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Macedonia ( ; , Makedonía, ) is a geographical and historical region of Greecemarker in southeastern Europe. Macedonia is the largest and second most populous Greek region. The region and that of Thrace are often together referred to informally as northern Greece.

This northern Greek region incorporates most of the territories of ancient Macedon, the kingdom ruled by the Argeads whose most celebrated members were Alexander the Great and his father Philip II. The name Macedonia was later applied to identify various administrative areas in the Roman and Byzantine Empires with widely differing borders. Under the Ottomans, the name disappeared altogether.

Even before the establishment of the Modern Greek state in 1830, it was identified as a Greek province, even though Macedonia had no geographical borders By the mid 19th century, the name was becoming consolidated informally, defining more of a a distinct geographical, rather than political, region in the southern Balkans. At the end of the Ottoman Empire most of the region known as Rumelia or "Turkey in Europe" was divided by the Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, following the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Greece, Serbiamarker, Bulgaria and Albaniamarker each took control of portions of the territory, with Greece obtaining the largest portion. The region was an administrative subdivision of Greece until the administrative reform of 1987, when the region was subdivided into the peripheries of West Macedonia and Central Macedonia and part of the periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace, the latter containing also the whole of the region of Thrace



Macedonia lies at the crossroads of human development between the Aegean and the Balkans. The earliest signs of human habitation date back to the palaeolithic period. At different periods strong links can be seen in different directions. With the introduction of farming at the beginning of the Neolithic period c. 7000 BC, human settlement rapidly spread through the region from the mountains of the Pindusmarker to the coastal strip along the northern Aegean shore. Nea Nikomedeia is one of the earliest known settlements. In the Late Neolithic period (c. 4500 to 3500 BC), rapid changes in pottery styles and the discovery of fragments of pottery showing trade with quite distant regions, indicate that society, economy and technology were all changing rapidly. Amongst the most important of these changes were the start of copper working, convincingly demonstrated by Renfrew to have been learnt from the cultural groups of Bulgaria and Roumania to the North. Principal excavated settlements of this period include Makryialos and Paliambela near the western shore of the Thermaic gulf, Thermi to the south of Thessalonikimarker and Sitagroimarker and Dikili Tas in the Dramamarker plain.Renfrew & Gimbutas & Elster, Excavations at Sitagroi, passim

* Elster & Renfrew, Prehistoric Sitagroi, passim

* Souvatzi, Social Archaeology, 166–178
Remarkable evidence for cult activity has been found at Promachonasmarker–Topolnica, which straddles the Greek Bulgarian border to the north of Serresmarker.

Ancient History

Map of Alexander's Empire
The history of Macedonia streches from ancient to modern Greecemarker. According to Herodotus, the Greek history of Macedonia began with the Makednoi tribe, among the first to use the name Hellenes, migrating to the region from Histiaeotis in the south. There they lived near non-Greek tribes like the Bryges, who would later leave Macedonia for Asia Minormarker, where they became known as Phrygians. Macedonia was named after the Makednoi. Accounts of other toponyms such as Emathiamarker are attested to have been in use before that.A branch of Macedonians invaded Southern Greece, where, upon reaching Peloponnese were renamed to Dorians triggering the accounts of the Dorian invasion. For centuries the Macedonian tribes were organized in independent kingdoms, in what is now Central Macedonia, and their role in Greek politics was minimal. The rest of the region was inhabited by various Thracian and Illyrian tribes as well as mostly coastal colonies of other Greek states such as Amphipolis, Olynthos, Potidea, Stageira and many others. During the late 6th and early 5th century BC, the region was under Persian rule until the destruction of Xerxes at Plataea. In the next century, Macedonia became the theatre of many military actions regarding the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians and saw incursions of Thracians and Illyrians, as attested by Thucidydes. The kingdom of Macedon, was reorganised by Philip II and achieved Greek hegemony during his years. With Philip's exploits begins the Greek history of the remainder of today's Greek Region of Macedonia. After his assassination, his son Alexander succeeded to the throne of Macedon and, retaining the office of "General of Greece", he became one of the best known persona this land ever gave birth to. Macedonia remained an important and powerful kingdom until it was annexed by the Romans in 148 BC. The region remained under Roman rule for centuries, a part of many provinces with various names.

