Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Episcopal Basilica ( 6th-4th cent AD), the oldest Greek Christian church in FYROM


The Episcopal Basilica is one of the greatest and most elaborate late Classical sacral buildings of the archaeological site of Stobi. It was erected on the eastern part of the main street -Via Sacra. In this location, the remains of two buildings, known as the Old and the New Basilica, built and reconstructed in several phases between the 4th and the 5th century AD, were excavated.

The Old Basilica is probably the oldest Greek Christian church discovered on the territory of the FYROM.

The basilica was constructed during the ministry of the bishop Budios, present at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325.

The Old Basilica is a three-aisled building. Fresco paintings as well as the geometric and floral pavement mosaics date from the first construction period. The second construction phase, dating back to the first half of the 5th century, corresponds to the ministry of the Bishop Eustathios.

The remains of the fresco paintings decorated with the monograms of Christ and the Bishop Eustathios, and the mosaics in the nave, date from the same period.

At the end of the 5th century, the New Basilica, significantly larger, was constructed four meters above the level of the earlier church. Parts of walls adorned with gold mosaics, the remains of a crypt in the apse, and the columns date from the first construction phase.

An inscription describing the Bishop Philippos as the patron of the church, situated above the entrance of the nave, dates back to the second construction phase, around 530 AD.

The New Basilica ceased to function in the second half of the 6th century, after a catastrophic earthquake, which destroyed the city.

Greek Fresco

Much of the fresco that stood in the northeast conch has now been mended (FIG. Below).

The later design was a Greek cross with loops at the ends of each arm on the left and a still unidentified object on the right; the cross is yellow brown. Figures of the earlier composition can be seen in the center and on the right where the later lime wash is not so fully preserved. It is of interest to note that the human (or saintly) figures seem to be related to a slightly different "vertical" than the later designs. A closer look at the earlier figures is rewarding (FIG. BELOW).

A face in three-quarters view was partially obscured on the left by a face in full-frontal position, a startling but effective method for showing perspective. We have noted elsewhere that different sizes of figures were also employed to aid perspective.
The Greek letters ΛAOC above the figures to the right also belong to the earlier composition.
They could be a complete word in themselves ("people"), or perhaps were the last letters of the name of a saint (e.g. NIKOLAOS-ΝΙΚΟΛΑΟΣ ).
Hopefully, the beginning of the text will be found preserved when we eventually remove the late coating of lime wash on the left of the conch.

Greek Inscription

The Episcopal basilica dedicated by Bishop Philippos stood above the ruined early Roman theater from which many of the marbles used in the construction of the church were taken.
Its western entrance was from a paved and colonnaded street leading into the heart of the city from the Porta Heraclea.
The irregular, almost triangular form of this end of the basilica where the atrium was located was appar- ently the result of construction within space already clearly defined, chiefly by the street itself.The name is preserved on the lintel of the central doorway between the narthex and the nave.
The inscription in Greek reads:
  1. Excavations at Stobi, 1970, James Wiseman and Djordje Mano-Zissi, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 75, No. 4, (Oct., 1971), pp. 395-411, Archaeological Institute of America
  2. Excavations at Stobi, 1973-1974 by James Wiseman and Djordje Mano-Zissi , Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 1, No. 1/2, (1974), pp. 117-148, Boston University

Sunday, April 20, 2008


In 826 or 827 there was born the greatest son(s) of Macedonia since Alexander the Great. Indeed if we consider the in­fluence of his work through the centuries he may be coun­ted greater than Alexander, though his weapon was the pen and not the sword. Constantine and Methodius were the sons of a military officer in the province of Thessalonike.

