I.n the heart of Thessaloniki, the second capital of the Byzantine Empire, archaeologists discovered in 2008 the city’s central intersection, dating from the fourth to the ninth centuries AD, in a surprisingly good state of preservation. On the 1500 square meter excavation area, which was uncovered in the course of the construction work for a subway station, there is a 77 meter long street paved with marble slabs, a monumental gateway, the pillars of which are still more than two meters high public space and remains of buildings for economic activities, including goldsmiths’ workshops. Even today, twelve centuries later, goldsmiths still go about their business there. This main street, which leads from the Golden Gate in the west over the triumphal arch of Emperor Galerius to the Kassandreotischer Tor in the east, runs parallel to the Via Egnatia, which once connected the Adriatic Sea with Constantinople.
In order to ensure the continuation of the underground construction, the conservative government of Greece ordered in 2013 that the complex should be dismantled, removed and only returned later. Two years after the change of government in 2015, the left-wing government revised this decision: The antiquities should remain in place, the station should only be built after the rest of the subway line was completed. When the Conservatives came back to power in 2019, they refused to implement this – technically feasible – plan. Cultural and environmental organizations, on the other hand, litigated at the highest administrative court.