Philippi is one of the great cities of the ancient Greek world.
Philippi has had its share of fame. It was built along the ancient Roman trade route called the Via Egnatia, which stretched from Rome to Constantinople (Istanbul). Remains of this route can still be found in the northern Greek region of Macedonia.
Philippi also entertained great names of history like Mark Antony, Octavian, Brutus and Cassius as they faced off in the marshlands west of Ancient Philippi in the “Battle of Philippi”. This city was known as being the gateway to Europe and it is not surprising that Philippi played a large role in changing the direction of the Roman Republic.
Philippi is also interesting from a Christian perspective. Here you can follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul as Christianity was first spread to Europe through Philippi.
History of Philippi
The hills around Philippi contained a high concentration of gold and silver according to the Greek historian Strabo. The original settlement, Krenides (Crenides), was a colony of powerful Thassos, the island state to the south. Due to the abundance of fresh water springs in the area, it was named Krenides (many springs). Because of its location on the mainland, it was subject to Thracian raids and was constantly under threat.
In 356 BC, the colonists in Krenides, invited the powerful Macedonian king Philip II to help them in defending themselves from the northern invaders. The opportunity of gaining gold helped him to make his decision. Philip took control of the city, enlarged its size and fortifications and named it after himself – Philippi.
Philip then managed to increase the output of the local goldmines to produce 1000 talents a year. At 2011 values, Philips annual income would have been about 1.6 billion dollars. He quickly amassed a fortune that bought him an army, which eventually enabled his son Alexander the Great to conquer the world.
Philippi and the Romans
By 168 BC, the Roman machine was on the march. They conquered Macedonia and kept Philippi as one of its principal cities. A large part of Rome’s success was their great infrastructure. They built paved roads across the empire. Philippi was to benefit from this as the Via Egnatia came through the city in the 2nd century BC. This road opened up the east-west route from Asia Minor to Rome.
The Roman Empire took a turn as the Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC in Rome by two Senators, Brutus and Cassius. These two fled to raise an army in an attempt to conquer Rome. From the other side, Mark Antony raised an army and marched east. On October 23, 42 BC, the two Roman armies met on the plains just west of Philippi and clashed in what was to be known as the “Battle of Philippi”. The outcome of this battle marked the end of the Roman Republic.
Apostle Paul – “Step over into Macedonia”
About the year 50 AD, a new era was about to dawn on this city. Christianity had been spreading rapidly across the Middle East, down to Africa, and up through Asia Minor. One of Christianity’s foremost missionaries, the Apostle Paul, was in Troas (formerly Troy)– just across the water from Neapolis (present day Kavala). At night, Paul received a vision telling him to “step over into Macedonia and help us”.
Paul along with Luke and Silas got on a boat and made the trip, passing the island of Samothrace and then on to Neapolis. Taking the Via Egnatia, Paul and his companions travelled the 15 kilometers further to Philippi. It was Philippi that had the claim of being the first European city to hear the message of Christianity.
For more details -see Apostle Paul Macedonia Tour Route
and Apostle Paul in Philippi.
What to see and do in Philippi
Via Egnatia – See a part of the ancient Roman road, which ran from Rome to Asia Minor.
“Battle of Philippi” – Just outside the city to the west are the plains that changed the Roman Empire more than 2000 years ago.
Ancient Theatre – built by Philip II in the 4th century BC and later reconstructed by the Romans.
Seven Churches – built between the 4th and 5th centuries AD.
Paul’s Prison – This is traditionally identified as Paul’s Prison, but was more likely a Roman cistern.
Click here for information and map to do your own walking tour of Philippi.
Where to stay
If you are planning to stay in Sithonia, then look at the many recommendations for hotels and apartments that we offer on our site. From here it is possible to make a day trip with a car to Philippi and be back in Sithonia by the evening. Plan on 2.5 -3 hours drive each direction. If you don have a car, then you may have to stay overnight in Kavala.
How to Get to Philippi
If you are coming from Sithonia, you will probably have some kind of transportation. (see here for more details about how to get to Sithonia) The drive from Sithonia can be done in a day (160 km each way). Expect a 2.5 – 3 hour drive each way if you plan on doing a day trip. The easiest route would be to drive northeast through the Halkidiki peninsula and then take the E90 on to Kavala. Philippi is located about 15 km northwest of Kavala.
Another option is to fly into the Kavala Alexandros airport on your way to Sithonia and see Philippi from Kavala.
The bus option from Sithonia can be time consuming since you need to travel to Thessaloniki and from there to Kavala. Just the cost of taking the bus from Sithonia would make it worth renting a car instead to go and see Philippi.