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Thessaloniki History, Greece

Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, after the capital, Athens, and it is the largest and most populous city in the Greek region of Macedonia.

The most fascinating thing about Thessaloniki is that the city has been standing in the same spot for over 2000 years. Throughout the millennia, Thessaloniki has played a major role not only in Greek history, but also in the history of all the nations it has belonged to. The city is a gold mine of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and of course, Ancient Greek relics. This Thessaloniki History Guide will give an outline of the city’s rich history.

Thessaloniki History Guide - Hellenistic and Roman Period

Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon, who named the city after his wife, a sister of Alexander the Great. At the time, the huge empire created by Alexander was fragmented among his successors. Macedon was only a small part of the empire, but it included all of Greece. In the Hellenistic period, the city grew and developed. By the time the Romans conquered Macedon, Thessaloniki was a flourishing city. The Romans recognized the commercial potential of the city and built an impressive port, as important as Kavala. Thessaloniki’s acropolis was also built by the Romans, to defend the city from Thracian raids. In the first century, Thessaloniki had a sizeable Jewish population and it was also the home of early Christians. The Roans built the Church of St. Demetrius as well as other landmarks that this Thessaloniki History Guide recommends visiting.

Thessaloniki History Guide - Byzantine and Ottoman Period

After the division of the Roman Empire, Thessaloniki became the second most important city of the East Roman Empire. During the Byzantine period, Thessaloniki was invaded several times by barbarian tribes, and in 620, an earthquake razed the city to the ground. The 10th, 11th and 12th centuries were peaceful and the city had the chance to recover. During the 4th Crusade, in 1204, Thessaloniki became a fief of the Latin Empire, and it continued to change hands until the first half of the 15th century, when it came under Ottoman rule. The city became the home of Europe’s largest Jewish population; an attempt of the Ottoman’s to erase the Greek elements of the city. Thessaloniki was one of the Empire’s most important cities, but its multinational aspect made it rather unstable.

Thessaloniki History Guide - Modern Period

During the Balkan Wars, Thessaloniki returned under Greek rule, through the Treaty of Bucharest. In 1941, the city was occupied by the Nazis, and it suffered great damage caused by Allied bombing. The city’s Jewish population was almost entirely exterminated by the Nazi forces. Despite these losses, Thessaloniki recovered quickly after the war. The Byzantine and early Christian monuments became World Heritage Sites, and today the city is an enjoyable holiday destination.

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Read our members' reviews about Thessaloniki

  • lindamuraSpending a few days in Thessaloniki
    review by lindamura posted more then 30 days ago
    A visitor approaching Thessaloniki from the sea will have a first glimpse of a modern metropolis, lots of blocks of flats and other modern buildings. This sight was very different a few hundred years ago. A major change in the façade of the city took place after the 1917 fire destroyed a...
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Read our members' travel tips about Thessaloniki

  • blackangel_66The Rotunda
    travel tip by blackangel_66 posted more then 30 days ago
    The Rotunda is also known by the name of Agios Giorgos. It was first a Roman mausoleum, then a Christian church and later a mosque, quite a history, right? It is the oldest building in Thessaloniki, built in the 4th century AD by the...
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