Medieval history

Under Byzantine rule, the territory of the Greek region of Macedonia was divided as part of various administrative regions, called themata. Confusion sometimes occurs when referring to the Theme of Macedonia, which was in fact located in Thrace. Following the Bulgarianmarker incursions of the 7th century, for long only the coastal areas remained under effective Byzantine control, while most of the hinterland was disputed between Byzantium and Bulgaria.
familiarity with the strong Slavic element in the area led two brothers from Thessaloniki, Saints Cyril and Methodius, to be chosen to convert the Slavs to Christianity. Following the campaigns of Basil II, all of Macedonia returned to the Byzantine state. Following the Fourth Crusade 1203–1204, a short-lived Crusader realm, the Kingdom of Thessalonica, was established in the region, but it was subdued by the Greek Despotate of Epirus in 1224. Returning to the restored Byzantine Empire shortly thereafter, the area remained in Byzantine hands until the 1340s, when all of Macedonia (except Thessaloniki, and possibly Veriamarker) was conquered by the Serbian ruler Stefan Dusan. Divided between Serbia and Bulgaria after Dusan's death, the region fell quickly to the advancing Ottomans, with Thessaloniki alone holding out until 1387. After a brief Byzantine interval in 1403–1430, the city and its immediate area returned to the Ottomans.

The capture of Thessalonica threw the Greek world into a state of consternation, being regarded as the prelude to the fall of Constantinoplemarker itself. The living folk traditions have carried the story of that fateful day through the centuries, adapting it to the mythological form of the folk medium. Apostolos Vacalopoulos records the following Turkish tradition connected with the capture of Thessalonica:

Ottoman Rule

Modern history

Greece gained the region from the Ottoman Empire, after the Second Balkan War with the Treaty of Bucharest .


There are a number of theories for the etymology of the name Macedonia:

  1. According to ancient Greek mythology, Makednos or Macedon was the name of the first phylarch (chief) of the Makednoí tribe that initially settled there and founded the kingdom of Macedon.
  2. According to Herodotus, both the Dorians and Macedonians descended from the Makednoi tribe. The name of the latter two probably derives from the Doric noun , mākos (Attic and modern Greek , mákros and , mēkos), meaning "length", and the adjective , makednós, meaning "tall, taper", since both the Macedonians (Makedónes) and their Makednoi tribal ancestors were regarded as tall people. The adjective is used by Homer in Odyssey (7.105f), to describe a tall poplar tree, and by Aristophanes in his comedy the Birds, to describe a wall built around their imaginary city.
  3. The district of Macedonia took its name from Macedon, according to Hesiod a son of Zeus and Thyia, Deucalion's daughter. Hesiod makes Magnes and Macedon brothers, cousins of Graecus, sons of Zeus and grandchildren of Deucalion, the progenitor of all Greeks.

Local government

Macedonia is divided into three peripheries comprising thirteen prefectures (Greek: νομοί). Two of these prefectures (Dramamarker and Kavalamarker) are part of the Drama–Kavala–Xanthimarker super-prefecture. The prefectures are further divided into municipalities (Greek: δήμοι, demoi) or "communities" (Greek: κοινότητες – roughly equivalent to Britishmarker or Australian shires). They are overseen by the Ministry for the Interior, while the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace is responsible for the coordination and application of the government's policies in the region.

