This kingdom, Macedon, became a great power under the leadership of Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great. The Macedonians of this era were likely Illyrians, an ancient people who were probably the distant ancestors of the present-day Albanians. By 148 B.C., Macedonia was conquered by the Roman Empire and became a Roman province. When the Roman Empire was split into two around 395 A.D., Macedonia became part of the Eastern Roman Empire which eventually became known as the Byzantine Empire. Slav migrations to Macedonia occurred largely in the 7th century. Through the work of St. Cyril and St. Methody, along with their disciples, St. Kliment of Ohrid & St. Naum, these Slavs became Christian, a religion which they shared with their Byzantine masters.
Soon, chronic wars emerged between the expansionist Bulgarian state and the Byzantine Empire for control of Macedonia. The wars continued from the late 900s A.D. into the early 1000s A.D., and eventually a large part of Macedonia became part of Bulgaria. Later, Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire was able to retake Macedonia. Then Serbia conquered a large part of Macedonia, but this was short lived because by 1392 the Ottoman Empire took over Byzantium, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia.
By the very late 1300s, Macedonia became part of the Ottoman Empire and remained part of it for 500 years. Macedonia, under the Ottomans, was essentially a geographic region, not an ethnographic one. Macedonia was populated by a number of different ethnic groups including Slavic Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, Arumanians (Vlakhs), Albanians, and Sephardic Jews. The largest of these ethnic groups were the Slavic Bulgarians. In the minds of our ancestors, a Macedonian was a native or descendent of any one of the above-mentioned ethnic groups from Macedonia.
Life was not easy for our Bulgarian Macedonian ancestors. They were second class citizens in a Muslim empire. The Ottomans allowed them to keep their religion and speak their own language, but they were negligent in protecting them from lawless and mean-spirited Greek and Serbian terrorists who were allowed to roam freely from village to village. These armed bands of Greek and Serbian mercenaries, who were supported by the civil and religious authorities in Athens and Belgrade, were allowed to harass, terrorize, and sometimes even murder people into accepting the claim that Macedonian Slavs were really Bulgarianized Greeks or Bulgarianized Serbs. The purpose of this claim was to show the world that, when the “sick man of Europe” (as the Ottoman Empire was called) died, the rightful heirs to Macedonia were Greece and Serbia. This lack of protection, along with the hardships associated with the second-class citizen status, forced our ancestors to take action.