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Thessaloniki (also named Salonica) is Greece's second largest city. The city was founded by Cassander in 315 B.C. It is one of the oldest continuous cities in Europe. The city is like a living museum. There are Roman era ruins right next to modern highrises and everything in between.
The city was founded circa 315 BC by Cassander, the King of Macedon (Μακεδών), on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma and twenty six other local villages. He named it after his wife Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great. She gained her name from her father, Philip II of Macedon, to commemorate her birth on the day of his gaining a victory (Gr. Nike) over the Phocians, who were defeated with the help of Thessalian horsemen, the best in Greece at that time. Thessalonki means the "victory of Thessalians" (where Thessalians derives from Thessaly which means thesi alos, i.e. "a land that was sea").
Thessaloniki developed rapidly and as early as the 2nd century BC the first walls were built, forming a large square. It was, as all the other contemporary Greek cities, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Macedon, with its own parliament where the King was represented and could interfere in the city's domestic affairs.
After the fall of the kingdom of Macedon in 168 BC, Thessalonica became a city of the Roman Republic. It grew to be an important trade-hub located on the Via Egnatia, a Roman road that connected Byzantium (later Constantinople), with Dyrrhachium (now Durrës in Albania), facilitating trade between Europe and Asia. The city became the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia. It kept its privileges but was ruled by a praetor and had a Roman garrison. For a short time in the 1st century BC, all the Greek provinces came under Thessalonica. Due to the city's key commercial importance, a spacious harbour was built by the Romans, the famous Burrow Harbour (Σκαπτός Λιμήν) that accommodated the city's trade up to the eighteenth century; later, with the help of silt deposits from the river Axios, it was reclaimed as land and the port built beyond it. Remnants of the old harbour's docks can be found nowadays under Odos Frangon Street, near the Catholic Church.
Thessaloniki's acropolis, located in the northern hills, was built in 55 BC after Thracian raids in the city's outskirts, for security reasons.
It had a Jewish colony, established during the first century, and was an early center of Christianity. On his second missionary journey, Paul of Tarsus preached in the city's synagogue, the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Thessaloniki, and laid the foundations of a church. Opposition against him from the Jews drove him from the city, and he fled to Veroia. Paul wrote two of his epistles to the Christian community at Thessalonica, the First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Thessaloníki acquired a patron saint, St. Demetrius, in 306. He is credited with a number of miracles that saved the city. He was the Roman Proconsul of Greece under the anti-Christian emperor Maximian and was martyred at a Roman prison, where today lays the Church of St. Demetrius, first built by the Roman sub-prefect of Illyricum Leontios in 463.
Other important remains from this period include the Arch and Tomb of Galerius, located near the center of the modern city.
Thessaloníki, called Selânik in Turkish, became one of the most important cities of 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. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was born there in 1881, and the Young Turk movement was headquartered there in the early twentieth century.
Thessaloniki was the main "prize" of the First Balkan War, as a result of which it was united with Greece on October 26, 1912. This date has an immense importance for the city as, in addition to the aforementioned historic event of the unification, it also marks the nameday of Saint Demetrius, its patron Saint.
King George I of Greece was assassinated during a visit to Thessaloniki on 18 March 1913 by Alexandros Schinas.
Most of the town was destroyed by a single fire on 18 August [O.S. 5 August] 1917 which was accidentally caused by some French soldiers that were camping there. The fire made some 72,000 people homeless (most of them were Turkish) out of a population of approximately 271,157 at the time. Venizelos forbade the reconstruction of the town center until a full modern city plan was prepared. This was accomplished a few years later by the French architect and archeologist Ernest Hebrard. The Hebrard plan swept away the Oriental features of Thessaloníki and transformed it to the modern, European style metropolis that it is today. One consequence of the great fire was the fact that nearly half of the city's Jewish homes and livelihoods were destroyed leading to a massive Jewish emigration. Many went to Palestine, others stepped onto the Orient Express to Paris and still others found their way to America. Their numbers, however, were quickly replaced by a considerable number of refugees from Asia Minor following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, after the defeat of the Greek forces in Anatolia during the Greco-Turkish War. With these new refugees, the city expanded enormously and was nicknamed "The Refugee Capital" (I Protévoussa ton Prosfígon) and "Mother of the Poor" (Ftohomána). Thessaloniki fell to the forces of Nazi Germany on April 9, 1941 and remained under German occupation until 30 October 1944. The city suffered considerable damage from Allied bombing, and almost its entire Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis. Barely a thousand Jews survived. However, Thessaloniki was rebuilt and recovered fairly quickly after the war. This recovery included both a rapid growth in its population, as well as an impressive development of new, modern infrastructure and industrial enterprizes throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Most of the urban development of that period was, however, without a proper plan, causing traffic and zoning problems that remain to this day.
