History of Thessaloniki

Modern Thessaloniki, lies on top of 4 other cities. The political turbulence and some phenomena such as earthquakes and fires have given the city its current multifaceted air.

hellenistic era

Thessaloniki was first built in 315BC by King Cassander and named after Great Alexander’s beloved sister Thessaloniki. the name of Thessaloniki was given by King Philip (Great Alexander’s father), to commemorate a victory of his kingdom over the Phocians, with the help of Thessalian horsemen (Thesalia + niki, which means victory). The surrounding walls built in the 200 BC and the city’s startegic placement, soon transformed the scattered villages into a city with autonomy within the kingdom of Macedonia. Historic remnants of this era can be seen in Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the historic area of Vergina , about 80km outside Thessaloniki.

roman era

After the fall of the Macedonian kingdom, the city came into Roman hands. During the Roman occupancy, a port was built and the city became prosperous due to its strategic place on the Roman Via Egnatia. During the Roman occupancy a huge palace unit was built, along with a Hippodrome, markets etc. In those years, the city became one of the frist centers for the propagation of Christianity. Throughout the city you can see buildings such as the Galerian triangle (the Rotunda, the Galerian arch also known as Kamara and the Palace) or the Ancinet Agora square that have survived the passage of time.

the pro-byzantine & byzantine era

After the fall of the Roman empire in 476AD the city became depopulated after th numerous barbaric invasions. After a short-lived occupancy by Slavs, Saracens and Normans, the city became part of the Byzantine empire around 1204AD. Around that time, despite intermittent invasion, Thessaloniki sustained a large population and flourishing commerce, resulting in intellectual and artistic endeavour that can be traced in the numerous churches and frescoes of the era and by the evidence of its scholars teaching there. Byzantine monuments can be seen around the city and the Museum of Byzantine Culture.

the ottoman era

The Byzantine ruling was unable to keep Thessaloniki under the advancing Ottoman empire, and was sold at 1423 to Venice and was later conquered by Sultan Murad II and became a part of the Ottoman empire. Around the 15th century, a large number of Sephardic Jews inhabited Thessaloniki. By then the city had become one of the most important cities in the Ottoman Empire, viable as the foremost trade and commercial center in the Balkans. The railway reached the city in 1888 and new modern port facilities were built in 1896-1904. Mosques and architectural remains from the Ottoman period can be found mainly in the city’s Ano Poli (Upper Town) district, in which traditional wooden houses and fountains can be found. In the city center, a number of the stone mosques survived, notably the “Hamza-Bey Camii” on Egnatia, the “Alatza Imaret Camii” on Kassandrou Street, “Bezesteni” on Venizelou Street, and “Yahoudi Hamam”.

the world wars

At the 27th October of 1912, Thessaloniki was released by the Turk oppression and then through the turbulent times of the World War I, landed with an official government of the King in Athens. Ever since, Thessaloniki has been dubbed as symprotévousa (“co-capital”). In 1917, a Great Fire left 72,000 inhabitants homeless in 3 days and changed the architecture of the city. A large part of the city was rebuild according to the plans of French architect and archeologist Ernest Herbrard and transformed Thessaloniki into the modern European metropolis it is today.

Thessaloniki fell to the forces of Nazi Germany April 1941 and remained under German occupation until October 1944. The city suffered considerable damage from Allied bombing and almost of its entire Jewish population that remained following the fire, was exterminated by the Nazis. After World War II Thessaloniki was rebuilt and recovered fairly quickly after the war, with a rapid growth in its population and a large-scale development of new infrastructure and industry throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

thessaloniki today

Thessaloniki today is a modern European metropolis that is inhabited by 1,000,000 people, 150,000 of which are students. Many early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list 1988 and Thessaloniki later becameEuropean City of Culture in 1997.Thessaloniki today has come to become one of the most important trade and business hubs in theBalkan peninsula with its port being one of the largest in the Aegean, and facilitating trade throughout the Balkan region, Asia and Europe. Thessaloniki organizes a yearly International Film Festival, an International Documentary Festival, various music festivals and year-long exhibitions in the International Εxhibition Center.