, Plb. 23.4
; Scymn. Ch. 625
, Strab. vii. Epit
. 3: Eth. Θεσσαλονικεύς
), a large and important city, the capital of Roman Macedonia, situated at the head of the Thermaic gulf, in the district anciently called Mygdonia.
SITUATION.--This is well described by Pliny (4.10
) as “medio flexu litoris [sinus Thermaici].” The gulf extends about 30 leagues in a NW. direction from the group of the Thessalian islands, and then turns to the NE., forming a noble basin between [p. 2.1171]Capes Vardár
On the edge of this basin is the city, partly on the level shore and partly on the slope of a hill, in 40° 38′ 47″ N. lat., and 22° 57′ 22″ E. long.
The present appearance of the city, as seen from the sea, is described by Leake, Holland, and other travellers as very imposing.
It rises in the form of a crescent up the declivity, and is surrounded by lofty whitened walls with towers at intervals. On the E. and W. sides of the city ravines ascend from the shore and converge towards the highest point, on which is the citadel called Ἑπταπύργιον,
like that of Constantinople. (A view of Thessalonica from the sea is given by Cousinêry).
The port is still convenient for large ships, and the anchorage in front of the town is good.
These circumstances in the situation of Thessalonica were evidently favourable for commanding the trade of the Macedonian sea. Its relations to the inland districts were equally advantageous.
With one of the two great levels of Macedonia, viz. the plain of the “wide-flowing Axius” (Hom. Il. 2.849
), to the N. of the range of Olympus, it was immediately connected.
With the other, viz. the plain of the Strymon and Lake Cercinitis, it communicated by a pass across the neck of the Chalcidic peninsula. Thus Thessalonica became the chief station on the Roman VIA EGNATIA
between the Hadriatic and the Hellespont. Its distance from Pella, as given by the Itineraries, is 27 miles, and from Amphipolis (with intermediate stations; see Act. Apost.
17.1) 67 miles.
It is still the chief centre of the trade of the district.
It contains a population of 60,000, or 70,000, and (though Adrianople may possibly be larger) it is the most important town of European Turkey, next after Constantinople.
NAME.--Two legendary names, which Thessalonica is said to have borne in early times, are Emathia (Zonar. Hist.
12.26) and Halia (Steph. B. sub voce
the latter probably having reference to the maritime position of the town. During the first period of its authentic history, it was known under the name of THERMA
Herod., Thucyd.; Θέρμαι,
p. 190, ed. Bonn), derived, in common with the designation of the gulf (Thermaicus Sinus), from the hot salt-springs, which are found on various parts of this coast, and one of which especially is described by Pococke as being at a distance of 4 English miles from the modern city. (See Scylax, p. 278
, ed. Gail.) Three stories are told of the origin of the name Thessalonica.
The first (and by far the most probable) is given by Strabo (vii. Epit.
10), who says that Therma was rebuilt by Cassander, and called after his wife Thessalonica, the daughter of Philip: the second is found in. Steph. B. sub voce
(s. v.), who says that its new name was a memorial of a victory obtained by Philip over the Thessalians (see Const. Porphyrog. De Them.
ii. p. 51, ed Bonn): the third is in the Etym. Magn.
(s. v.), where it is stated that Philip himself gave the name in honour of his daughter. Whichever of these stories is true, the new name of Thessalonica, and the new eminence connected with the name, are distinctly associated with the Macedonian period, and not at all with the earlier passages of true Greek history.
The name, thus given, became permanent. Through the Roman and Byzantine periods it remained unaltered.
In the Middle Ages the Italians gave it the form of Salonichi
which is still frequent. In Latin chronicles we find Salonicia.
In German poems of the thirteenth century the name appears, with a Teutonic termination, as Salnek.
The uneducated Greeks of the present day call the place Σαλονίκη,
the Turks Selaník.
POLITICAL AND MILITARY HISTORY.--Thessalonica was a place of some importance, even while it bore its earlier name of THERMA
Three passages of chief interest may be mentioned in this period of its history. Xerxes rested here on his march, his land-forces being encamped on the plain between Therma and the Axius, and his ships cruising about the Thermaic gulf; and it was the view from hence of Olympus and Ossa which tempted him to explore the course of the Peneius. (Hdt. 7.128
A short time (B.C. 421) before the breaking out of the Peloponnesian War, Therma was occupied by the Athenians (Thuc. 1.61
); but two years later it was given up to Perdiccas (Id. 2.29.)
The third mention of Therma is in Aeschines (de Fals. Leg.
p. 31, ed. Bekk.), where it is spoken of as one of the places taken by Pausanias.
The true history of THESSALONICA
begins, as we have implied above, with the decay of Greek nationality.
The earliest author who mentions it under its new name is Polybius.
