They were an independent tribe through much of their history, and the Thracian king Sitalkes recognized their independence, along with several other warlike "border" tribes such as the Dardani, Agrianes, and Paeonians, whose lands formed a buffer zone between the powers of the Odrysians on the east and of Illyrian tribes in the west, while Macedon was located to the south of Paeonia. The ancient historian and biographer Plutarch describes Spartacus as "a Thracian of nomadic stock", referring to the Maedi. Plutarch also says Spartacus' wife, a prophetess of the same tribe, was enslaved with him.
In 89–84 bc (during the First Mithridatic War), the Maedi overran Macedon, looted Dodona, and sacked Delphi as allies of Mithridates. It is said that they made a habit of raiding Macedon when a king of Macedon was away on a campaign. Sulla after this ravaged the land of the Maedi. Aristotle recorded that bolinthos was the Maedan word for a species of wild Aurochses or Wisents that lived in the region.
A number of Maedi emigrated to Asia minor and were called Maedo Bythini.