Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece with a population of 1,000,000 inhabitants, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It stretches over twelve kilometers in a bowl formed by low hills facing a bay that opens into the Gulf Thermaikos. It was founded about 315 B.C., on a site of old prehistoric settlements going back to 2300 B.C., by Cassander, King of Macedonia, and was named after his wife, Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander The Great. Since then, Thessaloniki has become the chief city of Macedonia and its most important commercial port. In Roman times it was visited by Saint Paul, who preached the new religion, and who later addressed his two well-known epistles (the oldest written documents of Christian literature) to the Christians of Thessaloniki.
The modern era of material and cultural development in Thessaloniki dates from its liberation in 1912, when Thessaloniki became the capital city of Northern Greece. The Ministry of Northern Greece, the Cathedral, the Court of Justice, in addition to other major government institutions, are situated today in the city. The town has today two quite distinct sectors: The "old town", continuously undergoing reconstruction, and the modern sector, whose many modern buildings are examples of advanced architecture.
In addition to the University, there are numerous institutions that contribute to the academic and cultural life of the city. Among them are the Macedonian University, The Archeological and Byzantine museums, the Folklore museum, the State Conservatory, Theatres and Orchestras, the Society of Macedonian Studies, the Institute for Balkan Studies, and other cultural and artistic organisations.
Today Thessaloniki is a thriving city and one of the most important trade and communications centres in the Mediterranean. This is evident from its financial and commercial activities, its port with its special Free Zone, which provides facilities to the other Balkan countries, its international airport, its important industrial complex, its annual International Trade Fair, etc.