Macedonia borders the neighboring peripheries of Thessaly, Thrace (part of the East Macedonia and Thrace periphery) and Epirus. The three Macedonian peripheries and their prefectures are:

Map of Macedonia Number Periphery Capital Area Population
Total West Macedonia Kozanimarker 9,451 km² 301,522
1 Kastoria Prefecturemarker Kastoriamarker 1,720 km² 53,483
2 Florina Prefecture Florinamarker 1,924 km² 54,768
3 Kozani Prefecturemarker Kozanimarker 3,516 km² 155,324
4 Grevena Prefecture Grevenamarker 2,291 km² 37,947
Total Central Macedonia Thessalonikimarker 18,811 km² 1,871,952
5 Pella Prefecture Edessamarker 2,506 km² 145,797
6 Imathia Prefecturemarker Veriamarker 1,701 km² 143,618
7 Pieria Prefecturemarker Katerinimarker 1,516 km² 129,846
8 Kilkis Prefecturemarker Kilkismarker 2,519 km² 89,056
9 Thessaloniki Prefecturemarker Thessalonikimarker 3,683 km² 1,057,825
10 Chalkidiki Prefecturemarker Polygyrosmarker 2,918 km² 104,894
11 Serres Prefecturemarker Serresmarker 3.968 km² 200,916
Total East Macedonia Kavalamarker 5,579 km² 249,029
12 Drama Prefecturemarker Dramamarker 3,468 km² 103,975
13 Kavala Prefecturemarker Kavalamarker 2,111 km² 145,054
- Mount Athos (Autonomous) Karyes 336 km² 2,262
Total Macedonia Thessalonikimarker 34,177 km²

The geographical region of Macedonia also includes the male-only autonomous monastic state of Mount Athos, but this is not part of the Macedonia precincts. Mount Athos is under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchatemarker, and enjoys a special status: it is inaccessible to women; its territory is a self-governed part of Greece, and the powers of the state are exercized through a governor. The European Union takes this special status into consideration, particularly on matters of taxation exemption and rights of installation.



Macedonia covers an area of some . High ground makes up much of the region with mountains reaching up to ; extensive fertile plains lie along the Aegean Seamarker coast. Macedonia is traversed by the valleys of the Aliakmonmarker, Axiosmarker, Nestos, and Strymonasmarker rivers, all of which drain into the Aegean. Greek Macedonia borders the countries of Albania, the independent Republic of Macedoniamarker, and Bulgariamarker, and the Greek regions of Epirus, Thessaly and Thrace. The offshore island of Thasosmarker is within the precincts of Macedonia; together with Samothracemarker, they belong to the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (Ανατολική Μακεδονία και Θράκη).

The region has a population of 2,625,681 and its capital and largest city is Thessalonikimarker, with a city population of around 363,987, and a metropolitan area of around 1 million people.

In the context of ethnicity issues over the larger geographical region of Macedonia, Greek Macedonia is sometimes called Aegean Macedonia. While this term is now used mostly by Macedonian Slavs and occasionally in historical contexts, it is strongly disliked by many Greeks (particularly Macedonians), who regard it as associated with irridentist tendencies.

The capital

Thessaloniki, Thessalonica or Salonica ( ) is the capital of the Greek region of Macedonia and the second-largest city of Greece. It is also the capital of the Thessaloniki prefecturemarker and the capital of the EU region (or, synonymously, Greek periphery) of Central Macedonia. Today's population of the city's metropolitan areamarker is around 1,000,000.

The city was founded circa 315 BC by Cassander, the King of Macedon (Μακεδών), on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma. He named it after his wife Thessalonica, the half sister of Alexander the Great. Thessaloniki means the "victory of Thessalians".

The Apostle Paul landed at Thessaloníki (after Kavalamarker and before Veriamarker) on his second voyage to Europe (Acts, xvi. 11), and in Byzantine times the city was called symbasileousa 'συμβασιλεύουσα' (vice-capital) in Greek. Byzantine Greek brothers Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius were born in Thessaloníki.

Thessaloníki was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1430 to 1912. Thessaloniki was the main "prize" of the First Balkan War, as a result of which it was united with Greece on October 26 1912. This date has an immense importance for the city as, in addition to the aforementioned historic event of the unification, it also marks the nameday of Saint Demetrius, its patron Saint. Thessalonikimarker is a vibrant city and its commercial port is of a strategic importance for Greecemarker. It is a major economic, industrial, commercial and cultural center as well as a transportation hub in southeastern Europe. The city hosts a large student population and it is widely renowned for its large number of monuments of Byzantine architecture as well as its eminent nightlife.


