PHILIPPI (Ancient Macedonian City)
In the middle of the
fourth century B.C. (c. 360 B.C.) in a fortified
position between the mass of Mt. Orbilus and the marshes
then covering the present-day coastal plain of Philippi,
colonists from the island of Thasos led by the exiled
Athenian orator and statesman Kallistratos founded
Crenides, probably on the site of an earlier
Crenides (fountains), which takes its name from the
abundant fresh-water springs still flowing in this
region today, was the last in a series of colonies
founded by the Thasians on the mainland coast opposite
their island. With this new settlement of Crenides, the
Thasians gained control of the entire region of Daton,
famed in antiquity for its bountiful agricultural plain
and for the precious metals (gold and silver) mined in
the nearby mountains of Pangaeon and Orbilus. The new
colony immediately circulated a range of gold, silver
and bronze coins with the inscription THASION IPIRON
(Mainland of Thasos). The people of Thasos, however,
were not able to hold on to this important site for
Four years later in 356 B.C. King Philip II of
Macedon conquered Amphipolis and began to extend his
empire eastwards, beyond the Strymon river. He overran
the Hellenic cities of Aegean Thrace, among the Crenides.
Recognizing the strategic importance of this Thasian
colony, King Philip fortified Crenides with a massive
wall, settled new colonists there and renamed the city
Philippi. He too set in train the intensive
mining of newly-discovered veins of gold in the Philippi
Mountains and issued his own gold coinage.
remains of the Macedonian city of Philippi have as yet come
to light. However, the city walls and the ancient theatre show
traces of masonry from the earliest period of construction, dating
back to the time of Philip II. Forming part of the kingdom of
Macedon from the time of the Diadochi ("Successors") of Alexander
the Great up to its conquest by the Romans in 148 B.C., the city of
Philippi, with its coastal port of Neapolis (the present-day Kavala)
developed into an important urban centre of eastern Macedonia.
the Early Roman period (2nd cent. B.C.) the Egnatian Way (Via
Egnatia), the great Roman highway, passed within the city walls.
of Philippi flourished anew after the Battle of Philippi (42 B.C.).
The Roman senators Brutus and Cassius, who had conspired in the
murder of Julius Caesar, clashed on the plain of Philippi with
Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) and Mark Antony, members of the
triumvirate which had assumed power in Rome after Caesar's
assassination. In spite of armed forces numerically superior and a
strong defensive position in the fortified acropolis of Philippi,
Brutus and Cassios were defeated, and the death on the battlefield
of these two republicans marked the end of the Roman Republic.
city, site of the battle which opened to Octavian the road to
Empire, now assumed special importance for the victors. Immediately
after the battle Antony settled the first Roman army veterans at
Philippi and issued the colony's first locally-cut bronze coinage.
After Octavian's final victory in the Battle of Actium (31 B.C.),
the Roman colony of Philippi - officially named Colonia Lulia
Augusta Philipensis completed its municipal organization. The reign
of Augustus saw the building of the first Roman agora (Forum), and
an ambitious building program followed.
In the period of the Antonine emperors (2nd cent. B.C.) the city
acquired a new forum (the Commercial Agora) and the Palaestra, while
its streets were paved and a drainage system laid down, most
probably at the same time. During the second and third centuries
A.D. the theatre, used in Roman times as an arena for gladiators and
wild beast shows, was extensively renovated and enlarged.
third chapter in the history of Philippi was ushered in with the
coming of St. Paul in 49 A.D. and the establishment of the
first Christian church in Europe. The Acts of the Apostles tell of
and his companions (Silas, Timothy and probably Luke) in Philippi,
while the two Epistles to the Philippians attest St. Paul's close
bond with the city's earliest Christian community. Towards the
middle of the fourth century A.D., when Christianity had become the
official state religion, Bishop Porphyry built the first house of
prayer, next to a pagan burial Heroon. Inscriptions on the mosaic
floor inform us that this chapel was consecrated to St. Paul.
prospered greatly during the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. as a place
of pilgrimage associated with the memory and worship of St. Paul.
This same period saw the building of such monumental churches as the
Octagon Church (which with its auxiliary buildings - Bishop's
Palace, Balneum succeeded the original House of Prayer as Episcopal
chapel), the Basilica A, the Basilica B, the Museum Basilica and the
cemetery chapels outside the eastern wall of the city, where the
Christian community had its burial ground.
catastrophic earthquakes of the early seventh century A.D. together
with invasions by Slavs and Bulgars brought destruction to the city
and led to its gradual decline. During the Byzantine period it was
mainly a fortified stronghold. The emperor Nicephoros Phocas (10th
century) repaired and reinforced its walls, while in the time of the
Paleologues (14th Cent.), the central fortress tower, which still
commands the acropolis of Philippi today, was built.
After the Turkish conquest the city and its fortifications were
abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1914 the French Archaeological
School began excavating the site of the ancient city of Philippi.
These excavations continue today, carried out by the Hellenic
Archaeological Service, the Archaeological Society of Athens and the
University of Thessaloniki.
Back To Index