Thessaloniki, Greek city that could have been known as ‘Madre di Balkania,’ turns back on its rich multiethnic past

Kathimerini and Spyros Payiatakis are to be congratulated for the fine and evocative article, «St Demetrios needed urgently,» that appeared on October 27. It may well be that it is not St Demetrios who is silent but rather the very «Tyche» of a city that in antiquity and then again for some 500 years until recent times, was a rich, multiethnic, multireligious, multilingual and multicultural metropolis. It could well have been called «Madre di Balkania,» which is what perhaps stirred such nationalistic fervor as to reduce it to the status of a minor city of lesser importance during the fragmentation of the Ottoman state. Thessaloniki when great and truly alive was the very sum of its parts – and all of them quite different and at times at odds with each other. The city perhaps now feels embittered at having been reduced to simply «a Greek city» among others – just as Crete may for having been reduced from the «Great Island» to merely «one of the Greek islands.» It is all a question of identity and we all know the consequences of the denial of such. As an aside, mention might be made of the fact that many of the stones that now form the shell of St Demetrios Cathedral are from the Jewish cemetery… which is certainly another story. NICHOLAS STAVROULAKIS, Director Emeritus the Jewish Museum of Greece, Curatorial Adviser to the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.