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Thessalonica In 51 AD

A reconstruction of the Greek city in its New Testament days.

Historical Summary

Thessalonica: 316 BC – 51 AD

The short version:

During the many years of wars that took place after the death of the Great Alexander (in 323 BC), only one man was successfully able to rule (and eventually also to call himself King of) Alexander's homeland itself - Macedonia. The man's name was Cassander. After eliminating his rivals, becoming guardian of the toddler King (Alex IV), and securing the loyalty of the nobility under his rule, Cassander needed to strengthen his future hopes at claiming the throne. To do this, he married the only surviving member of the Royal Bloodline, a daughter of Philip the Great, and half-sister to Great Alexander. The woman's name was Thessalonike. They married in 316 BC.

In 317 BC, when Thessalonike and her stepmother (Cassander's last rivals) were beseiged for a year, the future King began making plans for his new country. Cassander sent his troops to strengthen old cities and to build new ones in strategic places. The most important new city, in the most strategic location, was just being finished when Cassander finally took Thessalonike as his captive, and then as his bride. Perhaps as a wedding present, he named the new city after her.

Cassander built Thessalonica on the site of an ancient Thracian settlement called Therme (which means ‘hot’). The site was especially valuable because of several choice features that had to do with its location, not the least of which was a large natural harbor, deep at the shoreline, where Cassander used to increase trade with the inland areas, and for basing a sizeable portion of his fleet. Using both Macedonian and Athenian architects, Cassander gave the old village gates, walls, a fortress, temples, a gym, stadium, theater, and all the special features necessary to be called a city in the world of their day.

The new city grew in importance and prospered, barring periods of conflict, for over a century. When the Romans finally occupied all of Greece (after their second invasion, in 168) they soon noticed the perfect location and harbor of Thessalonica, and made it the capital of their new province. By 140 a new Roman road, the Via Egnatia, was built running right past the city, connecting the traffic of land trade and armies between two major parts of the Mediterranean seas. The Romans kept peace, and the city grew in size and in (relative) prosperity. Italians, Jews and Macedonian-Egyptians all moved to the city, to share opportunities, and wealth (such as it was).

In the first century of Roman Occupation, the legions made peace in the lands north and east of Macedonia, while the Roman Governors based in Thessalonica continuously siphoned much of the wealth of the lands of all Greece, and gave it to Rome, and Italians. The dying Republic fought two Civil Wars on Greek soil. Brutus, who killed Caesar, Governed Macedonia once; Thessalonica sided with his enemy, Octavian. Octavian became the first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, and established the true “Pax Romana”. The Governors stopped stealing so much from the Greeks, and kept Macedonia safe and at peace. In Thessalonica, trade, population, and prosperity again were enabled to grow.

In the 83rd year after Augustus’ rule began, his nephew Claudius was on the throne, and a new type of religion was introducing itself to the West. In January of 51 AD, two Jews from Palestine, calling themselves followers of “the Christ”, walked into Thessalonica. In that cosmopolitan city, as in so many others, Paul and Silas would manage to turn that whole world upside down… for three months! Just before the spring thaws, the apostles were forced to leave town, but they left behind something amazing.

The story that needs to be told is the story of that group of people who listened to Paul and believed in his Lord for the three short months he and Silas preached there (with Timothy of Asia). It is those people, existing, believing, and gathering, who truly enacted the greatest change ever in all Western History (along with believers in all of the churches): the first century believers of Thessalonica… after Paul left them.

It is THAT story which needs to be told.

The story of the Church in Thessalonica.


Input from Anonymous Anonymous :

I am doing a paper, currenty on the book of 1 Thessalonians and I have found your information very useful. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008  
Input from Anonymous Anonymous :

I'm an adult Sunday School teacher getting ready to teach through the book of 1 Thessalonians and this historical summary has been very helpful. Thanks!

Saturday, December 06, 2008  
Input from Blogger Watchman on the Wall :

Well written brief, sir. I am teaching on "Are You a Thessalonian?" on Sabbath morrow, and I came across your website to obtain a short history of the Thessalonians.

Keep up the good work!

Friday, July 31, 2009  
Input from Anonymous Jennifer :

Hello! I am a Bible School student at Apostolic Bible Institute in St. Paul, MN and I wanted to tell you that your information has been very helpful when doing my research paper on the history of the Thessalonican church! Much Appreciated. :)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010  
Input from Anonymous research paper :

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010  
Input from Anonymous Anonymous :

Good work and lots of it. However I am surprised. Why do you say three months when it says three sabbaths in Scritpure. Perhpas there was a period of time beyond the three sabbaths but you do not substantiate. But even more intriguing is how you know nothing of the Jewish character. They had a synagogue and a large body of God-fearers, devout proselytes, then there were chief women and finally the converted idol worshippers, many! This suggests many features which are not included in your story at all I fear. The evangelism was of all the fulfilled prophecies about the Christ and how Jesus answered them all. They "sounded out" throughout the region, not just to the churches, etc.... It would be pleasing if you upgraded with proper Bible facts.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010  
Input from Anonymous Anonymous :

I do agree with anonymous from Wed June 2, 2010. You mention 3 months, when it was 3 Sabbaths, they were there. I'm glad someone else caught this. Great info, would warn anyone reading however; to always research what you read, to clarify. Don't take one blog as gospel. Anyone is as fallible as another. God bless!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012  
Input from Anonymous CEBurke :

In the book of Acts chpt 17, Paul is going to the synagogue for three Sabbaths. If you look at all of the activity that took place while Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica, you can not help but see they had to be there longer than three weeks(Sabbaths) Check out that the Philippians sent two different financial gifts to Paul while he was inn Thessalonica. Check the distance between cities and time to go back and forth and it would be longer than three weeks...Paul and Silas had to have been in Thessalonica longer than three weeks)Sabbaths).

Saturday, May 26, 2012  
Input from Blogger Bill Heroman :

The estimate of three months is based on a larger study of Pauline Chronology. A very rough overview of that reasoning is here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012  
Input from Blogger Unknown :

Thanks a lot sir for making this study.i have been wondering why Demas would leave to Thessalonica after having loved this present world.i now understand,thanks

Monday, November 25, 2013  
Input from Anonymous Anonymous :

First, I would like to say thanks bill for your work. in Thessalonians Paul reminds us to continue to love one another. I wonder, after reading some of the commits were they out of love, are you a help to Bill, or did you encourage him. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Thursday, December 05, 2013  
Input from Blogger THEOparadox :


Thank you for all of this. I am preparing a Sermon on I Thessalonians and this article was helpful!

Blessings in Christ,
Derek Ashton

Tuesday, January 10, 2017  
Input from Blogger Jaxon Oakley :

Nice one.

Friday, December 15, 2017  
Input from Blogger Jaxon Oakley :

Historical summary has been written for the commemoration of the things and all commodities for the humans. Yes, the wrath of the history is done and stated for the completion of the things and goals for the students of the history and past events for the people.

Saturday, December 16, 2017  
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Sunday, December 04, 2022  

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