Αγροικίες στη Μακεδονία : οι απαρχές της "φεουδαρχίας";Part of : Το Αρχαιολογικό Έργο στη Μακεδονία και στη Θράκη ; 2009, pages 1-15
Farmhouses in Macedonia : the beginnings of “feudalism”?
More than 23 agricultural complexes have been excavated in Central, Eastern, and Western Macedonia, and the archaeological map of organized farms in the Macedonian countryside is being continually enriched by new sites.Taken as a whole, these farmsteads, most of which have been fairly fully excavated, offer important evidence concerning their organization and layout as well as their functions. They present common elements, which may be summarized as follows:1. Agricultural complexes of the pre-Christian period in the kingdom of Macedon are found at sites of strategic interest. Those of the Roman period are simply found in fertile plains.2. They were installed at key locations along roads offering easy access to sea routes for the loading/unloading of goods, and are not very far from well- known harbors and trading stations.3. They dominate large cultivable expanses in the plains, and which they oversee, thus maintaining complete control of the land.4. They normally encompass many square meters, with areas varying between 2 and 4 stremmata (0.2-0.4 hectares).5. Many of them have their own fortification for self- defense, with strong surrounding walls occasionally equipped with towers.6. The largest farmhouses transfer the urban model of the ancient Greek house to the countryside, preserving the inward orientation of the house with rooms around an internal courtyard which is surrounded by colonnades. Four or five have central tower-houses, and all have two-story dwellings for members of the owner s family.7. Some preserve a purely agrarian character and do not follow the typical form of the standard Greek house.8. Construction materials and building methods are adapted to local practices, in accordance with the possibilities offered by the environmental, but as a rule they remain similar to those employed in cities.These farm-complexes comprise very characteristic examples of large farmhouses with fertile farmlands around them, units designed for exploiting the earth and producing agricultural products. At the same time, they exercised continuous surveillance and control both of the native inhabitants as well as of possible invaders. Their scattered but by no means accidental presence in the Macedonian countryside suggests a primitive feudal system of administration as early as the Late Classical period, and demonstrates that the European tradition of large farms, with cultivable fields around them, wine- and oil-producing systems for production and exploitation of a region’s natural wealth was already a well-known practice in the Macedonia of Philip II.As emerges from the layout and functional differentiations in the nature of the large farms of the Classical and Hellenistic periods, some were simply occupied with the production of goods, while others were controlled by the urban center of their region, as is shown by seals bearing the name of astynomoi at the garrison of Vrasna. At a number of farms one may observe specialization in the production of particular products. Depending on their location, the climate, and soil conditions, at some honey was produced, as a clay beehive from Apollonia demonstrates, at others, wine, as at the farmhouse in Tria Platania in Piena, while at others, oil was produced, as at the Vrasna farm in Mygdonia in the eastern part of the Thessaloniki prefecture. Some have sufficient installations to support systematic and professional animal husbandry, like that at Asprovalta, where large areas for cattle, pigs, and sheep and goats have been found. And at all may be noted considerable production of grains and secondary processing of products such as mats, baskets and cloth for supplying the farmhouse and its inhabitants, as well as metals for construction of household furnishings and tools or improving these for their agricultural work. These large farms, apart from being secured with ample storage space for their produce, also offered a high level of safety to both their inhabitants and the valuable produce from the land that were kept there by virtue of their fortified character. At the same time, it is obvious from the arrangement of their dwellings and their furnishings and household effects that their owners enjoyed an urban lifestyle. The masters of agrarian installations lived in large houses which were centrally located within the farm. Both men and women maintained their urban habits; sacrifices, symposia and holiday celebrations took place there, as we see from the portable finds.In addition to large unpainted vessels both large and small for storing the crop and preparation of meals for the main family and its slaves, the furnishings of every farmhouse included better-quality pottery, as well as all the related fittings of small and large looms for producing all types of clothing for the residents and for blankets and covers. At the same time, the advantageous locations of farms near roads and waterways offered the possibility for loading/unload- ing of products for sale and export both by land and sea, making trade easier.Unfortunately, excavation of these farms has not provided evidence for the relation between masters and those who cultivated their land. We do not know whether these men were exclusively slaves, or whether some were low-paid free men, to whom a portion of the yearly harvest was allotted for their survival, and who lived on properties and in makeshift installations within the privately-owned extent of each farm.Irrespective of labor relations, a model for administration of the “feudal” type results, a model for control and exploitation of the countryside that predominated in central and western Europe for many centuries during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This primitive system of “feudal” conception, inspired for the first time by the visionary Philip II, strengthened by the sharp-witted Alexander the Great immediately after Philip, continued and grew during the Roman period. Besides, it was the Romans who institutionalized the great latifundia, enormous farms with their villae, many of which had a twin character, with a rural part and an urban part (pars rustica, pars urbana), and who organized in a more systematic way the distribution of land to rich landowners and the taxation system for them, both in Italy as well throughout the Roman Empire.