The Symbol of the Macedonians
Although it bears many names such as the Macedonian Sun, Agread Star, Vergina Star, or Star of Kutles, this symbol has stood the test of time and has always been the centre of every Macedonian's heart and soul.
Cherished for almost 3000 years by Macedonians everywhere, the Macedonian Sun is without a doubt one of the oldest, if not the oldest surviving cultural symbol in the world.
Appearing on coins, military equipment and art of the ancient Macedonian Kingdom, it has continued to be the national insignia of Macedonians throughout history to modern times.
The Macedonian Sun is found in the icons and frescoes of the churches throughout the territory of divided Macedonia, and speaks of volumes of tradition of its use. It has been cherished by Macedonians for centuries.
The Macedonian Sun is present in the Macedonian Christian icons that show the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.
Below are two Macedonian ethnological decorative objects that contain the Macedonian Sun symbol. These jewellery pieces are from a specific part of Macedonian women’s folk costumes, of which there are many varieties. On the left is the “tepelak” from the 18th century, which bears the eight-rayed Macedonian Sun. On the right is the “pafta” from the 19th century which bears the sixteen-rayed Sun.
In 1978, archaeologist Manolis Andronikos led excavations in the small town of Vergina in Greece (originally named Kutles and currently occupied by Greece since 1913). There, by the perimeter of a large mound, he unearthed three tombs that bore the Macedonian symbol. The tombs were subsequently identified as royal burial sites of members of the late 4th century BC Agread dynasty- the family of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon.
Interpretation of the Symbol
The significance of the symbol is not completely clarified today. In archaeological circles there are several assumptions as to whether the symbol was an official symbol of the Kingdom of Macedonia; merely a symbol of the military; or simply represented an ornamental landmark.
Originally used by the Macedonian Kingdom as far back as the 7th century BC, the symbol initially started out as an 8 rayed star burst. One theory is that as the Macedonian kingdom grew in size, so too did the symbol. For every tribe the Macedonian symbol swallowed and annexed, an additional ray was added until finally the sun-burst consisted of 16 rays- the way it is now most commonly depicted. It is said that the tribes that the rays represent are the Agrianes, Alompians, Bottiaeans, Bryges, Crestones, Derrones, Doberes, Elimiotians, Eordians, Laeaens, Lycestians, Odomantes, Orestians, Paeoplae, Pelagonians and the Siroaiones. It is thought that the Macedonian king, Phillip II, had this symbol on his shield.
It is also said that the centre of the sun represents a poppy seed flower. In some languages, the word Macedonia means 'the land of the poppy seed'. We can see the correlation here as Macedonia is rich in poppies that produce the world's most potent opium. The second highest quality of opium is produced in Pakistan, with 7 morph units. Macedonian opium consists of a staggering 14 morph units which is why it is considered a natural and organic treasure in the modern republic.
A less attractive theory on its origins is based around the 12 Greek Gods of Olympus combined with the four seasons of the year. Although some may subscribe to this theory, no evidence has been presented to make it a sound one and it has generally been dismissed as untrue.
The Macedonian Sun was a national and dynastic emblem of the ancient Macedonian Royal family and was carried on by Alexander’s successors. The symbol itself had been used in Macedonia for a long time before that.
Macedonia became an independent country in 1991 and adopted the ancient old Macedonian Sun on its flag.
The Macedonian Sun was used in the Republic of Macedonia's flag from 1991 to 1995, after which the flag was forcibly changed due to Greek interference. Today's Macedonian national flag is an abbreviated stylised version of the Macedonian Sun, with eight rays instead of sixteen.
Greece today artificially embraces it as their symbol, but with a blue background, after first laying eyes on it in the excavations of 1977. The Macedonian Sun is not a Greek symbol however Greece feels an affinity towards it because of where it was discovered and because of their claims to the Ancient Macedonian Kingdom.
In modern day Macedonia, the Macedonian Sun is seen in just about everything you can imagine! From folk songs to medieval churches and in some cases, it is used as a design in traditional cuisine! There are many poems written about the Macedonian Sun which pay homage to the old Macedonian adage: "Only the sun is older than Macedonia!"