The climate of Macedonia can be categorised into two types that influence well-defined regions of its territory. The two distinct types are the Alpine and the Temperate/Mediterranean types. The Alpine type is dominant mainly in the mountainous areas of Western Macedonia and the Temperate/Mediterranean type affects Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. The lowest temperature officially measured in Greece was recorded at Ptolemaidamarker, in Western Macedonia, and was .

Economy and Transport

Despite its rugged terrain, Macedonia possesses some of the richest farmland in Greece in the plain of Drama and the valleys of the Strimon and Axios. A wide variety of foodstuffs and cash crops are grown, including rice, wheat, beans, olives, cotton, tobacco, fruit, grapes, wine and other alcoholic beverages. Food processing and textile weaving constitute the principal manufacturing industries. Tourism is a major industry along the coast, particularly in the Chalcidicemarker peninsula, the island of Thasosmarker and the northern approaches to Mount Olympusmarker. Many tourists originate from Greece's immediate neighbors.

Thessalonikimarker is a major port city and industrial center; Kavalamarker is the other harbor of Macedonia. Apart from the principal airport at Thessalonikimarker (Makedonia Airportmarker), airports also exist in Kavalamarker (M.Alexandros Airportmarker), Kozanimarker (Filippos Airport), and Kastoriamarker (Aristotelis Airportmarker). The "Via Egnatia" motorway crosses the full distance of Macedonia, linking its main cities.


Macedonian cuisine

Macedonian music


The inhabitants are overwhelmingly ethnic Greeks and most are Greek Orthodox Christians. From the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, the ethnic composition of the region of Macedonia is characterized by uncertainty both about numbers and identification. The 1904 Ottoman census of Hilmi Pasha recorded 373,227 Greeks and 204,317 Bulgarians in the vilayet of Selânik (Thessalonikimarker) alone, while it makes no mention of a Macedonian Slav ethnicity (which at the time was regarded as Bulgarian). According to the same census, Greeks were also dominant in the vilayet of Manastır (Bitolamarker), counting 261,283 Greeks and 178,412 Bulgarians. Hugh Poulton, in his Who Are the Macedonians, notes that "assessing population figures is problematic" for the territory of Greek Macedonia before its incorporation into the Greek state in 1913. The area's remaining population was principally composed of Ottoman Turks and also some Jews, and at much smaller numbers of Roma, Albanians and Vlachs.

During the first half of the twentieth century, major demographic shifts took place, which resulted in the region's population becoming overwhelmingly ethnic Greek. In 1919, Bulgaria and Greece signed the Treaty of Neuilly, which called for an exchange of populations between the two countries. According to the treaty, Bulgaria was considered to be the parent state of all ethnic Slavs living in Greece. Most ethnic Greeks from Bulgaria were resettled in Greek Macedonia; most Slavs were resettled in Bulgaria but a number, remained, most of them by changing or adapting their surnames and declaring themselves to be Greek so as to be exempt from the exchange. In 1923 Greece and Turkeymarker signed the Treaty of Lausanne, and 600,000 Greek-speaking refugees from Anatoliamarker were resettled in the region replacing Macedonian Turks and other Muslims (of Albanian, Greek, Roma, Slavic and Vlach ethnicity) under similar terms.

Macedonian cities during Ottoman rule were often known by multiple names (Greek, Slavic or Turkish by the respective populations). After the partition of Ottoman Europe, cities in Greece became officially known only by their Greek names, and cities in Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker became likewise officially known only in the languages of their respective states. After the population exchanges, many locations were renamed to the languages of their new occupants.

|1926 League of nations data
| align="center" |88.8%
(1,341,000) | align="center" |5.1%
(77,000) | align="center" |0.1%
(2,000) | align="center" |6.0%
(91,000) |1,511,000 |- |}

The population was badly affected by the Second World Warthrough starvation, executions, massacres and deportations. Nazi-aligned Bulgarian occupation forces persecuted the local Greek populationand settled Bulgarian colonists in their occupation zone in eastern Macedonia and western Thrace, deporting all Jews from the region. Total civilian deaths in Macedonia are estimated at over 400,000, including 55,000 Greek Jews. Further heavy fighting affected the region during the Greek Civil Warwhich, combined with post-war poverty, drove many inhabitants of rural Macedonia to emigrate either to the towns and cities, or abroad. Even today, many parts of Macedonia are fairly sparsely inhabited.

