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Ancient Sources



On Behalf of the Lariasaeans

“Shell we being Greeks, be slaves to Archelaus, a barbarian?”

This line the Greek Thrasymachus attributed to the Macedonian king Archelaus who occupied Greek land with his Macedonian army. Since the ancient Greeks stereotyped and called all non-Greeks barbarian, it is clear that Thrasymachus does not consider neither the Macedonian king nor his nation to be Greek, but foreigners to the ancient Greek world. The modern Greeks, however, would like to claim the ancient Macedonians as Greek. Here is what Professor Borza (a Macedonian specialist and expert on the ethnicity of the Macedonians) had written on that matter:

Daskalakis (Hellenism, 234) contended that Thrasymachus was not referring to barbarians in a usual sense. The passage, he argued, should be taken “in its rhetorical slant of a difference between advanced and backwards Greeks in an intellectual sense.” This is strained and unconvincing. [Eugene Borza. In the Shadow of Olympus. p.165]

Borza can not be more right. The Greeks clearly called all non-Greeks barbarians. Based on the Daskalakis’s logic, are we now supposed to think that the Persians (which the Greeks also called barbarians) are some kind of backward Greeks in an intellectual sense? The Thracians too? However, we do not see the modern Greek authors claim that. The lesson is clear: Daskalakis’s argument can not be true and it only proves to what extend the modern Greek writers would go to make the Macedonians Greek and even rewrite the feelings of the ancient Greeks during that process.


Greek Writer

To Philip

[1] “The feeling of being peoples of nonkindred race existed on both side” referring to Isocrates’ statement. Earnst Badian


[2] Isocrates’ letter to Philip II where he, Isocrates refers to Philip “as one who has been blessed with untrammeled freedom to consider Hellas your fatherland” Green calls this a “rhetorical hyperbole”. “Indeed, taken as a whole the Address to Philip must have caused its recipient considerable sardonic amusement”. [p. 49] “Its ethnic conceit was only equaled by its naivety” [p.49] Peter Green


[3] “And though Philip did not give a fig for Panhellenism as an idea, he at once saw how it could be turned into highly effective camouflage (a notion which his son subsequently took over ready-made). Isocrates had, unwittingly, supplied him with the propaganda-line he needed. From now on he merely had to clothe his Macedonian ambitions in a suitable Panhellenic dress.” [p.50] Peter Green


[4] “This was the Panhellenic crusade preached by Isocrates, and as such the king’s propaganda section continued – for the time being – to present it. No one, so far as we know, was tactless enough to ask the obvious question: if this was a Panhellenic crusade, where were the Greek troops? [p. 157] Green


[5] “Isocrates never for an instant thought of a politically unified state under Philip’s leadership. It is simply the internal unification of Hellas which he calls on Philip to bring about.” [p.37] [Macedonia specifically excluded from Greece] Wilken


Note: Macedonians were not Hellene, and Macedonia was never a member of the Hellenic League, a league that encompassed and “united” all the Greek city-states. Isocrates expanded the term Hellene to include, no racial descent, but mode of thought, and those who partook of Attic culture, rather than those who had a common descent were called Hellene. He saw the true Hellene only in the Greek educated in the Attic model. He did not regard the barbarians of Attic education as Hellenes.

[6] “When Philip read the book, the insistence of his descent from Heracles must have been welcome to him; for in his policy he had to stress this mythical derivation, as the types of Heracles on his coins show. But on the other hand he must have smiled at the naivete shown by Isocrates.” [p.36] Wilken


[7] Isocrates must have taken this strong realist for an idealist, such as he was himself, if he believed that Philip would draw his sword for the beaux yeux of the Greeks.” [p.36] Wilken


[8] “When Isocrates in this treatise makes so much of Heracles as Philip’s ancestor, this was meant not merely for Philip, but for the Greek public as well.” [p.35] Wilken


[9] “At the end of his speech, Isocrates, summarizing the programme which he was proposing to Philip, advised him to be a benefector to the Greeks, a king to the Macedonians, and to the barbarians not a master, but a chief.” [p.106] PIERRE JOUGUET Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World


