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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Thessalonica

  Thessalonike, Thettalonike, Thessalonikeia, Eth. Thessalonikeus. Α 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 (iv. 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 Capes Vardar and Karaburnu. 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 Heptapurgion, like that of Constantinople. (A view of Thessalonica from the sea is given by Cousinery). 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. ii. 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. xvii. 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.

This extract is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Via Egnatia

Via Egnatia (hei Egnatia hodos, Strab. vii. p. 322, seq.), a Roman military road, which connected Illyria, Macedonia, and Thrace. We are almost totally in the dark with regard to the origin of this road. The assumption that it was constructed by a certain person named Egnatius, who was likewise the founder of the town Egnatia, or Gnatia, between Barium and Brundusium, on the coast of Apulia, is a mere conjecture, which cannot be supported by any authority. We may, however, make some approximation towards ascertaining the date of its construction, or, at all events, that of a portion of it. Strabo, in the passage cited at the head of this article, says that Polybius estimated the length of the via, between the coast of the Adriatic and the city of Thessalonica, at 267 Roman miles; whence it appears that this portion of it at least was extant in the time of Polybius. Consequently, as that historian flourished in the first half of the 2nd century B.C., we may infer with tolerable certainty that the road must have been commenced shortly after the reduction of Macedonia by the Romans in B.C. 168. Whether the eastern portion of the road, namely, that between Thessalonica and Cypsela, a town 10 miles beyond the left, or E., bank of the Hebrus, was also completed in the time of Polybius, is a point which cannot be so satisfactorily ascertained. For although Strabo, in the same passage, after mentioning the length of the road, from its commencement to its termination at Cypsela, proceeds to say that, if we follow Polybius, we must add 178 stadia to make up the number of Roman miles, because that writer computed 8 stadia and 2 plethra, or 8 1/3 stadia, to the Roman mile, instead of the usual computation of exactly 8; yet Strabo may then be speaking only of the historian's general practice, without any reference to this particular road. And, on the whole, it may perhaps be the more probable conclusion that the eastern portion of the road was not constructed till some time after the Romans had been in possession of Macedonia.
  According to the same geographer, who is the chief authority with regard to this via, its whole length was 535 Roman miles, or 4280 stadia; and although the first portion of it had two branches, namely, one from Epidamnus or Dyrrachium and another from Apollonia, yet, from whichever of those towns the traveller might start, the length of the road was the same. Into the accuracy of this statement we shall inquire further on. Strabo also mentions that the first part of the road was called in Candavium (epi Kandaouias), and this name frequently occurs in the Roman writers. Thus Cicero (ad Att. iii. 7) speaks of travelling per Candaviam, and Caesar (B.C. iii. 79) mentions it as the direct route into Macedonia. It does not, however, very clearly appear to how much of the road this name was applicable. Tafel, who has written a work on the Via Egnatia, is of opinion that the appellation of Candavia may be considered to extend from the commencement of the via, including the two branches from Dyrrachium and Apollonia, to the town of Lychnidus. (De Via mil. Rom. Egnatia, Proleg. p. xcix. Tubing. 1842.) But this limitation is entirely arbitrary, and unsupported by any authority; and it would perhaps be a juster inference from the words of Strabo to assume that the name Candavia was applicable to the road as far as Thessalonica, as Col. Leake appears to have done. (Northern Greece, vol. iii. p. 311.) The point to be determined is, what does Strabo mean by the first part? The road in its whole extent he says is called Via Egnatia, and the first part in Candaviam (He men oun pasa Egnatia kaleitai. E de prote epi Kandaouias legetai, k. t. l.); and from what follows it is evident that he contemplated the division of the parts at Thessalonica, since he gives the separate measurement as far as that town, which is just half the whole length of the road.
  We will consider the road as far as Thessalonica, or the Via Candavia, first, and then proceed to the remainder of the Egnatian Way. Strabo (l. c. and p. 326) lays down the general direction of the road as follows: After passing Mount Candavia, it ran to the towns of Lychnidus and Pylon; which last, as its name implies, was the border town between Illyria and Macedonia. Hence it proceeded by Barnus to Heracleia, and on through the territory of the Lyncestae and Eordaei through Edessa and Pella to Thessalonica. The whole extent of this line, as we have already seen, was 267 Roman miles; and this computation will be found to agree pretty accurately with the distance between Dyrrachium and Thessalonica as laid down in the Antonine Itinerary. According to that work, as edited by Parthey and Pinder (Berlin, 1848), who have paid great attention to the numbers, the stations and distances between those two places, starting from Dyrrachium, were as follow:
