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THESSALONIKI

the bride of Thermaikos




Thessaloniki, the second largest city in
GREECE with a population of 1,000,000 inhabitants, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It stretches over twelve kilometers in a bowl formed by low hills facing a bay that opens into the Gulf Thermaikos. It was founded about 315 B.C., on a site of old prehistoric settlements going back to 2300 B.C., by Cassander, King of Macedonia, and was named after his wife, Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander The Great. Since then, Thessaloniki has become the chief city of Macedonia and its most important commercial port. In Roman times it was visited by Saint Paul, who preached the new religion, and who later addressed his two well-known epistles (the oldest written documents of Christian literature) to the Christians of Thessaloniki.

The Byzantine times

In Byzantine times, Thessaloniki became a cultural and artistic centre second only to Constantinople in the whole empire. Great names are closely associated with the city's Byzantine past - the jurist Peter Magister, the epigrammatist Macedonius Hypatus, the Hymnographer Archbishop Joseph, Leo the Mathematician, the historian John Cameniates, the prolific Homeric scholar and humanist Eustathius ( Archbishop of Thessaloniki), the philologist Thomas M. Magister, the teacher of law and editor of the "Hexabiblus" Constantine Armenopoulos, the theologian Gregory Palamas ( Archbishop of Thessaloniki), to mention but a few prominent scholars. The missionary brothers Cyril and Methodius also have a special place in the history of the period; they invented and used the Cyrillic Alphabet to bring literacy and Christianity to the Slavs.

Cultural contribution

After the fall of Thessaloniki (1430) and later of Constantinople (1453), the two major cultural centres of the East, two of Thessaloniki's greatest humanists, Theodore Gazes and Andronicus Callistus, sought refuge in the West where they transplanted the Greek language and literature. Despite the unfavourable conditions prevailing during the Turkish occupation, there were Greek schools in Thessaloniki that struggled, successfully to a large degree, to preserve the Greek language and literature until the city was liberated in October 26, 1912, the anniversary of its patron saint, St. Demetrius. In the nineteenth century the long scholarly tradition of the city was continued by Margaritis Demetsas, a historian, archeologist, and geographer as well as headmaster of the city Grammar School and his pupil P. Papageorgiou, later a prominent philologist.

Monuments

Among the numerous monuments of particular interest in the city are those from the Roman period, the Triumphal Arch of Galerius and the Rotonda. Thessaloniki is, however, above all famous for its Byzantine period, being second only to Constantinople itself. Its many churches whose fine mosaics and wall-paintings are representative of various periods of Byzantine art have survive to enhance the image of the city. They include St. Demetrius, Panagia Acheiropoietus, the Holy Apostles, St. Sophia, St. Catherine, Panagia Chalkeon, St. Nicholas the Orphan, the Prophet Elijah, and the Monastery of Vlatadon. Large sections of the city-walls are also still standing, together with one of their main bastions, the well-known White Tower. Noteworthy from a national, spiritual and artistic viewpoint are also the continuing strong links between the the city of Thessaloniki and Mt. Athos.

Modern Architecture


The modern era of material and cultural development in Thessaloniki dates from its liberation in 1912, when Thessaloniki became the capital city of Northern Greece. The Ministry of Northern Greece, the Cathedral, the Court of Justice, in addition to other major government institutions, are situated today in the city. The town has today two quite distinct sectors: The "old town", continuously undergoing reconstruction, and the modern sector, whose many modern buildings are examples of advanced architecture.

Cultural life

In addition to the University, there are numerous institutions that contribute to the academic and cultural life of the city. Among them are the Macedonian University, The Archeological and Byzantine museums, the Folklore museum, the State Conservatory, Theatres and Orchestras, the Society of Macedonian Studies, the Institute for Balkan Studies, and other cultural and artistic organisations.

Today

Today Thessaloniki is a thriving city and one of the most important trade and communications centres in the Mediterranean. This is evident from its financial and commercial activities, its port with its special Free Zone, which provides facilities to the other Balkan countries, its international airport, its important industrial complex, its annual International Trade Fair, etc.

THESSALONIKI

OLD TOWN PHOTO GALLERY

 

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