From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(Θεσσαλονίκη, now Salonika )

Thessalonica was a large and important Macedonian city, whose original name of Therme, derived from the hot springs found in the vicinity, was preserved in the Thermaicus Sinus , the bay at the head of which the city stood. Refounded by Cassander about 315 b.c., it was named after his wife Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great. ‘He pulled down the cities in the district of Crucis and on the Thermaic Gulf, collecting the inhabitants into one city’ (Strabo, VII. fr.[Note: fragment, from.]21). The site was well chosen alike for defence and for commerce. Rising in tiers of houses from the sea-margin to the top of rocky slopes, and surrounded by high white walls, the city presented a striking appearance from the sea. Receiving the products of the vast and fertile plain watered by the Axius and the Haliacmon, it was the most populous city in Macedonia (Strabo, VII. vii. 4) and had a large share in the commerce of the aegean. Under the Romans it became the capital of one of the four districts into which Macedonia was divided, and afterwards the virtual capital of the whole province. It was made a strong naval station, and during the first Civil War became the headquarters of Pompey and the senate. Having afterwards favoured the side of Octavian and Antony in the struggle with Brutus and Cassius, it was rewarded by being made a free city of the Empire. Cicero, who spent seven months of exile in it, was struck by its central position, the Thessalonians seeming to him ‘positi in gremio imperii nostri’ ( de Prov. Consul , ii. 4).

With unerring judgment St. Paul chose Thessalonica as the scene of one of his missionary campaigns. He must have seen its strategic importance. If his aim was to establish Christianity in the governing and commercial centres of the Empire, in order that the light might radiate over the widest areas, his choice of Thessalonica was justified by an immediate and signal success. From the Christians of this city the word of the Lord sounded forth like a trumpet (ἐξήχηται) not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but ‘in every place’ ( 1 Thessalonians 1:8).

As a civitas libera Thessalonica enjoyed autonomy in all internal affairs. It was the residence of the provincial governor, but in ordinary circumstances he exercised no civic authority. The city was ruled by its own magistrates, who were known as politarchs ( Acts 17:6). Luke’s accuracy in the use of political terms is here strikingly illustrated. The term πολιτάρχαι is not found in any classical author, though the forms πολιάρχοι and πολιτάρχοι occur; but the inscription on a marble archway, probably erected in the time of Vespasian and still spanning a street of modern Thessalonica, begins with the word ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΟΤΝΤΩΝ, which is followed by the names of seven magistrates. As part of its constitution Thessalonica had no doubt a senate and public assembly, but it is not clear whether the people (δῆμος) to whom an attempt was made to bring out Paul and Silas was the regular public meeting, as W. M. Ramsay thinks ( St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen , London, 1895, p. 228), or the disorderly mob. In a free city even the canaille of the forum-οἱ ἀγοραῖοι-liked to feel that they had a semblance of power, and their passions could easily be played upon by flattering and panic-mongering demagogues.

But St. Paul’s real enemies in Thessalonica were his own compatriots, who had been attracted to the city as a busy mart of commerce. Evidence of the presence of Jews in Macedonia is to be found in Philo’s version of an Epistle of Agrippa to Caligula ( de Virtut. et legat. ad Caium , 36). Their numbers and influence in Thessalonica are indicated by the ‘great multitude’ of Greeks who had accepted the Jewish faith ( Acts 17:4), as well as by the case with which they made the city crowd the instrument of their will. St. Paul went to the synagogue of Thessalonica, doubtless a splendid one, according to his custom (κατὰ τὸ εἰωθός; cf.  Luke 4:16), his rule being to go ‘to the Jew first’ ( Romans 2:9-10). His preaching and reasoning on three successive Sabbaths-or perhaps during three whole weeks (σάββατα)-ended in the inevitable quarrel between Jew and Jewish Christian. Luke’s succinct narrative might be supposed to imply that St. Paul’s work in the city did not extend beyond the synagogue, and that Jewish intrigues compelled him to leave at the end of three weeks; but that can scarcely be the historian’s meaning. Time must be allowed for the conversion of a large number of the Gentile population of Thessalonica, for the founding of an important and influential church, and for the Christians of Philippi, 100 miles distant, sending St. Paul their gifts ‘once and again’ ( Philippians 4:16). The Apostle himself recalls a fruitful ministry among the Thessalonians, in which he ‘dealt with each one’ not publicly but privately, ‘as a father with his own children’ ( 1 Thessalonians 2:11), till he had formed the nucleus of a Christian church. This quiet house-to-house work could not be compressed into three weeks. Ramsay thinks that St. Paul’s residence in Thessalonica probably lasted from Dec. a.d. 50 to May 51 ( St. Paul the Traveller , p. 228). J. Moffatt’s suggestion of a month or two ( Expositor’s Greek Testament iv. 3) seems barely sufficient.

