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by Archaeology Newsroom

Thessaloniki, a town-planning survey

1. The Ancient period (315 BC to 4th Century AD): At the beginning of the Hellenistic period, Cassandros created Thessaloniki by uniting 26 small settlements. Thanks to its significant geographic location Thessaloniki soon became the centre of commerce in the area. During the Roman period, Thessaloniki becomes even more important as it enters the phase of commercial and industrial development. In the first century A.D. Thessaloniki also becomes a Roman military Centre and, therefore, its significance is increased. Around 300 AD, the final form of the “walled city” is created, a form to be preserved until the end of the 19th century. The entire layout of the city is determined by two Centres: the administrative-religious Centre, along with the sector of popular entertainment; and the economic and cultural Centre located exactly in the middle of town.

2.The Dark Ages and Byzantine Period (4th century AD. up to 1430). The serious demographic decrease in populations in the countryside leads to the creation of small rural settlements that function like communes. In important urban Centres, like Thessaloniki, there exists on the one hand a strong state monopoly of certain articles controlled by the economic elite and on the other a system of commercial production organized in guilds and directed by the middle class. The layout of the city in the 14th century exhibits three distinct sub-Centres. To the the west lies the harbour the administrative, the commercial and the economic centre of the city while the eastern part of the city remains a dwelling quarter organized like a parish around the nucleus of a church.

3.The Ottoman period (1430 to 1912): The settlement in Thessaloniki of a great number of Jews, from the 15th century on, as well as the intense presence of the Turkish population do not enhance the Greek appearance of the city, at least for the three first centuries of the Turkish occupation. Thessaloniki is economically subordinate to and functions according to the Ottoman feudal system as a “market town” . The organization of the city, still unknown in detail, is determined by the settlement around the harbor of Jews, Greeks and Europeans who hold the commercial reins in their hands. The upper city is inhabited by Turks who administer and exploit the primary sector. International and local ,social, economic and demographic rearrangements that mainly occur after the 17th and 18th centuries transform the function of the city so that it becomes a “city-agency” and connect it to European capitalist Centres. Thus, by the end of the 19th century the organization and development of the city instead of being homocentric becomes sectional .

4. Modern period (1912 until today). Liberated Thessaloniki (1912) is annexed to the Greek state which goes through the economic phase of liberal capitalism (1907 to 1913, 1950 to 1953). After the fire of 1917 the rebuilt sections of the “burnt zone” are made according to Hebrard’s plan (1921). Then, the central urban area of the city is commercialized, while at the same time the peripheral area is irrationally overloaded. In 1928 Thessaloniki almost takes on its present form expanding to cover an area five times larger than the original “walled city”. During the decade of 1961 to 1971 the city specializes in wholesale trade, in industry and handicrafts and directly influences the whole area of Macedonia and Thrace .