1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Salonica

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SALONICA, Salonika or Saloniki (anc. Thessalonica, Turkish Selanik, Slav. Solun); the capital of the Turkish vilayet of Salonica, in western Macedonia, and one of the principal seaports of south-western Europe. Pop. (1905) about 130,000, including some 60,000 Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors fled hither in the 16th century to escape religious persecution in Spain and Portugal: their language is a corrupt form of Spanish, called Ladino (i.e. Latin), and spoken to some extent by other communities in the city. Salonica lies on the west side of the Chalcidic peninsula, at the head of the Gulf of Salonica (Sinus Thermaicus), on a fine bay whose southern edge is formed by the Calamerian heights, while its northern and western side is the broad alluvial plain produced by the discharge of the Vardar and the Bistritza, the principal rivers of western Macedonia. Built partly on the low ground along the edge of the bay and partly on the hill to the north (a compact mass of mica schist), the city with its white houses enclosed by white walls runs up along natural ravines to the castle of the Heptapyrgion, or Seven Towers, and is rendered picturesque by numerous domes and minarets and the foliage of elms, cypresses and mulberry trees. The commercial quarter of the town, lying to the north-west, towards the great valleys by which the inland traffic is conveyed, is pierced by broad and straight streets paved with lava. There are electric tramways and a good water-supply, but most of the older houses are fragile wooden structures coated with lime or mud, and the sanitation is defective. Apart from churches, mosques and synagogues, there are a few noteworthy modern buildings, such as the Ottoman Bank, the baths, quarantine station, schools and hospitals; but the chief architectural interest of Salonica is centred in its Roman and Byzantine remains.

Antiquities.—The Via Egnatia of the Romans (mod. Jassijol or Grande Rue de Vardar) traverses the city from east to West, between the Vardar Gate and the Calamerian Gate. Two Roman triumphal arches used to span the Via Egnatia. The arch near the Vardar Gate—a massive stone structure probably erected towards the end of the 1st century' A.D., was destroyed in 1867 to furnish material for repairing the city walls; an imperfect inscription from it is preserved in the British Museum. The other arch, popularly called the arch of Constantine, but with greater probability assigned to the reign of Galerius (a.d. 305–311), is built of brick and partly faced with sculptured marble. A third example of Roman architecture—the remains of a white marble portico supposed to have formed the entrance to the hippodrome—is known by the Judaeo-Spanish designation of Las Incantadas, from the eight Caryatides in the upper part of the structure. There are also numerous fragments of Roman inscriptions and statuary. The conspicuous mosques of Salonica are nearly all of an early Christian origin; the remarkable preservation of their mural decorations makes them very important for the history of Byzantine architecture. The principal are those dedicated to St Sophia, St George and St Demetrius.

St Sophia (Aya Sofia), formerly the cathedral, and probably erected in the 6th century by Justinian's architect Anthemius, was converted into a mosque in 1589. It is cased with slabs of white marble. The whole length of the interior is 110 ft. The nave, forming a Greek cross, is surmounted by a hemispherical dome, the 600 sq. yds. of which are covered with a rich mosaic representing the Ascension. St Demetrius, which is probably older than the time of Justinian, consists of a long nave and two side aisles, each terminating eastward in an atrium the full height of the nave, in a style not known to occur in any other church. The columns of the aisles are half the height of those in the nave. The internal decoration is all produced by slabs of different-coloured marbles. St George's, conjecturally assigned to the reign of Constantine (d. 337), is circular in plan, measuring internally 80 ft. in diameter. The external wall is 18 ft. thick, and at the angles of an inscribed octagon are chapels formed in the thickness of the wall, and roofed with wagon-headed vaults visible on the exterior; the eastern chapel, however, is enlarged and developed into a bema and apse projecting beyond the circle, and the western and southern chapels constitute the two entrances of the building. The dome, 72 yds. in circumference, is covered throughout its entire surface of 800 sq. yds. with what is the largest work in ancient mosaic still extant, representing a series of fourteen saints standing in the act of adoration in front of temples and colonnades. The Eski Juma, or Old Mosque, is another interesting basilica, evidently later than Constantine, with side aisles and an apse without side chapels. The churches of the Holy Apostles and of St Elias also deserve mention. Of the secular buildings, the Caravanserai, usually attributed to Murad II. (1422-1451), probably dates from Byzantine times.

Salonica is the see of an Orthodox Greek archbishop. Each religious community has its own schools and places of worship, among the most important being the Jewish high-school, the Greek and Bulgarian gymnasia, the Jesuit college, a high-school founded in 1860 and supported by the Jewish Mission of the Established Church of Scotland, a German school, dating from 1887, and a college for boys and a secondary school for girls, both managed by the French Mission Laïque and subsidized since 1905 by the French government.

Railways, Harbour and Commerce.—Salonica is the principal Aegean seaport of the Balkan Peninsula, the centre of the import trade of all Macedonia and two-thirds of Albania, and the natural port of shipment for the products of an even larger area. It is the terminus of four railways. One line goes north to Nish in Servia, where it meets the main line (Paris-Vienna-Constantinople) of the Oriental railways; another, after following the same route as far as Usküb in Macedonia, branches off to Mitrovitza in Albania; the extension of this line to Serajevo in Bosnia was projected in 1908 in order to establish direct communication between Austria and Salonica. A third line, intended ultimately to reach the Adriatic, extends westward from Salonica to Monastir. A fourth, the Constantinople junction railway to Constantinople, is of great strategic importance; during the war with Greece in 1897 it facilitated the rapid concentration of Ottoman troops on the borders of Thessaly, and in 1908 it helped to secure the triumph of the Young Turks by bringing the regiments favourable to their propaganda within striking distance of Constantinople.

