Thessaloniki also known as Thessalonica and Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece andthe capital of the region of Central MacedoniaFounded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon, Thessalonikis history spans some 2,300 years.An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest andwealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantinemonuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures.The city was founded around 315 BC by the King Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site ofthe ancient town of Therma and 26 other local villages. He named it after his wifeThessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great and princess of Macedon as daughter ofPhilip II. Under the kingdom of Macedon the city retained its own autonomy and parliamentand evolved to become the most important city in Macedon.http://www.lpth.gr/en/ timeline
After the fall of the kingdom of Macedon in 168 BC, Thessalonica became a free city of theRoman Republic under Mark Antony in 41 BC It grew to be an important trade-hub located onthe Via Egnatia, the road connecting Dyrrhachium with Byzantium, which facilitated tradebetween Thessaloniki and great centers of commerce such as Rome and Byzantium. Nowadays this is the main road for the car traffic in the city.
Later it became the capital of all the Greek provinces of the Roman Empire due to the citysimportance in the Balkan peninsula.Roman AgoraThe Agora was the administrative center of the ancient city. It was established at the end of 2ndcentury AD in the place of a market. On three sides were stoas with two rows of pillars. Thesouthern hall was based on a two vaults substructure - cryptoporticus.
When the Roman Empire was divided into the tetrarchy, Thessaloniki became the administrativecapital of one of the four portions of the Empire under Galerius Maximianus Caesar, whereGalerius commissioned an imperial palace, a new hippodrome, a triumphal arch and amausoleum among others
Rotunda and Arch of Galerius complex reconstruction
The Palace of Galerius(Navarino Square – Dim. Gounari. St.)
The Palace of Galerius(Navarino Square – Dim. Gounari. St.)At the archaeological site in Navarino Square, right in the historic centre of the city, fragmentaryremains can be seen of significant buildings, constructed for a variety of purposes, but allbelonging to the Palace of Galerius. Work on the palace began in the early 4th century AD andwas completed in stages. This was the official residence used by the Emperor and his retinuewhen he stayed in Thessaloniki.The Palace of Galerius is one of the most important monuments of late antiquity in Thessalonikiand the only one dating from this period in Europe where such extensive remains can still beseen. The search for the residence of the Tetrarch began in the early decades of the 20thcentury and lasted until the 1970’s, bringing to light fragmentary sections of the massive palacecomplex built at the edge of the city, next to the eastern walls. The imperial residence featured anumber of different structures – including the Rotonda, the Arch of Galerius, the domedchamber on D. Gounari Street and the hippodrome.
Arch of Galerius
Arch of GaleriusThe arch, part of the Galerian complex, was built before 305 AD to commemorate thevictorious campaigns of Galerius against the Persians. It was erected at the intersection of theVia Regia, the main road artery crossing the city from west to east, and the processional routewhich linked the palace to the Rotonda. It was originally designed with four gateways, with fourcolumns supporting the vault which covered the square area below. At a later phase, two pairsof arches were added to the north and south, with four smaller columns, these possiblyconstructed at different dates. Directly adjacent to the southern, smaller pillars there was alarge rectangular space, 42.7m x 17.65m in size, laid with a marble floor, which served as avestibule of the palace. Today only three of the eight pillars have survived. Relief scenes onmarble, arranged in rows around the arch, relate episodes and figures from the victoriouseastern campaign of Galerius in 297 AD, extolling – symbolically – the virtues of the firstTetrarchate (293-305 AD). Galerius (L) attacks Narses (R)
The Rotunda of GaleriusIt is also known (by its consecration and use) as the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Georgios,and is informally called the Church of the Rotunda (or simply The Rotunda). The cylindricalstructure was built in 306 AD on the orders of the tetrarch Galerius, who was thought to haveintended it to be his mausoleum. It was more likely intended as a temple; it is not known towhat god it would have been dedicated.In its original design, the dome of the Rotunda had an oculus, as does the Pantheon in Rome
