GALERIUS AND DEMETRIOS
-text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design Florin Stancu-
It is not quite comfortable
to walk through the historical Capital of Macedonia,
Thessaloniki or Salonica,
It is much better to feel the ground under your feet,
to advance among ruins, old monuments and new buildings,
to look for a part of Via Egnatia
(the road paved by Romans in the 2nd century BC
from Dyrrachium near the Adriatic Sea to Byzantium near Bosphorus),
and to lower to the White Tower,
the symbol of the city.
Thessaloniki has a fascinating history,
with many stages:
founded by the relatives of Alexander the Great,
conquered by Romans,
then becoming Byzantine,
conquered by crusaders,
bought by Venetians,
conquered by Ottomans
(and becoming the main economic-cultural centre
of the Sephardic Jews),
re-conquered forever in 1912 by Greeks
during the Balkan wars…
Cyril and Methodius started
to Christianise the Slavic populations,
and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk started
to replace the Ottoman Empire with modern (and laic) Turkey…
Also in Thessaloniki
Emperor Galerius built a triumphal arch on the Egnatia Street
to celebrate his victories against the Neo-Persians (the Sassanid Empire).
Galerius had a Dacian origin,
ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire
in between 305 and 311,
and made his residence in Thessaloniki.
He initially persecuted the Christians,
but in 311 he gave an edict for their tolerance,
two years before the first Christian Emperor,
Constantine the Great.
Galerius’ moral semi-whirligig
was reflected in the destiny of another building connected to his reign.
Initially conceived as a his mausoleum,
the Rotunda became a Christian church after his death.
Then, during the Ottoman occupation,
the Rotunda became even a mosque until 1912,
with a minaret added by Muslims.
But today the Rotunda is considered
one of the most important old Christian monuments.
The most famous Christian adept
who was martyred during Galerius’ reign
was Demetrios, a brave officer in the Roman army.
the Christians sanctified him
and, in his memory, they built a church (4th century),
which was rebuilt in the 7th century,
remaining as another important monument of Roman-Byzantine architecture.
And maybe Demetrios’ sacrifice was the main factor
which convinced the Daco-Roman leader Galerius
to radically change his attitude
and to become the first emperor who officially prepared the world
for the Christian Age.
Where could I find a similitude
to your so changeable passion?
Maybe just in the
Later, on a close hill,
I had the chance to see a beautiful sunset
Then the planet Venus appeared
(or Hesperus for the antique Greeks).
However I preferred to watch the Evening Star
not as the bringer of night,
but as a late soldier
of the day.
© 2014 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)