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.
Lion Hunt 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.
Macedonian silver tetradrachm with 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 battlefield 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 BC. 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 separate region.
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.
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 red background.
Macedonia Coat of Arms from Stemmatographia by Hristofor Zhefarovich (1741)
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.
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
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 Macedonia.
Various Macedonia Coat of Arms with the Lion on Red Background from the last 7 centuries
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 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 Macedonia.
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