A new land with old beginnings

Modern-day Macedonia was created on September 8, 1991, when it declared independence during the break-up of Yugoslavia in its constituent parts of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Slovenia. The Balkan wars and its fallout, along with the recognition of Kosovo, largely settled the territorial boundaries of the region.

The ancient kingdom of Macedon dates back to the ninth century BC. In 808BC, the Argead dynasty founded the kingdom, which was to become a powerhouse. The modern-day capital of Skopje is believed to be seven thousand years’ old.

Alexander the Great

Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympias. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle. Philip was assassinated in 336BC and Alexander inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom. He quickly dealt with his enemies at home and reasserted Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire.

Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331BC. The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became ‘great king’ of Persia at the age of 25.

Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 20,000 kilometres, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around three million square kilometres.

The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.

And he’s part of the problem

The legacy of Alexander the Great is claimed by both Greece and Macedonia. The government in Skopje in late January said it would rename Skopje Alexander the Great Airport, a name that has particularly riled Greeks, to another yet to be determined name.

— Mick O’Reilly, Foreign Correspondent, agencies


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