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Tag Archives: Macedonia

The Greeks Lead the Way

greek

If you had been a citizen of the ancient Greek city of Athens on a fine spring morning in 409 B.C., you would have gathered with thousands of your fellow citizens on a hillside inside the city. You would then have listened carefully to the discussion of various matters of business, conducted by the chairman and secretary of the meeting from a platform below and facing you. You would have seen an Athenian citizen thread his way from the hillside to this platform. This was a sure sign that he had a proposal to make to the voters. The citizen turned toward the assembled throng and spoke in a strong, clear voice. A man named Thrasybulus, he said, should be rewarded with a golden crown for his services to Athens. When the speaker paused, another citizen came to the platform. Yes, by all means thank Thrasybulus and give him a golden crown, urged the second speaker. He went on, these acts were not enough, because Thrasybulus was a foreigner, the best reward for serving Athens so faithfully and so well would be to make him an Athenian citizen. Would the voters of Athens do this? he asked. The chairman called for a vote by a show of hands and tellers counted the votes. A majority was in favour of the proposal and it was declared officially to have been approved by the voters of Athens. The secretary had a copy of the proposal carved on a marble slab to make the record permanent and there the record is to this day, over 2800 years later, but still readable! This old record tells us that Athenian citizens held meetings, discussed their own problems, and decided for themselves What they would do. The voters, instead of a pharaoh or a king, made …

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The Ottomans, the Last Great Islamic Power A.D. 1299-1922

ottoman

ACCORDING to their tradition, the Ottoman Turks once belonged to the same Central Asian tribe as the Seljuk Turks. Their ancestors came to Asia Minor with the Seljuks. In time, they began to challenge the authority of their fellow Turks. The Ottomans took their name from a chieftain called Othman, who in 1299 became the emir of Seljuk lands bordering on the Byzantine Empire. Othman declared holy war on his Christian neighbours. His son Orkhan captured the city of Brusa and in 1362 Orkhan’s son Murad took Adrianople, beyond the strait and sea that separated Asia Minor from Europe. Thereafter, Murad and his son Bayezid pressed forward on two fronts–against Serbs, Bulgars and other Balkan peoples in southeast Europe and against Byzantines and Seljuks in Asia Minor. By 1400, the Ottomans had conquered Macedonia and Bulgaria, pushed the Byzantines out of Asia Minor and swept the Seljuk emirs from their thrones. In that year, however, Timur attacked the eastern Bank of their kingdom. After devastating Syria, he came back and crushed the Ottoman army near Ankara, taking Sultan Bayezid captive. He restored the Seljuk emirs to their posts. When Bayezid died in 1405, his three sons immediately began to fight over their inheritance. Their struggle raged for ten years. At last Sultan Mohammed came out the winner, with both of his brothers dead. These civil wars, coming so soon after the Mongol invasion, left the land and the people exhausted. The Ottomans’ fighting spirit soon revived. Under Mohammed and his son Murad II, Turkish armies again advanced across southeast Europe. In 1443, a huge army made up of Rumanians, Hungarians, Poles, Germans and Frenchmen defeated them. Five years later, however, they beat back another massive Christian attack in Serbia. Murad’s son Mohammed II, became sultan in Adrianople in 1451. He …

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The Great Justinian A.D. 532-565

justinian

THE STREETS of Constantinople were thronged that Tuesday morning in January of 532. Public buildings were closed. Shops on the Street of the Silversmiths were barred and shuttered. The barracks at Strategium were occupied by regiments of soldiers which had recently arrived from the frontiers. The soldiers had orders to stay in their quarters, for this was a day of the people. It was the opening day of the great chariot races at the Hippodrome. Most of the people in the crowded streets wore winter cloaks and carried their lunches. Ordinary citizens did not wear Roman togas, for that was the dress of high officials. There were beggars in rags, shaven Bulgars wearing iron-chain belts, oriental merchants in turbans and flowing robes, black-haired Asians with pointed beards, Russians in furs and seamen from Genoa and Venice. At the Hippodrome, groups of local farmers led by priests were among the first to take their seats in the marble tiers above the vast arena. Banners whipped in the wind as the tiers filled up. Latecomers jammed the promenade that ran along above the highest of the tiers. The usual first-day excitement gripped the huge crowd, about forty thousand in all, but something was missing. People looked more serious than usual and spoke to each other in low voices. It was plain that they were uneasy. Their uneasiness had to do with the peasant from Macedonia who had been ruling over them for several years as Emperor Justinian. This first day of the races was the time when people could meet their emperor face to face and express their feelings toward him. They had some strong feelings about Justinian. They feared him, too, and that was the reason for their uneasiness. RIOT AT THE HIPPODROME Justinian knew that the people were complaining, but they were …