The new harbour, which was opened to navigation in December 1901, allows the direct transhipment of all merchandise whatever may be the direction of the wind, which was previously apt to render shipping operations difficult. The harbour works consist of a breakwater 1835 ft. long, with 28 ft. depth of water on its landward side for a width of 492 ft. Opposite the breakwater is a quay 1475 ft. long, which was widened in 1903–1907 to a breadth of 306 ft.; at each end of the quay a pier 656 ft. long projects into the sea. Between the extremities of these two piers and those of the breakwater are the two entrances to the harbour. The average number of ships, including small coasters, which entered the port in each of the three years 1905–1907 was 3400, of 930,000 tons. Salonica exports grain, flour, bran, silk cocoons, chrome, manganese, iron, hides and skins, cattle and sheep, wool, eggs, opium, tobacco and fennel. The average yearly value of the imports from 1900 to 1905 was £2,500,000, and that of the exports £1,200,000. The imports consist principally of textiles, iron goods, sugar, tobacco, flour, coffee and chemicals. The volume of the export trade tended to decrease in the first decade of the 20th century. The making of morocco leather and other leather-work, such as saddlery, harness and boots and shoes, affords employment to a large number of persons. Other industries are cotton-spinning, brewing, tanning, iron-founding, and the manufacture of bricks, tiles, soap, flour, ironmongery and ice. The spirit called mastic or raki is largely produced.

History.—Thessalonica was built on the site of the older Greek city of Therma, so called in allusion to the hot-springs of the neighbourhood. It was founded in 315 b.c. by Cassander, who gave it the name of his wife, a sister of Alexander the Great. It was a military and commercial station on a main line of communication between Rome and the East, and had reached its zenith before the seat of empire was transferred to Constantinople. It became famous in connexion with the early history of Christianity through the two epistles addressed by St Paul to the community which he founded here; and in the later defence of the ancient civilization against the barbarian inroads it played a considerable part. In 390 7000 citizens who had been guilty of insurrection were massacred in the hippodrome by command of Theodosius. Constantine repaired the port, and probably enriched the town with some of its buildings. During the iconoclastic reigns of terror it stood on the defensive, and succeeded in saving the artistic treasures of its churches: in the 9th century Joseph, one of its bishops, died in chains for his defence of image-worship. In the 7th century the Macedonian Slavs strove to capture the city, but failed even when it was thrown into confusion by a terrible earthquake. It was the attempt made to transfer the whole Bulgarian trade to Thessalonica that in the close of the 9th century caused the invasion of the empire by Simeon of Bulgaria. In 904 the Saracens from the Cyrenaica took the place by storm; the public buildings were grievously injured, and the inhabitants to the number of 22,000 were carried off and sold as slaves throughout the countries of the Mediterranean. In 1185 the Normans of Sicily took Thessalonica after a ten days' siege, and perpetrated endless barbarities, of which Eustathius, then bishop of the see, has left an account. In 1204 Baldwin, conqueror of Constantinople, conferred the kingdom of Thessalonica on Boniface, marquis of Montferrat; but in 1222 Theodore, despot of Epirus, one of the natural enemies of the new kingdom, took the city and had himself there crowned by the patriarch of Macedonian Bulgaria. On the death of Demetrius, who had been supported in his endeavour to recover his father's throne by Pope Honorius III., the empty title of king of Salonica was adopted by several claimants. In 1266 the house of Burgundy received a grant of the titular kingdom from Baldwin II. when he was titular emperor, and it was sold by Eudes IV. to Philip of Tarentum, titular emperor of Romania, in 1320. The Venetians to whom the city was transferred by one of the Palaeologi, were in power when Murad II. appeared, and on the 1st of May 1430, in spite of the desperate resistance of the inhabitants, took the city, which had thrice previously been in the hands of the Turks. They cut to pieces the body of St Demetrius, the patron saint of Salonica, who had been the Roman proconsul of Greece, under Maximian, and was martyred in a.d. 306. In 1876 the French and German consuls at Salonica were murdered by the Turkish populace. On the 4th of September 1890 more than 2000 houses were destroyed by fire in the south-eastern quarters of the city. During the early years of the 20th century Salonica was the headquarters of the Committee of Union and Progress, the central organization of the Young Turkey Party, which carried out the constitutional revolution of 1908. Before this event the weakness of Turkey had encouraged the belief that Salonica would ultimately pass under the control of Austria-Hungary or one of the Balkan States, and this belief gave rise to many political intrigues which helped to delay the solution of the Macedonian Question.

Vilayet.—The vilayet of Salonica has an area of 13,510 sq. m. and an estimated population of 1,150,000. It is rich in minerals, including chrome, manganese, zinc, antimony, iron, argentiferous lead, arsenic and lignite, but some of these are unworked. The chief agricultural products are grain, rice, beans, cotton, opium and poppy seed, sesame, fennel, red pepper, and much of the finest tobacco grown in Europe; there is also some trade in timber, livestock, skins, furs, wool and silk cocoons. The growth of commerce has been impeded by the ignorance of cultivators, the want of good roads and the unsettled political condition of Turkey. Apart from the industries carried on in the capital, there are manufactures of wine, liqueurs, sesame oil, cloth, macaroni and soap. The principal towns, Seres (pop. 30,000), Vodena (25,000) and Cavalla (24,000), are described in separate articles; Tikvesh (21,000) is the centre of an agricultural region, Caraferia (14,000) a manufacturing town, and Drama (13,000) one of the centres of tobacco cultivation.