The Arch of Galerius dominates a pedestrianized square just off the eastern end of Egnatía. Along with the nearby Rotónda, it originally formed part of a larger Roman complex which included palaces and a hippodrome. The mighty arch is the surviving span of a dome-surmounted arcade that once led towards the palaces. Built to commemorate the emperor’s victories over the Persians in 297 AD, its piers contain weathered reliefs of the battle scenes interspersed with glorified poses of Galerius himself. The well-displayed remains of Galerius’s palace can be viewed, below the modern street level, along pedestrianized Dhimitríou Goúnari towards its southern extension, Platía Navarínou.
Rotónda (Áyios Yeóryios)
North of the great arch, the Rotónda, later converted into the church of Áyios Yeóryios, is the most striking single Roman monument in the city. It was designed, but never used, as an imperial mausoleum, possibly for Galerius himself. Consecrated for Christian use in the late fourth century, by the addition of a sanctuary, an apse, a narthex and rich mosaics, it later became one of the city’s major mosques, from which period the minaret remains. The cavernous interior is stark but some of the stunning mosaics remain in place.
Just north of leafy Platía Dhikastiríon, the Roman Forum has been undergoing gradual excavation for over a decade so access is limited. In many ways, its layout is best observed from the road behind, where the shape of the stoa, with several remaining columns, is clear. The restored amphitheatre is used for occasional summer performances.