Thessaloniki (Θεσσαλονίκη, ) , Thessalonica, or Salonica is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Macedonia, the nation's largest region. It is honorarily called the Συμπρωτεύουσα Symprotevousa (lit. co-capital) of Greece, as it was once called the συμβασιλεύουσα symbasilevousa (co-queen) of the Byzantine Empire. It is the largest city in the wider geographical region of Macedonia. The Thessaloniki Urban Area extends around the Thermaic Gulf for approximately and comprises 16 municipalities. According to the 2001 census, the municipality of Thessaloniki had a population of 363,987, while the metropolitan population has approximately one million inhabitants.
Thessaloniki is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe; its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and its southeast European hinterland. It has been traditional for the country's Prime Minister to set out his government's policies for each coming year in a speech at the annual Thessaloniki International Trade Fair.
Thessaloniki retains several Ottoman and Jewish structures as well as a large number of Byzantine architectural monuments. The city has hosted an annual International Trade Fair, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, and the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora.
All variations for the city's name derive from the original (and current) appellation 'Thessaloniki'. The alternative name Salonica, formerly the common name used in some western European languages, is derived from a variant form Σαλονίκη (Saloníki) in popular Greek speech. The city's name is also rendered Thessaloníki or Saloníki with a dark l typical of Macedonian Greek. Names in other languages prominent in the city's history include سلانيك in Ottoman Turkish and Selânik in modern Turkish, Solun (Cyrillic: Солун) in the Slavic languages of the region, Sãrunã in Aromanian, and Selanik in Ladino. It is also known as 'Thess' by Anglophonic diaspora Greeks who returned to Greece and by the international forces stationed in the various ex-Yugoslav territories and who visit the city for their short breaks.
The city was founded around 315 BC by the King Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma and twenty-six other local villages. He named it after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great (Thessalo-nikē means the "victory of 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 and facilitating trade between Europe and Asia. The city became the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia.
When in 379 the Roman Prefecture of Illyricum was divided between East and West Roman Empires, Thessaloníki 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. Thessaloniki passed out of Byzantine hands in 1204, when Constantinople was captured by the Fourth Crusade. Thessaloníki 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 sold it in 1423 to Venice, which held the city until it was captured by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II on 29 March, 1430.
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, there were 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". Selanik was a sanjak centre in Rumeli Eyaleti till 1864. It was centre of Selanik Vilayeti, which consisted sanjaks of Selanik, Serez and Drama between 1864-1912.
From 1870, driven by economic growth, the city's population exploded by 70%, reaching 135,000 in 1917.
During the First Balkan War, the Ottoman garrison surrendered Salonica to the Greek Army, on November 8 November, 1912 without any resistance. In 1915, during World War I, a large Allied expeditionary force landed at Thessaloniki as the base for a massive offensive against pro-German Bulgaria. In 1916, pro-Venizelist 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, which lead the city to be dubbed as symprotévousa ("co-capital"). Most of the old town was destroyed by a single fire on 18 August, 1917, 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. Thessaloniki 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. Thessaloniki 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 City of Culture 1997. In 2004 the city hosted a number of the football events forming part of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Thessaloniki unsuccessfully bid for the 2008 World EXPO, this time won by Zaragoza in Spain, but another planned bid for 2017 was announced in September 2006 and is now in full development.
As Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, and an influential city in Northern Greece, it functions as the capital of the Central Macedonia Periphery, Thessaloniki Prefecture, and Thessaloniki Municipality.
The architectural map of Thessaloniki has been a direct result of the city's position at the center of all historical developments in the Balkans. Aside from its commercial importance, Thessaloniki was, for many centuries, the military and administrative hub of the region, and beyond this the transportation link between Europe and the Levant.
Merchants, traders and refugees from across Europe came to the city, including Jews joining the city's earlier population. The authorities replaced part of the city's earliest Byzantine walls to allow it to expand, which it did, to the east and west along the coast. The need for commercial and public buildings in this new era of prosperity led to a marked shift in architectural direction and the construction of large edifices in the city center, in lots formerly occupied by small, shabby one-family homes. During this time, the city saw the building of banks, large hotels, theaters, warehouses, and factories. The city layout changed after 1870, when the seaside fortifications gave way to extensive piers, and many of the oldest walls of the city were demolished including those surrounding the White Tower.