The interior of the Rotunda
Mosaics in one of the bays of the interior
With the Fall of Rome in 476, Thessaloniki became the second-largest city of the EasternRoman Empire. Around the time of the Roman Empire Thessaloniki was also an importantcenter for the spread of Christianity; the First Epistle to the Thessalonians written by Paul theApostle is the first written book of the New Testament
From the first years of the ByzantineEmpire, Thessaloniki was considered thesecond city in the Empire afterConstantinople, both in terms of wealthand size. In the 14th century the cityspopulation exceeded 100,000, making itlarger than London at the time.During the 6th-7th centuries the areaaround Thessaloniki was invaded byAvars and Slavs, who unsuccessfully laidsiege to the city several times. In the 9th century, the Byzantine Greekmissionaries Cyril and Methodius, bothnatives of the city, created the firstliterary language of the Slavs, theGlagolic alphabet, most likely based onthe Slavic dialect allegedly used in thehinterland of their hometown
Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki City Walls (4th/5th centuries) Rotunda (4th century) Church of the Acheiropoietos (5th century) Church of Saint Demetrios (7th century) Latomou Monastery (6th century) Church of Saint Sophia (8th century) Church of Panagia Chalkeon (11th century) Church of Saint Panteleimon (14th century) Church of the Holy Apostles (14th century) Church of Saint Nicholas Orphanos (14thcentury) Church of Saint Catherine (13th century) Church of the Saviour (14th century) Blatades Monastery (14th century) The Church of Saint Catherine Church of Prophet Elijah (14th century) (13th century) Byzantine Bath (14th century) on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The Walls of Thessaloniki are the city walls surrounding the city of Thessaloniki during theMiddle Ages and until the late 19th century, when large parts of the walls, including the entireseaward section, were demolished as part of the Ottoman authorities restructuring ofThessalonikis urban fabric. The city was fortified from its establishment in the late 4th centuryBC, but the present walls date from the early Byzantine period, ca. 390, and incorporate partsof an earlier, late 3rd-century wall. The walls consist of the typical late Roman mixedconstruction of ashlar masonry alternating with bands of brick. The northern part of the wallsadjoins the acropolis of the city, which formed a separate fortified enceinte, and within it liesanother citadel, the Heptapyrgion (popularly known by its Ottoman name, Yedi Kule).
The Church of the Acheiropoietos is a 5th-century Byzantine church. The Acheiropoietos hasbeen dated from its bricks and mosaics to ca. 450–470, making it perhaps the earliest of thecitys surviving churches. It was modified in the 7th and again in the 14th–15th centuries.Known as the Panagia Theotokos in Byzantine times, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Itscurrent name is first attested in 1320, presumably after a miraculous acheiropoietos ("not madeby hands") icon of Panagia Hodegetria that was housed there.
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios is the main sanctuary dedicated to SaintDemetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki dating from a time when it was the second largestcity of the Byzantine Empire. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments ofThessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Romanbath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today.
The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in Thessaloniki, is one of the oldest churches in that citystill standing today. It is one of several monuments in Thessaloniki included as a WorldHeritage Site on the UNESCO list. In the 8th century, the present structure was erected,based on the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey)
The Church of Panagia Chalkeon is an 11th-century Byzantine church
Thessaloniki passed out of Byzantine hands in 1204, when Constantinople was captured by theforces of the Fourth Crusade and incorporated the city and its surrounding territories in theKingdom of Thessalonica — which then became the largest vassal of the Latin Empire.In 1342, the city saw the rise of the Commune of the Zealots, an anti-aristocratic party formedof sailors and the poor, which is nowadays described as social-revolutionary.In 1423, Despot Andronicus, who was in charge of the city,ceded it to the Republic of Venice with the hope thatit could be protected from the Ottomanswho were besieging the city. The Venetians heldThessaloniki until it was captured by theOttoman Sultan Murad II on 29 March 1430
