The Macedonian Lion
The Macedonian Lion, like the Macedonian Sun
is yet another oldest European symbol that still survives as cultural
symbol of the Macedonians. Lions used to dwell around Macedonia and the
ancient historians have recorded this. The lion hunt was popular among
the Macedonians and lion hunt scenes have found their place in the
Macedonian art. The famous mozaic below depects a nude Macedonian
warrior wearing the traditional Macedonian hat kausia (so well
documented by the ancient historians as another very important
Macedonian national insignia), during a lion hunt.
Detail from an ancient Macedonian Mosaic
(3rd century BC)
The Macedonian kings also wore the
lion's skin. Below is a coin with the face of Alexander the Great,
depicting the king with the lion's scalp on his head.
Alexander the Great
wearing Lion's Scalp
On August 2, 338 BC,
the Macedonians defeated the Greeks at Chaeronea in central Greece and
conquered their country. On the battlefiled they erected an impressive
sculpture of a proud-standing lion. The same lion sculpture is also
found in the Macedonian city of Amphipolis.
The Macedonian Lion overlooking the
battlefield of Greek defeat at Chaeronea
The Lion continued to be a Macedonian symbol
even after the destruction of the Macedonian Empire and Kingdom in 168
In the course of the
Middle Ages and in later periods the name of Macedonia can be found both
in heraldry and itinerary literature. Macedonia is mentioned for the
first time in the 1595 Korenich-Neorich rolls of arms, where the coat of
arms of Macedonia is included among those of eleven other countries. As
noted in detail by Aleksandar Matkovski, under the coat of arms is
written "Macedonia", while above the arms in Cyrillic script is "Cimeri
makedonske zemle" (the Coat of Arms of the Macedonian country). In the
Korenich-Neorich rolls of arms, Macedonian arms are presented along with
those of Croatia, Dalmatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, the Duchagyni, and
Kastrioti; in the 152 coats of arms depicted, the Macedonian coat of
arms with the inscription "Macedonia" is included twice. The same rolls
of arms includes the arms of King Dushan or of his son Urosh. This is a
complex coat of arms, presenting these kings as symbols of the unity of
the South Slavs and including the arms of nine Balkan regions:
Macedonia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia, the coastal countries, Slavonia,
Bulgaria, Serbia and Rascia. Note that Macedonia is presented as a
In 1605, an extensive rolls of arms was published in Hungary. Siebmacher,
its author, included the coat of arms-an single-headed eagle on a white
background-of "Macedoniani", a Macedonian family from southern Hungary.
Since the 15th century there had been a group of Macedonian immigrants
in Baranya, inhabiting a village called Macedonia. The family
Macedoniani originated from this village, where Dancho of Macedonia came
from as well. Dancho is mentioned as early as 1439 as a rich noblemen;
his descendants Ladislav of Macedonia, Bishop of Veliki Varazhdin in
1533, and Volk of Macedonia, ban (governor) of Szörčny, are also noted.
One of the oldest preserved rolls of arms is that of Palinich, most
likely prepared in the late 16th and early 17th century. The arms of
Macedonia are included, with the hand-written Latin inscription
"Macedonia regni" below it. The term Macedonia is also found in Althan's
1614 rolls of arms. Above the beautifully drawn Macedonian coat of arms
is the Cyrillic inscription "Makedonske zemle cimeri" and below that, in
Latin, "Insignia regni Macedonia". Among the most beautifully drawn
Macedonian coats of arms is the one kept in the Museum of Applied Arts
in Belgrade. This coat of arms, with the inscription "Macedoniae"
belongs to the heraldry of King Dushan, along with arms of Illyria,
Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Sklavonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Rascia.
The Ohmuchevich family was known for its
efforts to prove inheritance right over Bosnia and Macedonia. Over
decades, the family tendered many claims to the territory, endeavoring
to prove the rights of the Ohmuchevichs to large regions in the Balkans.
They even printed coats of arms, wishing to prove their noble descent
and their right to rule these large regions, Macedonia always taking the
central place among them. Their enormous wealth made it possible for
them to print heraldic collections and other books-which, regardless of
the strength or validity of their claims to the territories-made the
term "Macedonia" popular both in a geographical and an ethnic sense. The
1636 role of arms authored by Admiral Andriya Ohmuchevich and Marko
Skoroevich argued that Macedonia and Bosnia could be liberated from
Turkish rule only with the help of Vienna and the Hapsburgs. The Rolls
of Arms of Marko Skoroevich was dedicated to Prince Ferdinand; though
the young prince did not yet know to read, he could look at the
"pictures" and by the help of the coats of arms grow familiar with the
geographical terms and toponyms. The Macedonian coat of arms in this
collection is included in a group of heraldries belonging to the South
Slavic states, with the inscription "Insignia regni Macedonia" above it.
On this coat of arms the lion is depicted standing rampant, yellow on a
The term Macedonia is also written below the Macedonian arms in the 1675
Foynitsa rolls of arms, as well as in Du Cange's 1680 History of
Byzantium, published in Paris. Macedonian coat of arms containing the
inscription "Macedonia" can also be found in the 1689 Olovo rolls of
arms in Bologna. The Berlin rolls of arms from the late 1wth century
also includes the term Macedonia written in Latin below the coat of
arms. and "Cimeri makedonske zemle" above.
In short, there are many records dating from the 17th century in which
the term Macedonia is mentioned. It is also included in the handwritten
1694 stemmatographia of Pavle Riter Vitezovich: "Macedonia" is printed
in Latin above the coat of arms. In the printed 1701 stemmatographia of
Pavle Vitezovich, the inscription "Macedonia" is placed above the
Macedonian coat of arms, while below there are four verses in Latin
which tell that, in former times, the golden shields were symbols of
imperial dignity, now replaced by a Turkish turbanned fez.