It seems probable that it was rebuilt in the same year (B.C. 315) with Cassandreia, immediately after tile fall of Pydna and the death of Olympias. [CASSANDREIA
] We are told by Strabo (l.c.
) that Cassander incorporated in his new city the population, not only of Therma, but likewise of three smaller towns, viz. Aeneia and Cissus (which are supposed to have been on the eastern side of the gulf), and Chalastra (which is said by Strabo (vii. Epit.
9) to have been on the further side of the Axius, whence Tafel (p. xxii.) by some mistake infers that it lay between the Axius and Therma).
It does not appear that these earlier cities were absolutely destroyed; nor indeed is it certain that Therma lost its separate existence. Pliny (l.c.
) seems to imply that a place bearing this name was near Thessalonica; but the text is probably corrupt.
As we approach the Roman period, Thessalonica begins to be more and more mentioned. From Livy (44.10
) this city would appear to have been the great Macedonian naval station.
It surrendered to the Romans after the battle of Pydna (Ib. 44.45), and was made the capital of the second of the four divisions of Macedonia (Ib. 45.29).
Afterwards, when the whole of Macedonia was reduced to one province (Flor. 2.14
), Thessalonica was its most important city, and virtually its metropolis, though not so called till a later period. [MACEDONIA
] Cicero, during his exile, found a refuge here in the quaestor's house (pro Planc.
41); and on his journeys to and from his province of Cilicia he passed this way, and wrote here several of his extant letters. During the first Civil War Thessalonica was the head-quarters of the Pompeian party and the senate. (D. C. 41.20
.) During the second it took the side of Octavius and Antonius (Plunt. Brut.
46; Appian, App. BC 4.118
), and reaped the advantage of this course by being made a free city. (See Plin. l.c.
) It is possible that the word ἐλευθερίας,
with the head of Octavia, on some of the coins of Thessalonica, has reference to this circumstance (see Eckhel, ii. p. 79); and some writers see in the Vardár
gate, mentioned below, a monument of the victory over Brutus and Cassius.
Even before the close of the Republic Thessalonica was a city of great importance, in consequence of its position on the line of communication [p. 2.1172]
between Rome and the East. Cicero speaks of it as posita in gremio imperii nostri.
It increased in size and rose in importance with the consolidation of the Empire. Strabo in the first century, and Lucian in the second, speak in strong language of the amount of its population.
The supreme magistrates (apparently six in number) who ruled in Thessalonica as a free city of the Empire were entitled πολίταρχαι,
as we learn from the remarkable coincidence of St. Luke's language (Act. Ap.
17.6) with an inscription on the Vardár
gate. (Böckh, 1967. Belley mentions another inscription containing the same term.) In Act. Ap.
17.5, the δῆμος
is mentioned which formed part of the constitution of the city. Tafel thinks that it had a βουλὴ
During the first three centuries of the Christian era, Thessalonica was the capital of the whole country between the Adriatic and the Black Sea; and even after the founding of Constantinople it remained practically the metropolis of Greece, Macedonia, and Illyricum.
In the middle of the third century, as we learn from coins, it was made a Roman colonia;
perhaps with the view of strengthening this position against the barbarian invasions, which now became threatening. Thessalonica was the great safeguard of the Empire during the first shock of the Gothic inroads. Constantine passed some time here after his victory over the Sarmatians; and perhaps the second arch, which is mentioned below, was a commemoration of this victory: he is said also by Zosimus (ii. p. 86, ed. Bonn) to have constructed the port, by which we are, no doubt, to understand that he repaired and improved it after a time of comparative neglect. Passing by the dreadful massacre by Theodosius (Gibbon's Rome,
ch. xxvii.), we come to the Sclavonic wars, of which the Gothic wars were only the prelude, and the brunt of which was successfully borne by Thessalonica from the middle of the sixth century to the latter part of the eighth.
The history of these six Sclavonic wars, and their relation to Thessalonica, has been elaborated with great care by Tafel.
In the course of the Middle Ages Thessalonica was three times taken; and its history during this period is thus conveniently divided into three stages. On Sunday, July 29th, 904, the Saracen fleet appeared before the city, which was stormed after a few days' fighting.
The slaughter of the citizens was dreadful, and vast numbers were sold in the various slave-markets of the Levant.
The story of these events is told by Jo. Cameniata, who was crozierbearer to the archbishop of Thessalonica. From his narrative it has been inferred that the population of the city at this time must have been 220,000. (De Excidio Thessalonicensi,
in the volume entitled Theophanes Continnatus
of the Bonn ed. of the Byz. writers, 1838.)
The next great catastrophe of Thessalonica was caused by a different enemy, the Normans of Sicily.
