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THESSALONIKI

Thessaloníke  Θεσσαλονίκη, Thessalonica, second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Macedonia, the nation's largest region. It is honorarily called the Symprotevousa (lit. co-capital) of Greece, as it was once called the symbasilevousa (co-queen) of the Byzantine Empire. Thessaloníke retains several Ottoman and Jewish structures as well as a large number of Byzantine and Romans architectural monuments.

THE WHITE TOWER

The Tower was was constructed by the Ottomans some time after the army of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent captured Thessaloníke in 1430 and was used by the Ottomans successively as a fort, garrison and a prison. In 1826, at the order of the Sultan Mahmud II, there was a massacre of the prisoners in the Tower. Owing to the "countless victims of Ottoman torturers and executioners", the tower acquired the name "Tower of Blood" or "The Red Tower", which it kept until the end of the 19th century.

The Tower was for centuries part of the walls of the old city of Thessaloníke (known as Selanik by the Ottomans), and separated the Jewish quarter of the city from the cemeteries of the Muslims and Jews. The city walls were demolished in 1866.
When Thessaloniki was annexed from the Ottoman Empire to the Greek State during the Balkan War of 1912, the tower was whitewashed as a symbolic gesture of cleansing, and acquired its present name. King George I of Greece was assassinated not far from the White Tower in March 1913.
The Tower is now a buff colour but has retained the name White Tower. It now stands on Thessaloniki's waterfront boulevard, Nikes (Victory) Street. It houses a Byzantine museum and is one of the city's leading tourist attractions. The Tower is under the administration of the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The city was founded around 315 BC by the King Cassander of Macedon. He named it after his wife Thessaloníke, a half-sister of Alexander the Great (Thessalo-nike means the "victory over the Thessalians"). It was an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Macedon. 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 Road and facilitating trade between Europe and Asia. The city became the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia.

The Arch of Galerius  and the Tomb of Galerius are neighboring monuments in the city of Thessaloníke. The Tomb of Galerius is better known as the Rotunda, the Church of Agios Georgios or  the Rotunda of St. George.

The 4th century Roman Emperor Galerius commissioned these two structures as elements of an imperial precinct linked to his Thessaloníke palace, substantial remains of which were found to the southwest. These three monuments were connected by a road that ran through the arch, which also straddled the major east-west road of the city. By sitting at the crux of these major axes, the Arch of Galerius emphasized the power of the emperor and linked his assembly of monumental structures with the fabric of 4th century Thessaloníke. The arch was composed of a masonry core faced with marble sculptural panels celebrating a victory over the Sassanid Persians. Less than half of the arch is preserved.

The Rotunda was a massive circular structure with a masonry core that had an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome. It has gone through multiple periods of use and modification as a polytheist temple, a Christian basilica, a Muslim mosque, and again a Christian church (and archaeological site). A minaret is preserved from its use as a mosque, and there are ancient remains exposed on its southern side.

The Rotunda has a diameter of 24.5 m. Its walls are more than 6 m thick, which is one reason why it has withstood Thessalonike's earthquakes. The walls are interrupted by eight rectangular bays, with the south bay forming the entrance. A flat brick dome, 30 m high at the peak, crowns the cylindrical structure. In its original design, the dome of the Rotunda had an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome.

The Rotunda is the oldest of Thessalonike's churches, and some publications in Greece claim that it is the oldest Christian church in the world, although there are a number of other claimants to that title. It is certainly the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire.

When in 379 the Roman Prefecture of Illyricum was divided between East and West Roman Empires, Thessaloníke became the capital of the new Prefecture of Illyricum. The economic expansion of the city continued through the twelfth century as the rule of the Komnenoi emperors expanded Byzantine control to the north. Thessaloníke passed out of Byzantine hands in 1204, when Constantinople was captured by the Fourth Crusade. Thessaloníke and its surrounding territory — the Kingdom of Thessalonica — became the largest fief of the Latin Empire. The city was recovered by the Byzantine Empire in 1246. In the 1340s, it was the scene of the anti-aristocratic Commune of the Zealots. In 1423, the Byzantines sold the city to Venice, which held the city until it was captured by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II on 29 March 1430.