Methodius was born about 815, and after an education in Thessalonike he entered the civil service and was appointed governor of a district in Macedonia. The younger son Con­stantine born 826, also studied in Thessalonike. Soon, about 843, he felt the call of learning — his biographer recounts that he found the education he could obtain in Macedonia did not fit him to read Gregory of Nazianzos with full understanding — and went to the capital. There he studied under Photios and Leo the Mathematician. As Leo had been metropolitan of Thessalonike from 839 to 843, it may well have been this enlightened prelate who en­couraged the young man to move to Constantinople. He proved a brilliant scholar, and became private secretary to the patriarch and later professor in the newly founded uni­versity, teaching probably rhetoric. He had a talent for languages, and in 855 was a member of a mission to Caliph Mutawakkil to arrange an exchange of prisoners. In 860-61, he was sent, along with Methodios, who had by now become a monk, via Kherson in the Crimea to the capital of the Khazars on the Caspian Sea. There, we are told, he engaged in learned debate with the Jews of Khazaria. On the way there he had discovered at Kherson the alleged relics of St. Clement of Rome. In the year after his return from Khazaria king Rastislav of Moravia sent an urgent request to the emperor Michael III for religious teachers.

German clergy were conducting missionary work in his country, and he was anxious not to see it become a German dependency. The emperor and his advisers welcomed this opportunity to assert Byzantine prestige and authority in central Europe. It was to Constantine and Methodius that they turned. Both were by now prominent men in Byzantine life — Methodios was abbot of an impor­tant monastery — and had wide diplomatic experience. There was a further reason for the emperor's choice: the brothers knew perfect Slavonic.

Soon the brothers set out for distant Moravia. From then on their story belongs to world history. Constantine — who changed his name to Cyril on becoming a monk — and Methodios became the Apostles of the Slavs. They provided not only an alphabet and translation of the Bible and liturgical texts for their proselytes. They created for the Slavonic peoples a literary language and gave them access to the heritage of Greek and European culture.

The account given in the biographies of Cyril and Methodius cannot be wholly believed. The Slavonic alphabet was a marvel of phonological analysis, and can scarcely have been invented in a few days. And the working out of the abstract and technical vocabulary needed to translate the Bible and theological texts demand­ed many years work. It is reasonable to suppose that Cyril and Methodius had for long been consider­ing the problems of evangelization of the Slavs in their native Macedonia, and had come to the conclusion that it was possible only through the Slavonic tongue. Cyril was an accomplished linguist, and Methodius had long experience of governing a predominantly Slav population. They may also have had in mind the eventual conversion of Bulgaria, which in fact took place a few years after they left for Moravia.

A modified form of Cyril's alphabet is still in use from the Arctic Ocean to the Greek frontier and from the Baltic to the Behring Strait.

His mortal remains lay in the crypt of the Church of Saint Clement in Rome until 1975, when they were transferred to the church of Saint Demetrios, Thessalonike.

Disputes of the Saints origin

The conversion of the Slavs to the christian faith through the Greek Orthodox Church was done during the 9th century by two Greek Thessalonian monks named Cyril and Methodius. They taught the Greek based Cyrillic script to the Slavs and enlightened them regarding religion. The cultural history of the Slavs, founded on Byzantine Christiano/Hellenic culture, begins from this period. Even this event which affected almost half of the inhabitants of Europe, including the eastern and southern Slavs, owes its existence to Macedonia, to the Greek Macedonian monks and to the Byzantine Greek culture.

As Marcus Templar mention that term “Slav Apostles” or the “Apostles of the Slavs” does not mean that the two brothers were Slavs. St. Thomas is called “the Indian Apostle,” but we all know that he was not an Indian. He simply taught Christianity to the Indians. The Greek brothers from Thessaloniki taught Christianity to the Slavs, they gave them the alphabet (presently called Cyrillic), and they translated the sacred and liturgical books of Christianity into the Old Church Slavonic, otherwise known as Old Bulgarian.

Slavmcedonians of FYROM maintain a strange untruthful theory, that is, that Cyril and Methodius as Thessalonians were Slavs and consequently, the FYROM Slavs as descendants of the Macedonians enjoy the privelege of having enlightened their compatriots.These theories received a powerful slap from the Slav Pope John Paul II, who on the 31 of December 1980, and through an official apostolic cirgular ( Egregiae Virtuis ) addressed to the entire catholic church, as well as with a letter to the President of the Greek Republic, Constatine Karamnlis, proclaims that Cyril and Methodius , ' brother Greeks, born in Thessaloniki' are consecrated 'divine protectors of Europe'.