The fleet of Tancred sailed round the Morea to the Thermaic gulf, while an army marched by the Via Egnatia from Dyrrhachium. Thessalonica was taken on Aug. 15th, 1185, and the Greeks were barbarously treated by the Latins. Their cruelties are described by Nicetas Choniates (de Andron. Comneno,
p. 388, ed. Bonn, 1835).
The celebrated Eustathius was archbishop of Thessalonica at this time; and he wrote an account of this capture of the city, which was first published by Tafel (Tübingen, 1832), and is now printed in the Bonn ed. of the Byz. writers. (De Thessalonica a Latinis capta,
in the same vol. with Leo Grammaticus, 1842.) Soon after this period follows the curious history of western feudalism in Thessalonica under Boniface, marquis of Montferrat, and his successors, during the first half of the 13th century.
The city was again under Latin dominion (having been sold by the Greek emperor to the Venetians) when it was finally taken by the Turks under Amurath II., in 1430.
This event also is described by a writer in the Bonn Byzantine series (Joannes Anagnostes, de Thessalonicensi Excidio Narratio,
in the same volume with Phranzes and Cananus, 1838).
For the medieval history of Thessalonica see Mr. Finlay's works, Medieval Greece
(1851), pp. 70, 71, 135--147; Byzantine and Greek Empires,
vol. i. (1853), pp. 315--332, vol. ii. (1854), pp. 182, 264--266, 607. For its modern condition we must refer to the travellers, especially Beaujour, Cousinéry, Holland, and Leake.
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY.--The annals of Thessalonica are so closely connected with religion, that it is desirable to review them in this aspect. After Alexander's death the Jews spread rapidly in all the large cities of the provinces which had formed his empire. Hence there is no doubt that in the first century of the Christian era they were settled in considerable numbers at Thessalonica: indeed this circumstance contributed to the first establishment of Christianity there by St. Paul (Act. Ap.
It seems probable that a large community of Jews has been found in this city ever since. They are mentioned in the seventh century during the Sclavonic wars; and again in the twelfth by Eustathius and Benjamin of Tudela.
The events of the fifteenth century had the effect of bringing a large number of Spanish Jews to Thessalonica. Paul Lucas says that in his day there were 30,000 of this nation here, with 22 synagogues. More recent authorities vary between 10,000 and 20,000.
The present Jewish quarter is in the south-east part of the town.
Christianity, once established in Thessalonica, spread from it in various directions, in consequence of the mercantile relations of the city. (1 Thess.
1.8.) During the succeeding centuries this city was the bulwark, not simply of the Byzantine Empire, but of Oriental Christendom,--and was largely instrumental in the conversion of the Sclavonians and Bulgarians. Thus it received the designation of “The Orthodox City.” It is true that the legends of Demetrius, its patron saint (a martyr of the early part of the fourth century), disfigure the Christian history of Thessalonica; in every siege success or failure seems to have been attributed to the granting or withholding of his favour: but still this see has.a distinguished place in the annals of the Church. Theodosius was baptized by its bishop; even his massacre, in consequence of the stern severity of Ambrose, is chiefly connected in our minds with ecclesiastical associations.
The see of Thessalonica became almost a patriarchate after this time; and the withdrawal of the provinces subject to its jurisdiction from connection with the see of Rome, in the reign of Leo Isauricus, became one of the principal causes of the separation of East and West. Cameniata, the native historian of the calamity of 904, was, as we have seen, an ecclesiastic. Eustathius, who was archbishop in 1185, was, beyond dispute, the most learned man of his age, and the author of an invaluable commentary on the Iliad [p. 2.1173]
and Odyssey, and of theological works, which have been recently published by Tafel.
A list of the Latin archbishops of Thessalonica from 1205 to 1418, when a Roman hierarchy was established along with Western feudalism, is given by Le Quien (Oriens Christianus,
3.1089). Even to the last we find this city connected with questions of religious interest. Symeon of Thessalonica, who is a chief authority in the modern Greek Church on ritual subjects, died a few months before the fatal siege of 1430; and Theodore Gaza, who went to Italy soon after this siege, and, as a Latin ecclesiastic, became the translator of Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Hippocrates, was a native of the city of Demetrius and Eustathius.
REMAINS OF ANTIQUITY.--The two monuments of greatest interest at Thessalonica are two arches connected with the line of the Via Egnatia.
The course of this Roman road is undoubtedly preserved in the long street which intersects the city from east to west.
At its western extremity is the Vardár
gate, which is nearly in the line of the modern wall, and which has received its present name from the circumstance of its leading to the river Vardár
This is the Roman arch believed by Beaujour, Holland, and others to have been erected by the people of Thessalonica in honour of Octavius and Antonius, and in memory of the battle of Philippi.
