The ancient city of Philippi, now the most important archaeological site in Eastern Macedonia, lies at the boundary of the marshes that cover the southeast part of the plain of Drama. The site was originally colonized by the people of Thasos, who, aware of the area’s plentiful supplies of precious metals, timber, and agricultural products, established the city of Krinides in 360 BC. Soon after its establishment, however, Krinides was threatened by the Thracians (365 BC) and turned to King Philip II of Macedon for help. Realizing its economic and strategic potential, Philip conquered, fortified, and renamed the city after himself.
Hellenistic Philippi had a fortification wall, a theatre, several public buildings, and private houses. The construction of the Via Egnatia through the city in the second century BC made Philippi an important regional centre. The dramatic battle of Philippi, which took place outside the west city walls in 42 BC, was a turning point in the city’s history. The city was conquered by Octavian and renamed Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. The new Roman colony developed into a financial, administrative, and artistic centre.
Another important event marked the city’s history a century later. Saint Paul founded the first Christian Church on European soil at Philippi in 49/50 AD. The establishment of the new religion and the city’s proximity to Constantinople, the Roman Empire’s new capital, brought new splendour. Three magnificent basilicas and the Octagon complex, the cathedral dedicated to Saint Paul, were erected in the city centre in the fourth-sixth centuries AD. After a series of earthquakes and Slavic raids, the lower city was gradually abandoned early in the seventh century. Philippi survived into the Byzantine period as a fortress, until its final demise in the late fourteenth century, after the Turkish conquest.
Excavations at Philippi began in 1914 under the French School at Athens and were resumed by the Greek Archaeological Service and the Archaeological Society at Athens after the Second World. The site is currently excavated by the Greek Archaeological Service, the Aristoteleian University of Thessaloniki, and the French School at Athens. The finds are stored at the Philippi Archaeological Museum. Every summer (May-September) the site is cleared of undergrowth.
Maria Nikolaidou-Patera, archaeologist
The archaeological site of Philippi is located west of the modern town of Krinides, on the provincial road connecting Kavala with Drama. The most important monuments in the area are the city walls, the acropolis, the theatre, the forum, Basilica A, Basilica B, and the Octagon.
The 3.5-kilometre-long walls begin at the fortified acropolis on the hilltop and surround the foot of the hill and part of the plain (first building phase: Philip II, mid-fourth century BC; second building phase: Justinian I, 527 – 565 AD). Inside the acropolis is a Late Byzantine tower.
The theatre, which was probably built by King Philip II in the mid-fourth century BC, was thoroughly remodelled in the second and third centuries AD in order to accommodate Roman spectacles.
The Roman forum, the city’s administrative centre in the Roman period, was a unified complex of public buildings positioned around a central square, with two monumental temples at the northeast and northwest. The large paved road that runs north of the forum has been identified as the ancient Via Egnatia.
Basilica A (end of fifth century AD) is a large three-aisled basilica, 130 metres long and 50 metres wide, with a transept, a square atrium, a gallery over the aisles and narthex, and an unusual phiale. Fragments of the luxurious pavement and part of the ambo are preserved in the central aisle. The impressive wall paintings in the chapel’s anteroom imitate opus sectile decoration.
Basilica B (ca. 550 AD) is a three aisled basilica with a narthex and annexes to the north and south (phiale and vestry). The almost square central aisle was covered by a dome supported on large pillars, and the sanctuary was vaulted. The sculptural decoration is clearly influenced by Constantinopolitan art.
The so-called Octagon was the episcopal church of Philippi. The church proper presents three building phases (late fourth/early fifth century – mid-sixth century AD). It replaced an earlier smaller church dedicated to Saint Paul (early fourth century), built on the site of a Late Hellenistic tomb-her?on. The complex also comprises a phiale, a baptistery, a bathhouse, a two-storied Episcopal residence, and a monumental gateway towards the Via Egnatia.
The rectangular building (measuring 27 x 10m) that was discovered south of the Forum of the Roman city, with a portico that consisted of a colonnade of six Corinthian columns on its faηade, is being identified by its architectural layout and the inscriptions which were found, as the Roman commercial market (macellum). The complex consisted of a central columned court, right and left of which there were shops.
The complex of the commercial market is separated from that of the Forum with a wide road, 9m wide, the commercial street. It is a building of the Antonines period (second half of 2nd century AD), contemporary with the Forum. In the mid-6th century AD, most of it was destroyed to its foundation in order to create the space that was necessary for the construction of the Basilica B. Only its northern part was kept with the six-column colonnade, which was incorporated by the Byzantine architect into the Basilica forming a monumental entrance to its north aisle.
Maria Nikolaidou-Patera, archaeologist
Archaeological Museum of Philippi
The building has two levels of exhibition spaces for permanent display of the finds from excavations of the ancient city. The museum includes four major collections of finds from the prehistoric settlement of Dikili-Tash, from the Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian city of Philippi.
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