As the hostile Jews of Thessalonica knew that they could not silence St. Paul by fair means, they resorted to foul, getting the rabble of the forum to do the work of which they personally were ashamed. The accusation which was trumped up against the Apostle amounted to high treason ( Acts 17:7), and resembled the charge that had been levelled against Jesus Himself ( John 19:12;  John 19:15). There was hypocrisy in the indictment. The Messianic hope cherished by every devout Israelite was counted no crime, yet the actual proclamation of ‘another king, Jesus,’ is set down as an act of open rebellion, and the Jews of Thessalonica, like those of Jerusalem, have no king but Caesar. Though only the most ignorant of the populace took the charge seriously, and the politarchs soon satisfied themselves that it was baseless, yet laesa maiestas was much too grave a matter to be dealt with lightly.

Tacitus says that already in the reign of Tiberius ‘the charge of treason formed the universal resource in accusations’ ( Ann . iii. 38), and in course of time it became more and more common. The mere suspicion of maiestas was many a man’s ruin. Pliny the younger says in his panegyric of Trajan that nothing enriched the exchequer of the prince and the public treasury so much as the charge of treason, ‘singulare et unicum crimen eorum qui crimine vacarent’ ( Paneg . 42).

The magistrates of Thessalonica saw that they had to demonstrate their loyalty to the Empire. As the peace of the city had been disturbed, the angry passions of the ‘wild beast’ aroused, and a dangerous state of public feeling created, they felt justified in binding over the Apostle’s friends-Jason and others-to keep the peace, and in the circumstances this could be done only if those friends advised the man who was the innocent cause of the disturbance to leave the town. Against the verdict of civic prudence it was vain to protest, but St. Paul evidently continued to chafe long under the ingenious device which made the honour of his friends a barrier between him and the work he had so successfully begun. It was such subtlety, and not the hatred of the mob, that made him think of the devices of Satan ( 1 Thessalonians 2:18).

The Christians of Thessalonica must have endured some persecution after he tore himself away from them. They imitated the Judaea n churches in patient suffering ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14). It was three or four years before St. Paul could return to Macedonia ( 1 Corinthians 16:5), and he certainly would not fail to visit the capital, unless its gates were still shut against him. Members of the church of Thessalonica whose names are known are Jason, Gaius, Secundus, Aristarchus, and perhaps Demas. In post-apostolic times the gospel made rapid progress in Thessalonica, which became one of the bulwarks of Eastern Christendom, winning for itself the name of ‘the Orthodox City.’ It has now a population of 130,000, of whom 60,000 are Sephardic Jews, speaking a corrupt form of Spanish, called Ladino.

Literature.-W. M. Leake, Travels in Northern Greece , London, 1835; Murray’s Handbook to Greece , do., 1900, 822-833.

James Strahan.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

A town of Macedonia on the Thermaic gulf, now the gulf of Saloniki. Therma was its original name, which Cossander changed into Thessalonica in honour of his wife, Philip's daughter. It rises from the end of the basin at the head of the gulf up the declivity behind, presenting a striking appearance from the sea. After the battle of Pydna Thessalonica fell under Rome and was made capital of the second region of Macedonia. Afterward, when the four regions or governments were united in one province, Thessalonica became virtually the metropolis. Situated on the Via Ignatia which traversed the S. coast of Macedonia and Thrace, connecting thereby those regions with Rome, Thessalonica, with its harbour on the other hand connecting it commercially with Asia Minor, naturally took the leading place among the cities in that quarter. Paul was on the Via Ignatia at Neapolis and Philippi, Amphipolis and Apollonia ( Acts 16:11-40;  Acts 17:1), as well as at Thessalonica. The population of Saloniki is even now 60,000, of whom 10,000 are Jews.