[10] [On Macedonian ethnicity] So little do the Macedonians seem to have belonged to the Hellenic community at the beginning, that they did not take part in the great Games of Greece, and when the Kings of Macedon were admitted to them, it was not as Macedonians, but as Heraclids. Isocrates, in the ‘Philip’ praises them for not having imposed their kingship on the Hellenes, to whom the kingship is always oppressive, and for having gone among foreigners to establish it. He, therefore, did not regard the Macedonians as Greeks.” [p.68] PIERRE JOUGUET Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World


[11] “In the Panegyricus he [Isocrates] had urged an understanding between Sparta and Athens, so that the Greeks might unite in a common expedition against the Persian empire. Nothing of that sort was any longer thinkable. But the policy of which he now had such high hopes offered a surprisingly simple solution for the distressing problem that lay heavily on all minds the problem of what was to be the ultimate relationship between Greece and the new power in the north (Macedonia).” [p.152] WERNER JAEGER Demosthenes


[12] “But for Isocrates that was no obstacle. He had long since come to recognize the impossibility of resisting Macedonia, and he was only trying to find the least humiliating way to express the unavoidable submission of all the Greeks to the will of Philip. Here again he found the solution in a scheme for Macedonian hegemony over Greece. For it seems as if Philip’s appearance in this role would be most effective way to mitigate his becoming so dominant a factor in Greek history; moreover, it ought to silence all Greek prejudices against the culturally and ethnically aliencharacter of the Macedonians.” [p.153] WERNER JAEGER


[13] “With the help of the role that Isocrates had assigned to him, he had the astuteness to let his cold-blooded policy for the extension of Macedonian power take on the eyes of the Greeks the appearance of a work of liberation for Hellas. What he most needed at this moment was not force but shrewd propaganda; and nobody lent himself to this purpose so effectively as the old Isocrates, venerable and disinterested, who offered his services of his own free will.” [p.155] WERNER JAEGER


[14] “Looking far beyond the actualities of the Greek world, hopelessly split asunder as it was, he (Isocrates) had envisaged a united nation led by the Macedonian king.” [p.172] WERNER JAEGER


[15] “Quite apart, however, from any theoretical doubts whether the nationalistic movement of modern times, which seeks to combine in a single state all the individuals of a single folk, can properly be compared with the Greek idea of Panhellenism, scholars have failed to notice that after the unfortunate Peace of Philocrates Demosthenes’ whole policy was an unparalleled fight for national unification. In this period he deliberately threw off the constrains of the politician concerned exclusively with Athenian interests, and devoted himself to a task more lofty than any Greek statesman before him had ever projected or indeed could have projected. In this respect he is quite comparable to Isocrates; but an important point of contrast still remains. The difference is simply that Demosthenes did not think of this “unification” as a more or less voluntary submission to the will of the conqueror; on the contrary, he demanded a unanimous uprising of all the Greeks against the Macedonian foe.” [p.172] WERNER JAEGER


[16] “His Panhellenism was the outgrowth of a resolute will for national self-assertiveness, deliberately opposed to the national self-surrender called for by Isocrates – for that was what Isocrates’ program had really meant, despite its being expressed romantically as a plan for a Persian war under Macedonian leadership.” [p.172-3] WERNER JAEGER


[17] The first resolution passed by Synedrion at Corinth was the declaration of war against Persia. “The difference was that this war of conquest, which was passionately described as a war of vengeance, was not looked upon as a means of uniting the Greeks, as Isocrates would have had it, but was merely an instrument of Macedonian imperialism.” [p.192] WERNER JAEGER


[18] “For the six years or more that follow, Philip’s life, alas! is withdrawn, except at rare intervals, from our knowledge. Alas, indeed! for these are the years in which his men at arms marched, the first foreigners since history has begun, into the Peloponnese, and he himself besieged and took cities on the Adriatic, and led his spearmen up to, or even beyond, the Danube; years, too, in which his final ambition took shape, ‘for it was coming to be his desire to be designated Captain- General of Hellas, and to wage the War against the Persians’.” (p.97) David Hogarth


[Please visit “Green” and “Isocrates’ Letter to Philip” (345), for further enlightenment] Notice also the usage of quotes by David Hogarth, regarding Philip’s desire to be Captain-General of Hellas.]

