Archaeological site of Philippi
Kavala, widely famous harbor which connects the greek mainland with the islands on the northern part of the country, is well known to passengers who go to Thassos. If you are planing to pass by Kavala this season, on your way to summer resort you planned to spend your holidays at, we highly recommend you make a stop here and find out why this place was always a choice of great passengers such as Philip II, Marc Anthony, Paul the Apostle, and today, it still remained popular stop of many tourists.
Looking west from a place called Krinides, only 15 km from Kavala and 21km from Drama, archaeological site of Philippi is located, right on the road that connects these two cities. You can get there in 20-30 minutes from Kavala by a regular bus line (KTEL), taxi or your own car. Besides that, excursions to this cultural and historic site can be found easily in numerous offers of tourist agencies from Serbia or Greece.
In the beginning of the new era, Philippi was a big city and in spite of relatively small number of inhabitants, it was the main trading center located on the main road between Rome and its provinces in the Middle East. The last few years, especially after it was enrolled on UNESCO world heritage list in Europe 2016., it became very interesting for tourists. Considering that the remains of the ancient town of Philippi are located on the mainland of Greece, they are not primarily interesting to tourists that come to Greece for sun and sea, but can become part of you plans for summer holidays as a type of excursion or attraction to visit during spring or autumn. For the ones that enjoy cultural manifestations, each summer, from July till the end of August for 59 years, Philippi festival is held here, where you can see some theatrical shows from the ancient and modern times, classic dance, music evenings, concerts and many more. One part of the visitors are interested in this place because of the archaeology and the fact that you can see the remains of different historic times, while lately, there’s great interest from the christians all over the world that come here to be baptized in the stream where Paul the Apostle first baptized a European girl, known by the name Lydia of Thyatira.
The ancient town of Philippi, considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in East Macedonia, lays on the borders of the marshes that cover southeast part of Drama plain. Noticing the abundance of precious metal, wood, and agricultural products, the site was first colonized by the people from Thassos, and founded the town of Krinides 360 B.C. Soon after it was founded, Krinides became the target of Thracians (365. B.C.). Because of that, king Philip II, aware of economic and strategic potential of this place, marched on to conquer, fortify and name the city after himself.
Hellenic Philippi had a fort, a theater, few public houses and private homes. The building of Via Egnatia road through the city, in II century B.C., made Philippi an important regional center. The dramatic battle in Philippi, which occured outside the west walls of the city, 42. year B.C. was the tipping point in the history of this city. The town was conquered by roman emperor Octavian Augustus and renamed The Colony of Augustus Julius Philipensis (Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis) which afterwards developed into financial, administrative and art center.
Another important event marked the history of this city only a century later. Paul the Apostle founded the first christian church on the European soil in Philippi 49-50. year B.C.
Three magnificent basilicas and the Octagon complex, also the cathedral devoted to Paul the Apostle, built at the centre of the city between the 4th and the 6th century. After a series of earthquakes and sloven invasions, the Lower Town was gradually abandoned during the 7th century. Philippi survived the byzantine period in the form of a fortress, until its final collapse in the XIV century, after the Turkish conquest.
The most significant monuments are the city walls (The Fortress), the Acropolis, the Theater, the Forum, Basilicas A and B and the Octagon.
The line of the walls begins at the top of the hill and it surrounds the foot of the hill and part of the valley below. The structure has two architectural phases: the first was built by Philip II and the second by Justinian I in A.D. 527-565. Inside the acropolis there is a tower dated to the Late Byzantine period.
The theatre was probably built by king Philip II around the middle of the 4th century B.C. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. large-scale rearrangements and additions were made so that the theater’s function could face the needs of the performances of the time.
The Roman Forum was the adminstrative centre of Philippi in the Roman period. It is a complex of public buildings arranged around a central open square. The most imposing buildings are the North-East temple and the North-West temple.
The large asphalt road leading north of the Forum, was identified as an ancient roman main road, Via Egnatia.
Basilica A is large, three-aisled basilica (130x 50m) with transept aisle on the east side, a square atrium, and gallery over the aisles and the narthex. Fragments of the luxurious pavement and part of the ambo are preserved in the middle aisle. Particularly impressive are the frescoes that imitate orthostates (dados) in the porch of a chapel. Dated to the end of the 5th century A.D.
