It is not a surprise the fact that Thessaloniki is like a huge open museum and a wonderful destination for every history and museum lover. Greek, Roman and Byzantine antiquities can be found in every step of the city’s historic center something quite reasonable having in mind the adventurous past of this place!
Thessaloniki existed as an important commercial and political center throughout many phases of its 23 centuries old history. One of the key factors that kept this privilege unaffected was the unique, strategic location of the city!
The Roman period was not an exception to this rule. Having in mind the prosperity of “Thessalonica” during these centuries we can easily understand that Roman rulers like Emperor Galerius soon realized the potential this city had and tried to take advantage of it, acting accordingly…
Having risen in power as one of the Tetrarchy rulers and after his successful campaign against the Persians in 299 AD, Galerius chose Thessaloniki as one of the capitals of the province.
He made extended efforts to further enhance the importance of the city in order to emerge as an administrative center by constructing several buildings some of which were impressively luxurious and decorated in great detail! His ambitious plan was aiming at transforming Thessaloniki into a well-organized administrative center in order to meet the needs of the newly created Roman province!
The most impressive construction of all was the imposive Palatial Complex that included several different areas and buildings. In order for someone to fully appreciate its importance for Thessaloniki, we must first realize its overwhelming size for the Greek standards!
The Galerius Complex was located in the heart of the Roman Thessaloniki. It was built on a straight axis ranging from the North to the South including buildings like the Rotonda, the Triumphant Arch (Kamara), the Palace, the Octagon and the Hippodrome.
The main area was surrounded by buildings that were incorporating typical Roman architecture of religious or monumental character like the Basilica or the Nymphaeum that was serving religious needs. The Northern section of the complex was connected at the height of Kamara to Via Egnatia, one of the most important trade Routes of the wider Roman region.
The Octagon located at the Southwest side next to the Basilica was perhaps the most luxurious building of all! It is possible that it was the throne room of the Tetrarch ruler while it was beautifully decorated and several meters higher when compared to the rest architectural elements of the complex.
As a hall, the Palace Complex of Galerius was spreading over an area of 150.000 m2 that today includes Rotonda, Navarino Plaza, the parallel streets and the temple of Agia Sofia to the west! Along with the Roman Forum (Ancient Agora) they were the center of daily life in Roman Thessaloniki!
The extended archaeological research brought to the surface some exceptional findings the majority of which can be viewed at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
Among them lies a wonderful marble arch that depicts Galerius himself along with surprisingly detailed curved motifs!
Given its size, the restoration efforts were partially completed. They lasted several years while in some places like the “Arched Hall” in Navarino Plaza they are still in progress. Almost all parts of the Palatial Complex are open to the public in a beautiful outdoor museum. The visitors have the chance to see the restored parts of the Atrium, the Arcades and the Basilica, the marbled floors and some brilliant mosaics!
Navarino Plaza is a popular meeting point for the younger ages and the city’s college community. It is the place that has perhaps the most intense diy atmosphere in Thessaloniki…and the best crepperies! If you feel like having a coffee or lunch you’ll find several café and taverns right next to the Galerian Complex!
The location of the Palatial Complex at the center of Thessaloniki offers countless possible combinations on where to go and what to see! The White Tower and Nikis Avenue are just minutes away while heading North you’ll discover Ano Poli (Upper Town), the Byzantine Walls and the Trigonio Tower.