Trade in all ages attracted the latter to Thessalonica, and their synagogue here was the starting point of Paul's evangelizing. Octavius Augustus rewarded its adhesion to his cause in the second civil war by making it "a free city" with a popular assembly ("the people") and "rulers of the city" (politarchs:  Acts 17:1;  Acts 17:5;  Acts 17:8); this political term is to be read still on an arch spanning the main street, from it we learn there were seven politarchs. Its commercial intercourse with the inland plains of Macedonia on the N., and on the S. with Greece by sea, adapted it admirably as a center from whence the gospel word "sounded out not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place" ( 1 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul visited T. on his second missionary tour. (See Paul and Jason on this visit.) Other Thessalonian Christians were Demas perhaps, Gaius ( Acts 19:29), Secundus, and Aristarchus ( Acts 20:4;  Acts 27:2;  Acts 19:29).

On the same night that the Jewish assault on Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas his guests took place, the latter two set out for Berea. Again Paul visited Thessalonica ( Acts 20:1-3), probably also after his first imprisonment at Rome ( 1 Timothy 1:3, in accordance with his hope,  Philippians 1:25-26;  Philippians 2:24). Thessalonica was the mainstay of Eastern Christianity in the Gothic invasion in the third century. To Thessalonica the Sclaves and the Bulgarians owed their conversion; from whence it was called "the orthodox city." It was taken by the Saracens in 904 A.D., by the Crusaders in 1185 A.D., and by the Turks in 1430; and the murder of the foreign consuls in 1876 had much to do with the last war of 1876-1877, between Russia and Turkey. Eustathius, the critic of the 12th century, belonged to Thessalonica. The main street still standing is the old Via Ignatia, running E. and W., as is shown by the two arches which span it, one at the E. the other at the W. end; on that at the E. end are figures in low relief representing the triumphs of a Roman emperor.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Thessaloni'ca. The original name of this city was Therma; and that part of the Macedonian shore, on which it was situated, retained through the Roman period, the designation of the Thermaic Gulf. Cassander, the son of Antipater, rebuilt and enlarged Therma, and named it after his wife, Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great. The name ever since, under various slight modifications, has been continuous, and the city itself has never ceased to be eminent. Saloniki is still the most important town of European Turkey, next after Constantinople. Strabo, in the first century, speaks of Thessalonica as the most populous city in Macedonia.

Visit of Paul. - St. Paul visited Thessalonica, (with Silas and Timothy), during his second missionary journey, and introduced Christianity there. The first scene of the apostle's work at Thessalonica was the synagogue.  Acts 17:2-3. It is stated that the ministrations among the Jews, continued for three weeks.  Acts 17:2. Not that we are obliged to limit to this time, the whole stay of the apostle at Thessalonica. A flourishing church was certainly formed there; and the Epistles show that its elements were more Gentile than Jewish. [For persecution and further history, See Paul . ]

Circumstances which led Paul to Thessalonica. - Three circumstances must here be mentioned, which illustrate, in an important manner, this visit, and this journey, as well as the two Epistles to the Thessalonians.

This was the chief station on the great Roman road called the Via Egnatia , which connected Rome with the whole region to the north of the Aegean Sea.

Placed as if was on this great road, and in connection with other important Roman ways, Thessalonica was an invaluable centre, for the spread of the gospel. In fact, it was nearly, if not quite, on a level with Corinth and Ephesus, in its share of the commerce of the Levant.

The circumstance noted in  Acts 17:1, that here was the synagogue of the Jews in this part of Macedonia, had evidently much to do with the apostle's plans, and also, doubtless, with his success. Trade would inevitably bring Jews to Thessalonica; and it is remarkable that they have, ever since, had a prominent place in the annals of the city.