The expansion of Eleftherias Square towards the sea completed the new commercial hub of the city. The western districts are classified as a the working class section, near the factories and industrial activity; the middle and upper classes gradually moved to the east suburbs of the town from the center, leaving the latter mostly business dominated. The most decisive and unforeseen moment in the city's modern history was 1917. A devastating fire swept through the city that year and burned uncontrollably for 32 hours. It destroyed the city's historic center and a large part of its architectural heritage, including many buildings of rare beauty.
A team of architects and urban planners led by Ernest Hebrard, a French architect chose the Byzantine era as the basis for their (re)building designs. The new city plan included axes, diagonal streets and monumental squares, with a street grid that would channel traffic smoothly. The plan of 1917 included provisions for the future population explosion and an adequate street and road network that would have been sufficient even today. It contained sites for public and significant buildings, the restoration of important Byzantine churches and landmarks and of Ottoman mosques, whereas the whole of the Upper City, near the fortifications, was declared a heritage site. The plan also included a site for the campus of the future University of Thessaloniki, which was never fully realized, although today's University campus incorporates some of Hebrard's ideas nonetheless.
An important element of the plan was to achieve a fine balance between contemporary urban planning and architectural ideas, and the city's tradition and history. These plans were never to be fully implemented, and the city lacks a full administrative district to this day. Nevertheless, this aspect of the plan influenced a number of building and planning decisions throughout the 20th century, with inevitable adaptations to service the population explosion of the last 50 years.
Although the population of the Municipality of Thessaloniki has declined in the last two censuses, the metropolitan area's population is still growing, as people are moving to the suburbs. Today approximately 1 million people live in the metropolitan area, making it the second largest metropolitan area in Greece after Athens.
|Year||City population||Change||Metro population|
Thessaloniki's Jewish community was largely of Sephardic background, but also included the historically significant and ancient Greek-speaking Romaniote community. During the Ottoman era, Thessaloniki's Sephardic refugee community comprised more than half the city's population and Jews were dominant in commerce until the Greek population increased after 1912. Within the interwar Greek state the Jews enjoyed the same civil rights as all other Greeks. As a result of the Jewish influence on the city, many non-Jewish inhabitants of Thessaloniki also spoke Ladino, the Romance language of the Sephardic Jews, and the city virtually ground to a stop on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
A great blow to the Jewish community of Thessaloniki came with the great fire of 1917, which left 50,000 Jews homeless. Many Jews emigrated to Turkey, the United States, other parts of Europe and Alexandria, Egypt. The arrival of 100,000 Greek refugees settling in and around Thessaloniki after the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1923, reduced the importance of the community and during the interwar period its proportions were at 20% of the city's population.
In March 1926, Greece had re-emphasised that all citizens of Greece enjoyed equal rights, and a considerable proportion of the Jews of the city stuck by their earlier conviction they should remain. By 1944 the great majority of the community firmly identified themselves as both Greek and Jewish. According to Misha Glenny, these Greek Jews had largely not encountered "anti-Semitism in its North European form..the twentieth century had witnessed the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment among Greeks... but it attracted an insignificant minority". By the mid 1940s the prospect of German deportation to death camps was repeatedly met with disbelief by an increasingly well integrated Greek Jewish population. Mordechai Frizis was nevertheless among the leading Greek officers of World War II.
Thessaloniki's Jewish community continued to play an important role in the city's life up until its occupation by the Nazis in World War II. The Nazis murdered approximately 96% of Thessaloniki's Jews of all ages in the Holocaust, effectively ending the Jewish community of Thessaloniki. Today, fewer than 1,000 Jews are left in Thessaloniki, although there are communities of Thessaloniki Jews -- both Sephardic and Romaniote -- in the United States and Israel.
Jewish Population of Thessaloniki
|Year||Total Population||Jewish Population||Jewish Percentage||Source|
|1842||70,000||36,000||51%||Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer|
|1870||90,000||50,000||56%||Greek schoolbook (G.K. Moraitopoulos, 1882)|
|1882/84||85,000||48,000||56%||Ottoman government census|
|1902||126,000||62,000||49%||Ottoman government census|
|1913||157,889||61,439||39%||Greek government census|
|Year||Total Population||Jewish Population||Turkish Population||Greek Population||Bulgarian Population||Roma Population||Other groups|
In recent years, the city has begun a process of deindustrialization and a move towards a service based economy. A spate of factory shut downs have occurred in order to take advantage of cheaper labor markets and more lax regulations. Among the largest companies to shut down factories are Goodyear, PFI (ΒΦΛ), AVEZ (the first industrial factory in northern Greece built in 1926), and VIAMIL (ΒΙΑΜΥΛ). Siemens is also considering shutting down their plant in the city.