Clodiana 33 miles.
Scampa 20 miles.
Tres Tabernae 28 miles.
Lignidus (Lychnidus) 27 miles.
Nicias 32 miles.
Heraclea 11 miles.
Cellae 34 miles.
Edessa 28 miles.
Pella 28 miles.
Thessalonica 28 miles.
Total: 269 miles.
  The difference of 2 miles probably arises from some variation in the MSS. of the Itinerary. It should be observed, however, that, according to Wesseling's edition, the distance is 11 miles more, or 280 miles, owing to variations in the text. According to the Tab. Pent. the whole distance was 279 miles, or 10 more than that given in the Itinerary; but there are great discrepancies in the distances between the places.
  The last-named work gives 307 miles as the sum of the distances between Apollonia and Thessalonica; or 38 miles more than the route between Dyrrachium and the latter town. Both these routes united, according to the Itinerary, at Clodiana; and the distance from Apollonia to Clodiana was 49 miles, while that from Dyrrachium to the same place was only 33. This accounts for 16 miles of the difference, and the remainder, therefore, must be sought in that part of the road which lay between Clodiana and Thessalonica. Here the stations are the same as those given in the route from Dyrrachium, with the exception of the portion between Lychnidus and Heracleia; where, instead of the single station of Nicias, we have two, viz., Scirtiana, 27 miles from Lychnidus, and Castra, 15 miles from Scirtiana. And as the distance between Castra and Heracleia is stated at 12 miles, it follows that it was 11 miles farther from Lychnidus to Heracleia by this route than by that through Nicias. This, added to the 16 miles extra length to Clodiana, accounts for 27 miles of the difference; but there still remain 11 miles to make up the discrepancy of 38; and, as the stations are the same, this difference arises in all probability from variations in the MSS.
  According to the Itin. Hierosol., which names all the places where the horses were changed, as well as the chief towns, the total distance between Apollonia and Thessalonica was 300 miles; which differs very slightly from that of the Itinerary, though there are several variations in the route.
  Now, if we apply what has been said to the remark of Strabo, that the distance from Thessalonica was the same whether the traveller started from Epidamnus (Dyrrachium) or from Apollonia, it is difficult to perceive how such could have been the case if the junction of the two branches existed in his time also at Clodiana; since, as we have already seen, it was 16 miles farther to that place from Apollonia than from Dyrrachium according to the Itin. Ant.; and the Itin. Hierosol. makes it 24 miles farther. Indeed the maps would seem to show that if the two branches were of equal length their junction must have taken place to the E. of Lake Lychnitis; the branch from Dyrrachium passing to the N. of that lake, and that from Apollonia to the S. But, although Burmeister, in his review of Tafel's work adopted such an hypothesis, and placed the junction at Heracleia, it does not appear that the assumption can be supported by any authority.
  Clodiana, where the two branches of the Via Egnatia, or Candavia, united, was seated on the river Genusus (the Tjerma or Skumbi). From this point the valley of the river naturally indicated the course of the road to the E. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iii. p. 312.)
  We will now proceed to consider the second, or eastern, portion of the Egnatian Way, viz., that between Thessalonica and Cypsela. The whole length of this route, according to Strabo, was 268 Roman miles; and the distances set down in the Itin. Ant. amount very nearly to that sum, or to 265, as follows. (Pind. and Parth. p. 157; Wess. p. 330, seq.)
Apollonia 36 miles.
Amphipolis 32 miles.
Philippi 32 miles.
Acontisma 21 miles.
Otopisus (Topirus) 18 miles.
Stabulum Diomedis 22 miles.
Maximianopolis 18 miles.
Brizice or Brendice 20 miles.
Trajanopolis 37 miles.
Cypsela 29 miles.
Tottal 265 miles.
  Another route given in the same Itinerary (Wess. p. 320, seq.) does not greatly vary from the above, but is not carried on to Cypsela. This adds the following stations:--Melissurgis, between Thessalonica and Apollonia, Neapolis, between Philippi and Acontisma, Cosintas, which according to Tafel (pars ii. p. 21) is meant for the river Cossinites, between Topirus and Maximianopolis, and Milolitum and Tempyra, between Brendice and Trajanopolis. The Itin. Hierosol. makes the distance only 250 miles.
Many remains of the Egnatian Way are said to be still traceable, especially in the neighbourhood of Thessalonica: (Beaujour, Voy. militaire dans l'Empire Othoman, vol. i. p. 205.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks



Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Thessalonica

   Now Saloniki; more anciently Therma (Therme). An ancient city in Macedonia, situated at the northeastern extremity of the Sinus Thermaicus. Under the name of Therma it was not a place of much importance. It was taken and occupied by the Athenians a short time before the commencement of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 432), but was soon after restored by them to Perdiccas. It was made an important city by Cassander, who collected in this place the inhabitants of several adjacent towns (about B.C. 315), and who gave it the name of Thessalonica in honour of his wife, the daughter of Philip and sister of Alexander the Great. From this time it became a large and flourishing city. It was visited by the Apostle Paul about A.D. 53, and about two years afterwards he addressed from Corinth two epistles to his converts in the city.

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The Catholic Encyclopedia

Thessalonica

  Titular metropolis in Macedonia. It was at first a village called Alia, situated not far from Axius, the modern Vardar; it subsequently took the name of Therma, from the thermal springs east and south of it. The gulf on which it was situated was then called the Thermaic Gulf.
  After having sheltered the fleet of King Xerxes and having belonged to the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War, Therma passed to the kings of Macedonia after the death of Alexander. Cassander, the son of Antipater, having enlarged the village and transported thither the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, called it Thessalonica, in honour of his wife. Thenceforth the city grew steadily in importance. Unsuccessfully besieged by Aemilius Paulus, it only opened its gates after the victory of Pydna, which made the Romans masters of Macedonia (168 B.C.). The kingdom was then divided into four districts, each of which had its capital and its conventus. Thessalonica was the capital of the second district.
  In 146 B.C. Macedonia was made a single province with Thessalonica as capital. This was the arrangement until the third and fourth century of our era, when four provinces were again formed. The proconsul had his residence at Thessalonica, as did later the prefect of Illyricum Orientale, who first resided at Sirmium. During the first civil war Thessalonica was the principal headquarters of Pompey and the Roman senators; during the second it supported Anthony and Octavius against the Triumvirs, receiving from them after the battle of Philippi the title of free city and other advantages, being allowed to administer its own affairs and obeying magistrates called politarchs. Thessalonica received the title of colonia under the Emperor Valerian. Theodosius the Great punished the revolt of its inhabitants (390) by a general massacre in which 7000 were slain. In 479 the Goths attacked the city. Between 675 and 681 the Slavs unsuccessfully besieged Thessalonica four times.
