Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and it is the capital of the Prefecture of Thessaloniki and the seat of the Region of Central Macedonia. It is a historic city and a timeless attraction for historical researchers, archaeologists, ethnologists and thousands of visitors both from Greece and abroad.
The city owes its name to the half- sister of Alexander the Great, who was named after by her father Philip at birth, after a major victory against Thessalians. The city was an important point of reference because of its geographical position and its financial euphoria, attracting people with a rich commercial and cultural activity. Thessaloniki met its summit during the Byzantine period when Constantine the Great made Thessaloniki the second greatest city of the empire after Constantinople as a co-capital. After its destruction by the Normans in 1185 AD and after a series of various historical events it was delivered to the Venetians and remained under their rule until 1430 when it fell into Ottoman possession for more than four centuries. The city was liberated from the Ottomans on 26 October 1912. In 1916 it became the headquarter of the second government of El. Venizelos and turned into a center of the Eastern Front as a result of Greece’s entry to the First World War and the expulsion of King Constantine I. In 1917 there broke out a devastating fire which burned the biggest part of the city, resulting to the reconstruction of it. Between 1922 –1940, Thessaloniki accepts and integrates tens of thousands of refugees from Asia Minor. In 1941, the Germans invaded Thessaloniki exterminating the Jewish community of the city and killing hundreds of people, while three years later, on October 30, 1944, the military units of ELAS partisans entered the city and its release was sealed. The city could not remain uninvolved in a period of tension and political conflicts resulting to the civil war and the military junta which was blame for major events as the executions in Yedi – Kule and the assassination of George Polk and Gr. Lampraki.
At the same time, with historical and political events, the city does not stop moving towards social and cultural growth. In 1926 the University of Thessaloniki is founded and it is successfully organized the first international exhibition that will later become a landmark of economic and political life in Greece. In 1928 the first radio station of the country is founded while in 1933 the Forth Balkan Conference is held in the city. The city has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for many scholars and spiritual leaders in Greece like poet Yannis Ritsos who shocked by the events of May 9, 1936 writes the poem – focal point for the country ‘Epitaph’. In 1939, the Municipal Library operates for the first time and a year later the first major theater of the city is inaugurated, the Royal Theatre of Thessaloniki. In 1949, the restoration of the Church of St. Demetrius is completed in 1959 and the Industrial School of Thessaloniki operates, today’s University of Macedonia . From 1960 until today, the city hosts the Thessaloniki Film Festival bringing together hundreds of renowned and upcoming talents and thousands of fans of the small screen from all over Greece developing valuable intellectual, artistic and cultural movement with theatrical performances, music, concerts, theater and intense nightlife offering a variety of options.
The cultural growth of the city continues with archaeological excavations and initiatives in archeological and cultural sites with reference to the discovery of ancient Roman Market (1966) and the tomb of King Philip (1977), the proclamation of early Christian and Byzantine monuments on World Heritage (1989) and of course its appointment as European Capital of Culture (1997).
Thessaloniki of the 21st century still gathers the global attention with the excavations at Amphipolis causing awe and admiration and raising various discussions and debates about the unique and remarkable archaeological findings which come to light. Thessaloniki once again justifies and vindicates its reputation worldwide.