The Triumphs of Thessaloniki

A general view of Thessaloniki

Megas Alexandros, Thessaloniki
Like everywhere in Greece, Thessaloniki has had its share of exciting Greek history. Located in the luxuriant, fertile regions of Macedonia, this vibrant city on the Thermaic Gulf offers a remarkable past, resplendent of glorious triumphs as well as a plethora of unwarranted disasters. With a population of nearly 750,000 Thessaloniki was once the second city of Byzantium, and is today considered second city to Athens. But to know Thessaloniki, or "Salonika", as she is affectionately known to Greeks, we must venture into her rich and ancient heritage.

The Girl with the Dove, Thessaloniki Arcaelogical MuseumThe city itself, received its name in 316 BC from the mighty Macedonian general, Kassandros, who at that time decided to name it after his wife, Thessaloniki, who also just happened to be the daughter of Phillip II and half-sister of Alexander the Great. Wow, talk about family ties. This city got off to a good start! Anyway as the story goes, while Phillip was busy at battle conquering territories in Thessaly, his wife gave birth to a daughter whom they named, Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki, by the way, literally translates to "Victory over Thessaly".

Later, after the Romans took the city in 168 BC, Thessaloniki found her place and eventually became the capital of the new Roman province of Macedonia. The city's strategic location on the Thermaic Gulf and ideal position on the Via Egnatia also ensured brisk trade between Greece and the Balkans. At one point, the Roman emperor Galerius even made it the imperial capital of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, and after the empire finally broke apart from internal strife it became the second city of Byzantium where it thrived as a spiritual and economic center.

Uecause of its extreme northern location and vulnerability, unfortunately, it came under a series of attacks from invading Goths, Slavs, Franks, Muslims and Epriots. Then again in 1185 it was sacked by the Normans, and in 1204 it was made a feudal kingdom under the Marquis Boniface of Montferrat. Then again in 1246 it was brought back into the fold of the Byzantine Empire. But the Turks just couldn't seem to stay out of it, and after several sieges by Murad II in 1430, the city finally capitulated under Ottoman rule. A silver coin minted by the Chalkideon alliance, 420-448 BC

A silver coin minted by the Chalkideon alliance, 420-448 BCTThessaloniki finally became part of Greece in 1913, but after 1917 fires broke out all over and quickly destroyed some 10,000 homes and subsequently made almost 70,000 inhabitants homeless. The problem of homelessness was increased after the influx of refugees from Asia Minor after the 1923 population exchange, and by the late 192O's the problem was finally resolved when the city was replanned and built on a grid system with the added attraction of wide streets and large squares.

Photos and text taken from
(Toubis Editions)
Toubis Editions

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