[19] “The dispute of modern scholars over the racial stock of the Macedonians have led to many interesting suggestions. This is especially true of the philological analysis of the remains of the Macedonian language by O. Hoffmann in his Makedonen etc. Cf. the latest general survey of the controversy in F. Geyer and his chapter on prehistory. But even if the Macedonians did have some Greek blood- as well as Illyrian- in their veins, whether originally or by later admixture, this would not justify us in considering them on a par with the Greeks in point of race or in using this as historical excuse for legitimizing the claims of this bellicose peasant folk to lord it over cousins in the south of the Balkan peninsula so far ahead of them in culture. It is likewise incorrect to assert that this is the only way in which we can understand the role of the Macedonian conquest in Hellenizing the Orient. But we can neglect this problem here, as our chief interest lies in discovering what the Greeks themselves felt and thought. And here we need not cite Demosthenes’ well-known statements; for Isocrates himself, the very man who heralds the idea of Macedonian leadership in Hellas, designates the people of Macedonia as members of an alien race in Phil.108. He purposely avoids the word barbaroi but this word is one that inevitably finds a place for itself in the Greek struggle for national independence and expresses the views of every true Hellene. Even Isocrates would not care to have the Greeks ruled by the Macedonian people: it is only the king of Macedonia, Philip, who is to be the new leader; and the orator tries to give ethnological proof of Philip’s qualifications for this task by the device of showing that he is no son of his people but, like the rest of his dynasty, a scion of Heracles, and therefore of Greek blood.” [p.249] WERNER JAEGER


[Point of Interest]

(a) Macedonians cannot be considered as Greeks even if they had some Greek blood in their veins.

(b) Macedonia’s conquest of the Orient should not be contingent upon Greek culture.

(c) Isocrates places the Macedonians with alien races and hitherto, outside the Hellenic world.

(d) Isocrates takes care of this “alien race” not to be seen as leaders of Greece. He isolates their king Philip as not of the same race as the people over which he governs.

Note: The speech On the Chersonese was, to be sure, delivered in a specifically Athenian emergency; but the interest of the Greeks as a whole is never left out of sight. The Third Philippic is entirely dedicated to the danger that threatens all Greece. Similarly, when the past and future are compared, it is the whole of Hellas that is considered, not Athens alone.


“The Father of History” Greek Writer

The Histories

The modern Greek position relies on Herodotus’ support for their quest to make the ancient Macedonians Greek. Herodotus, being one of the foremost biographer in antiquity who lived in Greece at the time when the Macedonian king Alexander I was in power, is said to have visited the Macedonian Kingdom and supposedly, profited from this excursion, wrote several short passages about the Macedonians. What did he say, and to what extent can these passages be taken as evidence for the alleged ‘greekness’ of the ancient Macedonians, will be briefly presented for your adjudication.

Herodotus describes the episode with the Persian envoys, who apparently visited Macedon when Alexander I’s father Amyntas was in power, and how Alexander I succeeded in ‘taking care of the Persians’ by murdering all of them and removing their luggage and carriages. When the Persians attempted to trace the lost envoys, Alexander I cleverly succeeded in manipulating the Persians by giving his own sister Gygaea as a wife to the Persian commander Bubares. Here Herodotus writes:

“I happen to know, and I will demonstrate in a subsequent chapter of this history, that these descendants of Perdiccas are, as they themselves claim, of Greek nationality. This was, moreover, recognized by the managers of the Olympic games, on the occasion when Alexander wished to compete and his Greek competitors tried to exclude him on the ground that foreigners were not allowed to take part. Alexander, however, proved his Argive descent, and so was accepted as a Greek and allowed to enter for the foot-race. He came in equal first.” book 5. 22.

First, notice that it is not Herodotus that says that the Macedonian kings were of Greek nationality, but the Macedonian kings as they themselves claim. Now, let us peruse the modern literature and see if we can shed some light on this particular passage from Herodotus which is so ‘dear’ to all Greek presenters, and one that occupies the central position of their otherwise feeble defense.