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Rome and the Christian Church A.D. 64 -180

church

TRUMPETS sounded the fire alarm in Rome on the night of July 18, in the year 64. It seemed that the flames first broke out in the crowded section near the Great Circus and spread rapidly, driven by a strong wind to row after row of wooden houses. Sparks carried by the wind started other fires. People fled in panic. The fire roared on unchecked, continuing for six days and six nights. When it was finally brought under control, most of the city lay in ruins. People could not believe that one small accidental fire somewhere could have caused all that damage. Some thought several fires had started at the same time. They looked about for someone to blame. Soon they began saying that Nero, the emperor, had set the fire himself. Others said that he had murdered members of his own family and the angry gods were striking back with thunderbolts from the sky. Frightened by such talk, Nero turned suspicion away from himself by blaming the Christians. Not much was known about them, but since they were members of the poorer classes they were looked upon with suspicion. The bread and wine of their suppers, which represented the body and blood of Jesus, led many Romans to believe that the Christians were actually cannibals. There were rumors that Christians killed and ate small children at their secret meetings. Nero’s persecution of the Christians, therefore, proved to be highly popular. The prisons were soon filled with a “great multitude” of Christians and executions and brutal tortures went on day after day in Nero’s Circus, which was located where St. Peter’s Cathedral stands today. Peter and Paul may have been executed during or shortly after this wave of persecution. The “great multitude” that filled the prisons suggests that the Christian …

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Paul of Tarsus A. D. 35 – 64

paul

THERE was one man who had more to do with the future of the Christian church than even the apostles themselves, and his name was Paul, or Saul in Hebrew. He was the greatest of all Christian missionaries. Much more is known about Paul than about other leaders of the early church, for he wrote or dictated long letters of instruction and encouragement to various missions he had established. These letters were called epistles. A number of them were preserved and published. In addition, most of the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament, deals with Paul and his teachings. Taken together, his epistles and the chapters of the Acts devoted to him make up almost one half of the New Testament. One of the most amazing things about Paul was that he first came to the attention of the brethren in Jerusalem as a dangerous enemy of the church. He was first mentioned in the Acts as one of those present during the stoning of Stephen: “And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.” He was one of the angry mob crying for the blood of Stephen, and he guarded the cloaks of the executioners while they were casting their stones. Paul was the kind of man who had to live by his faith. He was a Pharisee, well-educated in the Law, proud of his rich Jewish heritage and deeply loved the God of Israel. Anyone who mocked or offended God was guilty of blasphemy and deserved to be punished. There was no doubt in Paul’s mind that Stephen was guilty. Paul hated him for it and eagerly joined with those whom he believed to be carrying out the Lord’s punishment. According to tradition, Paul was short, …

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The Second Triumvirate 43 B. C. – 30 B. C.

AS THE news of Caesar’s death spread through Rome, sorrow, anger and fear took hold of the city. On March 17, two days after the murder, the Senate met again. Cassius, Brutus and the other assassins took their usual places. There was no doubt that most of their fellow senators felt that they had done the right thing in ridding Rome of a tyrant, but Caesar’ s veterans were still in the city, taking their orders now from Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who had been his Master of the Horse, the commander of the cavalry. Mark Antony was still consul, he had not yet said what he intended to do about Caesar’s murder, but certainly he would not forgive the killers.Of course, no one could tell what the mob might do. If the people took it into their heads to avenge the murder of their hero, there might be many more killings. So it was a cautious, quiet group of men who gathered in the Senate to discuss the death of Caesar and the future of Rome. When Mark Antony spoke, he surprised them by not demanding that the assassins be arrested and put on trial. Perhaps he was afraid that they had strong forces of their own or that he might be the next victim. Whatever his reasons were, he offered to make a bargain. He would agree to let the assassins go unpunished, if the Senate would agree to approve Caesar’s will and allow his friends to give him a proper, public funeral. To the senators, the terms sounded fair — better, in fact, than they had hoped for. They quickly agreed to their part of the bargain, ended the meeting and went home, congratulating themselves that it all had been so easy. THE FUNERAL OF CAESAR On the …

