Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximilianus, simply known as Galerius, was born at around 250 A.D., near Serdika, today’s Sofia of Bulgaria. His parents were peasants while he used to be a shepherd in his youth, being, however, brave and disposing wittiness, he managed to overcome his humble descent and gain a successful career in roman army where he quickly climbed to the highest ranks. By the end of the 3rd century, the emperor Diocletian put into force an important administrative reform: he distributed the governance of the vast roman State in four governors who exercised common political functions, each one of them in a different geographical department (it is about the so-called Tetrarchy). The control of one of these four departments, in which the Empire had been divided, that of the Balkan Peninsula, was given to Galerius.
In 299, Galerius after his last victorious expedition against the Persians chose Thessaloniki as the place for his installation. In the southeastern part of the roman city, on a huge surface of almost 150.000 square meters, extended from Rotonda till the sea and from the eastern of city’s fortress till Agia Sophia, Galerius constructed a breathtaking palatial building complex. Inside this complex, were located not only the royal habitats with their auxiliary spaces, but also public administration rooms, shrines and temples while there were also sports facilities – entertainment sites.
The main palace was located in today’s Navarinou Square and Dimitriou Gounari Street. It had a view to the sea and was composed by numerous sites, most of which have been destroyed, lying underneath streets, parks and high residential buildings. Nevertheless, certain worth mentioning parts of the royal palace have been preserved, in the form of remains, but are still visible, indicating its dimensions and luxuries: a peristyle atrium with galleries, apartments and rooms surrounding it, an impressive room with an apsidal ending in its narrow side, a bath complex as well as a building, octagonal in its exterior, disposing seven semi cyclical niches in its interior. Remains of colorful floor mosaics, marble paved tilings, orthomarmarosis and relief linings, reveal the rich and splendid decoration of palace’s different sites. Nowadays, after works of excavation, preservation, restitution and restoration, a considerate part of the palace sites that remain, are open to the public.