In this paper we present a translation principle, called the axiomatic translation, for reducing propositional modal logics with background theories, including triangular properties such as transitivity, Euclideanness and functionality, to decidable fragments of first-order logic. The goal of the axiomatic translation principle is to find simplified theories, which capture the inference problems in the original theory, but in a way that can be readily automated and is easier to deal with by existing (first-order) theorem provers than the standard translation. The principle of the axiomatic translation is conceptually very simple and can be almost completely automated. Soundness is automatic under reasonable assumptions, general decidability results can be stated and termination of ordered resolution is easily achieved. The non-trivial part of the approach is proving completeness. We prove results of completeness, decidability, model generation, the small model property and the interpolation property for a number of common and less common modal logics. We also present results of experiments with a number of first-order logic theorem provers which are very encouraging.