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Greece and the World 323 B. C. – 250 B. C.

alexandria

In the last years of the fourth century B. C., Greek citizens going about their business in the stoas or the shops sometimes stopped and wondered what was wrong. Everything seems strange. They themselves had not changed and their cities looked the same as before, but the world around them was so different that they could hardly recognize themselves. The little poleis on the mainland looked out at an enormous empire, which stretched across Asia and Egypt. They shipped their olive oil and pottery across the Mediterranean. Their corn came from fields beside the Black Sea and the Nile. Merchants who crowded their market places now did business in Antioch and their sculptors had gone to Alexandria. There were new Greek cities, thousands of miles from Greece, where Asians spoke Greek and Greeks began to dress like the barbarians. There were no barbarians now, only the many sorts of people who shared a world which Alexandria had conquered for  the Greeks. As the world the Greeks knew became larger, a man and his city seemed to become smaller. The Greeks began to wonder if there was a Greece at all any more. Athenians who travelled on business saw Athens in a new way when they came home. It was not very big and not very busy. When they went to the Assembly, the fine speeches had a hollow ring. In the old days, when Pericles or Themistocles spoke to the Assembly, things happened and the world felt the difference. Now, a man who spoke out in Athens might as well have dropped a pebble in an ocean. Alexander’s empire was much too big to be run by a group of citizens who talked over their problems in an Assembly. One man could rule it, if he was a king like …

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The Conquerors 343 B. C. – 323 B. C.

Alexander

In 343 B. C., the philosopher Aristotle left the quiet of his study and journeyed to Macedonia, a country in the mountain wilderness north of Greece. He had been hired to tutor the rowdy young son of a king. The boy, Alexander, was a yellow-haired thirteen-year-old. His manners were polite and he seemed to be clever enough, but he was wild. It was hard for him to pay attention to his studies. He much preferred galloping across the fields on his huge horse. He proudly told his new tutor that he had tamed the horse himself. When he did come to his lessons, instead of discussing arithmetic and Greek grammar, he chatted on about armies and his father’s campaigns and his own great plans to conquer the world. Alexander said he was a descendant of the family of Achilles – his mother had told him so. The Iliad, Achilles’ story, was the one book he loved. He carried it with him wherever he went and read it over and over until he knew it by heart. He dreamed of growing up to be a hero like the ones in Homer’s poem. He pestered Aristotle with questions about Greece and Athens, which he longed to visit. Aristotle said that it was very different from Macedonia. Philip of Macedon In those days Macedonia was just beginning to be a kingdom that civilized people talked about seriously. The Greeks still said it was a country of barbarians, but the Greeks called everyone who wasn’t Greek a barbarian. Macedonia was changing. Alexander’s father, King Philip, had spent his youth as a hostage in Greece and he had learned to love almost everything Greek. He had studied the language and tried to learn the ways of the people; but he had also heard the Greeks …

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Athens: City of Wisdom and War 700 B. C. to 500 B. C.

Athens

Of all the city-states in Greece, Athens was the most fortunate. The city’s guardian was Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. Indeed, the Athenians did well in war and were blessed with wisdom. In the dark days, when barbaric invaders had conquered one city after another, Athens had not surrendered. Later, when Athens felt the growing pains that brought civil war and ruin to so many city-states, a series of wise men guided Athenians safely through their troubles. The right leaders always seemed to come along at the right time. It was more than good luck, ofcourse. The Athenians put their trust in men with new ideas and they were willing to experiment. The experiments changed an ordinary little town into a great brilliant polis that left an enduring mark on the world. Athens was old. Its story began with a list of kings so ancient that no one was quite sure when they had lived. The greatest of them was Theseus, the young hero who killed the monster at Crete. The storytellers said that he won the friendship of the neighbouring tribesmen and persuaded their chiefs to swear loyalty to his city. That was the beginning of the polis, but many years passed before it became important. In the seventh century B. C., Athens was only a second-rate, backwoods polis. Its king could do little more than dream of the glorious old days when their forefathers had defended the town’s acropolis – the Athenians called it the Rock – against the barbarians. Attica, the countryside around the old fortress on the Rock, was really ruled by a quarrelsome lot of rival noblemen, the chiefs of the clans. These barons ran their vast estates like private kingdoms. They owned the country villages and all but owned the people in …

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