Later ecclesiastical history. - During several centuries, this city was the bulwark, not simply of the later Greek empire, but of Oriental Christendom, and was largely instrumental, in the conversion of the Slavonians and Bulgarians. Thus, it received the designation of "the orthodox city;" and its struggles are very prominent, in the writings of the Byzantine historians.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]


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

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

After Alexander the Great established the Greek Empire (fourth century BC), the Greeks built many magnificent cities. One of these was Thessalonica in Alexander’s home state of Macedonia. When the Greek Empire was later replaced by the Roman, Macedonia was made a Roman province, with Thessalonica as its political centre. The city was on the main route from Rome to Asia Minor, and is still an important city today.

There is only one recorded occasion on which Paul visited Thessalonica. This was on his second missionary journey, when he founded the church there, despite much opposition from the Jews. The church consisted mainly of Gentiles ( Acts 17:1-7;  1 Thessalonians 1:9). Although Paul worked to help support himself while in Thessalonica ( 1 Thessalonians 2:9;  2 Thessalonians 3:7-8), he received additional support from another Macedonian church, Philippi ( Philippians 4:16).

The church continued to grow after Paul left, and within a short time had spread the gospel throughout the surrounding countryside ( 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8;  1 Thessalonians 2:13-14). An important man in the church at Thessalonica was Aristarchus, who later went with Paul to Rome and remained there during Paul’s imprisonment ( Acts 20:4;  Acts 27:1-2;  Colossians 4:10; Philem 24). (For an area map and for details of the two letters Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, see Thessalonians, Letters To The )

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Thessalonica ( Thĕs'Sa-Lo-Nî'Kah ). A city of Macedonia. It was in Paul's time a free city of the Romans, the capital and most populous city in Macedonia. Paul and Silas, in a.d. 58, came to Thessalonica from Philippi, which was 100 miles northeast. For at least three Sabbaths the apostles preached to their countrymen. A church was gathered, principally composed of Gentiles. At length the persecution became so violent as to drive the apostles away. Paul desired to revisit the church there, and sent Timothy to minister to them. Among his converts were Caius, Aristarchus, Secundus, and perhaps Jason.  Acts 17:1-13;  Acts 20:4;  Acts 27:2; comp.  Philippians 4:16;  2 Timothy 4:10. Paul wrote two epistles to the Thessalonian church from Corinth.  1 Thessalonians 1:1;  2 Thessalonians 1:1. The "rulers" of the city,  Acts 17:6;  Acts 17:8, are called, in the original, "politarchs." This is a peculiar term, not elsewhere found in the New Testament, but this very word appears in the inscription on a triumphal arch believed to have been erected after the battle of Philippi. The names of seven politarchs are given. During several centuries Thessalonica was an important centre of Christianity in the oriental church, and from it the Bulgarians and Slavonians were reached. The population now is about 80,000, of whom 30,000 are Jews and 10,000 Greeks.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [7]

THESSALONICA (modern Saloniki ). An important city of the Roman province Macedonia, situated on the Via Egnatia, the overland route from Italy to the E., and at the north-eastern corner of the Thermaic Gulf. Its buildings rose above one another in tiers on the slopes of the hills. The situation is in every respect admirable, and must have been early occupied. This city was founded about b.c. 315, and named after a stepsister of Alexander the Great. Its greatness under Macedonian rule was even extended under Roman rule. It became the capital of the Roman province Macedonia, constituted b.c. 146. It was made a ‘free city’ in b.c. 42 (  Acts 17:5 knows this fact), and was ruled by its own magistrates under the rather rare title ‘politarchs,’ who were 5 or 6 in number. There were many Jews here, as the possession of a synagogue shows (  Acts 17:1 ), and a number of proselytes (  Acts 17:4 ). The enemies of St. Paul raised a cry of treason, and a serious riot resulted. Some of Paul’s friends had to give security that this would not be repeated. This forced Paul to leave the city. Members of the church here were Jason, Gaius, Secundus, Aristarchus. See Thessalonians.

