Thessaloniki

The history of the city

The history of the city starts during the Hellenistic era, in 316 BC, when the successor of Alexander the Great to the throne of Macedonia, king Cassander, after the new state of things that the crusade of Alexander the Great against the Persians brought about and the need of communication between the kingdom of Macedonia and the greater Greek area, as well as the distant new world of the East, chooses to unite the 26 towns that pre-existed around the Thermaic Gulf in one single city. This new city that Cassander establishes takes the name of his wife, the daughter of Philip II and the sister of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki.

Due to its vital geographical location, Thessaloniki develops rapidly and, a while after its conquest by the Romans, in 148 BC, it becomes the capital and seat of the Roman district of Macedonia. In the first centuries of the Roman reign, beyond the construction of Egnatia St. (146-120 BC), two other events play a substantial role in the further development of the city. In 42 BC, Thessaloniki refuses to accept Caesar’s assassins (Brutus and Cassius) and, as a result, Emperors Marcus Antonius and Octavianus rewarded it and declared it a “free city”, releasing it from taxes. The second event occurs in 50 AD, when Paul the Apostle visits the city to preach the Christian faith, establishing a Church where he will later write the two letters “to Thessalonians”, which constitute the most ancient writings of the New Testament. Thessaloniki develops economically into a commercial center, and spiritually, as the center of the up-and-coming religion of Christianity

The city experiences its best years in the early 4th century AD, when, in the Roman Empire that is falling apart, Galerius becomes Augustus and chooses Thessaloniki as the eastern seat of the Roman world, which he administers himself. With the establishment of Constantinople, in 330 AD, Thessaloniki is located between two capitals, old and new Rome, and its location becomes even more important from an economic, military and political aspect, acquiring the title of “co-reigning” city, a title that it will maintain all through the Byzantine era. It is also worth noting the activity of Thessalonian brothers Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century AD, which is connected with the dawn of the Christianization and the literature of the Slavic peoples.

Thessaloniki turns the page in its history after its conquest by the Ottomans, in 1430 AD, under the reign of which it will remain for almost the next five centuries. From the 15th century on, after a permit granted by Sultan Bayezid II, a large number of persecuted Jews settles in the city, and, in the late 19th century, Thessaloniki becomes the most important global Jewish metropolis, called “Jerusalem of the Balkans” by Jews. After the end of the Balkan Wars, the city is liberated on October 26, 1912, and it is integrated in the modern Greek State, while, in 1922-24, the diversity of its population is further enhanced after the influx of refugees from Asia Minor and Pontus. From there on, Thessaloniki has constituted the second biggest Greek city, with a current population of about 800,000 people.

MONUMENTS & SIGHTSEEING

1. White Tower
2. Walls – Eptapyrgio Castle – Yedikule
3. Roman forum (2nd – 3rd century AD)

Galerius complex (4th century AD)

4. Rotunda
5. Arch of Galerius (Kamara)
6. Palace of Galerius (today, Navarino Square)

Early-Christian and Byzantine Churches

7. St Demetrius (4th century AD)
8. Panagia Achiropoiitos (5th century AD)
9. Osios David (5th-6th century AD)
10. St Sofia (7th century AD)
11. Panagia Chalkeon (11th century AD)
12. Vlatadon Monastery (14th century AD)

13. Bezesten (15th century AD)
14. Bey Hamam (15th century AD)
15. Modiano market (20th century AD)
16. Aristotelous Square (20th century)
17. OTE Tower (20th century)

Museums

A. Archaeological Museum
B. Museum of Byzantine Culture
C. Museum of Contemporary Art
D. Museum of Photography
E. Cinema Museum