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 settlement.

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 long.

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.

Very few 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.

During the Early Roman period (2nd cent. B.C.) the Egnatian Way (Via Egnatia), the great Roman highway, passed within the city walls.

The city 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.

This 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.

Yet a 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 the arrival

of Paul 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.

Philippi 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.

The 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.

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