A. Souter.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

A city and seaport of the second part of Macedonia, at the head of the Thermaic gulf. When Emilius Paulus, after his conquest of Macedonia, divided the country into four districts, this city as made the capital of the second division, and was the station of a Roman governor and questor. It was anciently called Therma. It was inhabited by Greeks, Romans, and Jews, from among whom the apostle Paul gathered a numerous church. There was a large number of Jews resident in their city, where they had a synagogue, in which Paul, A. D. 52, preached to them on three successive Sabbaths. Some of the Jews determined to maltreat the apostle, and surrounded the house in which they believed he was lodging. The brethren, however, secretly led Paul and Silas out of the city, towards Berea, and they escaped from their enemies,  Acts 17:1-34 . Thessalonica, now called Saloniki, is at present a wretched town, but has a population of about 70,000 persons, one-third of whom are Jews.

When Paul left Macedonia for Athens and Corinth, he left behind him Timothy and Silas, at Thessalonica, that they might confirm those in the faith who had been converted under his ministry. He afterwards wrote to the church of the Thessalonians two epistles. See Paul .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

A large and populous city on the sea-coast of Macedonia. Cassander having enlarged it, named it after his wife Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great. Under the Romans it was a city of note, and was eventually made a free city and became the capital of Macedonia. It lay on one of the routes from Rome to the East, and became a great commercial centre. This naturally attracted Jews to the place, and they had a synagogue. When Paul had preached there, some Jews and many Greeks believed. It was on Paul's second and third missionary journeys that he visited them. He wrote the two Epistles to the saints there during his stay at Corinth of a year and a half ( Acts 18:11 ). It was for many years called Salonika, and was one of the most important cities in European Turkey. The city is now in Greece (Macedonia), the name has reverted to the ancient one in the form of Thessaloniki (alternatively Saloniki or Salonica ). Many Jews still reside there [1894].  Acts 17:1,11,13;  Acts 27:2;  Philippians 4:16;  2 Timothy 4:10 .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [10]

a celebrated city in Macedonia, and capital, of that kingdom, standing upon the Thesmaic Sea. Stephen of Byzantium says that it was improved and beautified by Philip, king of Macedon, and called Thessalonica in memory of the victory that he obtained over the Thessalians. Its old name was Thesma. The Jews had a synagogue here, and their number was considerable, Acts 17.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Acts 17:1-4 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Acts 17:5-10

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

See Thessalonia

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

thes - a - lṓ - nı̄´ka ( Θεσσαλονίκη , Thessalonı́kē , ethnic Θεσσαλονικεύς , Thessalonikeús ):

1. Position and Name:

One of the chief towns of Macedonia from Hellenistic times down to the present day. It lies in 40 degrees 40 minutes North latitude, and 22 degrees 50 minutes East longitude, at the northernmost point of the Thermaic Gulf (Gulf of Salonica), a short distance to the East of the mouth of the Axius ( Vardar ). It is usually maintained that the earlier name of Thessalonica was Therma or Therme, a town mentioned both by Herodotus (vii. 121 ff, 179 ff) and by Thucydides (i. 61; ii. 29), but that its chief importance dates from about 315 BC, when the Macedonian king Cassander, son of Antipater, enlarged and strengthened it by concentrating there the population of a number of neighboring towns and villages, and renamed it after his wife Thessalonica, daughter of   Philippians 2 and step-sister of Alexander the Great. This name, usually shortened since medieval times into Salonica or Saloniki, it has retained down to the present. Pliny, however, speaks of Therma as still existing side by side with Thessalonica ( Nh , iv. 36), and it is possible that the latter was an altogether new foundation, which took from Therma a portion of its inhabitants and replaced it as the most important city on the Gulf.

