Monday, February 25, 2013

The Ancient City of Philippi


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. 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.





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, Philip’s 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.






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.






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, 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.



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