The story of the city: the beginnings
In the heart of the modern city, under modern buildings and concrete lie the remains of a Neolithic settlement dated to the 6th millennium BC. Neolithic villages within the wider area of the modern city indicate the presence of human communities in the area of Thessaloniki. Habitation continues into the Bronze and Iron Ages, again in the form of numerous settlements around the Thermaic Gulf with the most impressive and imposing being the so called Toumba Thessalonikis, the highest in central Madedonia. A few kilometres to the south of Toumba Thessalonikis, a buzzing port welcomed merchandize from all over the eastern Mediterranean, a place nowadays known as Karabournaki.
The foundation of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki was founded in 316/315 BC by Cassander, King of Macedonia. Its original population comprised the residents of 26 small cities in the broader region who translocated there. Cassander named the city after his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great.
Cassander’s selection of the specific position was extremely successful, as proven by time and history. Built in a region rich in productive sources, protected by the mountain of Hortiatis, deep in Thermaikos Gulf, which provided ships with safety, open to sea communication, with rivers forming natural paths towards the Balkan hinterland, Thessaloniki, a true crossroads of land and water roads, was to have the destiny few European cities were lucky to enjoy: a long-lived, continuous historical presence and the character of a major city.
Cosmopolitan in antiquity, as shown by the worship of various gods both from Ancient Greece and from abroad, from Egypt and the East, Thessaloniki was first acquainted with Christianity in 50 AD, when St. Paul the Apostle visited it for the first time and taught at a Jewish synagogue. During the Byzantine era, there were periods when Thessaloniki was the second most important city after Constantinople, the “First after the First”, as Byzantine writers called it. During the Ottoman occupation, Thessaloniki retained its importance, being the largest urban centre in the European part of the Ottoman Empire, with a multiracial society. After its liberation in 1912, the city was incorporated into the Greek state.
Due to its geopolitical location, Thessaloniki has always been a crossroads where people of different religious and cultural origins met and coexisted for long periods of time. However, the city steadily maintained its Greek character, which was enhanced with the settlement of Asian Minor refugees in 1922.
The exhibition in the White Tower concisely presents aspects of the city’s history through time, hoping to stimulate the interest of visitors in getting better acquainted with the city, its monuments and its themed museums.
Heritage Walks of Thessaloniki (English text follows that in Greek)
Some of the Museums in Thessaloniki:
The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was founded in 1925 and is the largest university in Greece. The University Campus covers some 23 hectares close to the centre of Thessaloniki. It comprises 7 Faculties organized into 33 Schools, 5 faculties with only 1 school each, as well as 4 independent Schools (a total of 42 Schools). Some educational and administrative facilities are located off campus for practical and operational reasons. More than 81.500 undergraduate and postgraduate students study at the Aristotle University, 72.140 in undergraduate programmes and 8.360 in postgraduate programmes
The Department of Archaeology belongs to the School of History and Archaeology which has a long history in the University. It was among the first Schools to be established within the Faculty of Philosophy. History and Archaeology studies were of special significance in the initial planning of the Faculty, as we can understand, from the presence of three historians and three archaeologists among the twelve members of the first faculty. A number of distinguished scholars, with a long and significant influence on the intellectual life of the country, taught at the School. In 1982 the School was established in its present structure.
Thessaloniki is well known in Greece for its delicious cuisine, an amalgam of tastes generated thanks to its cosmopolitan character during the last centuries of the Otoman empire and the influx of Greek refugees in the early 20th century who came from Eastern Thrace, the Black Sea Coast, Asia Minor and the Caucasus, who brought with them the cuisines of their lands of origin.