Thessaloniki Short Stories
Where is this Hippodrome Already?
By The Honest Explorer
The Hippodrome of Thessaloniki
Today i’m going to share one of my favourite stories from Thessaloniki. There is drama, action, politics, religion and revenge. This is a story that put the legend of an emperor on the line and one that puts the honorary title Great to shame.
Let’s start with the basics. Where is the hippodrome? Is it still intact or was it destroyed? Unfortunately, the Hippodrome is no more and that’s why you cannot find it anywhere. However, if you stay over for a minute and will learn a very interesting story that justifies the hippodrome’s absence.
The Triggering Event
Our story begins in the late 4th century A.C.E. The most popular event in the city was the chariot races and the most popular athlete a guy by the name Jason – not the one from Greek mythology (Dah …). During the same period, in Thessaloniki we find a number of Gothic soldiers. They have two main functions: a) Be the guards of the city and b) collect taxes . . .
You can easily imagine that these fellas were not popular in Thessaloniki. I mean, seriously . . . Jokes aside . . . The locals despised them . . .
In the glorious year 390 A.C.E., the scene was set. Great celebrations were prepared in the Hippodrome and everybody was excited to see their favorite champion competing. However, 2 minutes before the beginning of the games, Jason was accused of homosexuality and for that reason he was banned from the games. The winner of the race was Butheric, He was the Gothic champion and magister militum (top level military officer) of Illiricum, which included Thessaloniki.
The spectators went into a frenzy . . . Like modern day hooligans, they jumped in the stadium, they beat the guards and they killed a dozen of them including Butheric himself.
The response of the emperor was brutal. New games were organized but before they had a change to begin, the gates of the hippodrome were blocked, the army took over the building and in a matter of hours they butchered about 7,000 locals. Men, women and children. People involved in the previous rebellion and innocents were all killed alike.
To be fair, Theodosios (later known as the Great – as in the Great Christian), immediately regretted his decision. He gave a second order to NOT go through with the massacre but it was already too late. The did was done. . . In my opinion, and I want to clarify this as much as possible – this is only an opinion – this massacre was, also, a political message. A political statement to the non-Christian populations (who were the great majority by about 90%) to convert to Christianity or else. Afterall, Christians did not attend spectacles such as the hippodrome races. The 7000 victims of Theodosios’ revenge were pagan.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read through these line. For more stories check out more of my posts here. If you enjoy this blog and you want to help us continue writing interesting stories to help you explore the city like a local, a small donation would be a great way to show us your support. In the meantime, stay curious and keep exploring!
*For a 3D representation of the Hippodrome click here