Thessaloniki was founded in 316 BC by Cassander who succeeded in uniting the 26 villages of the Gulf of Thermai into a single unit and named it after his wife Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great. Thessaloniki translates to "Victory over Thessaly" in modern Greek. Today Thessaloniki the major port of the Balkans. It is the seat of a Roman Catholic Bishopric and an Orthodox Metropolitan.
The city rises from the bay of Salonika in a semi-circular shape on the slopes of Mt.Khortiatis. It has a citadel and battlemented walls which protect parts of the upper town. The many hillside houses give this part of the city some aspect of its original charm most of which was destroyed by fire in 1917.
Its chief architectural glories are those of its Byzantine churches which, over a thousand years are only second to Constantinople in beauty. Thanks to its geographic position, the city is at the center of land routes east, west, north and south and has a major ancient Roman road, the Via Egnatia (built 148 BC), running through its center.This strategic location has kept Thessaloniki a prime commercial and military center throughout assorted administrations and until today.
In 146 BC it became the capitol of Macedonia. During the Reign of Augustus it was the most prosperous city on the peninsula. Under Emperor Decius (249-251 AD) it enjoyed Roman Colony status. Emperor Galerius (293-311 AD) made Thessaloniki his residence and one of the capitols of the empire. A further boost to the cities economy came from its proximity to Byzantium, the capitol of the eastern Empire from 330 AD. (Roman Forum above right)
The city was attacked successfully many times by the Ostrogoths in 473, the Huns in 540, The Slavs in the 5th and 6th centuries, the Saracens of Tripoli in 904, the Normans of Sicily in 1185, in 1204 by the Franks and by the Turks is 1387. Thessaloniki is connected to Belgrade by rail to the north and thus central Europe, to Istanbul to the east and to Athens in the south.
Thessaloniki (often called Salonika) is Greece's second largest city after Athens, with a population of around one million inhabitants, and second largest port as well, as it was for both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
It is also the capital of the largest prefecture in modern Greece-- Macedonia. Culturally and otherwise it is its own entity, a very different city in atmosphere from Athens.