History

Although the city’s present might not look very bright you should know in case you already don’t, that it has a very long history of 2330 years !

Thessaloniki stands in the heart of the Balkans and was founded around 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon.  He named the new city after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great.   This name which means “victory of Thessalians”, was given to her by her father, Philip II, to commemorate her birth on the day of his gaining a victory over the Phocians, who were defeated with the help of Thessalian horsemen, the best in Greece at that time. Thessaloniki developed rapidly and as early as the 2nd century BC, it had its first walls built, which enclosed and protected the city. Very soon the city became very populous and under the Romans in 148BC became the capital of roman providence of Macedonia.  St Paul passed and preached in Thessaloniki during his second trip (50 BC). The impregnable walls kept the city free until 904 when Saracene Pirates took the city.  In 1185 and 1430 the city passed successively to the hands of the Normands and the Turks.

1492 is the crucial year for the history of Thessaloniki because of the arrival of the Sephardic Jews from Spain followed from more Jews arriving from central Europe, giving the city the name mother of Israel or second Jerusalem. The 50 synagons spread all over the city which was divided in three sections: the Jewish by the port, the Greek by Rotunda and the Ottomans in Ano Poly (the Upper city). The majority of Jewish population perished in 1943 after the deportation to Auswitz, Birgenau and Bergen Belsen.

In 1912-13 during the Balkan wars the city was liberated from Ottoman empire and joined the Greek state. Today, celebrating 100 years of independence, the second city of Greece boasts with the two universities, the international fair, the film festival, the Dimitria festivities and all the cultural activities that go on all year round.  It combines an active city life, in a relaxed atmosphere, ideal for a visit any time of the year !

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