The arch is constructed of large blocks of marble, and is about 12 feet wide and 18 feet high; but a considerable portion of it is buried deep below the surface of the ground. On the outside face are two bas-reliefs of a Roman wearing the toga and standing before a horse. On this arch is the abovementioned inscription containing the names of the politarchs
of the city. Leake thinks from the style of the sculpture, and Tafel from the occurrence of the name Flavius in the inscription, that a later date ought to be assigned to the arch. (A drawing of it is given by Cousinéry).
The other arch is near the eastern (said in Clarke's Travels,
iv. p. 359, by mistake, to be near the western) extremity of the main street. (A drawing of this arch also is given by Cousinéry and an imaginary restoration by Pococke.)
It is built of brick and faced with marble, and formerly consisted of three archways.
The sculptured camels give an oriental aspect to the monument; and it is generally supposed to commemorate the victory of Constantine over Licinius or over the Sarmatians.
Near the line of the main street, between the two above-mentioned arches are four Corinthian columns supporting an architrave, above which are Caryatides.
This monument is now part of the house of a Jew; and, from a notion that the figures were petrified by magic, it is called by the Spanish Jews Las Incantadas.
The Turks call it Sureth-Maleh.
(A view will be found in Cousinéry,and a more correct one, with architectural details, in Stuart and Revett's Athen. Antiq.
vol. iii. ch. 9. p. 53).
This colonnade is supposed by some to have been part of the Propylaea of the Hippodrome, the position of which is believed by Beaujour and Clarke to have been in the south-eastern part of the town, between the sea and a building called the Rotunda,
now a mosque, previously the church Eski-Metropoli,
but formerly a temple, and in construction similar to the Pantheon at Rome. (Pococke has a ground-plan of this building.) Another mosque in Thessalonica, called Eski-Djumà,
is said by Beaujour to have been a temple consecrated to Venus Thermaea.
The city walls are of brick, and of Greek construction, resting on a much older foundation, which consists of hewn stones of immense thickness. Everywhere are broken columns and fragments of sculpture. Many remains were taken in 1430 to Constantinople. One of the towers in the city wall is called the Tower of the Statue, because it contains a colossal figure of Thessalonica, with the representation of a ship at its feet.
The castle is partly Greek and partly Venetian. Some columns of verd antique, supposed to be relics of a temple of Hercules, are to be noticed there, and also a shattered triumphal arch, erected (as an inscription proves) in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, in honour of Antoninus Pius and his daughter Faustina.
In harmony with what has been noticed of its history, Thessalonica has many remains of ecclesiastical antiquity. Leake says that in this respect it surpasses any other city in Greece.
The church of greatest interest (now a mosque) is that of St. Sophia, built, according to tradition, like the church of the same name at Constantinople, in the reign of Justinian, and after the designs of the architect Anthemius.
This church is often mentioned in the records of the Middle Ages, as in the letters of Pope Innocent III. and in the account of the Norman siege.
It remains very entire, and is fully described by Beaujour and Leake.
The church of St. Demetrius (apparently the third on the same site, and now also a mosque) is a structure of still greater size and beauty. Tafel believes that it was erected about the end of the seventh century; but Leake conjectures, from its architectural features, that it was built by the Latins in the thirteenth. Tafel has collected with much diligence the notices of a great number of churches which have existed in Thessalonica. Dapper says, that in his day the Greeks had the use of thirty churches. Walpole (in Clarke's Travels,
iv. p. 349) gives the number as sixteen. All travellers have noticed two ancient pulpits,consisting of “single blocks of variegated marble, with small steps cut in them,” which are among the most interesting ecclesiastical remains of Thessalonica.
AUTHORITIES.--The travellers who have described Thessalonica are numerous.
The most important are Paul Lucas, Second Voyage,
1705; Pococke, Description of the East,
1743--1745 Beaujour, Tableau du Commerce de la Grèce,
translated into English, 1800; Clarke, Travels in Europe, &c.
1810--1823; Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles &c..,
1815; Cousinéry, Voyage dans la Macédoine,
1831; Leake, Northern Greece,
1835; Zachariä, Reise in den Orient,
1840; Grisebach, Reise durch Rumelien,
1841; Bowen, Mount Athos, Thessaly, and Epirus,
In the Mêmoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions,
tom. xxxviii. Sect. hist.
pp. 121--146, is an essay on the subject of Thessalonica by the Abbé Belley; but the most elaborate work on the subject is that by Tafel, the first part of which was published at Tüibingen in 1835.
|COIN OF THESSALONICA.|
afterwards reprinted as “Prolegomena” to the Dissertatio de Thessalonica ejusque Agro Geographica,
With this should be compared his work on the Via Egnatia.
To these authorities we ought to add the introduction to some of the commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians,
--especially those of Koch (Berlin 1849) and Lünmann (Göttingen, 1850). [J.S.H