Archaeological site of Philippi
The Archaeological Site of Philippi comprises the ruins of a Macedon city, that saw its heyday in Roman and Early Christian times. Philippi was founded in 356 BCE by King Phillip II (and named after himself), on a strategic location on the east-west route through his empire which was later reconstructed by the Romans as the Via Egnatia.
The city later became a center of Christian faith and place of pilgrimage, because according to the New Testament it had been visited by the Apostle Paul around 49 or 50 A.D. The first church in Philippi was established in the year 343.
Notable remaining monuments within the walled city include:
- Greek theatre
- Roman Forum
- Octagon Church
- transept Basilica
- domed Basilica
- sections of paving of the Via Egnatia
Map of Archaeological site of Philippi
- ●● Cultural
Nan Germany 13-Apr-17
Philippi has a spot in the history books for two reasons. First, it was on the fields of Philippi that the Roman Republic ended when the final battle was lost to forces of Octavian and Markus Antonius. Then, it’s listed in the bible as the place Christianity came to Europe. Both events show in the ruins of Philippi. The city was remodelled by Octavian. And several early Christian churches were built here. Both have left there mark in the ruins you will get to see here.
I spend roughly 1.5h on site which includes a nice museum. And while these ruins are great, Greece already has many sites listed from the period. I do wonder how many more Greek ruins should be inscribed?
Coming in from Thessaloniki I followed Stanislaw’s description and it worked to a point. There are regular busses (normal, express) running more or less hourly from the main bus station in Thessaloniki to Kavala (2-2.5h). As far as I could tell the first bus runs at 8 a.m.
From Kavala jump on any bus to Drama and get off at Krinides. Important: There is also a town named Philippi, but the archeological site is in Krinides.
From Philippi you could connect eastwards towards Turkey. As much as I want to see the Hagia Sophia, given the current political situation I did not invest any time in researching this option.
Another interesting option is going North to Banska for Pirin National Park. There is one mini bus each day at 4 p.m. from Kavala Bus Station via Drama. I found this one at rome2rio.com and confirmed it here with a little help from google translate. The bus also goes the other way. Tickets are bought at the Kavala bus station.
If you are continuing onwards you can leave the luggage at the post office at the bus station. Just ask them. It’s not really a locker, more a place where they hopefully watch for your luggage and you tip them for it.
While You Are There
Again, following Stanislaw’s comments: You should spend some time in the old town of Kavala. It’s fairly nice with an aqueduct, an acropolis and views of Thassos. It’s also a nice distraction from the concrete jungle that is Thessaloniki. While I don’t feel it must be Kavala, I do feel a nice Ottoman city would be a good addition to the Greek list.
Stanislaw Warwas Poland 16-Aug-16
Visited August 2016.
It is possible to visit Philippi as a day trip from Thessaloniki, although you should start very early in the morning. Take the first bus to Kavala from KTEL Makedonia bus station at 6 am (around 2h20min) and change there for a local bus going towards Drama, get out in Philippi (20 min, lots of buses), very close to the entrance to the site.
The entry fee to the site and the museum is 6 €. You will get a leaflet with the plan of site and potential paths to follow. No guide or guide books in English available.
The site itself is not very enormous and comprises 3 parts. Acropolis situated above the archaeological remains contains mostly medieval walls and is not very spectacular, but the views from there are really nice: you get the panorama of the Roman and Christian sites and the battlefield from 42 BC. To get there involves a steep 30-minute hiking through the bushes – the path is not easy to find, it stars just behind the fence very close to the museum.
The other parts of the property are divided by a road that used to be part of Roman Via Egnatia. The upper part of the old walled city comprises Greek/Roman theatre, remains of some temple and footings of an old basilica, called Basilica A. Every year in August there is a Theatre Festival held at the site. Although the city was founded by Philip II of Macedonia, because of the silver mines in this area, it reached its peak during Roman times. And the visit of the apostle Paul in the ’40 of the first century made it a very important pilgrimage site too, but only for a short period. The hole in which St. Paul was imprisoned is located in the SW side of the basilica. (I was told that there were some painting on the wall of the hole but I have not seen them.) Then you can go to the small but interesting museum, passing by Basilica C, not accessible for tourists.
The museum has 4 galleries: Prehistoric period, Hellenistic city, Roman colony, Early Christian and Byzantine. All artefacts were found in Philippi, the most interesting are stone and marble stelae and glass products.
In the lower city there are remains of agora, octagonal building with some mosaics in situ and the biggest basilica (called B or Direkler). Behind the basilica there are 50 public toilets which seem to be one of the most interesting part of the site.
I spent around 4 hours at this WHS, including climbing the acropolis, but I am sure that everything can be “done” in just one hour and a half.
You return to Thessaloniki the same way by bus, but if you still have time, spend some time in Kavala, in its old ottoman upper city, walk along the shore or the aqueduct and have a lunch in one of the restaurant serving wonderful sea food.
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Full name: Archaeological site of Philippi
Unesco ID: 1517
Criteria: 3 4
- 2016 - Revision 2 locations concerning the Battlefield of Philippi withdrawn on advice of ICOMOS (by letter of 27 February 2016)
- 2016 - Inscribed
- 2014 - Revision Renomination under the same name at the new tentative list of Greece
The site has 10 connections.
- Via Egnatia: "The 535 mile long Roman highway Via Egnatia joining Dyrrachium with Byzantion crossed the city from the Krinides gate to the Neapolis and was the main east-west street (decumanus maximus) of the city. Sections of the paving remain today, with large rectangular slabs of marble showing traces of cart wheels" (AB eval)
Religion and Belief
- St Paul was here: St Paul was imprisioned at Philippi and one of the buildings is known as "St Paul's Prison" (The traditional location where he baptised Lydia of Thyratara who thereby became the first recorded Christian convert in Europe lies just outside the inscribed area)
- Christian Pilgrimage Sites: Centre of Christian pilgrimage deriving from the visit and mission of the Apostle Paul in 49/50 CE. (AB ev)
- Mentioned in the Bible: According to the New Testament, in AD 49 or 50, the city was visited by the apostle Paul (Acts 16:9-10). From the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:12) and the letter to the Philippians (Philippians 1:1), early Christians concluded that Paul had founded their community. Accompanied by Silas, Timothy and possibly Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is believed to have preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi (Acts 16:12-40). According to the New Testament, Paul visited the city on two other occasions, in 56 and 57. (wiki)
- Built in the 4th century BC: founded in 356 BCE
World Heritage Process
- Reduced from broader TWHS: The 2014 T List entry for Philippi included the Battlefield and "The rock art in the Lekani foothills, approximately two kilometres east of the city of Krenides, depicting human and animal figures and the distinctive “horseman”.... The important mines in the area east of Philippi and northeast of the ancient port of Neapoli (modern-day Kavala), identified with those referred to by Herodotus and Thucydides as Skapte Hyle." The latter 2 elements didn't appear in the Nomination file but the Battlefield did as a "second component". ICOMOS didn't find "authenticity" and Greece removed it.
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