The City of Thessaloniki PDF Print E-mail

ImageWith a history of over 2300 years, Thessaloniki is today a metropolitan centre of Northern Greece (Macedonia-Thrace). While the Classical Antiquity of Greece, which reflects the Ancient Greek spirit through monuments, is located in Athens, Thessaloniki exudes the magnitude of the Byzantine Empire. However, Thessaloniki’s long history exceeds the confines of the Byzantine years.  As a city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Byzantines, French, Ottoman Turks, and Jews have all left their mark on the city’s culture, while at the same time had absorbing the city’s rich cultural heritage. The city of Thessaloniki was a crossroad of civilizations, nations and religions, whose remains are reflected in the numerous monuments, spread throughout the city’s Historic Centre. 

Thessaloniki as a cultural, financial and commercial centre flourished during the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman times. After the city’s liberation by the Greek army in 1912, the multinational city continued its rapid expansion and development and today hasa population of over 1 million citizens.

During its 2300 years of life, Thessaloniki has gone through periods of flourish and deprivation, and this struggle has shaped its spirit and culture, and developed a internationally significant financial presence.

The first signs of life and the archeological findings in the area of Thessaloniki lead back to the Prehistoric years; In particular the Neolithic period and the beginning of the third century B.C. 

Thessaloniki was founded around 315 B.C. during the early Hellenistic Period. The founder of the city was the King of Macedonia (Northern Province of Greece) Kassandros, who unified 26 smaller estates of the area in order to form a proper city. He named this new city after his wife, who was also the sister of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki.

During its first years, the new city was comprised of various settlers from the greater Greek province of Macedonia, who influenced its culture and architecture. In 168 B.C, during the battle of Pydnas, the Greek Macedonian King Perseas was defeated by the Romans and the administration of the city was handed to the Roman Emperor Emilio Pavlo. Nonetheless, the city maintained its autonomous and independent character for a few more years, until an unsuccessful riot, after which lost all privileges and became a Roman Eparchy.

This was the beginning of a time of rapid development. Thessaloniki was designed and built as a proper city – with splendid buildings, some of which survive to this day. With the construction of the Roman Egnatia Avenue (connecting Durachios with Evros), Thessaloniki eventually become a great commercial, cultural and military centre. At the same time the cultural, spiritual and social life of the city had gained popularity through the various events that had been taking place, such us the Olympia, Pythia and Kaviria.

The “Glorious Period” of Thessaloniki was certainly the start of the 400 A.D., when Caesar Galerios chose Thessaloniki as the Capital of his Eparchy. At the same time, the city was developing into a significant centre of Christianity; as this was reflected by the two apostles, Saint Paul himself, wrote to the citizens of Thessaloniki (Apostle to the Thessalonians).

 The Byzantine Years 


During the reign of Emperor Theodosius I, when the formal religion of state was decided to be Christianity, a fierce battle has been triggered between Nationals and Arians, which resulted to the loss of many lives and to the destruction of many splendid art crafts as a revenge.A notable event during (390 a.d) Theodosius reign was meant to distinguish the city's histry: "The hippodrome Massacre". Roughly 7.000 Thessalonians of all sex and age paid with their own lives a riot against the Emperor's guard which was consisted of mainly Gothic mercenaries. Since then, no races have ever taken place is the blood-painted hippodrome.


 In the following years, the city has suffered several attacks by many nations, Huns, Ostrogoths, Avars and Slavs who repeatedly have surrounded, but never succeeded to conquest it. Thus, Thessaloniki which had become the second city, in terms of size of the Byzantine state, eventually gained the fame of a powerful and wealthy city. The population was constantly increasing by the merchants who were arriving to sell their commodities, as well as by the asylum seeking populations of other under attack provinces who were trying to protect themselves. By the 8th century Thessaloniki had turned into a big administrative center of the Haemus peninsula (the Balkan peninsula) and a significant center between East and West. 



During the 8th century a new threat eventually appeared in the borders of the Byzantine Empire : The attacks from the Bulgars. The wars which followed had been proved expensive, disastrous and weakened the Byzantine Army. Hence the Byzantine Diplomacy, chose an alternative method to face the threat, a method substantially more efficient, that of the merger. The missionary role has been undertaken by two Greek Thessalonian brothers, Cyril and Methodius (later saint Cyril and Methodius). They completed the first Slavic Alphabet and translated the Bible and other books in Slavonic, introducing the Slavs to Christianity; as their student did later with the Bulgars. Subsequently, the Byzantines had managed to gain Influence and control to the new Christian Nations.   




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