[1] Eugene Borza In The Shadow of Olympus p. 112 writes:


“Herodotus’ story is fraught with too many difficulties to make sense of it. For example, either (1) Alexander lost the run-off for his dead heat, which is why his name doez not appear in the victor lists; or (2) he won the run-off, although Herodotus does not tell us this; or (3) it remained a dead heat, which is impossible in light Olympic practice; or (4) it was a special race, in which case it is unlikely that his fellow competitors would have protested Alexander’s presence; or (5) Alexander never competed at Olympia. It is best to abandon this story, which belongs in the category of the tale of Alexander at Plataea. In their commentaries on these passages Macan and How and Wells long ago recognized that the Olympic Games story was based on family legend (Hdt. 5.22: “as the descendants of Perdiccas themselves say [autoi legousi]”), weak proofs of their Hellenic descent. Moreover, the Olympic Games tale is twice removed: Herodotus heard from the Argeadea (perhaps from Alexander himself) that the king had told something to the judges, but we do not know what those proofs were.”

“The theme of the Olympic and Plataea incidents are the same: “I am Alexander, a Greek” which seems to be the main point. The more credible accounts of Alexander at Tempe and at Athens do not pursue this theme; they state Alexander’s activities without embellishment or appeal to prohellenism. Moreover, the insistence that Alexander is a Greek, and descendant from Greeks, rubs against the spirit of Herodotus 7.130, who speaks of the Thessalians as the first Greeks to come under Persian submission–a perfect opportunity for Herodotus to point out that the Macedonians were a non Greek race ruled over by Greek kings, something he nowhere mentions.”

“In sum, it would appear that Olympia and Plataea incidents—when taken together with the tale of the ill–fated Persian embassy to Amyntas’ court in which Alexander proclaims the Greek descent of the royal house–are part of Alexander’s own attempts to integrate himself into the Greek community during the postwar period. They should be discarded both because they are propaganda and because they invite suspicion on the general grounds outlined above.”

In support of his position Borza brings forward many interesting questions. He asks:

“Why is it that no Spartan or Athenian or Argive felt constrained to prove to the others that he and his family were Helenes? But Macedonian kings seem hard put to argue in behalf of their Hellenic ancestry in the fifth century B.C., and that circumstance is telling. Even if one were to accept that all the Herodotian stories about Alexander were true, why did the Greeks, who normally were knowledgeable about matters of ethnic kinship, not already know that the Macedonian monarchy was Greek? But–following Herodotus–the stade- race competitors at Olympia thought the Macedonian was a foreigner (Hdt. 5.22: barbaros) Second, for his effort on behalf of the Greek cause against the Persians Alexander is known as “Philhellene”. Now this is kind of odd to call a Greek a “friend of the Greeks”. “This title”, writes Borza, “is normally reserved for non-Greeks“.

Borza concludes: “It is prudent to reject the stories of the ill–fated Persian embassy to Amyntas’s court, Alexander’s midnight ride at Plataea, and his participation in the Olympic Games as tales derived from Alexander himself (or from some official court version of things).”

[2] Peter Green – Classical Bearings p.157


“All Herodotus in fact says is that Alexander himself demonstrated his Argive ancestry (in itself a highly dubious genealogical claim), and was thus adjudged a Greek—against angry opposition, be it noted, from the stewards of the Games Even if, with professor N.G.L. Hammond, we accept this ethnic certification at face value, it tells us, as he makes plain, nothing whatsoever about Macedonians generally. Alexander’s dynasty, if Greek, he writes, regarded itself as Macedonian only by right of rule, as a branch of the Hanoverian house has come to ‘regard itself as English’. On top of which, Philip II’s son Alexander had an Epirote mother, which compounds the problem from yet another ethnic angle.”

[3] Ernst Badian – Studies in the History of Art Vol 10: Macedonia and Greece in Late Classical Early Hellenistic Times:

“We have no way of judging the authenticity of either the claim or the evidence that went with it, but it is clear that at the time the decision was not easy. There were outraged protests from the other competitors, who rejected Alexander I as a barbarian–which proves, at least, that the Temenid descent and the royal genealogy had hitherto been an isoteric item of knowledge. However, the Hellanodikai decided to accept it–whether moved by the evidence or by political considerations, we again cannot tell. In view of the time and circumstances in which the claim first appears and the objections it encountered, modern scholars have often suspected that it was largely spun out of fortuitous resemblance of the name of the Argead clan to city of Argos; with this given, the descent (of course) could not be less than royal, i.e., Temenid.”

