After Constantinople,Thessaloniki was the second most important economic and political centre of the Byzantine Empire. Located on a curious crossroads, the city was connected on the one hand with Constantinople and the East “via Egnatia” and with the European West through Dyrrachium; and on the other with the Northern provinces of the Balkans through main and secondary roads that formed an important transportation network. This privileged position contributed to the promotion of the city to one of primary economic importance, not only in the Balkans, but also in the whole empire from the 9th century on. Since the 4th century AD, Thessaloniki has functioned as the storehouse and distribution centre of Balkan products. Even later in the 13th century, when the territory and the power of the empire decreases, Thessaloniki keeps a dual economic character, agricultural and urban. After the Turkish conquest, however her economic significance diminishes and her population shrinks. The thriving, crowded city that in the 12th century numbered 100.000 people, was in the 16th century inhabited by only 20.000 people, a heterogeneous mixture of Greeks, Turks and Jews. This phase of decline did not, however, last long and Thessaloniki, slowly but steadily, regained her old pace and rhythm and became again, in the late 18th century, a prosperous city of 60.000 people and the economic capital of the Balkans. This fact in itself has largely contributed to the creation of the Greek middle class and consequently to its Balkan counterpart. It can also be held responsible for the first serious diversification in the social structure and led to the cultural and national awakening of the Balkan people.