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Holman Bible Dictionary

Thessalonica

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(thehss ssuh loh ni' cuh) The name of modern Thessaloniki, given to the city about 315 B.C. by Cassander, a general of Alexander the Great. He founded the city in that year, naming it after his wife who was the daughter of Philip II and half sister of Alexander. Located on the Thermaic Gulf (Gulf of Salonika) with an excellent harbor—and at the termination of a major trade route from the Danube—it became, with Corinth, one of the two most important commercial centers in Greece. In the Roman period, it retained its Greek cultural orientation and functioned as the capital of Macedonia after 146 B.C. See Macedonia .

When the apostle Paul visited the city, it was larger than Philippi which reflected a predominantly Roman culture. Thessalonica was a free city, having no Roman garrison within its walls and maintaining the privilege of minting its own coins. Like Corinth, it had a cosmopolitan population due to the commercial prowess of the city. The recent discovery of a marble inscription, written partly in Greek and partly in a Samaritan form of Hebrew and Aramaic, testifies to the presence of Samaritans in Thessalonica. The Book of Acts testifies to the presence of a Jewish synagogue there (Acts 17:1 ).

Since most of the ancient city still lies under modern Thessaloniki, it has been impossible to excavate it. However, in the center of town a large open area has been excavated revealing a Roman forum (marketplace), about 70 by 110 yards, which dates to about A.D. 100 to 300. An inscription found in the general area, dating to 60 B.C., mentions an agora (Greek for the Roman “forum”) and opens the possibility that a Hellenistic marketplace was located here just prior to the construction of this Roman one. In Hellenistic times there were a stadium, a gymnasium, and a temple of Serapis in the city. A third-century odeum (small theater) is preserved on the east side of the forum.

The authenticity of Acts has been questioned due to Luke's mention of Roman officials in Thessalonica by the name of politarchs ( Acts 17:6 ), who are otherwise unknown in extant Greek literature. However, a Roman arch at the western end of ancient Vardar Street contained an inscription from before A.D. 100 which began, “In the time of the Politarchs.” Several other inscriptions from Thessalonica, one of them dating from the reign of Augustus Caesar, mention politarchs . See 1Thessalonians ; 2Thessalonians .

John McRay

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Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Thessalonica'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/t/thessalonica.html. 1991.

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