The Pope repeated his proclamation on the 14th of February 1981 in the church of Saint Celemens in Rome.The Pope apart, other Slavs, politicians and historians accept the Greekness of Methodius and Cryil. For example, the Czech Byzantinist Fr. Dvornik, the Serb historians of ancient Serbian literature, P. Popovitch, Dj. Sh. Radovich and Dj. Trijunovich.

Also the Slovenian historian and professor of the University of Ljubljana, B. Grajenauer, and the Serb Professor V. Bogdanovich who in his opus The History of Ancient Serbian Literature writes: " Cyril and Methodius were born in Thessaloniki and in their lineage they are not Slavs but Greeks."

Bulgarian Professors Ivan Lazaroff, Plamen Pavloff, Ivan Tyutyundzijeff and Milko Palangurski of the Faculty of History of Sts. Cyril and Methodius University in Veliko Tŭrnovo, Bulgaria in their book, Kratka istoriya na bŭlgarskiya narod (Short History of the Bulgarian Nation, pp 36-38), state very explicitly that the two brothers were Greeks from Thessaloniki.

The late Oscar Halecki, Professor of Eastern European History, in his book Borderlands of Western Civilization, A History of East Central Europe (chapter Moravian State and the Apostles of the Slavs) agrees with the authors of Kratka istoriya na bŭlgarskiya narod.

The falsification of Macedonian history until World War II was mainly the work of Bulgarian historians of the pre-war regime. This line was followed even after World War II by the Bulgaro-Macedonians of America, with the result of creating sharp conflicts between themselves and our compatriot immigrants of Macedonia.


  1. Helen Ahrweiler in the Volume "Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History and Civilization"
  2. The Falsification of Macedonian History by Nicholas Martis
  3. Byzantine, Slavs and Mount Athos, by Tachiaos
  4. Fallacies and facts on the Macedonian Issue by Marcus Templar

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions on Byzantine Macedonia, Part 1

Q1 ) FYROM Skopjans accuse us Macedonians in Greece of changing the names of our cities into Greek ones some time in the 20th century instead of using the slavic names assigned to these cities since "ancient" (sic) names. They claim that Edessa for example should not be called so but VODEN instead, and Thessaloniki should be called SOLUN.

Cities in Macedonia, the ancient kingdom and the province of Greece, still have the names they had in antiquity, at least for the cities that existed at that time. The names of some of these cities may not be even of Greek origin, thus showing that Skopjan claims are not only false but at least silly or absurd.

The Skopjans claim that the Macedonian city of Edessa in the Pella prefecture of Macedonia, Greece, should not be called so but Voden instead. They also claim that we Macedonias changed the name of the city from the slavic one "VODEN" into the "greek" one EDESSA. The city of EDESSA has been called so since prehistoric times. It is amusing to point out that many believe the name Edessa is not of Greek, but possibly of phrygic origin denoting a place rich of waters. Edessa has always been famous of her waterfalls. Others may claim that the suffix "-dessa" may indicate 'water' in some prehistoric form of the greek word (GK:YDVR) for water. This connection of the name 'EDESSA' with 'water' had confused many historians until 1976. They used to believe that Edessa was ancient Aegae, the royal city of the Macedonian Kings. They thought that the word 'Aegae' was derived not from the word 'aega' (she-goat) as this is related with the myth of the creation of the Macedonian state by Karanos, but from the doric prefix Aeg- denoting 'water' (cf Edessa). In Doric, 'aegae' means '(water) waves' (The 'Aegean Sea' is an obvious example). Given that both names Edessa and Aegae have to do with 'waters' archaelogists thought that Edessa=Aegae.

This argument was put in rest by Nicholas L. G. Hammond in 1968 when he suggested that Vergina and not Edessa was the ancient Aegae, a correct assertion as it was proved in 1976 by the excavations of M. Andronikos in Vergina. Though Vergina is not on the sea shore of Thermaikos Bay it is believed that in the BC centuries the present lands separating Vergina from the sea were wetlands.

