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“Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.”(Acts 16)
We are looking at the city of Neapolis from the sea. As we come into the harbor and our ship is docked, we see that the harbor is lined with other ships and boats. The shoreline of Greece is greater than that of Italy, it actually covers more miles. It is said that you are never more than 40 miles from the sea at any point in all of Greece.
We see more of the colorful fishing boats of some of the citizens of Kavalla. The Greeks today are very active in fishing, and many earn their living from fishing here in the Aegean Sea. History tells us that the galleys of Brutus and Cassius in the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC were here in this very harbor.
We see to the right of the harbor an ancient castle. Our guide said that it dates back to the Roman times. It was a fortification, built by the Romans to protect the harbor.
We will make our way now from the city of Neapolis through the mountains to the city of Philippi. Neapolis was a natural harbor. In ancient times it was difficult for them to define a harbor that was too shallow, so they looked for harbors that were naturally deep. Then larger ships could stop there without running aground.
Neapolis was on the other side of the mountain from Philippi, about 13 miles away. In fact, this would have been a day’s walk for Paul and his companions. We will reach a height of 500 feet above sea level. We will descend on the left hand side of this picture into the Plain of Philippi. Paul and his associates would have gone this same route.
Paul probably visited Philippi in the later half of 50 AD. With him came Silas, Timothy, and Luke.
One of the first things that will greet our sight is the river Gangites. It is still deep, clear and cool. You will recall that when Paul got to the city of Philippi, he asked for a Jewish synagogue, and he found that there was none. He was informed that there was a place that was used for prayer out by the riverside. Since this is only river in the whole area of Philippi, it is believed by most that this is the river where Paul would have preached the gospel to Lydia and her household. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, and she was obedient unto the gospel and was baptized in this same river.
In this area are many stones from Roman times. These ruins have not been excavated, and there is probably nothing of real interest here. There is evidence of Roman buildings and a cemetery in this area.
Many guides will show you the house of Lydia. This is true of many places in the Bible Lands. The guide will show the visitors what he thinks they want to see. There is not any way of knowing whether this is the house of Lydia. The sign in the picture says “Keep out of the way, because there is danger.”
We are still in the same area. Here is evidence of a Roman cemetery, and this is a large grave marker. These people had great reverence for the dead. Even when armies came in to destroy a city, many times they would leave the cemetery untouched.
This is our first view of the ruins of Philippi. We are standing at the northwest corner. Philippi was founded by Philip II of Macedon in 360 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great. He replaced the former Thracean of Krinides. This was the chief mining center for the gold field of the Pangios Mountains.
We are standing in the same spot. We are looking southeast. At our feet is the famous Ignatian Way. Pau and his companions would have come in on this road. The tree in the left of the picture marks a boundary between the modern road and the Ignatian Way. It might be well for us to put a few dates before us, that we might know some of the history of Philippi. After the battle of Pydna in 168 BC all of Macedonia had come under the control of Rome. The Battle of Philippi when Brutus and Cassius moored their ships in the harbor of Neapolis, was fought in 42 BC on the plain of Philippi. The plain is on your left. Octavian and Anthony defeated Brutus and Cassius. Octavian renamed the city Colonia-Julia Philippensis. Julius was in honor of Julius Caesar. The city was given a colony status. Acts 16:12 makes a reference to this. After the battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian, who later would be called Augustus in the Bible, was the Caesar at the time Jesus was born. He made this a colony for the citizens of the defeated Anthony. These people had been evicted from Italy. He then changed the name to Colonia-Julia-Agusta-Phillipensis. So it then carried the names of Phillip of Macedon, Agustus, and Julius. It now enjoyed many economic and political privileges including what was known as Assis Italica, which exempted the citizens from the Imperial Roman taxes. This would have been quite a blessing.
We now come to nearly the center of the ruins. We are descending steps that will bring us into the agora or market place. Still looking toward the southeast we see an opening before us, a market area 300 by 150 feet. There are two of these in the ruins of Philippi. The Ignatian Way is still in front of us and to the left. It would have been the main street that came into the city.
