Thessaloniki is an ancient city with a long and glorious history. It was founded by Macedonian Greeks in the third century BC. However, the city’s most prosperous period was during the Roman rule. Thanks to the location of the city and the trade that was in constant development, the city grew and Thessaloniki became the capital of the Roman province of Greece.
On the place of the Greek Agora the Romans built their Forum. Today we can see the ruins that offer us a glimpse of the magnificence of the buildings that once stood there. The Forum (Agora) was constructed by the Romans in the late 1st century A.D and remained active up to the 4th century. Along with the Galerius Palace Complex it was the center of political and public life in Thessaloniki. The Forum was a large open area surrounded by buildings of various functions some of which were impressive buildings that displayed the wealth of the city accumulated during Roman period of its history because of its growing strategic importance and developing trade.
The Roman Forum was the center of the city, the entire complex was organized around a rectangular paved open area that was used as a meeting or gathering place — similar to the modern squares. In fact the Forum is not far from Aristotelous Square, the present-day city center. As an administrative center of the city, it was connected to all the main streets, like the roman commercial road of Via Egnatia to its southern section and the city’s main avenue (Decumanus Maximus). It is worthy of note that the Forum was dug up by accident in the 1960s.
The most preserved and most impressive building in the Forum Complex is the ancient amphitheater or Odeon as it was called. The seats and the scene still stand where almost 2000 years ago were held the classic Greek dramas and tragedies. The Odeon was a place where gladiatorial combat was also performed. In its time the Forum was a lively and busy place, full of merchants and shoppers who congregated around the marketplace that was the integral part of the ancient forums.
The entire complex was organised around a square that was used as a meeting or gathering place. Here you can see extremely well preserved “Cryptoporticus” semi — subterranean corridors, one of the more unique feature of the Roman architecture. If you enter them and follow through the end you will discover the Forum’s underground museum. The entrance is not easy to find, so most visitors miss the opportunity to visit this place. This is one of the smaller museums of the city, but it can give you valuable insights in Thessaloniki history. The museum can help you envision everyday life during the Roman period of Thessaloniki, the Forum itself, its people through a series of presentation, illustrations and maps.
The Roman Forum is a place you certainly won’t miss because of the importance and the location of the center of the city, but remember that it has an almost “secret” museum hidden in its corridors that is definitely worth your visit.
This article was brought to you by Zaliki Boutique Hotel Thessaloniki