Arch of Galerius
Multimedia Map Description

How to get

Each attraction of Thessaloniki carries with it the tale of a particular era, and the Arch of Galerius is a living testament to this. It is a spectacular representation of roman times situated in Thessaloniki.


It was constructed during the period of 298–305 ad and symbolized the victory of the roman ruler Galerius over the Sassanid empire and Persia. An expansive complex was constructed around it, which comprised of a grand palace, hippodrome, rotunda, and mausoleum connected by a road passing through the arch.

In 1890, Karl Frederick Kinch, a danish archaeologist, put out the maiden study of the Galeria Arch’s bas-reliefs. Later, in the 20th century, other researchers surmised that the sculpted scenes of the arch facing the imperial palace were of utmost significance. Overall, the arch’s purpose was to demonstrate the emperor’s might and grandeur. Several of the depictions portray Galerius not just as a despot, but as a kind-hearted and munificent sovereign who was open to granting clemency and partaking in talks with adversaries.

Arch of Galerius, once part of the city wall under the turks, was likely destroyed in earthquakes. It was also a bustling hub of trade, with shops, and later a tram route passing underneath the central arched opening. In the early 20th century, the ottoman buildings (mostly wood) were demolished and the area was turned into a pedestrian-only street. Today, the Arch of Galerius stands as a meeting place, landmark, and one of the most photographed sights in Thessaloniki, full of history in the midst of a modern city.

The structure

Right after the arch was raised, it formed a structure that featured eight pillars set in two lines, with four pillars in each line. The walls of the structure were 3.5 meters thick. In between the supports, three arches were visible. The central arch was the biggest one. On the four central pillars, marble slabs with carvings were installed. Now, only three of the initial pillars remain. The central arch is about ten meters in width and twelve point five meters in height, and the side arches have a width of almost five meters.

Sculptural composition

The Arch of Galerius of Thessaloniki, one of its oldest attractions, captivates its visitors not only due to its venerable age, but also due to its sculptural composition. The arch is lined with stone bas-reliefs stacked on top of one another in a belt-like formation. Even though the purpose of constructing the arch was to honor Rome, the focus is primarily on the emperor and his imperial family. The bas-reliefs portray a campaign against the persians, rendered in a traditional historical style. One can spot the figures of people, camels and horses, scenes of battles, sacrifices and the departure of prisoners from conquered cities. Some of the columns even depict the scene of Galerius' arrival in Yeriza and the presentation of gifts to the emperor.

The reliefs on the arch show a striking disproportion in their figures; the persian soldiers are smaller than the roman ones and the emperor Galerius is much more prominent. Elephants and camels on one of the columns illustrate that the events depicted occurred in the east.

The Arch of Galerius stands in Thessaloniki’s city center on Egnatia street, a heavily-trafficked area near the Church of Agia Sofia, Aristotle university, and Rotunda. Tourists can reach the arch from Aristotle square in fifteen minutes, while taking in the other nearby sights. To get there, one can take bus routes 45, 12, 2, 31, and more.


The Arch of Galerius is surrounded by plenty of cafes, stores, and eateries, which can make for a great day out. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Rotunda, Panteleimon church, and Macedonia’s musical museum while you’re there!