Salonica: Coffee with Galerius

By: | Post date: July 1, 2008 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Greece

I had a morning catch up with my friend George Baloglou, who comes back to Salonica twice a year these days. It was going to be an altogether more philological morning than the preceding night.

The philology started with me going berserk with photos of the Kamara, “The Arch” — better known as the Arch of Galerius. This was the emperor Galerius’ (305-311 AD) triumphal arch in Salonica, which he had made his capital:

And as George and I had mentioned in our book, you can still see the elephants on the Arch. If anything, you can see the elephants more clearly now; it looks like some restoration (or chiseling) has gone on:

Round the corner form the Arch, of course, the Rotunda: the Tomb of Galerius (then Church of St George, then
Suleyman Hortaci Efendi mosque, now Rotunda museum, and if some Salonicans have their way, the future Church of St George again.)

When I was photocopying the entire Aristotle University Early Modern collection in 1996, I would walk by the Rotunda and into the grounds of Aristotle U. No photocopying today though.

The Arch is opposite the new, concrete, punchy Church of Our Lady of Déxia (“The Right Hand”, as in “Holding the Baby Jesus in her Right Hand.” The re-contextualisation to “Our Lady of the Right Wing” is pretty obvious, and has already been thought up.) Our Lady of the Right is not very pretty, but she is imposing:

Less imposing, and also less welcome, is the entrance of Subway and Starbucks into the street between Our Lady of the Right and the Arch. They weren’t there four years ago. At least they’re as inconspicuous as they can be, all things considered.

George met up with me, and took me on a tour of his new apartment, by Navarino Square. A classic Salonica street view out his window: an explosion of balconies, laundry, and TV antennas:

We walked up to his mother’s place, mainly so I could sample some of his mother’s nurse’s Mariupolitan dialect. It turns out George would be a better linguist than me anyway: he was quite deliberate about subtly eliciting dialectal oddities.

Oh, I should report, shouldn’t I? After all, Mariupolitan is reasonably obscure (although there is a recent grammar: Συμεωνίδης, Χ. ϗ Τομπαΐδης, Δ. 1999. Η Σημερινή Ελληνική Διάλεκτος της Ουκρανίας (περιοχής Μαριούπολης). Αθήνα: Επιτροπή Ποντιακών Μελετών.


  • It’s Greek with a Russian accent (duh)
  • with Northern vowel elision
  • and a spot of Pontic syntax. Lots of enclitic πα instead of και for “and/even”.

George has noticed a lot more: ότι… ότι for “either… or”, φαγίζω as the causative “feed”, ‘ράδιν for “tail”, σπουδάζω for “hasten”. Like I say, George should have been a linguist.

There was book shopping as well—and some mailing books back to Australia, given the weight of my suitcase: The latest couple of Studies in Greek Linguistics proceedings, a commentary on Greek grammar by Konstantinos Minas (who always has something interesting to say), and a handbook of Modern Greek historical linguistics by former Wikipedian and Greek linguistics blogger, Theodoros “Dr Moshe” Moysiadis. Oh, and some more dialectal Asterixes. Including the Cypriot one.

On the way back, we went past the ever bustling Navarino Square,

where we happened on the palace of Galerius as well. I took photos; someone else took a lot more. The digs are in a lot better nick than I remember: looks like sometimes restoration actually works out.

George was rather taken with this spot:

The Avenue of Cats: half the cats of Salonica suns themselves on the top of the palace wall, and occasionally (it being Libyan weather), in the shade at the bottom of the dig.

The bizarre thing about the Palace is how tightly tied in it is to contemporary Salonica. Archaeological site or not, Dimitris Gounaris St is a pretty busy promenade.

The palace of Galerius, of course, faces directly back to the tomb.

And George does too. George has requested the following caption:

Και θα ‘ναι τα πράγματα μέσα του κιόλας ωραία ερείπια
(Οδυσσέας Ελύτης, Άξιον Εστί)
And things inside him
will already have become
beautiful ruins…
(Odysseas Elytis, Dignum Est)


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