Thessaloniki is home to a number of festivals and events, including the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair. The Fair has been hosted at the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center. Over 300,000 visitors attended in 2007. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival has been established as one of the most important film festivals in Southeastern Europe, with a number of notable film makers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Faye Dunaway, Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas and Fatih Akın taking part. The "Documentary Festival", founded in 1999, has focused on documentaries that explore global social and cultural developments, with many of the films presented being candidates for FIPRESCI and Audience Awards. The Dimitria festival, founded in 1966 and named after the city's patron saint of St. Demetrius, has focused on a wide range of events including music, theatre, dance, local happenings, and exhibitions. The "DMC DJ Championship" has been hosted at the International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki and has become a worldwide event for aspiring DJs and turntablists. The "International Festival of Photography" has taken place every February to mid-April. Exhibitions for the event are sited at museums, heritage landmarks, galleries, bookshops and cafes.
The main football stadiums in the city are the state-owned Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Toumba Stadium and Kleanthis Vikelides Stadium home grounds of Iraklis, PAOK and Aris respectively, all of whom are founding members of the Greek league. Thessaloniki's major indoor arenas are the state-owned Alexandreio Melathron, PAOK Sports Arena and the YMCA indoor hall. Other sporting clubs in the city include Apollon based on the eastern suburb of Kalamaria, Agrotikos Asteras based in Evosmos and YMCA. Thessaloníki has a rich sporting history with its teams winning the first ever panhellenic football, basketball and water polo tournaments.
The city has played a major role in the development of basketball in Greece. The local YMCA was the first to introduce the sport to the country while Iraklis won the first Greek championship. From 1979 to 1993 Aris and PAOK won between them 10 championships, 7 cups and several European titles. Many prominent basketball players of international stature have played for Thessalonikian teams among them: Nikos Galis, Panagiotis Giannakis, Dimitris Diamantidis, Lazaros Papadopoulos, Fedon Mattheou, Panagiotis Fasoulas, Scott Skiles, Walter Berry, Roy Tarpley, Cliff Levingston, Predrag Stojaković, Branislav Prelević, Zoran Savić, Žarko Paspalj, Slobodan Subotić, Jure Zdovc, Stojko Vranković, José Ortiz and İbrahim Kutluay
Since 2000 the volley department of Iraklis has emerged as one of the most successful in Greece and Europe alike with several domestic and international successes. In October 2007, the first Southeastern European Games were organized in Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki lies on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf, along its western side, and to its south-eastern side is bordered by Mt. Hortiatis. The city borders the Mediterranean and Mid-European Temperate climates. Annual rainfall has averaged 451 mm (17.75 inches). Snowfall has been sporadic, but has occurred almost annually.
The city lies in the transitional climatic zone, so its climate has displayed characteristics of continental as well as Mediterranean climate. The winter is relatively dry, with morning frost being common. Snow has occurred almost annually, but usually has not persisted for many days. During the worst winter spells, temperatures have dropped as low as -10C/14F (Record min. -14C/7F).
Thessaloniki's summers have been hot and their nights humid. Maximum temperatures have generally risen above 30C/86F, but have rarely overshot 40C/104F (Record max. 44C). Rain has been infrequent during summer, and has occurred mainly in the form of thunderstorms.
The construction of the Thessaloniki Metropolitan Railway began in 2006 and is scheduled for completion in late 2012. The line is set to extend over and include 13 stations, and it is expected that the subway will eventually serve 250,000 passengers daily. Some stations of the Thessaloniki Metro will house a number of archaeological finds.
Discussions are underway on future expansion, in order to connect the underground with the major transport hubs for the city, the Makedonia Central Bus Station, the Central Railway Station, and Makedonia International Airport. Expansions to Kalamaria, the easternmost suburb of Thessaloniki, and to Stavroupoli, in the west, are part of the initial construction phase. Expansion plans include the districts of Eleftherio-Kordelio, and the northern districts, such as Toumba.