Thessaloniki (Greek Θεσσαλονίκη): Macedonian town in Macedonia, Roman provincial capital, late ancient metropole.
- Close to the river place where the river Axios empties itself into the Thermaic Gulf, the northwestern part of the Aegean Sea
- Originally, there was a town called Therma, which had been founded by Greeks from Eretria or Corinth at the end of the seventh century BCE in a region called Mygdonia
- Although tthe name, "fever", suggests that over there malaria was endemic in the swamps of the Axios River, the site had the advantage of a deep-water port
- In 480 BCE, the Persian king Xerxes used Therma to assemble his army and fleet before attacking Greece
- Mygdonia and its villages became part of Macedonia, which became an important kingdom during the reign of Philip II (r.360-336 BCE) and his son Alexander the Great (r.336-323); their capital was Pella
Hellenistic and Republican Age
- In 316, when the port of Pella silted up, the Macedonian ruler Cassander (r.319-298) decided to build two new cities. Potideia was refounded as Cassandria, while Therma was refounded as Thessaloniki. This name was derived from Queen Thessalonike, daughter of Philip, sister of Alexander, wife of Cassander.
- The first inhabitants were assembled from twenty-six villages in the neighborhood
- The new city grew only gradually, partly because Cassander's successors of the Antigonid Dynasty were more interested in the south. Still, it was necessary to build a new wall at the beginning of the second century BCE, when the city was just over a century old.
- Things started to change when king Perseus (r.179-168) got involved in a war against the Roman Republic. After the Roman victory at Pydna (168 BCE), Macedonia was divided into four republics, governed by a Roman praetor and Thessaloniki became capital of one of these vassal states..
- The four republics were added as the province of Macedonia in 146 BCE. Thessaloniki was the capital of the reunited province.
- The new province was developed carefully. A new road, the Via Egnatia, connected Apollonia in the west with the capitals of the former republics. Later, this road was continued to Byzantium.
- The city continued to expand. In 55 BCE, the northeastern hill (the "acropolis") was fortified as a bulwark against Thracian attackers
- During the peace that was guaranteed by the Roman Empire, Thessaloniki continued to prosper. The city was at the beginning of the main route from the Mediterranean along the Axios and Margus rivers up north to Viminacium on the Danube
- The city attracted people from everywhere. One of the visitors was the Christian apostle Paul who discussed the new teachings in the main synagogue of Thessaloniki. There was a Samaritan synagogue as well.
- The Roman Forum has been excavated; there is an odeon. The construction of a metro has also brought to light many, many Roman objects
- During the third century, the Roman Empire was in a serious crisis, but Thessaloniki did not suffer exceptionally
- Order restored by Diocletian and his three fellow-emperors (the "tetrarchy"). Diocletian's intended successor Galerius resided in Thessaloniki, where he built a palace. This complex also included a hippodrome (which is still recognizable in the streets of Thessaloniki), his tomb (the "rotunda"), and an arch with splendid sculpture.
- From 302 until 311, the tetrachs persecuted the Christians. In Thessaloniki, Demetrius was executed in 306.
- Galerius died in 311; Thessaloniki no longer was an imperial residence, but continued to be the residence of the vicarius of the Moesian provinces (i.e., the Balkans).
- In 324, the emperor Licinius, defeated by his rival Constantine the Great, was sent to Thessaloniki, where he was killed in 325
- In 390, soldiers of the emperor Theodosius massacred many people, who had revolted against Germanic troops in the city; Theodosius excommunicated by Ambrose; penance of Theodosius; Ambrose readmits Theodosius to the church
- The garrison consisted of the Legio II Flavia Constantia Thebaeorum
- By the mid-fifth century, Thessaloniki had become the residence of the prefect of Illyricum, the commander-in-chief of Rome's army of the Lower Danube
- The church of St. Demetrius was built in 463. The church of the Acheiropoietos (for an icon of Mary that was "not made by hands") also dates to the third quarter of the fifth century.
- The city was usually safe, but found itself under attack by Slav tribes in 586. Over the next thirty years, they would settle in what is now called Bulgaria. Thessaloniki now was an Greek-speaking city in a region that had essentially become Slav territory.
- In 609, the town was captured by Heraclius, who used it as base to capture Constantinople and become emperor
- In 620, there was a disastrous earthquake. The rebuilt city walls are still visible on many places. The church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) may date back to this age.
- The Byzantine Empire subdued the Slav tribes; Thessaloniki was to remain an extremely important administrative center for centuries to come.