Thessaloniki Short Stories
By The Honest Explorers
The Bewitched Gate of Thessaloniki
Have you ever heard the story of the stolen Elwin marbles – The Caryatids – of the Athenian acropolis? Well, this is the story of the stolen jewel from Thessaloniki. Located right below the ruins of the modern day Roman Agora in Thessaloniki you will find a small playground. However, on the same spot, all the way until 1864, one would be able to admire the charm of the Encantadas.
As per usual, many historical places in Thessaloniki, including the name of the city itself, are known by many names. That is the case due to the multicultural character of the city: the many traditions followed, the many flavors and aromas, the many religions worshipped and the many languages spoken.
Hence, the Sephardic Jews called the gate Las Incantadas in Ladino, the Greek called it Idols, the Turk called it Suret-maleh (angel figures) and the foreign visitors Enchanted.
The gate itself dates back to the 2nd century A.C.E and it was the most recognizable landmark in the city before it was stolen and the White Tower became the new face of Thessaloniki.
On the top of the gate, the visitors and locals were able to lay eyes on the 8 Caryatids that decorated the gate:
The Gate was originally one of the entrances to the Roman Forum (Agora). However, things got a bit messy during the Ottoman times. In the pictures below you see that the gate became part of the yard of a Jewish merchant, Liatsis Adritis, in Rogos (Jewish) district.
At the balcony we see the wife and children of Liatsis Adritis, by the steps his mother, and in the middle are positioned Liatsis Adritis himself with the ambassador of Britain Petros Paradeisos along with a servant boy. At the corner stand the artist of the painting – James Stuard, an architect named Revett and the translator/diplomatic assistant of the ambassador.
Fun fact: the middle window in the background of the pictures belongs to the house of the family of, the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to the legend, Alexander the great invited the king of Thrace and his wife to Thessaloniki. The Queen fall in love this Alexander and the two became intimate. When the king of Thrace was informed of this misdoing he got extremely jealous and hatred grew within him. In his anger, the king of Thrace ordered his wizard (Yes, he had a wizard… It is a legend guys…, Okay?) put a spell in the corridor so that whoever walks there at night will be transform into stone.
Alexander, was informed of the conspiracy and he never left his room that night. The Queen, however, was eager to see Alexander and she sneaked into the corridors at night. Behind her, the king and his guards were spying on her. At the end, it was he, the Queen and the guards who fall victim of the spell. They were transformed into stone and became the famous Incantadas.
Clearly the legend is a bit off. First of all, Thessaloniki did not exist as a city at the time of Alexander the Great. The city was founded by Cassander in 315 B.C.E. – Alexander died in 323. This is a common mistake shared by many articles I found online. This legend refers to a king named Alexander but not Alexander the Great.
The fate of the Gate
In 1864, so-called archaeologist Emmanuel Miller by the order of Napoleon III, took permission by the Ottoman authorities to dissemble the gate, loaded it in a cargo ship named ‘La Muette’ and transferred it to France. Today the Caryatides of Thessaloniki adorn the Louvre museum in Paris.
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