Philippi View slideshowAlthough the Apostle Paul first set foot in Europe at Neapolis (Kavála) on his first missionary journey, it was at Philippi, 15km/9mi northwest of Kavála on the road to Dráma, that he established the first Christian community in Europe.The rich deposits of gold in the Pangaion hills led settlers from the island of Thasos to establish a town here which they called Krenides after the springs (krenai) in the area. The old name is perpetuated in the present-day village of Krínides. In 361 B.C. new settlers established themselves on the site, but only five years later the town was taken by Philip II of Macedon, who renamed it Philippoi. The place is best known for the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., in which Octavian (later the Emperor Augustus) and Antony defeated Caesar's murderers, Brutus and Cassius. The victors then established a colony of veterans in the town. Philippi grew in importance as a result of its situation on the Via Egnatia, which ran from the Adriatic to Constantinople, and at the beginning of the fourth century it became the see of a bishop. The town's decline began with the Slav and Bulgar invasions of the ninth century.
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Approaching Via Egnatia from Kavála, we see on the hillside on the right the Theater (fourth century B.C.), which was altered by the Romans in the A.D. third century to make it suitable for wild beast shows. It is now used for dramatic performances in summer. Following the line of the old town walls (well preserved for most of their length) up the hill, we come to the site of the acropolis, on which there are remains dating from Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine times.
From the theater at Philippi there is a view of the extensive plain below, with the excavations carried out by French and Greek archaeologists on both sides of the modern road, which here follows the line of the Via Egnatia. On the near side of the road, to the right, is Basilica A (century A.D. 500), a three-aisled building with a flight of steps leading up to the atrium and a synthronon in the apse. To the west of Basilica A another three-aisled basilica of the same period has recently been excavated.Higher up the hill is the sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods.
Above the road at Philippi is a new Museum displaying finds from the area.
Most of the excavated area at Philippi lies to the south of the road. Immediately flanking the road is the large rectangular Roman Forum (70m/230ft by 148m/485ft), dating from the time of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180), which had colonnades round three sides and a temple at each end. A Roman cistern between the western temple and Basilica A is identified by local tradition as the prison in which the Apostle Paul was confined. At the southwest corner of the forum is a marble table marked with standard measures.
Immediately south of the forum is the largest church in Philippi, Basilica B, also known by its Turkish name of Direkler ("Pillars") from the massive masonry piers which are a prominent landmark. Built about 560 by an architect from Constantinople over an ancient palaistra (remains of which can be seen to the west), it was designed as a domed basilica on the model of St Sophia in Constantinople, but the dome collapsed and the church was never completed. In addition to the massive piers there are extensive remains of the building, including some fine Early Byzantine capitals.Southwest of Basilica B are well preserved latrines. To the east of the basilica, approached by a colonnaded road, is the oldest church in Philippi, an octagonal structure built about 400.Northwest of the excavated area, beyond a rest-house on the left of the road, stands a new church dedicated to St Paul and Lydia. Nearby, in the river, is a place of baptism.
The annual Philippi festival is held between July and September. Ancient drama performances are given at the ancient theater.
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