2. History:

Thessalonica rapidly became populous and wealthy. In the war between Perseus and the Romans it appears as the headquarters of the Macedonian navy (Livy xliv. 10) and when, after the battle of Pydna (168 BC), the Romans divided the conquered territory into four districts, it became the capital of the second of these (Livy xlv. 29), while later, after the organization of the single Roman province of Macedonia in 146 BC, it was the seat of the governor and thus practically the capital of the whole province. In 58 Bc C icero spent the greater part of his exile there, at the house of the quaestor Plancius ( Pro Plancio 41,99; Epistle Ad Att , iii. 8-21). In the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, Thessalonica took the senatorial side and formed one of Pompey's chief bases (49-48 BC), but in the final struggle of the republic, six years later, it proved loyal to Antony and Octavian, and was rewarded by receiving the status and privileges of a "free city" (Pliny, Nh , iv. 36). Strabo, writing in the reign of Augustus, speaks of it as the most populous town in Macedonia and the metropolis of the province (vii. 323,330), and about the same time the poet Antipater, himself a native of Thessalonica, refers to the city as "mother of all Macedon" (Jacobs, Anthol. Graec ., II, p. 98, number 14); in the 2nd century of our era Lucian mentions it as the greatest city of Macedonia ( Asinus , 46). It was important, not only as a harbor with a large import and export trade, but also as the principal station on the great Via Egnatia, the highway from the Adriatic to the Hellespont.

3. Paul's Visit:

Paul visited the town, together with Silas and Timothy, on his 2nd missionary journey. He had been at Philippi, and traveled thence by the Egnatian Road, passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia on the way ( Acts 17:1 ). He found at Thessalonica a synagogue of the Jews, in which for three successive Sabbaths he preached the gospel, basing his message upon the types and prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures ( Acts 17:2 ,  Acts 17:3 ). Some of the Jews became converts and a considerable number of proselytes and Greeks, together with many women of high social standing ( Acts 17:4 ). Among these converts were in all probability Aristarchus and Secundus, natives of Thessalonica, whom we afterward find accompanying Paul to Asia at the close of his 3rd missionary journey ( Acts 20:4 ). The former of them was, indeed, one of the apostle's most constant companions; we find him with Paul at Ephesus ( Acts 19:29 ) and on his journey to Rome ( Acts 27:2 ), while in two of his Epistles, written during his captivity, Paul refers to Aristarchus as still with him, his fellow-prisoner ( Colossians 4:10;  Philippians 1:24 ). Gaius, too, who is mentioned in conjunction with Aristarchus, may have been a Thessalonian ( Acts 19:29 ). How long Paul remained at Thessalonica on his 1st visit we cannot precisely determine; certainly we are not to regard his stay there as confined to three weeks, and Ramsay suggests that it probably extended from December, 50 AD, to May, 51 Ad ( St. Paul the Traveler , 228). In any case, we learn that the Philippines sent him assistance on two occasions during the time which he spent there ( Philippians 4:16 ), although he was "working night and day" to maintain himself ( 1 Thessalonians 2:9;  2 Thessalonians 3:8 ). Paul, the great missionary strategist, must have seen that from no other center could Macedonia be permeated with the gospel so effectively as from Thessalonica ( 1 Thessalonians 1:8 ).

But his success roused the jealousy of the Jews, who raised a commotion among the dregs of the city populace ( Acts 17:5 ). An attack was made on the house of Jason, with whom the evangelists were lodging, and when these were not found Jason himself and some of the other converts were dragged before the magistrates and accused of harboring men who had caused tumult throughout the Roman world, who maintained the existence of another king, Jesus, and acted in defiance of the imperial decrees. The magistrates were duly alive to the seriousness of the accusation, but, since no evidence was forthcoming of illegal practices on the part of Jason or the other Christians, they released them on security ( Acts 17:5-9 ). Foreseeing further trouble if Paul should continue his work in the town, the converts sent Paul and Silas (and possibly Timothy also) by night to Berea, which lay off the main road and is referred to by Cicero as an out-of-the-way town ( oppidum devium: in Pisonem 36). The Berean Jews showed a greater readiness to examine the new teaching than those of Thessalonica, and the work of the apostle was more fruitful there, both among Jews and among Greeks (  Acts 17:10-13 ). But the news of this success reached the Thessalonian Jews and inflamed their hostility afresh. Going to Berea, they raised a tumult there also, and made it necessary for Paul to leave the town and go to Athens ( Acts 17:14 ,  Acts 17:15 ).

