Author: Vasiliki Kartsiakli [archaeologist MA / certified tourist guide]
The Thermaic Gulf is the reason why Thessaloniki has always been an important commercial, financial and military center. Travelers, traders and shipping crew sailed across the seas for centuries and experienced the beauty of the city from the side of the sea. Who could think that the bottom of the gulf would be a revelation about the city’s history? The story begins with the mermaid Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander the Great, hiding in its waters and always asking the sailors and captains if her brother is alive. Except this legend, there is evidence to prove the history of the city not only on the streets but also at the bottom of the Thermaic gulf. In the 10th c. Ioannis Kameniatis, originated from Thessaloniki, describes us the moment that the ships of the Saracens pirates approach the bay of Salonika. The walls near the sea are in a bad condition and shortly before the attack, Petronas, the delegate from the emperor, decides to build an extraordinary underwater dam. This dam was different and unusual because Petronas used tombstones from Thessaloniki’s cemeteries and sank them in the Thermaic gulf in order to build it. The dam was never completed and the city fell for the first time in 904 AD. What a secret hidden deep in the sea!But certainly not the only one!
According to an another story, the Guadalquivir cargo ship which was sailing from Marseille to Odessa via Thessaloniki, sank on April 28 in 1903 when a group of Bulgarian anarchists decided to blow it up. The passengers were desperately crying for help but luckily they were rescued from boats that took them to the land while the French steamship is still hidden in the Thermaic gulf.
The sinking of the Fey Bullet warship also took place in these waters. Admiral Votsis sank it, terrifying this way the Turks and also contributing to Thessaloniki’s liberation in 1912. A small part of the warship still exists hidden in the sea of Thermaikos, while it is said that the Greek flag on the White Tower, the symbol of the city, is hanging on the ship’s mast.
The Thermaic gulf also hides secrets from the First World War. The German airplane Zepelin LZ.85 was downed on the sea from the Allies in May 1916 after having caused extensive damages. Later, after it was assembled, it was exposed inside the White Tower and the Thessalonians would take pictures of it in a daily basis. There are also stories during the World War II about the German army sinking the enemy ships in the bottom of Thermaikos while leaving. The most recent is the sinking of the boat of Epanomi. The beach was named after the boat which still exists rusty but impressive surrounded by many mysterious stories.
Who would have imagined that a gulf could hide the whole history of a city?