Badian, like Borza, believes that Alexander I “invented the story (in its details a common type of myth) of how he had fought against his father’s Persian connection by having the Persian ambassadors murdered, and that it was only in order to hush this up and save the royal family’s lives that the marriage of his sister to a Persian had been arranged.”

Badian sums it up:“As a matter of fact, there is reason to think that at least some even among Alexander I’s friends and supporters had regarded the Olympic decision as political rather than factual–as a reward for services to the Hellenic cause rather than as prompted by genuine belief in the evidence he had adduced. We find him described in the lexicographers, who go back to fourth-century sources, as “Philhellene”,–surely not an appellation that could be given to an actual Greek.”

I would like to offer another episode, reported by Herodotus, which clearly indicates that ancient Greeks did not regard the ancient Macedonians as brethren. Episodes like this stand in sharp contrast to today’s claims propagated by modern Greeks. The Persian armies were ready and poised to strike Greece. Greek allies were assembled and prepared to defend their nation. Mardonius, the Persian commander, sends Alexander I to Athens with a message. On his arrival to Athens as Mardonius’ ambassador Alexander spoke to the Athenians urging them to accept the terms offered by Mardonius. In Sparta, the news that Alexander brought message from the Great King, caused great consternation. Sparta feared that an alliance between Athens and Persia was in the making. She, then, quickly rushed an envoy to Athens herself. As it happened, Alexander I and the Spartan envoy had their audience at the same time.When Alexander I was done the Spartan envoy s spoke in their turn: “Do not let Alexander’s smooth-sounding version of Mardonius’ proposals seduce you; he does only what one might expect of him–a despot himself, of course he collaborates with a despot. But such conduct is not for you – at least, not if you are wise; for surely you know that in foreigners there is neither truth nor trust. (Hdt. 8.142) [Please note the reference to Alexander I as a foreigner who is neither truthful nor trustworthy.]

Then, the Athenians gave answer to Alexander I. Among the other things, they told Alexander that they, the Athenians, will never make peace with Mardonius, and will oppose him ‘unremittingly’. As to Alexander I’ advice and urgings that they accept the terms offered by Mardonius they said:

“Never come to us again with a proposal like this, and never think you are doing us good service when you urge us to a course which is outrageous – for it would be a pity if you were to suffer some hurt at the hands of the Athenians, when you are our friend and benefector.” (Hdt. 8.143)

To the Spartan envoys they said the following: “No doubt it was natural that the Lacedaemonians should dread the of our making terms with Persia; none the less it shows a poor estimate of the spirit of Athens. There is not so much gold nor land so fair that we would take for pay to join the common enemy and bring Greece into subjection. There are many compelling reasons against our doing so, even if we wished: the first and greatest is the burning of the temples and images of our gods – now ashes and rubble. It is our bounded duty to avenge this desecration with all our might – not to clasp the hand that wrought it. Again there is the Greek nation – the community of blood and language, temples and rituals, and our common customs; if Athens were to betray all this, it would not be well done. We, would have you know, if you did not know it already, that so long as a single Athenians remains alive we will make no peace with Xerxes.” (Hdt. 8.144)


Among the Greeks there exist a common bond, a community of blood and language, temples and rituals and common customs. This expressed kinship between the Greek allies is evident and it stands in stark contrast against the references used towards the Macedonians who were addressed as foreigners. We have seen that Herodotus (7.130) speaks of the Thessalians as the first Greeks to come under Persian submission (although the Persians entered Macedonia first), and here using his own words, he clearly exclude the Macedonians from the Greeks. We are therefore, left with the conclusion that Herodotus did not consider the Macedonians as Greeks. “Both Herodotus and Thucydides describe the Macedonians as foreigners, a distinct people living outside of the frontiers of the Greek city-states” – Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus p. 96


Greek Commander and Historian

[1] The modern Greeks claim that the ancient Macedonians were Greek based on the below passage of Thucydides:


“The country by the sea which is now called Macedonia… Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his forefathers, who were originally Temenidae from Argos” (Thucydides 2.99,3)