The permanent exhibition of the Museum of Byzantine Culture presents various aspects of Byzantine art and culture, as well as of the following era, after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Byzantine empire, which in an early period of flourish extended from Near East to Gibraltar, was a multicultural state, legally organized on the basis of its roman heritage, laid its foundations on the ancient Greek tradition and on the dominant Christian religion.


Archaeological Museum. The exhibition “Thessaloniki, The Metropolis of Macedonia” recreates the unique role played by Thessaloníke during the Roman period in particular. Themes touched upon in the exhibition on Macedonia are here placed within the particular spatial framework of the city itself. Thus, Thessaloníke becomes a backdrop for personages of greater or lesser fame, and for their activities and their works. This exhibition gives us the possibility of touring Thessaloniki’s most important monuments and spaces: its cemeteries, the Galerian complex, the Agora, the area of modern-day Dioikitiriou Square (an administrative center for centuries), etc., investigating the public and private functions of the Macedonian metropolis and its actual appearance.

Finally, the exhibitionThe Gold of Macedon presents the importance of gold for the civilization of ancient Macedonia, above all during the Archaic and Classical periods. The processes of mining and refining gold, the techniques for constructing and decorating gold and gilt objects, and the relation of the noble metal to beliefs about life and death held by people in this period are described via unique objects brought to light during the excavation of cemeteries.

After the battle of Pydna in 168 BC, in which the Romans defeated the Macedonians and Macedonia in consequence ceased to exist as an autonomous kingdom, the palace at Pella was looted of much treasure which was transported to Rome. - Livy XLV 32.8-33.5

... the eyes of the crowd which came were no more drawn to the stage spectacle, the contests of men, or the racing of the horses, than to the collected loot of Macedonia, set out on exhibition, statues, paintings, rare stuffs, and vessels made of gold, silver, bronze and ivory, manufactured with great pains in the palace at Pella, so as to serve not only for immediate show, as did the objects with which the palace of Alexandria was crammed, but for continuous use. This booty was loaded on the fleet and given to Gnaeus Octavius to transport to Rome...




During the Ottoman period, the city's Muslim and Jewish population grew. By 1478 Selanik - as the city came to be known in Ottoman Turkish - had a population of 4,320 Muslims and 6,094 Greek Orthodox, as well as some Catholics, but no Jews. By ca. 1500, the numbers had grown to 7,986 Greeks, 8,575 Muslims, and 3,770 Jews, but by 1519, the latter numbered 15,715, 54% of the city's population. The invitation of the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella, was an Ottoman demographic strategy aiming to prevent the Greek element from dominating the city. The city remained the largest Jewish city in the world for at least two centuries, often called "Mother of Israel".
From 1870, driven by economic growth, the city's population expanded by 70%, reaching 135,000 in 1917. During the First Balkan War, on 26 October 1912, the feast day of the city's patron saint, Saint Demetrius, the Ottoman garrison surrendered Salonica to the Greek Army without any resistance. In 1915, during World War I, a large Allied expeditionary force landed at Thessaloniki as the base for operations against pro-German Bulgaria, which ended in the establishment of the Macedonian or Salonika Front. In 1916, pro-Venizelist Greek army officers, with the support of the Allies, launched the Movement of National Defence, which resulted in the establishment of a pro-Allied temporary government that controlled northern Greece and the Aegean, against the official government of the King in Athens.
This led the city to be dubbed as symprotévousa ("co-capital"). Most of the old town was destroyed by a single fire on 18 August 1917, which was accidentally sparked by French soldiers in encampments at the city. The fire left some 72,000 homeless, many of them Turkish, of a population of approximately 271,157 at the time. Thessaloníke fell to the forces of Nazi Germany on April 22, 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. Thessaloníke was rebuilt and recovered fairly quickly after the war with large-scale development of new infrastructure and industry throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
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. Early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988, and Thessaloniki later became European Capital of Culture 1997.

Makedonia  Educational Tour

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