It is noted that the slavic word VODEN also denotes 'water'. It is also worth mentioning that the city of Skopje whose name is probably derives from the greek one 'Skopia', was invariably called 'Uskub', 'Skupoi', 'Skup', 'Skopje', and as of few years ago 'Skoplje'.

Another Example is the city of Kastoria in Western Macedonia, Greece. Skopjans prefer to call it Kostur and suggest that Greeks should call it so. The name of the city 'Kastoria' comes from the mythical hero Kastor (Castor) brother of Polydeukes, son of Leda and Zeus.

Regarding Thessaloniki (called Salonica or Saloniki also in English) if one opens an ancient map he will realize that the name of the city has been Thessaloniki and not Solun (as Skopjan suggest that we should call the city) since ancient times.

Q2) FYROM Skopjans claim that when Slavs descended to the Balkan peninsula, in the 7th century AD, Macedonians vanished and there was a kind of 'slavicization' of Macedonia which 'gave birth' to the "Slavic-Macedononians" as Skopjans claim they are (at least some of them), the supposedly deserved ancestors of ancient Macedonians. Are such claims true say up to 15th century AD?

The distinction between Macedonians, Thessalians, Athenians, Spartans and Lacaedemonians in antiquity which indicated among other things greek tribes of distinct customs, spoken dialects ceased to exist with the passage of time. As of the hellenistic period almost all Greeks were using the attic dialect for their communication while all the other dialects (of greek) were dropped from regular use. The rise of Christianity erased distinctions based in religious matters and the place of residence was then used distinguish say Thessalians from Macedonians and Athenians. Their common greek dialect (the attic one) though evolved differently in various regions thus giving the various dialects of modern greek.

To say that Macedonians vanished some time in the 7AD century is to claim that the Greeks (many of them ancestors of doric people called Macedonians, other possibly ancestor of other aeolic, doric or ionic people, others of mixed parentage) residing in Macedonia were all killed at that time, an absurdity.

Around 688, emperor Justinian B', after the defeat of the Bulgars and Slavs in lower Moissia transferred all the Slavs in the northern european part of his empire (that is of Macedonia and Thrace of nowadays Greece and territories covering the Rep. of Skopje, Albania and parts of Bulgaria) to Asia Minor. These were estimated to be 80,000 but probably were more than that since two years later the emperor preparing for a war against the Arabs conscripted 30,000 men from this population to his army. These Slavs subsequently switched sides and supported the Arabs. The emperor for retribution killed all the remaining Slavs in Asia Minor.

About one hundred years later, in 773AD, the Bulgarian population in the Balkans was reduced after repeated defeats in battles with the Byzantine emperors. When the Bulgars decided to strengthen their army and find new recruits they marched to Thessaly, since there were no Slavs in Macedonia, to capture a small Slavic tribe living there. On their way there they were annihilated by the Byzantine forces. In the next century forced movements of Slavic populations from Greece to Asia Minor continued.

The conclusion is that the Byzantine emperors did everything possible to clear up the northern territories (including Macedonia and Thrace of modern day Greece) of their empire of Slavs.
Various non-Greek sources indicate that not only Macedonia of modern day Greece but also Rep. of Skopje (the latter, if not entirely, at least predominantly) were Greek till the late 15th century AD.

C. Jirecek, in "Geschichte der Serben" claimed that Macedonians were always Greek and all the area south of the line defined by the cities Achris-Skopje-Nissa-Sofia-Aimos-Messimbria was greek (an assertion also confirmed by other authors such as Th. Mommsen, A. Karnach).
Hertzberg (in "Geschichte Byzantinissen") (Vol B, Book A, Chapter Gamma, page 184, 1906 edition). said that in 1282, the population below the line Euxinus Pontus-Aimos-Kustendil-Skopje-Skutari was Greek, in tongue, in customs and working for the greek interests.
One can then wonder when the Bulgarian idiom spoken by the Skopjans was in use say in the lands of nowadays Rep. of Skopje, let alone in antiquity [since Skopjans claim that the Slavic idiom spoken by the Slavs who descended to the Balkans in the 7th AD century was used by the ancient Macedonian 1000-1500 years earlier!].