Ottoman periodThe change from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman one did not affect the citys prestige as amajor imperial city and trading hub. Thessaloniki and Smyrna, although smaller in size thanConstantinople, were the Ottoman Empires most important trading hubs. Thessalonikisimportance was mostly in the field of shipping, but also in manufacturing, while most of thecitys trade was controlled by ethnic Greeks.Soon after the turn of the 15th to 16th century, nearly 20,000Sephardic Jews had immigrated to Greece from Spain followingtheir expulsion Thessaloniki in 1688
White Tower – City Museum
White Tower – City MuseumAt the meeting point of the eastern wall and the sea wall, stood a Byzantine tower, on the siteof which, in the late 15th century, the White Tower was erected. It was constructed as part ofa programme of modernization of the city’s fortifications by the Ottomans (cf. Alysseos Tower).The emblem of Thessaloniki, the White Tower is intimately connected with the city’s historyand the focus of many legends reflected in its various names. The original appellation Fort ofKalamaria (18th century) was replaced in the 19th century by the names Tower of theJanissaries and Tower of Blood (Kanli Kule), referring to the use of the building as a prison forlong-term convicts and those sentenced to death, whom the Janissaries executed on thebattlements, dyeing with blood the exterior walls of the tower. In 1890, the tower waswhitewashed by a convict in exchange for his freedom, and was henceforth known by itscurrent name, the White Tower. As a defensive structure, it is a characteristic example of thegreat circular towers of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, which replaced the mediaevalrectangular structures, reflecting the need to defend against the new and widespread practiceof artillery warfare, which led to a variety of innovations in defensive architecture. Thestructure was topped by a conical, wooden roof, covered in lead. Until the early 20th century, apolygonal defensive structure survived at the base of the tower, with apertures for cannon atsea level along the sides and small towers serving as look-out points at the corners of theenclosing wall. This complex was constructed in 1535-36, according to the Turkish inscriptionfound above the entrance. Inside the White Tower, there is now a museum where visitors canenjoy a digital reconstruction of the city’s history.
From 1870, driven by economic growth, the citys population expanded by 70%, reaching135,000 in 1917. The last few decades of Ottoman control over the city were an era of revival,particularly in terms of the citys infrastructure. It was at that time that the Ottomanadministration of the city acquired an "official" face with the creation of the Command Postwhile a number of new public buildings were built in the eclectic style in order to project theEuropean face both of Thessaloniki and the Ottoman Empire. The city walls were torn downbetween 1869 and 1889, efforts for a planned expansion of the city are evident as early as 1879,the first tram service started in 1888 and the city streets were illuminated with electric lampposts in 1908. In 1888 Thessaloniki was connected to Central Europe via rail.
In the early 20th century, Thessaloniki was in the center of radical activities by various groups;the Bulgarian-Macedonian Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, founded in 1897,and the Greek Macedonian Committee, founded in 1903. In 1903 an anarchist group known asthe Boatmen of Thessaloniki planted bombs in several buildings in Thessaloniki, including theOttoman Bank. The Greek consulate in Ottoman Thessaloniki (now the Museum of theMacedonian Struggle) served as the center of operations for the Greek guerillas.
In 1908 the Young Turks movement broke out in the city, sparking the Young Turk RevolutionAs the First Balkan War broke out, Greece declared war on theOttoman Empire and expanded its borders. When EleftheriosVenizelos, Prime Minister at the time, was asked if the Greekarmy should move towards Thessaloniki or Monastir (now Bitola)Venizelos replied "Salonique à tout prix!" (Thessaloniki, at all costs!).As both Greece and Bulgaria wanted Thessaloniki, the Ottomangarrison of the city entered negotiations with both armies.
On 26 October 1912 the feast day of the citys patron saint, Saint Demetrius, the Greek Armyaccepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison at Thessaloniki. The Bulgarian army arrived oneday after the surrender of the city to Greece and Tahsin Pasha, ruler of the city, told theBulgarian officials that "I have only one Thessaloniki, which I have surrendered". After theSecond Balkan War, Thessaloniki and the rest of the Greek portion of Macedonia were officiallyannexed to Greece by the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913.
On 18 March 1913 George I of Greece was assassinated in the city.