Hristofor Zhefarovich, the most prominent Balkan artist of the 18th
century, was Macedonian-born, most likely in Doyran. He was educated in
Greek schools, but he acquired his artistic knowledge in Thessaloniki
and Ohrid. His Stemmatographia includes two rolls, one containing 56
coats of arms from all the Slavs and a second set of 20 containing South
Slavic coats of arms. The Macedonian coat of arms is presented in both
compositions with the inscription "Makedonia".
The term "Macedonia" is also written
below the Macedonian coat of arms in the 1746 rolls of arms of Ivo
Saraka and in the third volume of Jovan Raich's rolls of arms, printed
in 1794. Each coat of arms is labeled: the Macedonian as "Macedoniae",
the Serbian as "Serbia", the Bulgarian as "Bulgaria" and the Bosnian as
"Bosna". The terms Macedonia and Macedonians were also recorded by
travelers passing over its roads while travelling from East to West and
vice versa, or while wandering over its territory. Historical
misconceptions certainly had their effects on these travel accounts; the
writers often named the Macedonians as Bulgarians, Serbs or Greeks.
But in many itineraries the terms Macedonia and Macedonians remained
clearly distinguished from those for other Balkan states and other
Balkan peoples. Thus, when the Venetian captain Angiolello passed
through Macedonia and on August 13, 1470 recorded his stay on the Holy
Mountain, he wrote that "there are many Christian monks, some of whom
are Greeks, others Macedonians, Vlachs, and there are even Italians and
people from other nations." Four days later, while camping by the mouth
of the Mesta River, he noted that "there live Greeks and Macedonians."
An unknown author describes the Ohrid
countryside, writing "Albania is the region which had been called
Macedonia by the ancient peoples, i.e. it is a part of Macedonia, as
Macedonia covers many countries and regions."
In the 15th century, Bertrando de la Brokier traveled through the
Balkans and left behind an account of his travels. Among other things,
he writes "...and I remembered the heavy oppression of the Turk over the
emperor in Constantinople and over all Greeks, Macedonians and
Bulgarians, and even over the Despot of Rascia [Rashka, as he referred
to Gjuragj Brankovich] and all his subjects, which is very unfortunate
for the all of Christianity.... And there are many Christians who are
forced to serve the Turk, like the Greeks, Bulgarians, Macedonians,
Albanians, Esklavonians, Rascians and Serbians...".
In 1461, some time after Brokier's travels through the Balkans, the
Venician commissioner to Rome, Paulus Maurocenus, made plans to drive
the Turks out of the Balkans: "...When the enemy forces are crushed, no
one will ever doubt that all of Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia,
Epirus, Thessaly, Greece or Athens, and Peloponnesus...".
In his 1547 itinerary of southern
Macedonia, Pierre Bellon discourses on the Holy Mountain, the mines in
Siderokapsa and Kavalla, and frequently refers to the region as
In his writings of 1573, the French
traveler Philip du Fresne-Canais notes: "I saw a large plain at the
beginning of which Skopje is located, hidden by small hills, a very big
town which, according to some, is in Bulgaria, but according to my
opinion is in Macedonia...".
In 1566 Yakov of Macedonia, a printer and a writer, left for Venice.
There he printed a number of liturgical texts and other writings in the
printing house of the Montenegrin voivoda (commander) Bozhidar Vukovich.
In the preface to one of the liturgies he writes : "...I took great
effort in making this work and in making holy books, for a long time and
for many years... I came out from Macedonia, my homeland, and entered
the Western countries...".
The printing of geographical maps stimulated the wider use of the term
Macedonia. Many centuries passed from the first maps of Ptolemy, in
which Ancient Macedonia is presented, to Peutinger's table, a maritime
map depicting the coastline along the Aegean coast drafted by the
Ottoman admiral and cartographer Pyrireis, to the map of the Macedonians
in St. Petersburg. One of the more realistic geographical maps of
Macedonia is Gastaldi's 1560 map published in Venice. It is there that
certain Macedonian place names are adopted for the first time by the
West: the Vardar River, Skopje, Mt. Skopska Crna Gora, Tikvesh Valley,
Demir Kapiya, Bitola, Kratovo, Struga, Ohrid and Ohrid Lake, Prespa and
Prespa Lake, Prilep, Kostur, Lerin, Voden and Resen.
The Mercator map (Duisburg, 1589) and Laurenberg map (Amsterdam, 1647)
followed Gastaldi's lead in giving some inhabited sites both their
ancient and their contemporary Macedonian names, such as Lychnidos/Ohrid
and Edessa/Voden. In Rome, G. Cantelli da Vigniola published a 1689 map
which shows-with slight deviations-the territory of Macedonia and its
geographical borders. Though map contains many errors, it for the first
time marks the towns of Tetovo, Kumanovo, Katlanovo, Veles, Debar,
Kavalla, Ber and Enije Vardar. Only seven years later, in Paris, N.
Senson detailed Macedonia in a number of 1696 maps. These were followed
by the maps of G. de L'Isle (Paris, 1707), Homann (1717), Harenberg (Nuernberg,
1741), S. Jenvier (Paris, 1750), A. Lapie (Paris, 1843), the Map of
European Turkey (Belgrade, 1853), the commercial map of the province of
Macedonia (Paris, 1885), and a "Map of Macedonia" by Dimitrija Chupovski
(St. Petersburg, 1913) in which Macedonia is shown in its geographical
and ethnic borders. On all these maps Macedonia is clearly labeled as
In conjuction with www.mymacedonia.net