The Biggest Cities of Greece: Athens and Thessaloniki

The Biggest Cities of Greece: Athens vs Thessaloniki

How many times have you visited Athens or Thessaloniki? Maybe you haven’t at all, but even if you did, let us ask you this.

What do you actually know about these two cities? Why did you visit them? Was it because of their charm, the people, the history, the culture, or just because it was the cheapest destination to choose? Whatever the reason, and either you’ve visited the cities before or not – today, you’ll be surprised of how little you knew about the biggest cities of Greece.

Greek Map

Geographic Facts

First, we need to find out where the two biggest cities are situated in Greece. From this point, we can understand their historical as well as their cultural differences.

Athens Thessaloniki
Status
Capital of Greece
Second-largest city
Region
Central Greece
Central Macedonia
Administrative region
Attica
Thessaloniki
Population
664,046
315,196
Area
38,96 km2
19,31 km2

Name Giving

Have you ever wondered how our ancestors named the cities we live in today, or do you think that it was an easy decision to do?

Well, we know that Thessaloniki and especially Athens had a lot of decision-making problems. In fact, if for example Athens wouldn’t have taken the name it has nowadays, Ancient Greek history would look completely different today. So, read the story carefully and for the best experience, try to position yourself in the situation explained.¬†Tell us in the comments below how you felt.

Athens
Athens was founded around 6000 BC making it one of the oldest cities in the whole world.
akropolis_by_leo_von_klenze
Kekropas_father_of_athens
Before the name “Athens”, the city was named after the King Kekropas (“Kekropia”), whose body was half man and half snake.
One special day in the kingdom of the twelve Greek gods on the Olympus, Zeus asked the eleven gods to choose their favourite city to protect.
twelve_gods_olympus
Athena and Poseidon
While the other gods found their favourite cities, the goddess Athena and the god Poseidon were both interested in Kekropia (= Athens).
Zeus then suggested a solution for the two gods. They will have to convince the king of the city.
God Zeus
Akropolis
So it happened! The other day Athena and Poseidon headed to Acropolis to meet the king Kekropas.
The king listened to their intentions and told them that they will have to convince the population by offering a special gift to the city. The best gift will be the winner god to protect the city.
People in ancient Athens
Poseidon on sea
Poseidon, as the god of the Sea, hit his trident on the ground and a stream of gurgling water appeared, building a well.
After the water appeared, he promised to the people that he would always protect their ships on the seas, and he could also build a lake for the entertainment of men. Men got immediately excited about the gift.
Ancient Greek Ships
Sacred Athena olive tree in Akropolis
Athena in her turn, as goddess of wisdom, moved her finger growing an olive tree beside the well of Poseidon.
With this gift Athena suggested that the people could make oil out of olives, which will offer food, could be used for ceremonial purposes and it could make them a lot of money when selling it.
olive_oil_process
Statue of the goddess Athena inside the Parthenon ancient Athens
It was time for the people to vote. All men voted the gift of Poseidon and all women voted the gift of Athena. Because there were more women than men in the city, the gift of Athena won and she became the protector of the city.
The city was named after the goddess Athena – “Athenai”.
Poseidon got so angry with the results that he cursed the city by telling them he would flood whole Attica.
Angry Poseidon
twelve_gods_olympus
Zeus couldn’t accept this behavior, so he let the gods on Olympus vote too.
Again, all gods voted the gift of Poseidon and all goddesses the gift of Athena. There were again more females than males, so Athena won again.
But because the now called “Athenians” didn’t want Poseidon on their bad side, they honored him with a temple beside the seas – in Sounio.
temple_in_the_cape_of_sounion
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon.
Cassander King of Macedon
Thessalonike of Macedon
His wife was called Thessalonike, and she was the half-sister of Alexander the Great, which makes her the daughter of the great King Philip II of Macedon.
King Philip II wanted to commemorate his victory over the Phocians with the help of Thessalian horsemen.
King Philip II of Macedon
Ancient Thessalonica by Roman Rule
As a result, he named his daughter¬† and the city “Thessalonike”, which in Greek means “victory of the Thessalians”.

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