In 1915, during World War I, a large Allied expeditionary force established a base at Thessalonikifor operations against pro-German Bulgaria. This culminated in the establishment of theMacedonian Front, also known as the Salonika Front. In 1916, pro-Venizelist Greek army officersand civilians, with the support of the Allies, launched the Movement of National Defence,creating a pro-Allied temporary government by the name of the "State of Thessaloniki“ thatcontrolled "new lands" (lands that were gained by Greece in the Balkan Wars, most of NorthernGreece, the North Aegean as well as the island of Crete); the official government of the King inAthens, the "State of Athens", controlled the "old lands" which were traditionally monarchist.The State of Thessaloniki was disestablished with the unification of the two opposing Greekgovernments under Venizelos, following the abdication of King Constantine in 1917. Venizelos inspects Greek troops on the Macedonian front, accompanied by Admiral Koundouriotis and General Sarrail.
Most of the old center of the city was destroyed by the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, whichstarted accidentally by an unattended kitchen fire on 18 August 1917. The fire swept throughthe centre of the city, leaving 72,000 people homeless; according to the Pallis Report, most ofthem were Jewish (50,000). Many businesses were destroyed, as a result, 70% of the populationwere unemployed. Following the fire the government prohibited quick rebuilding, so it could implement the new redesign of the city according to the European-style urban plan prepared by a group of architects, including the Briton Thomas Mawson, and headed by French architect Ernest Hébrard
Plan for central Thessaloniki by Ernest Hébrard. Much of the plan can be seen intodays city center.
After the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) and during the break-up ofthe Ottoman Empire, a population exchange took place between Greece and Turkey. Over onemillion ethnic Greeks deported from the former Ottoman Empire were resettled in Greece andover 160,000 were resettled in the city, changing its demographics. Additionally many of thecitys Muslims were deported to Turkey, ranging at about 20,000 people.
During World War II Thessaloniki was heavily bombarded by Fascist Italy (with 232 people dead,871 wounded and over 800 buildings damaged or destroyed in November 1940 alone), and, theItalians having failed to succeed in their invasion of Greece, it fell to the forces of Nazi Germanyon 8 April 1941 and remained under German occupation until 30 October 1944 when it wasliberated by the Greek Peoples Liberation Army. The Nazis soon forced the Jews into a ghettonear the railroads and on 15 March 1943 began the deportation process of the citys 56,000Jews to its concentration camps. They deported over 43,000 of the citys Jews in concentrationcamps, where most were killed in the gas chambers. The Germans also deported 11,000 Jews toforced labor camps, where most perished. Only 1,200 Jews live in the city today.
Having been the first major city in Greece to fall to the occupyingforces just two days after the German invasion, it was inThessaloniki that the first Greek resistance group was formed(under the name «Ελευθερία», Eleftheria, "Freedom") as well asthe first anti-Nazi newspaper in an occupied territory anywherein Europe, also by the name Eleftheria. Thessaloniki was alsohome to a military camp-converted-concentration camp, known inGerman as "Konzentrationslager Pavlo Mela" (Pavlos MelasConcentration Camp), where members of the resistance andother non-favourable people towards the German occupationfrom all over Greece were held either to be killed or sent toconcentration camps elsewhere in Europe. Camp of Pavlou Mela, Stavroupoli, Thessaloniki
After the war, Thessaloniki was rebuilt with large-scale development of new infrastructure andindustry throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many of its architectural treasures still remain,adding value to the city as a tourist destination, while several early Christian and Byzantinemonuments of Thessaloniki were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988.In 1997, Thessaloniki was celebrated as the European Capital of Culture, sponsoring eventsacross the city and the region. Agency established to oversee the cultural activities of that year1997 was still in existence by 2010.Today Thessaloniki has become one of the most important trade and business hubs inSoutheastern Europe, with its port, the Port of Thessaloniki being one of the largest in theAegean and facilitating trade throughout the Balkan hinterland.On 26 October 2012 the city celebrated its centennial since its incorporation into Greece.The city also forms one of the largest student centres in Southeastern Europe, is host to thelargest student population in Greece and will be the European Youth Capital in 2014
Upper Town Thessaloniki is the mostancient part of the city that isapproximately 2300 years old. Here youmay see the ancient Byzantine wall withits towers, ancient religious sites withByzantine mosaics and frescoes, andother remnants of the citys greatcivilization. Katerina Prokopiou