  On 31 July, 904, a Mussulman corsair, Leo of Tripoli, came unexpectedly with his fleet and attacked the city, then the second in the empire, captured and pillaged it, and took away a great many prisoners. In 1083 Euthymius, Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, was commissioned by Alexius I Commenus to negotiate peace at Thessalonica with Tancred of Sicily, who had conquered a portion of Epirus and Macedonia and threatened to take possession of the rest. In August 1185, Guillaume d'Hauterive, King of Sicily, besieged Thessalonica by sea with a fleet of 200 ships and by land with an army of 80,000 men; the city was captured, and all resistance from the Greeks punished with death. In the following year the city was recaptured by the Byzantines. In 1204, after the Latins had occupied Constantinople and a portion of the Byzantine Empire, Boniface, Marquis of Monferrato, proclaimed himself King of Thessalonica, his Latin Kingdom depending on the Latin Empire of Byzantium. He defended it against the Bulgars, whose tsar, the terrible Calojan, was assassinated under the walls of Thessalonica in 1207, and against the Greeks from Epirus. In 1222 the latter put an end to the Frankish Kingdom and took possession of Thessalonica, setting up an independent empire, the rival of that of Nicaea, with Theodore Comnenus as first sovereign. He was defeated in 1230 at Klokotinitza by the Bulgar Tsar, Assen II, and most of empire passed into the hands of the Bulgars.
  Thessalonica with the remaining cities was given to Theodore's brother, the Emperor Manuel. In 1242 after a successful campaign against the Emperor of Thessalonica, John Vatatzes, Emperor of Nicaea, forced John Angelo to take only the title of despot and to declare himself the vassal. After the expedition of Vatatzes in 1246 Thessalonica lost all independence and was annexed to the Empire of Nicaea, which in 1261 was once more removed to Constantinople. Unable to defend it against the Turks, the Greeks in 1423 sold Thessalonica to the Venetians, the city being captured 28 March, 1430, by the Sultan Murad and definitively incorporated in the Ottoman Empire. It was the scene of unheard-of-cruelties on the part of the Turks. In order to weaken the Greek element, so powerful in the city and in that part of Macedonia, the Sublime Porte offered a refuge about the end of the sixteenth century to the Jews driven from Spain by Philip II. Thessalonica, which is the capital of a vilayet, grows constantly in importance, owing to its situation and its commerce, as well as to the part it played in the two military revolutions of 1908 and 1909, which modified the authoritative regime of the Turkish Empire.
  The establishment of Christianity in Thessalonica seems to date from St. Paul's first journey to the city. From a letter of Innocent III written in 1212 we learn that Thessalonica had then eleven suffragans. Apart from saintly bishops Thessalonica had other saints: Agape, Irene, and Chionia, martyred under Diocletian; Agothopodus, deacon, and Theodulus, rector, martyred under Diocletian; Anysia, martyred under Maximian; Demetrius, martyr, the protector of the city, from whose tomb flowed an oil which worked miracles, and whose superb basilica has been converted into a mosque; David, solitary (sixth century); Theodora, d. in 892; etc.