From the same view point we are looking back toward the west and a little toward the north. Immediately below us is the Roman judgment area. This is called in the Greek language, "a Bema". This is probably where Paul was brought. We will have more to say about it later.
In the distance we see what have been called the "Direcklar columns". These are the ruins of the Byzantine church. This is the most dominant feature of the ruins of Philippi. We will use this as a direction point. We are looking toward the northwest.
The shops in the agora were on the south side. There was probably a library located here. Excavation is still going on. A massive excavation is taking place on the other side of the hill.
This is another view of the Ignation Way. The Romans were master road builders. In fact, the whole Roman Empire had been connected by roads in the time of Paul. This is certainly one of the things that afforded the gospel an advantage in spreading to distant parts of the Roman Empire. This Ignation Way is a paved road 530 miles long. It connected Illilya, Macedonia and Thrace, and the Adriatic coast with the eastern Aegean coast. Travelers coming from Rome would have crossed this northern section of Greece. On a straight line from Rome to Constantinople or Byzantium they would have had to travel in this area.
Here is a Roman milestone. The stone is telling us in French below and in Greek above, that this is the Ignatian Way. Our word for "mile" comes from the Latin word “mile,” which means "a thousand". We use it in words meaning "a thousand" today. The Romans measured distance by a Roman soldier’s step. When he took 1,000 steps, he had walked a mile. Our mile measures 5,280 feet; theirs was a little over 4,800.
Not everyone in the Roman army walked. Some of the officers rode in chariots. The chariots sometimes had iron rims on their wheels, which made deep ruts in the roadways.
Here is another section of the road which shows chariot ruts going in another direction.
The horses of the Romans sometimes had trouble standing on the slick pavement, so in some places grooves were cut to give them sure footing. You will recall that in our series on Jerusalem we found a section of Roman paving near the Praetorium where Jesus was judged, that were cut in this same manner.
This is a series of 4 steps that lead from the Roman market to the Bema, which was the Judgment Seat. This probably was one of the most important points in all the city of Philippi.
The Romans called the "Bema" or "Judgment Seat" the "Tribunal". They erected it in a public place. It was here that civil disorder would be tried. Any kind of civil disorder would be brought here, as in the case of Paul. He was brought to court because of his preaching the gospel. Paul and Silas were probably brought to this very spot. Paul had cast evil spirits out of a young girl who brought her masters much gain by her ability of divination. They wanted Paul beaten and thrown in prison, so they brought a complaint against him. The magistrates would not hear him out. Paul and Silas were beaten and put into prison.
The Bema is in the lower center of this picture. We are looking southeast on the Ignation Way. We are going to visit the columns in the distance and see the south and west sides of the Forum or Agora.
Porticos or porches surround the market place. Romans built colonnaded walk ways, so the people would come in out of the rain.
This agora is in very good condition. The paving stones are level throughout and very few of them are broken.
We are looking at the ruins of the Byzantine church, called "Byzantine B" by archaeologists. It dates to the 500’s. None of the churches that have been excavated in Philippi date earlier than 400 AD. The dome on the church is thought to have fallen in. It had probably been made after the pattern of the Saint Sophia church in Istanbul, or ancient Constantinople. It was never repaired. The worshippers met in only one end of it. The church was probably never completed.
The Byzantine period was from 400 to 800 AD. We have already seen a number of beautiful pieces of mosaic work by the Byzantine craftsmen. This was obviously a great structure. Its ruins dominate the whole area.
This ornate outside column is an example of the fine workmanship of the craftsmen. There were 4 different kinds of stone in the last picture we saw. This is a kind of limestone which is very white and hard.
This is the border of a baptistery for this church. We will see later another church, called "Basilica A", on the northern side of the mountain that borders Philippi.
The Greeks had also influenced the Romans in the building of gymnasiums. “Gumnos” meaning “naked” in Greek, so a “gumnosium” was a place for exercise and study. The Greeks were interested not only in the training of the mind but the body as well. This is the largest of the Greek gymnasiums in the city.