Several points in this account are noteworthy as illustrating the strict accuracy of the narrative of the Acts. Philippi was a Roman town, military rather than commercial; hence, we find but few Jews there and no synagogue; the magistrates bear the title of praetors ( Acts 16:20 ,  Acts 16:22 ,  Acts 16:35 ,  Acts 16:36 ,  Acts 16:38 the Revised Version margin) and are attended by lictors (  Acts 16:35 ,  Acts 16:38 the Revised Version margin); Paul and Silas are charged with the introduction of customs which Romans may not observe (  Acts 16:21 ); they are beaten with rods ( Acts 16:22 ) and appeal to their privileges as Roman citizens (16:37, 38). At Thessalonica all is changed. We are here in a Greek commercial city and a seaport, a "free city," moreover, enjoying a certain amount of autonomy and its own constitution. Here we find a large number of resident Jews and a synagogue. The charge against Paul is that of trying to replace Caesar by another king; the rioters wish to bring him before "the people," i.e. the popular assembly characteristic of Greek states, and the magistrates of the city bear the Greek name of politarchs ( Acts 17:5-9 ). This title occurs nowhere in Greek literature, but its correctness is proved beyond possibility of question by its occurrence in a number of inscriptions of this period, which have come to light in Thessalonica and the neighborhood, and will be found collected in Ajt (1898, 598) and in M. G. Dimitsas, (Μακεδονία , Makedonia ), 422 ff. Among them the most famous is the inscription engraved on the arch which stood at the western end of the main street of Salonica and was called the Vardar Gate. The arch itself, which was perhaps erected to commemorate the victory of Philippi, though some authorities assign it to a later date, has been removed, and the inscription is now in the British Museum ( CIG , 1967; Leake, Northern Greece , III, 236; Le Bas, Voyage archeologique , number 1357; Vaux, Trans. Royal Sec. Lit ., VIII, 528). This proves that the politarchs were six in number, and it is a curious coincidence that in it occur the names Sosipater, Gaius and Secundus, which are berate by three Macedonian converts, of whom the first two were probably Thessalonians, the last certainly.

4. The Thessalonian Church:

The Thessalonian church was a strong and flourishing one, composed of Gentiles rather than of Jews, if we may judge from the tone of the two Epistles addressed to its members, the absence of quotations from and allusions to the Old Testament, and the phrase "Ye turned unto God from idols" ( 1 Thessalonians 1:9; compare also  1 Thessalonians 2:14 ). These, by common consent the earliest of Paul's Epistles, show us that the apostle was eager to revisit Thessalonica very soon after his enforced departure: "once and again" the desire to return was strong in him, but "Satan hindered" him ( 1 Thessalonians 2:18 ) - a reference probably to the danger and loss in which such a step would involve Jason and the other leading converts. But though himself prevented from continuing his work at Thessalonica, he sent Timothy from Athens to visit the church and confirm the faith of the Christians amid their hardships and persecutions ( 1 Thessalonians 3:2-10 ). The favorable report brought back by Timothy was a great comfort to Paul, and at the same time intensified his longing to see his converts again ( 1 Thessalonians 3:10 ,  1 Thessalonians 3:11 ). This desire was to be fulfilled more than once. Almost certainly Paul returned there on his 3rd missionary journey, both on his way to Greece ( Acts 20:1 ) and again while he was going thence to Jerusalem ( Acts 20:3 ); it is on this latter occasion that we hear of Aristarchus and Secundus accompanying him ( Acts 20:4 ). Probably Paul was again in Thessalonica after his first imprisonment. From the Epistle to the Philippians ( Acts 1:26;  Acts 2:24 ), written during his captivity, we learn that his intention was to revisit Philippi if possible, and  1 Timothy 1:3 records a subsequent journey to Macedonia, in the course of which the apostle may well have made a longer or shorter stay at Thessalonica. The only other mention of the town in the New Testament occurs in   2 Timothy 4:10 , where Paul writes that Demas has forsaken him and has gone there. Whether Demas was a Thessalonian, as some have supposed, cannot be determined.