The French historian Haumant, in "La formation de la Yugoslavie", mentioned that in the 13th century the area from Prisreni to Nissa was empty of people. If there were no Slavs there, then how and when the "Macedonians" of Skopjan type appeared in Macedonia and the Republic of Skopje? This is the reason Albanians (70%?) occupy the region of Cossyphopedio (Kosovo).
Hertzberg, in "Geschichte Byzantinissen", mentioned that when in the 14th century Dushan shared his kingdom with his son he kept the greek area south of Skopje and gave his son the northern Serbian areas (this is also confirmed by a Czech historian, Jirecek). All his orders were then written in Greek and not in any idiom like the onenow spoken in the Republic of Skopje. In 1350 when John Katakouzenos was in the city of Verhoia representatives of all big greek cities (Skopje included) visited him and asked for help. Jirecek mentioned in his book that at this time Skopje was a greek city inhabited mainly by Greeks despite being part of the Serbian kingdom for more than a century. Following Dushan's death around 1355 his son's empire began to collapse. Dushan's brother, Symeon, proclaimed himself an emperor and accorded himself the surname of "Palaeologos" in an attempt to gain the favor of the Greek population of his kingdom(empire). He also wrote his orders in Greek (and not in any strange called slavic idioms).
Soon the Greeks gained the control of the garrisons of various greek cities (such as Verhoia, Edessa, and Skopje). Officials in Dushan's empire quickly abandoned these greek cities and moved to Prisreni and later to Krusevach. The greek inhabitants remained in the areas they had been living for many centuries, if not millenia.

Since even in the years of Dushan, when the slavic influence and control in the areas of Macedonia(Greece), western part of Albania, Republic of Skopje and Yugoslavia (Serbia+Kosovo) was at its peak Macedonian Greeks were not "slavisized", how was that possible under the Ottoman rule, when after the defeat of Serbia by the Ottomans circa 1459, the Slavs migrated to the north and the area south of the city of Skopje was inhabited by Greeks only? If the strong presence of Slavs at that time didn't cause the Macedonians to vanish how was that possible to happen before? How come the vanished Macedonians of 7th AD survived as late as 15th AD? and later?

Q3) Was the Bulgarian King Samuel of FYROM Skopjan nationality as some Skopjans claimed he was?

Skopjans in order to by-pass the now established truths about the greekness of the ancient Macedonians and build a future for their so-called "macedonian nationality" and acquire historical rights to the Macedonian area claim that the infrastructure and population of the kingdom which Samuel established for a period of close to 18 years with the city of Achris as its capital was "Macedonian" (of the Skopjan type).

They also claim that Samuel was also a "macedonian" (of the Skopjan type) even though certain historias today believe that he was an Armenian. They also claim that Samuel as a ruler of a state that also included Macedonia was himself a Macedonian and that the state he established was the first "Macedonian state" (of the Skopjan type). Regarding Samuel, he was a Bulgarian king and not a "Macedonian" one, and the state he founded was a Bulgarian one as well. It is for this reason that the emperor Vasileios II of the Byzantine empire, who defeated Samuel, is known in history as Vasileios the Bulgar-slayer and not as Vasileios the "macedonian"-slayer.

This fact is supported by historians such as Vasiliev and Levtchenko.

There is another piece of evidence which shows that the Skopjan claims that Samuel was a "Macedonian" are ridiculous. An inscription from the city of Monastirio dated 1017 has been preserved where John, nephew of Samuel and son of his elder brother Aaron is mentioned to be of Bulgarian descent. This inscription has been published in the book written by Gordana Tomovic "Morfologija Cirilickin Natpisa na Balkann", Belgrade, 1974, page 33.

It is worth mentioning that the area of Achris ws inhabited in the Roman and Byzantine periods by Greeks. The book "The tombs of Trebenitse" by Keramopoullos (page 490) shows inscriptions from that period referring to persons with Greek names only. On one inscription the God of Lychnetis was Heracles Megistos.