In the region of East Macedonia and Thrace near the beautiful haven Kavala is located one of the ancient biblical cities – Philippi. The city was founded in year 356 BC by Philip II, king of Macedonia. He aimed to take control of the gold mines in the region as well as to establish a Macedonian garrison on a strategic place – the route from Neapolis (Kavala) to Amphipolis. During the Roman period, however, the city was not significant for the area and the remains from that time include only the Greek theatre, the ancient walls, the Roman forum and a little temple.
However, in year 42 BC the city of Philippi witnessed a great battle – Mark Antony and Octavian met there Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Caesar, and defeated them. Some of the veteran soldiers were colonized in the city and it was stood high in the Emperor’s esteem. The city flourished and its inhabitants undertook building activities. About year 619 the city was heavily damaged by an earthquake and it never managed to recover. The Byzantines tried to reconstruct the fortifications in order to improve the defence against the Medieval Bulgarian Empire, whose constant vigour attacks were rather disturbing for the Byzantine Empire.
An important part of the history of the city of Philippi is its Christian period and especially the fact it is mentioned in the New Testament. According to it, about 49 AD Apostle Paul, guided by a vision. This was the first place in Europe where Paul preached and he even baptized a woman in the waters of the river. There is another legend about Paul being imprisoned because of a demon he unleashed through exorcism from a slave girl but an earthquake opened the prison and helped him get out. There is information that Paul visited the city at least two times later – in years 56 and 57.
There are a few places you can visit while in the city of Philippi. Here is a list of them, containing the most important information:
– The river Krenides – the river was used by the small number of Jewish inhabitants for Shabbat worship, as they had no synagogue. In the waters of the Krenides river apostle Paul baptized Lydia, a merchant from the city, and the members of here household. Later, the apostle lived in her home while in the city.
– The Acropolis – Philippi was significant for the control of the route from Neapolis to Amphipolis (later Via Egnatia). That’s why, especially during the Roman period, its wall encircled about 700 square miles of the surrounding area.
– The Excavations – as mentioned above, the archaeologists have revealed an ancient theatre, a well-preserved forum, the jail where Apostle Paul was held, and a few churches, among which one of the earliest in Greece.
– Via Egnatia – the road was constructed by the Romans in 145 BC. It facilitated the connection between the Adriatic ports and the Byzantine Empire.
– The Philippian Jail – this is the place from the legend for the imprisonment of Apostle Paul. The specialists are not sure whether this is that jail, but it reminds the inhabitants of the area about the famous story.
– The Latrines – the archaeologists have revealed preserved public bathrooms, which were a compulsory part of the typical Roman city.
If you are visiting Kavala and have some free time, don’t hesitate to spend it in Philippi and see the remains of ancient biblical buildings and legendary follow the steps of Emperors and legendary leaders. The city is only 16 km away from Kavala and you can visit it by car or by bus.