That this myth does not prove that the Macedonians were Greek I offer the extensive study conducted by the Macedonian specialist, Professor Eugene Borza. Analyzing the Temenidae myth transmitted by Herodotus and Thucydides, in details in two Chapters, Eugene Borza – In the Shadow of Olympus p.82-83 gives the following conclusion:

a) “It is clear that the analysis of our earliest-and sole-source cannot produce a consistent and satisfactory sequence of events. My own view is that there is some underlying veracity to the Mt. Vermion reference (as evidenced by the Phrygian connections), that among the Makedones a family of Vermion background emerged as pre-eminent, but that the Argive context is mythic, perhaps a bit of fifth-century B.C. propaganda (as I argue in the next chapter)To deny such fables and attribute them to contemporary Macedonian propaganda may appear minimalistic. But given the historical milieu in which such stories were spawned and then adorned, the denial of myth seems prudent.

b) The Temenidae in Macedon are an invention of the Macedonians themselvesintended in part to give credence to Alexander I’s claims of Hellenic ancestry, attached to and modifying some half-buried progenitor stories that had for a long time existed among the Macedonians concerning their own origins. The revised version was transmitted without criticism or comment by HerodotusThucydides (2-99.3; 5.80.2) acquired the Argive lineage tale from Herodotus, or from Macedonian-influenced sources, and transmitted it. His is not an independent version. [There is no hard evidence (pace Hammond, HM i: 4) that Thucydides ever visited Macedonia, but it makes no difference; Thucydides is reflecting the official version of things.] What emerged in the fifth century is a Macedonian-inspired tale of Argive origins for the Argead house, an account that can probably be traced to its source, Alexander I (for which see Chapter 5 below). The Temenidae must disappear from history, making superfluous all discussion of them as historical figures.

c) There were further embellishments to the myth of the early royal family. In the last decade of the fifth century B.C. Euripides came to reside in Macedon at the court of King Archelaus, thereby contributing a new stage to the evolution of the Macedonian creation-myth. Euripides’ play honoring his patron, Archelaus, probably adorned the basic story, replacing Perdiccas with an Archelaus as the descendant of Temenus-no doubt to the delight of his royal host. Delphic oracles were introduced, and the founder’s tale was extended by the introduction of Caranus (Doric for “head” or “ruler”). In the early fourth century, new early kings were added during the political rivalry among three branches of the Argeadae following the death of King Archelaus in 399, another example of the Macedonian predilection to rewrite history to support a contemporary political necessity. The story continued to be passed through the hands of local Macedonian historians in the fourth century B. C., and by Roman times it was widely known in a number of versions. Nothing in this later period can be traced back earlier than Euripides’ revision of the Herodotean tradition. The notion that Alexander I or one of his predecessors obtained a Delphic oracle to confirm the Macedonian tie with Argos has no evidence to support itHad such an oracle existed we can be confident that Alexander, eager to confirm his Hellenic heritage, would have exploited it, and that Herodotus, who delighted in oracles, would have mentioned it. In the end what is important is not whether Argive Greeks founded the Macedonian royal house but that at least some Macedonian kings wanted it so“.

d) Borza also mentiones that the “two advocates of the Argos-Macedon link are Hammond, HM, vol. 2, ch. I, and Daskalakis, Hellenism, Pt. 3, both of whom support the notion of a Temenid origin for the Macedonian royal house”, however, we have seen above that both of them were corrected with the extensive evidence that Borza carefully reviewed. We have already seen that both Daskalakis and Hammond were incorrect on many matters on the ethnicity of the Ancient Macedonians, therefore it should come to no surprise that their now outdated and poor in evidence material can not be used to claim a Greek identity to the ancient Macedonians.

[2] Thucydides however, did not consider the Macedonians to be Greek, despite the above myth which wasn’t his original work but it as we saw was only transmitted by him.Here Thucydides clearly separates the Macedonians from the Greeks (Hellenes):


“In all there were about three thousand Hellenic heavy infantry, accompanied by all the Macedonian cavalry with the Chalcidians, near one thousand strong, besides an immense crowd of barbarians.” (Thucydides 4.124)

Borza comments: “The use of barbaros [barbarians] is problematic, although it would appear that he normally includes at least some of the Macedonians in this category. See 4.125.3 and Gomme, Comm. Thuc.,3:613,615 and 616 on Thuc. 4.124.1, 126.3 and 126.5 respectively. In the Shadow of Olympus p 152.


“Both Herodotus and Thucydides describe the Macedonians as foreigners, a distinct people living outside of the frontiers of the Greek city-states” – Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus p. 96


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