Thessaloniki or Salonica is the second largest city and the capital of Macedonia, the largest region of Greece. The Thessaloniki urban area extends around the Thermaic Gulf for approximately 17 km. It is a major transportation hub for rest of southeastern Europe. Its commercial port is of a great importance for Greece and the southeastern part of the European continent. Early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988. Thessaloniki became the European City of Culture for 1997.
The city was founded about 315 BC by King Kassander of Macedon, close to the site of the ancient town of Therma. It was named after his wife, Thessaloniki, a half-sister of Alexander the Great. Her name came from her father, Philip II, to commemorate her birth on the day of his victory with the help of Thessalian horsemen, the best in Greece at that time, over the Phoenicians.
Due to the city's key commercial importance, a spacious harbour was built by the Romans, the famous Burrow Harbour that accommodated the town's trade up to the 18th century; later, with the help of silt deposits from the river Axios, it was reclaimed as land and the port built beyond it. Remnants of the old harbour docks can be found under Odos Frangon St near the Catholic Church.
On his second missionary journey, Paul of Tarsus preached in the city's synagogue, the chief synagogue of the Jews in that part of Thessaloniki and laid the foundations of a church. Paul wrote two of his epistles to the Christian community at Thessaloniki, the First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
The railway reached the city in 1888 and new modern port facilities were built in 1896-1904. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was born here in 1881 and the Young Turk movement was headquartered here in the early 20th century.
Thessaloniki fell to the forces of Nazi Germany on April 9 1941 and remained under German occupation until 30 October 1944. The city suffered considerable damage from Allied bombing and almost its entire Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis. Barely a thousand Jews survived.
At 23:04 (local time) on 20 June, 1978, the city was hit by a powerful earthquake registering a moment magnitude of 6.5. Nonetheless, the city quickly recovered from this natural disaster.
In June 2003, the Summit meeting of the European leaders was hosted at the Porto Carras resort in Halkidiki at the end of the Greek Presidency of the EU, instead of within Thessaloniki itself due to security concerns. In 2004, the city hosted some of the football events of the 2004 Summer Olympics.