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20180517_Greece_4755 Pano Thessaloniki sRGB | by Dan Lundberg
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20180517_Greece_4755 Pano Thessaloniki sRGB

Panoramic view of Thessaloniki from the Byzantine Walls. The red roofs are Ano Poli, the upper town which was the only part of Thessaloniki that survived (for the most part) the fire of 1917 CE. At the near end of the greenspace slit in the cityscape is the cylindrical Rotunda of Galerius built in 306 CE by the eastern Roman emperor Galerius as his future mausoleum (but he ended up buried in what is today Serbia where he died from a mysterious disease). The more open area in the center of the view surrounds the campus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the top university in Greece. In the far distance, snow-capped Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece and the home of the gods in Greek mythology, can just barely be made out through the haze.


Although the original defensive walls were built in the late 4th century BCE, the walls preserved today date from the 4th century CE when the Byzantine Empire emerged and Thessaloniki became Byzantium’s second city after Constantinople.


Thessaloniki (sounds like “thess aloe knee key”) is the capital of Greek Macedonia and the second-largest city in Greece after Athens. The city was named after Princess Thessalonike of Macedon, daughter of King Phillip II (reigned 359 BCE until his assassination in 336 BCE) and half-sister of Alexander the Great (King Alexander III, reigned 336-323 BCE). In 315 BCE she married Cassander, the ambitious de facto ruler of much of Greece starting in 317 BCE, who honored her by renaming the city of Therma. After various nefarious deeds, Cassander ultimately proclaimed himself the Macedonian king (reigned 305-297 BCE) with Thessalonike his queen.


The Romans conquered Macedon in 168 BCE.


The New Testament of the Bible contains two epistles the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. He visited Thessaloniki (Acts 17:1-14) in the middle of the 1st century CE when he left Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and came to southern Europe, both part of the Roman Empire, to promote Christianity.


Although Christianity was technically illegal in the Roman Empire, it was the people (religious traditionalists) not the government who persecuted Christians during the first two centuries CE. In the 3rd century CE government activism ebbed and flowed, culminating in the most severe Roman persecution of Christians, especially in the eastern provinces, following a series of edicts in 303 CE. In 311 CE the Edict of Tolerance by Galerius legalized Christianity in the eastern Roman Empire with the west added two years later. Christianity was decreed to be the official state religion in 380 CE.


The Roman Empire began experimenting with separate eastern and western administrative regions in 286 CE, ultimately dividing into two distinct entities in 395 CE. The eastern half has become known [starting with German historian Hieronymus Wolf in 1557 CE] as the Byzantine Empire (so-called because its capital was originally called Byzantium before being renamed Constantinople, today’s Istanbul). Thessaloniki became Byzantium’s second city after Constantinople.


In 1430 CE the city was taken over by the Ottoman Turks who promoted Islam while persecuting Christians. Large parts of the wall around Thessaloniki, including the entire seaward section, were demolished for a restructuring of the city. The Turks were ousted in 1912 CE. The Nazis occupied Greece during World War II, deporting and killing most of what had been a large Sephardic Jewish population in Macedonia.


The Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1988.


On Google Earth:

Byzantine Walls 40°38'26.38"N, 22°57'36.37"E

Rotunda of Galerius 40°37'59.94"N, 22°57'10.25"E

Mount Olympus 40° 5'18.29"N, 22°21'30.80"E

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Taken on May 17, 2018