Ancient Sites in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki’s city center is home to a few interesting ancient sites, mostly dating back to Roman times and Emperor Galerius.

First, at Plateia Navarinou, it’s possible to see the Palace of Galerius. The Roman Emperor thought highly enough of the city to build a palace here around 300 AD. It sits in a square surrounded by high rise apartments. Located here are a basilica, baths, a two-storied structure, a central building complex, and an octagon. The site is open from 8am to 3pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Admission is free. Don’t worry if it’s closed during your visit – it’s easy to see from the outside – but you an obviously get a lot more information if you visit during open hours..

Palace of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Palace of Galerius

Palace of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Palace of Galerius

Palace of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Palace of Galerius

Palace of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Palace of Galerius

Walking down the pedestrian street of Dim. Gounari from Plateia Navarinou is the northernmost building of the palace, the Apsidal Hall. It was probably used for banquets and other ceremonies and sits in the middle of the street.

Apsidal Hall in Thessaloniki, Greece

Apsidal Hall

Continuing north to Egnatia, you will find the Arch of Galerius. Built in 299 AD by Emperor Galerius, it’s a triumphal arch dedicated to his victories over the Sassanid Persians and the capture of the city of Ctesiphon. It once had eight pillars in two parallel rows forming triple arches and spanned through the ancient Via Egnatia. Only three of the original pillars survive. A road connected the arch to the Rotunda.

Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Arch of Galerius

Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Arch of Galerius

The reliefs on the arch depict battle scenes and the Roman victory over the Persians. One of them shows Galerius in a personal battle with Shah Narses, which historically never occurred.

The imperial family at the sacrifice of thanksgiving on the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

The imperial family at the sacrifice of thanksgiving

Galerius attacks Shah Narses on the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki, Greece

Galerius attacks Shah Narses

Further west along Egnatia at the corner of Venizelou, there was always a lot of construction during my visits to Thessaloniki. I took a peek underneath the covering and saw the original Via Egnatia, the Roman road that ran from what is now Durrës in Albania to Constantinople, and the remains of several buildings which once stood along it. The significant discovery has yielded over 28,000 artifacts in over 28,000 m², but has drastically slowed work on the city’s much-needed metro system.

Via Egnatia excavation in Thessaloniki, Greece

Via Egnatia excavation

At Plateia Dikastirion along Egnatia is the Roman Forum, also known as the Agora. It was built in the 2nd century on top of an older complex and was accidentally discovered in the 1960s. A small theatre sits at one end while the rest of the complex features two baths, a stoa, and a Roman road. Admission to the site is €4 as of July 2016. It’s open from 8am to 3pm.

Roman Forum in Thessaloniki, Greece

Roman Forum

Roman Forum in Thessaloniki, Greece

Roman Forum

Roman Forum in Thessaloniki, Greece

Roman Forum

Roman Forum in Thessaloniki, Greece

Roman Forum

Across the street from the old Ottoman governor’s palace, there are some ancient foundations that date back to Roman and Greek times. The Roman ruins are from a building constructed in the 1st century BC over a Hellenistic structure from the 4th century BC. The site is not open to the public but can be seen from the road.

Ancient ruins in Thessaloniki, Greece

Ancient ruins

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