At 23:04 (local time) on 20 June 1978, the city was hit by a powerful earthquake registering a moment magnitude of 6.5. The tremor caused considerable damage to several buildings and even to some of the city's Byzantine monuments. Forty people were crushed to death when an entire apartment block collapsed in the central Hippodromio district. Nonetheless, the city quickly recovered from this natural disaster.
Early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988. Thessaloniki became the European City of Culture for 1997.
Thessaloniki is one of the most important university centers in Southeastern Europe and it hosts a large and vibrant student population coming from all over the country. The city features two state universities — the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the largest university in Greece (founded 1926) and the University of Macedonia, as well as the Technological Education Institute of Thessaloniki. In addition, there are several private institutions that are either affiliated with universities in other nations, or accredited abroad.
In June 2003, the Summit meeting of European leaders, at the end of the Greek Presidency of the EU, was hosted at the Porto Carras resort in Chalkidiki, instead of within Thessaloniki itself (as originally planned) due to some security concerns. In 2004, the city hosted some of the football events of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Thessaloniki unsuccessfully bid for the 2008 World EXPO, won by Zaragoza, Spain. However, another planned bid for 2017 was announced in September 2006.
Landmarks:
The White Tower of Thessaloniki (Lefkos Pyrgos), widely regarded as the symbol of the city. It has been known by many names and is now home to the Museum of Byzantine Cultures. The top of the tower has excellent views of the city.
The Arch and Tomb of Galerius is more commonly known as the "Kamara", is ornately decorated and made with a reddish coloured stone.
The Upper Town or 'Ano Poli' is what remains of Ottoman Thessaloniki, beautiful wooden houses overhang the winding streets all the way up to the Eptapyrgio at the top of the city. The Ano Poli also contains some of the city's oldest and most important churches, particularly Osios David, St. Nicolaos Orphanos and Vlatades Monastery.
The Church of Aghios Demetrios is the most important church in the entire city. Lying above the remains of the agora and the Roman Forum, the church has three side-chapels, a museum, and underground catacombs that also include Saint Demetrios' imprisonment chamber. He is the patron saint of the city.
OTE Tower, a TV tower is the center of the Thessaloniki Expo Center. A revolving restaurant offers great views of the city.
The waterfront is Thessaloniki's major drawcard. The promenade of Nikis Avenue runs from the White Tower of Thessaloniki to the giant palace that is now a ferry terminal. Numerous shops and cafés line the waterfront.
The Rotonda or the Church of Aghios Georgios, which is a circular church lacking the classic Orthodox iconostasis. The church is built upon former Roman and Greek pagan ruins.
Aristotelous Square, extending all the way from Nikis Avenue on the waterfront to the Church of Panayia Halkeion. The square, shaped like a bottle, is lined with tall archondika, or mansions of the rich, that have now been converted to shops and hotels. A large park lies at the north end of the square, and Thessaloniki's thriving old market is just one block away to the east and west.
The area surrounding the Church of Aghia Sofia, also located in the city center, includes the large church and paved alleyways that make the few blocks around it famous.
The extensive Byzantine walls of the Upper City (Ano Poli) and kastro.
The Kyvernion (little Palace); former residence of the King and Queen of Greece; in the Karabournaki area, in Eastern Thessaloniki
The modern Concert Hall of Thessaloniki in the East side of the city, near the Posidonion sports center.
Thessaloniki Intemational Trade Fair held every September, organised by Helexpo.
Museums
Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki (Museo Djudio de Salonik)
Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art
State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki housing an important collection of 1275 Russian avant-garde works of art, collected by George Costakis
Macedonia-Thrace Folklore and Ethnological Museum, housed in the G. Modiano Mansion
Museum of Byzantine Culture
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
Thessaloniki Cinema Museum
Thessaloniki Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
Thessaloniki Sports Museum
Water Museum of Thessaloniki
White Tower of Thessaloniki, museum and monument
Thessaloniki Science Center & Technology Museum - NOESIS
Thessaloniki Museum of Photography
Museum of Cinematography
Teloglion Foundation of Art
European Center of Byzantine and Postbyzantine Monuments
The Goulandris Natural History Museum
Archaeological sites
Crypt of Aghios Demetrios
Agia Paraskevi, Thessaloniki, archaic cemetery
The Ancient Agora of Thessaloniki
Monastery of Latomos at Thessaloniki
The Roman Palace and Hippodrome
Monuments
Historical center of ThessalonikiThe Arch and Tomb of Galerius
The extensive city walls
Trigonian Tower and the Castra area
The ancient Agora
The Rotunda
The Roman Palace and Hippodrome
The church of Agia Sofia