Macedonia, region, Europe: Early History through Ottoman Rule

Early History through Ottoman Rule

Like neighboring Thrace and Epirus, Macedonia has been, since the early Middle Ages, a meeting place of nations, a fact that has contributed in large measure to its complex and turbulent history. Macedonians first appear historically about 700 b.c. By about 400 b.c., they had adopted the Greek language and had begun to build a kingdom (Macedon) that was greatly enlarged by the conquests of Philip II (359–336 b.c.) and Alexander the Great (336–323 b.c.). In the 2d cent. b.c., Macedonia became a Roman province.

With the division (a.d. 395) of the Roman Empire, Macedonia came under Byzantine rule. Devastated by the Goths and Huns, it was settled (6th cent.) by the Slavs, who quickly made most of Macedonia a Slavic land. However, it continued under intermittent Byzantine domination until the 9th cent., when most of Macedonia was wrested from the Byzantine Empire by Bulgaria. Emperor Basil II recovered it (1014–18) for Byzantium, but after the temporary breakup (1204) of the Byzantine Empire during the Fourth Crusade, Macedonia was bitterly contested among the Latin Empire of Constantinople, the Bulgars under Ivan II, the despots of Epirus, and the emperors of Nicaea. It again became part of the Byzantine Empire, which was restored in 1261, but in the 14th cent. Stephen Dušan of Serbia conquered all Macedonia except for present-day Thessaloníki.

The fall of the Serbian empire in the late 14th cent. brought Macedonia under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, which lasted for five centuries. In the 19th cent. the national revival in the Balkans began; national and religious antagonism flared, and conflict was heightened by the Ottoman policy of playing one group against the other. Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire lost control over the major sections of Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, each of which claimed Macedonia on historical or ethnical grounds. In the Treaty of San Stefano (1878), which terminated the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Bulgaria was awarded the lion's share of Macedonia. However, the settlement was nullified by the European powers in the same year (see Berlin, Congress of), and Macedonia was left under direct Ottoman control.

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