Basilica B is a three-aisled basilica dated to ca. 550 A.D. It has a narthex and annexes to the north and south (phiale, vestry). The almost square in plan, central aisle was covered with a vault supported by large pillars. A second vault roofed the Holy Bema. Its sculptural decoration is under the influence of Constantinople
Octagonal church is square in plan as seen from outside and octagonal in the interior. The nucleus of the whole structure is the vaulted tomb-heroon of the Late Hellenistic period. The octagonal church was built in ca. 400 A.D. and replaced the first small church dedicated to Apostole Paul.
In the area between the “Via Egnatia” and the cult buildings of the Octagon, is located one of the Baths of Philippi. The two - storeyed Bishop’s House occupied the architectural block to the east of the Octagon. The complex also includes the phiale, a baptistry and a monumental gateway towards the Via Egnatia.
The rectangular building (measuring 27x10m) discovered south of the Forum of the Roman city is identified from its architectural layout and the inscriptions found there as a Roman Commercial Market (Macellum). It had a portico consisting of a colonnade of six Corinthian columns on its facade. Three large entrances led to the market’s central section, i.e.its central peristyle courtyard flanked by shops. The complex of the Commercial Market isis separated from that of the Forum by a wide road (9m). The Commercial Market is a building of the Antonine period (second half of the 2nd century A.D.). In the mid 6th century A.D., most of it was demolished down to its foundation to create the space necessary for the construction of the Basilica B. Only the hexastyle colonnade on its north has survived; this was incorporated into Basilica B to form a monumental entrance on its north aisle.
The excavation began in 1914. by the french school in Athens and continued by the Greek Archaeological service and Athens Archaeological Organization after the World War II. Now, the excavation is done by the Greek Archaeological Service, The University of Aristotle in Thessaloniki and the French Archaeological School. All of the excavation is kept in the Archaeological museum of Philippi.
The building of the Archaeological Museum of Philippi is consisted of two exhibition levels with permanent exhibition of findings and excavations from the ancient period. The museum has four main collections of findings from the prehistoric settlement, Dikili Tash, from the hellenistic, roman and early christian city of Philippi.
Working hours of the site during the winter is from Monday to Friday from 8.00 till 15.00 and during the summer (from April the 1st) is from 8.00 till 20.00. It is closed on January the 1st, March the 25th, Good Friday and Saturday from 12.00 till 15.00, on Easter, Christmas and 25th of December.
Regular ticket price for Philippi is 6e, and the reduced one is 3.e Admission is free on March the 6th, April the 18th and May the 18th, last weekend in September and on official national holidays. Reduced admission for:
- Escorting parents on educational visits of primary schools.
- Escorting teachers during educational visits of schools and institutions of primary, secondary and tertiary education and of military schools.
- Holders of a free pass
Free admission for:
- Greek citizens and citizens of other Member - States of the European Union who are over 65 years old, upon presentation of their ID card or passport for verification of their age and country of origin.
- Members of Societies and Associations of Friends of Museums and Archaeological Sites, upon presentation of their certified membership card.
- Members of the ICOM-ICOMOS, upon presentation of their membership card
- Official guests of the Greek State, after approval from the General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage.
- Students of University - Higher Education Institutes, Technological Educational Institutes, Military Schools or equivalent Schools of EU member states, as well as Schools of Guides, upon presentation of their student identity card
- Students of University - Higher Education Institutes, Technological Educational Institutes or equivalent Schools of countries from outside the European Union, upon presentation of their student ID cards
- The employees of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Archaeological Receipts Fund, upon presentation of their service ID card.
- Young people, up to the age of 18, upon presentation of their Identity Card or passport for age confirmation.
After Philippi, it is highly recommended to visit Saint Lydia church, not far away from the river Zygakti, and the city of Drama, where you can see the park of Saint Barbara, on of the most beautiful parks on the Balkans, with lakes, rivers and wooden bridges. Not far from Drama, there is a Alistrati cave, with plenty of rare dripstones.
For the very end, about 1,5km east from Philippi,on the hill (16m), we recommend to stop by prehistoric settlement Dikili Tash, in which the traces of life from Neolithic age are found.