5. Later History:

For centuries the city remained one of the chief strongholds of Christianity, and it won for itself the title of "the Orthodox City," not only by the tenacity and vigor of its resistance to the successive attacks of various barbarous races, but also by being largely responsible for their conversion to Christianity.

From the middle of the 3century Ad it was entitled "metropolis and colony," and when Diocletian (284-305) divided Macedonia into two provinces, Thessalonica was chosen as the capital of the first of these. It was also the scene in 390 Ad of the famous massacre ordered by Theodosius the Great, for which Ambrose excluded that emperor for some months from the cathedral at Milan. In 253 the Goths had made a vain attempt to capture the city, and again in 479 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, found it so strong and well prepared that he did not venture to attack it. From the 6th to the 9th century it was engaged in repeated struggles against Avars, Slavonians and Bulgarians, whose attacks it repelled with the utmost difficulty. Finally, in 904 Ad it was captured by the Saracens, who, after slaughtering a great number of the inhabitants and burning a considerable portion of the city, sailed away carrying with them 22,000 captives, young men, women and children. In 1185, when the famous scholar Eustathius was bishop, the Normans under Tancred stormed the city, and once more a general massacre took place. In 1204 Thessalonica became the center of a Latin kingdom under Boniface, marquis of Monferrat, and for over two centuries it passed from hand to hand, now ruled by Latins now by Greeks, until in 1430 it fell before the sultan Amurath II. After that time it remained in the possession of the Turks, and it was, indeed, the chief European city of their dominions, with the exception of Constantinople, until it was recaptured by the Greeks in the Balkan war of 1912. Its population includes some 32,000 Turks, 47,000 Jews (mostly the descendants of refugees from Spain) and 16,000 Greeks and other Europeans. The city is rich in examples of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and art, and possesses, in addition to a large number of mosques, 12 churches and 25 synagogues.


The fullest account of the topography of Thessalonica and its history, especially from the 5th to the 15th century, is that of Tafel, De Thessalonica eiusque agro. Dissertatio geographica , Berlin, 1839; compare also the Histories of Gibbon and Finlay. A description of the town and its ancient remains is given by Leake, Travels in Northern Greece , III, 235 ff; Cousinery, Voyage dans la Macedoine , I, 23 ff; Heuzey, Mission archeol. de Macedoine , 272 ff; and other travelers. The inscriptions, mostly in Greek, are collected in Dimitsas, ( Μακεδονία , Makedonı́a ), 421 ff.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

Thessaloni´ca, now called Salonichi, is still a city of about sixty or seventy thousand inhabitants, situated on the present gulf of Salonichi, which was formerly called Sinus Thermaicus, at the mouth of the River Echedorus. It was the residence of a praeses, the principal city of the second part of Macedonia, and was by later writers even styled metropolis. Under the Romans it became great, populous, and wealthy. It had its name from Thessalonice, wife of Cassander, who built the city on the site of the ancient Thermae, after which town the Sinus Thermaicus was called. Thessalonica was 267 Roman miles east of Apollonia and Dyrrachium, 66 miles from Amphipolis, 89 from Philippi, 433 west from Byzantium, and 150 south of Sophia. A great number of Jews were living at Thessalonica in the time of the apostle Paul, and also many Christian converts, most of whom seem to have been either Jews by birth or proselytes before they embraced Christianity by the preaching of Paul. Jews are still very numerous in this town, and possess much influence there. They are unusually exclusive, keeping aloof from strangers. The apostolical history of the place is given in the preceding article. The present town stands on the acclivity of a steep hill, rising at the northeastern extremity of the bay. It presents an imposing appearance from the sea, with which the interior by no means corresponds. The principal antiquities are the propylaea of the hippodrome, the rotunda, and the triumphal arches of Augustus and Constantine.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Thessalonica'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.