Greekis by far the most widely spoken and the only official language of public life and education in Macedonia. The local Macedonian dialectis spoken alongside with Pontic Greek, brought to the area by Greek refugees from Anatolia. Macedonian Slavicis the most widely spoken minority language while Aromanian, Arvanitic, Megleno-Romanian, Turkishand Romaniare also spoken. Ladinois still spoken by some Jews in Thessaloniki.

Since the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a large number of economic refugees and immigrants from other south-east European countries, such as Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedoniamarker, Romaniamarker and Serbiamarker, as well as from more distant countries such as Russiamarker, the Ukrainemarker, Armeniamarker and Georgiamarker, have arrived in Greece (including Macedonia) to seek employment.

Population of largest towns

Towns/Cities Greek Name Population
01. Thessaloniki marker Δήμος Θεσσαλονίκης 363,987
02. Kavalamarker Καβάλα 63,293
03. Katerinimarker Κατερίνη 56,434
04. Serresmarker Σέρρες 56,145
05. Dramamarker Δράμα 55,632
06. Kozanimarker Κοζάνη 47,451
07. Veriamarker Βέροια 47,411
08. Ptolemaidamarker Πτολεμαΐδα 35,539
09. Giannitsamarker Γιαννιτσά 26,296
10. Kilkismarker Κιλκίς 24,812
11. Naoussamarker Νάουσα 22,288
12. Aridaiamarker Αριδαία 20,213
13. Alexandriamarker Αλεξάνδρεια 19,283
14. Edessamarker Έδεσσα 18,253
15. Nea Moudaniamarker Νέα Μουδανιά 17,032
16. Florinamarker Φλώρινα 16,771
17. Kastoriamarker Καστοριά 16,218
18. Grevenamarker Γρεβενά 15,481
19. Polygyrosmarker Πολύγυρος 10,721
20. Skydramarker Σκύδρα 5,081

Regional identity

Macedonians ( ) is the term by which ethnic Greeks originating from the region are known. Macedonians came to be of particular importance during the Balkan Wars when they were a minority population inside the Ottoman province of Macedonia. The Macedonians now have a strong regional identity, manifested both in Greece and by emigrant groups in the Greek diaspora. This sense of identity has been highlighted in the context of the Macedonian naming dispute after the Breakup of Yugoslavia, in which Greece objects to its northern neighbour calling itself the "Republic of Macedoniamarker", since explicit self-identification as Macedonian is a matter of national pride for many Greeks. A characteristic expression of this attitude could be seen when Greek newspapers reported in big headlines a declaration by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis at a meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourgmarker in January 2007, saying that "I myself am a Macedonian, and another two and a half million Greeks are Macedonians."

Minority populations

The exact size of the linguistic and ethnic minority groups of Macedonia is officially unknown, as Greece has not conducted a census on the question of mother tongue since 1951. The main minority groups in Macedonia are:


Distribution of the Slavic Macedonian language in the Florina Prefecture and Aridaia regions (1993)

Slavic-speakers are concentrated in the Florinamarker, Kastoriamarker, Edessamarker, Giannitsamarker, Ptolemaidamarker and Naousamarker regions. Their dialects are linguistically classified variously either as Macedonian or Bulgarian, depending on the region and on political orientation. The exact number of the minority is difficult to know, together with its members' choice of ethnic identification, is difficult to ascertain; most maximum estimates range around 100,000–120,000. The Greek branch of the former International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has estimated that those of an ethnic Macedonian national conscienceness number between 10,000–30,000.


See also: Aromanians in Greece and Aromanian speakers of Greece
Aromanians form a minority population through out much of Macedonia. They largely identify as Greeks and most belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. In the 1951 census they numbered 39,855 in all Greece (the number in Macedonia proper is unknown). Many Aromanians villages can be found along the slopes of the Vermion Mountainsmarker and Mount Olympusmarker. Smaller numbers can be found in the Prespesmarker region and near the Gramosmarker mountains.