Our word “Lavatory” literally means "a washroom". We sometimes use it to refer to a toilet area. This was the Roman lavatory that was in the same vicinity as the gymnasium.
We of the 21st Century marvel that the ancient people could build something we consider modern. This Roman toilet had spaces for 42 occupants. Paul E. Dailey, in The Biblical Archaeologist, 1963, called this a “42-holer.”
Here is another view of the same Roman toilet. There was water flowing beneath these seats, so they were flushed constantly.
This is the south side of the agora or market place. It was flanked by a porch that was 300 feet long. These are columns of stoa or porch.
These shops are on the west side of the stoa. It is believed that these were grain shops. Very often shops that sold similar merchandise would be located in the same vicinity. This was true in Corinth, for there was an area there called the "meat market".
These are more ruins of shops. We do not know what was contained in all of them. Some might have been meat markets. There is evidence that textiles of various kinds were sold here. This must have been like many other Greek or Roman cities of that time. The man on the horizon can give you some idea of the size of these shops.
We are now back at the north end of the market area. This part is Roman. The temple of Antonia or Antonius Pius with its Corinthian columns was located here.
The motif on top of this large Roman building stone is a common one. It appears on many Roman sculptures.
The motif was sometimes used on Roman togas or robes. Several Roman temples were located here.
Our guide pointed out this prison as the one where Paul and Silas were imprisoned, but we have no way of knowing where it was. However, this prison is of interest to us because it shows us what an ancient prison was like. You will remember that the magistrates commanded Paul and Silas to be beaten with rods and then imprisoned. The jailer cast them into the inner prison, where their feet were made fast in the stocks.
This stone was part of a stock. There would have been another piece of stone for the top with holes for the feet of the prisoners. It would have been extremely uncomfortable for anyone to have to be in stocks for very long. The story in Acts 16 tells that as Paul and Silas, their feet in stocks, and singing hymns, an earthquake shook the prison and the doors were opened and everyone’s fetters were loosed. The jailer was converted at the preaching of Paul and Silas.
In this same prison are steps leading to the first church built in this area. This is the church of Basilica A. It was a great Byzantine church also. Judging by the size of the ruins, it was larger than the one in the heart of the city.
Here are more ruins of the church. The ruins of a Roman temple are probably in this area. The Romans had built temples especially on this side of the mountain.
These ruins are still being excavated. Here we have evidence of a temple built to Silvanus and one to the Egyptian god Sirapus. So this church, built by Christians in 500 AD probably occupied the site of heathen temples. Some of the materials for the church may have come from the ruins of the temples.
Here we see a Corinthian capital and a column base from one of the temples, which could have also been from the church.
The theater is on this same eastern slope. It was a Greek theater. It has been said by some that it seated 50,000, but it probably seated far fewer than that. Archaeologists tell us that this theater was in its prime when Paul came to Philippi.
Spectators could see not only the play or whatever activity the arena held for them, but the whole city of Philippi.
From this same theater we look across to more of the ruins of Philippi. This fallen capital represents the magnificent ruins of this great city. This is a Corinthian capital. Notice that in the center there is a hole where a wooden or iron peg would have fitted to attach it firmly to the column. The city was full of beautiful things, but the thing we remember most about it is that Paul preached the gospel here.
We stand again on the northwest corner of the ruins. Our feet are on the Ignatian Way, and we are looking southeast. Paul would have left this city in this direction, traveling on the Ignation Way to Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, and finally, Athens. This was one of Paul’s most successful teaching tours. The church he planted here became one of his favorites. Until then, the church had been established only in Asia Minor. This was the first church of Jesus Christ to be planted on European soil. Paul had fulfilled what the man in the vision had asked of him. “Come over into Macedonia and help us” (2 Corinthians 12). Paul later wrote a letter to this church, using these terms: “my beloved brethren, beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1).
Original text and slides from "Bible Cities and Geography", ©1974 Star Bible Publications. Unlawful to duplicate or reproduce in any form or manner. Used by permission. Various edits and new audio recordings by the Bible Study Center 2006-2014.
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