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Byzantine Thessaloniki

Essay Topic:

Cassander, the son of General Antipater, ruled Macedonia from 316 to 297 B. C. He founded the third capital of the Macedonian kingdom in the year 315 BC and named it Thessaloniki, after his wife. Thessaloniki was also Alexander III’s half-sister. Formed at the crucial region in the road network, Thessaloniki became the seat of Macedonia’s financial and administrative control. Thessaloniki played a historically important role during the Byzantine period (Ekdotike Athenon). It had had such fortified walls that it resisted several invasion attempts, although it had fell about four times in over thousand years.

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Thessaloniki was also the place where the Pythian Games were held once in every four years. An artificial harbor was also formed under Constantine the great. There is evidence that the region was inhabited even during the Neolithic period. There are several archeological sites and monuments at Thessaloniki which today highlight its glorious past. The archeological sites include the Palace of Galerius built in 300 A. D, the Roman Baths and the Roman market and theater, while the monuments include the Galerian Arch built before 305 A. D, and the Church of Ossios David constructed during the late 5th century (Barrett M).

Christianity was introduced by Apostle Paul in 50 A. D. Jews are presumed to have first settled in Thessaloniki around 140 B. C, from Alexandria, Egypt. The Jews were given considerable autonomy during the Roman period, which were later curtailed under Byzantium, with Christianity becoming the state religion. Although successive Byzantine emperors introduced restrictions on Jews, they were allowed to live by the traditions and dictates of their religion, thus developing and contributing to their heritage. When Ottoman Turks conquered Byzantine Thessalonki, the Muslims grew in prominence (Hagouel).

One of the most notable features of Thessaloniki is its religious harmony with Christians, Jews and Muslims living together under Ottomans. When Sultan Murat II brought in administrative reforms for the city, he offered tax exemptions and religious autonomy to both the Christians and the Muslims. There are very few cities in the world which can claim to have been a continued metropolitan existence for such a lengthy period as the Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine and the Ottoman empire, after Constatinople.

It should be noted here that each era witnessed by Thessaloniki is today represented today by its monuments (Brown). The city remained the center of political, economic and artistic activity, retaining its urban characteristics. By the early Middle Byzantine era, the city already had a thousand year history. In the Middle Byzantine period, trade improved as demand for products from Thessaloniki increased. The traditionally exported items were wool, silk and linen. Other exported items from Thessaloniki included luxury goods bearing metal and glass work, wine, fish and fruits.

The sophistication of the Byzantine Thessaloniki architecture is evident from the natural lighting planed at Rotunda at Thessaloniki. The geometric patterns associated with the monument are replicated on the mosaics. The sills of the large windows and the gold tesserae also contribute to the illumination of the mosaics. The mosaic surface is aptly inclined to correspond to the angle of light entering through the large arch shaped windows (Iliadis). The surface inclination of the mosaic also suits the light penetrating through the lunettes, arranged at dome base. Annotated bibliography

The article by Ekdotike Athenon throws light on the founding of Thessaloniki by Cassander who named it after his wife. During the Byzantine, it was almost an invincible place. The article by Barrett emphasis its glorious past in the field of architecture. It also gives an idea of the introduction of Christianity. The article by Hagouel shows the attitude of Byzantine emperors towards Jews. While making Christianity the state religion, they set restrictions on the Jews. Brown mentions Thessaloniki as one of the few cities in the world with a history of a successful trade.

Iliadis looks into the sophistication of lighting at Rotunda at Thessaloniki, where the mosaic is illuminated by natural building. REFERENCES Hagouel P. I. , History of the Jews Thessaloniki and the holocaust. West Chester University of Pennsylvania (2006) [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 3rd July, 2008 from http://www. wcupa. edu/_academics/holocaust/Salonika. pdf Ekdotike Athenon S. A. , Byzantine Thessalonike [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 3rd July, 2008 from http://www. macedonian-heritage. gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/C2. 3. html Barrett M.

, What to see in Thessaloniki [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 3rd July, 2008 from http://www. greecetravel. com/thessaloniki/museums. html Brown. A. R. , Middle Byzantine Thessaloniki (1999) [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 3rd July, 2008 from http://socs. berkeley. edu/~arbrown/text. html Iliadis I. G. , The natural lighting of the mosaics in the Rotunda at Thessaloniki (2001) Lighting Research and Technology, Vol. 33, No. 1 [Electronic Version] Downloaded on 3rd July, 2008 from http://lrt. sagepub. com/cgi/content/abstract/33/1/13

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