Megleno-Romanians can be found in the Moglena region of Macedonia. The Megleno-Romanian language is traditionally spoken in the 11 Vlach villages, Archangelos, Notia, Karpi, Koupa, Langadia, Perikleia, Skra and Kastaneri (the other three are found in the Republic of Macedonia). They are generally adherents to the Orthodox Church while the former majority in Notia was Muslim.


Arvanites communities can be found in Greek Macedonia. 5 Arvanite communities exist in Serresmarker prefecture while many can be found in the capital, Thessaloniki. There are three Arvanites villages in the Florina prefecture (Drosopigimarker, Lechovomarker and Flambouro) with others located in Kilkis and Thessaloniki regions.


Other minority groups include Jews (Sephardim and Romaniotes), Armenians and Roma. Roma communities are concentrated mainly around the city of Thessaloniki. An uncertain number of them live in Macedonia from the total of about 200,000-300,000 that live scattered on all the regions of Greece.Hellenic Republic: National Commission for Human Rights: The state of Roma in Greece

See also

Notes and citations

  1. “The whole of Greece is divided into four great pashaliks; Tripolizza, Egripo or Neropont, Yanina, and Salonica. The pashalik of […] Salonica [comprises], the southern divisions of Macedonia. The north of Macedonia is governed by beys;…” Quoted from: Thomas Thornton, The Present State of Turkey, London 1807, Vol. 2, p. 10,[1][2]
  2. “The most fertile districts of Greece are Macedonia, Thessaly, and the eastern parts of Phocis and Boeotia.” Quoted from: Conder, Josiah: The Modern Traveller, Volume the Fifteenth: Greece. London : J.Duncan, 1830, Vol. 1, p. 12[3]
  3. “There is some difficulty in prescribing the exact boundaries of the country properly called Greece. Formerly it included Macedonia, Peloponnesus, the Ionian Islands, Crete and a part of what is now called Albania. [...] The present divisions of Greece, adopted by the [1829] provisional government, are the following: Eastern Hellas, Western Hellas, Morea, Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, Crete, and the Islands. […] What proportion of Macedonia is considered as coming within the boundaries of Greece, we have no means of deciding" Quoted from: John L. Comstock, History of the Greek Revolution compiled from official documents of the Greek government, New York 1829, pages 5 and 6[4][5].
  4. Π.Δ. 51/87 “Καθορισμός των Περιφερειών της Χώρας για το σχεδιασμό κ.λ.π. της Περιφερειακής Ανάπτυξης” (Determination of the Peripheries of the Country for the planning etc. of the development of the peripheries, Efimeris tis Kyverniseos ΦΕΚ A 26/06.03.1987
  5. Wardle, The Prehistory of Northern Greece, 509–541
  6. Rodden & Wardle, Nea Nikomedia, passim
  7. Renfrew, The autonomy of the South-east European Copper Age, 12–47
  8. Souvatzi, Social Archaeology, 217–220
  9. Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, 29
  10. Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 301–302
  11. Vacalopoulos, History of Macedonia 1354–1833, 89–97
  12. Vacalopoulos, History of Macedonia 1354–1833, 97
  13. Greek laws provide for a penalty of incarceration up to twelve months for women that violate this rule. For criticisms of this provision, see
  14. Council of Europe, Structure and Operation of Local and Regional Democracy, 8. See also the article 105 of the Constitution of Greece and the Common Declaration on Mount Athos attached to the Treaty of Entry of Greece to the EEC (1 January 1981).
  15. EUROPA - The EU at a glance - Maps - Greece - Anatoliki Makedonia ke Thraki
  16. Liotta, P. H. and Simons, A. Thicker than Water? Kin, Religion, and Conflict in the Balkans, from Parameters, Winter 1998, pp. 11-27
  17. Jupp, J. The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins, Cambridge University Press, October 1, 2001. ISBN 0-521-80789-1, p. 147.
  18. Floudas, Demetrius Andreas;
  19. Euromosaic (1996): "L'arvanite / albanais en Grèce". Report published by the Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana.


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