King of the Jungle
The lion is undoubtedly one of mother nature’s most fierce predators, but what significance does it have to the Macedonians and why is the symbol of the lion depicted on almost everything? From mosaics and ancient coins to the coat of arms of centuries past, the lion is portrayed significantly in artefacts and paraphernalia, and is considered to be the spirit animal of the Macedonian people.
Ancient historians have recorded seeing lions dwell in the region of Macedonia as far back at 400 BC. The Ancient Macedonians enjoyed a good lion hunt, with scenes depicting these events shown in Ancient Macedonian art.
Macedonian kings of the ancient world are known to wear the scalp of a lion on their heads to symbolise their ferocity and ruthlessness. On the 2nd of August, 338 BC, the Macedonians crushed the Greek city-states at the Battle of Chaeronea, resulting in the total annihilation of Greek sovereignty and subjecting them to Macedonian rule. To commemorate this event, a colossal sculpture of a lion was erected on the battle field. The same lion sculpture is also found in the Macedonian city of Amphipolis.
After the eventual destruction of the ancient Macedonian empire in 168 BC, the symbol of the lion was already imbedded in the hearts and souls of the Macedonians. As time went on, this symbol was used in in heraldry and in literature. The Korenich-Neorich coat of arms which was first created around 1595, shows both the Macedonian Lion and a family motto written in Cyrillic that states ‘"Cimeri Makedonske Zemle" (the Coat of Arms of the Macedonian country). The use of the lion to represent Macedonia was continued in foreign heraldic collections throughout the 16th to 18th centuries.
During the Kresna Uprising of 1876, insurgent banners were used depicting the Macedonian lion. These banners typically used the phrase "Awaken to Liberate Macedonia". This tradition was carried forward in 1903 by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation. Both Kratovo insurgents and Ohrid insurgents used this insignia during the Ilinden rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
The Republic of Macedonia had no heraldic emblem when the country gained independence from Yugoslavia, but since then this emblem has often been proposed as a replacement for the non-heraldic national emblem of the republic. A proposal by architect and graphic designer Miroslav Grčev was put forward in 1992 to replace it with a revised version of the historical gold lion on a red shield. However, this was rejected. Today, the coat of arms with a golden lion on a red shield is used to represent several Macedonian political parties. The lion as a symbol of these parties is inherited from the original Macedonian organization, VMRO. In 2009 the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization–People's Party proposed the golden lion on red background as a new coat of arms of Macedonia, based on the traditional logo of the historical IMRO, but it was not accepted.
Needless to say, this symbol, along with the Macedonian sun, has been a part of the Macedonian people for thousands of years and will continue to inspire young Macedonians to this day.