S. Vailhe, ed.
Transcribed by: Thomas M. Barrett
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.


The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Thessalonike

  At the N end of the Thermaic Gulf, probably on the site of Therme. Founded ca. 316 B.C. by Kassander as a result of a synoecism of 26 local cities, and so called after his wife, Alexander's sister. It owed its existence and continued prosperity to the fact that it lay at the Aegean end of the route to Central Europe via the valleys of the rivers Axios (Vardar) and Morava. It became the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia in 146 B.C., received the neocorate under Gordian III (A.D. 238-44), was made a colonia in the reign of Decius (A.D. 250), and in the mid 5th c. became the seat of the prefects of Illyricum. It suffered various vicissitudes in the Middle Ages, including capture by Saracens and Normans, before falling to the Turks in 1430 and to the Greeks in 1912.
  The foundations of an archaic Ionic temple of ca. 500 B.C., presumably belonging to Therme, were found before the Second World War S of Government House, and its disiecta membra have been found elsewhere since then.
  The regular plan, which has survived in part down to the present, was probably laid out at the time of the city's foundation, and it has close parallels with the plans of other Hellenistic cities, especially in the proportions of the insulae (some 100 x 50 m). The site of the archaic temple very likely continued as a sacred area through Hellenistic times into Roman. But the only Hellenistic cult center whose site is definitely known is the Serapaion in the W of the lower city, which was excavated in 1917, though never published. There was a gymnasium in the N of the city at least from the late Hellenistic period, if not before, and a nearby stadium (once to be seen S of the basilica of St. Demetrius) probably went back to Hellenistic times as well. The Hellenistic fortifications probably followed the lines of the later walls, and Hellenistic tombs have been found outside the city in the area of the Roman cemeteries.
  Very little is known about earlier Roman buildings. Cicero, who spent some of his exile at Thessalonike, mentions the Quaestorium and also refers to the inhabitants seeking refuge from invading Thracians in the citadel. Inscriptions have been found referring to the imperial cult, and the center of emperor worship was probably near where the archaic temple had stood, for some imperial portrait statues have been found there.
  A remarkable feature of the Roman period is the building activity that went on in Antonine and Severan times, probably as a result of rivalry with neighboring Beroia. An arch of ca. A.D. 150 stood until 1874 at the W end of what was the principal artery of the Roman city (the so-called Via Egnatia; the name is in fact a misnomer). An agora of the Antonine or Severan period has been found in Plateia Dikasteriou in the upper city. It occupied two insulae, was surrounded by stoas, and had an odeum to the E (modified in the Tetrarchic period). Along the S side there was a cryptoporticus, and steps led down to a further open space to the S, the extent of which is unknown. Nor do we know the original position or the precise function of the "Incantadas," a mid 2d c. colonnade surmounted by piers decorated in high relief with figures of Ganymede, a Dioskouros, Aura, and Nike on one side, and Leda, Ariadne, Dionysos, and a maenad on the other (the sculpture was removed to the Louvre in 1864). A small trapezoidal exedra of Antonine date can still be seen on Odos Egnatia. Not far from the Acheiropoietos basilica Roman house walls, a colonnade, and a large drain have been found, and a Roman mosaic floor still exists inside the basilica itself. Large mosaics of Ganymede and of Dionysos and Ariadne were found in 1965 on Odos Sokratous. The threat of attacks by the Goths in the middle years of the 3d c. was met by the construction of a city wall replacing the Hellenistic fortifications.
  At the turn of the 3d and 4th c. A.D., a large Tetrarchic palace was built on the city's E edge, and it probably stretched from the sea to a point some 800 m inland. The width of the palace area was ca. 200 m. Surviving structures include part of an arch decorated with sculptured panels built to commemorate Galerius' victories over the Persians, and a rotunda which was probably intended for his mausoleum, although it was never used as such. Foundations of an octagon some 30 m in diameter were found in 1950, a courtyard of the palace was discovered during the 1960s, and enough stretches of thehippodrome have been found to show that the length of the running track was just over 400 m.
  There was a great deal of building in the mid 5th c. The seat of the prefects of Illyricum had been at Sirmium, but in the face of the threat presented by the Huns it was moved to Thessaloniki in 441-42. The city had to be defended and given suitably prestigious public buildings. Thus new city walls were built, incorporating marble seating blocks from the hippodrome in their foundations. Churches also were built, including the Acheiropoietos basilica, the first basilica of St. Demetrius (whose cult was brought from Sirmium), and a basilica some 100 m long found recently underlying the 8th c. Aghia Sophia. The foundations of its hexagonal baptistery are visible to the S. To the same period (mid 5th c.) belong the conversion of the Tetrarchic rotunda into a church (since 1912 the church of St. George) and the decoration of its cupola with mosaics.
  The E and W walls are some 1,800 m apart and the acropolis is the same distance from the sea. The Istanbul Archaeological Museum houses the principal antiquities found in the area before 1912; subsequent finds are kept in the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.

M. Vickers, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


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