were very numerous in this part of Europe, and gradually became very much Slavonized.A more exact definition of the Macedonian dynasty from the point of view of its ethnographic composition might be Armeno-Slavic. In recent years scholars have succeeded in determining that Basil was born in the Macedonian city of Charioupolis.[/QUOTE]

It was during the reign of the Macedonian Dynasty that the Bulgars and Serbs received Christianity from East Rome.

Soldier of Macedon 06-29-2009 08:32 AM

Another informative source:


TrueMacedonian 06-29-2009 05:59 PM

[QUOTE]TrueMacedonian, I see that you have posted information on Aplakes elsewhere, good information, if you have anything further to add in relation to the above, please do so.[/QUOTE]

Thanks SoM. I might have something here of interest relating to the Slav tribes in Macedonia before Aplakes time.

The Early Slavs By Paul M. Barford page 73

Bratot 06-29-2009 07:23 PM

And we could also mention the Macedonian commanders of Justinian who were known as the Macedonian Slavs:

Dobrogost, Svarum/Svarun, Sveugad/Vsegrd, Belisar/Velisarius.



Pelister 06-29-2009 08:16 PM

This is good work SoM.

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