In 353 BC King Philip II of Macedon, allied with and leading the army of Thessaly along with his own army, defeated the Phocians in the Battle of Crocus Field. One year later a daughter was born to King Philip and his Thessalian wife, Nicecipolis. Philip decided to name the young princess Thessalonike, which means “Thessalian Victory.” Nicecipolis died shortly after the birth and little Thessalonike was raised by her step-mother Olympia, King Philip’s fourth wife and the mother of Alexander. When Alexander died in 323 BC his generals/friends began fighting over his kingdom. Cassander out maneuvered others who wanted to rule the homeland of Macedon/Greece and a part of his plan was to marry into Alexander’s family: he took Thessalonike as his wife in 315 BC.
Looking for ways to bolster his claim to the throne and to consolidate his power, Cassander ordered 26 villages on and near the Thermaikos Gulf to move to the town of Thermi. Cassander then renamed the new city in honor of his new wife, Thessalonike. The location of Thessalonike was ideal: facing the Gulf of Thermaikos with rugged hills on its left shoulder and a river on its right; surrounded all about with rich farmland that includes the Axios river valley which ties it to the Balkan interior.
Thessalonica remained an important city through the Roman takeover and was considered the second city of the Byzantine Empire. Always an important port and trading center for the many crops grown all around it, Thessalonica had what it took to endure many changes over the centuries. It joined the Greek state in 1912 and is the second largest city in Greece and one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean basin.
Pictured below is the White Tower of Thessalonica and the city’s waterfront district. Paul and his friends would have found the city comparatively just as urban and cosmopolitan as you and I would consider Thessalonica to be today.
Do you prefer cities or rural areas? Why did Paul seem to favor cities?