Crossing the 16th km of the road connecting Kavala with Drama, once having reached the town of Krinides, the traveler will meet a place that manages to combine all the historical paths within a few blocks. Right in the middle of the plain, the archaeological site of Philippi can be found, stretching along the foothills of the ancient "chrysovolo" -(gold giving) according to Orvylus- Pangeo Mountain, so highly praised by Athenian tragedians, mountains tied to ancient myths and cults.
Location of Phillipi. Legends and ancient traditions.
Next to the village of Krinides, we can face the fortress walls of the Philippi Akropolis, standing there through centuries, silent witness of the people's history who lived or met in the fertile plains of Philippi.
The area of Mount Pangeo and around Philippi plains drew immediately the interest of the ancient Greek world.
Legends, myths, rituals, historical events, all bonded tightly to this magical place. The nearby Mount Pangeo, clearly visibly from Phillipi, was a famous religion centre with ancient mythological tradition as well as an important financial factor, due to the rich forests and available mineral wealth of the area.
According to the ancient tradition, here is where Phoenix Kadmos found first the gold mines where the ancient coins of the area were originally cut, engraved with scenes of Dionysus rituals. Dionysus had its Oracle located near the snow-covered peak of Mount Pangeo. Promantis, Dionysus' wife, was the high priestess issuing the oracles, announced to the public by Profitevondes (those who foresee), the priests of Dionysus. The oracle was under the authority of Satres, a race of warriors. According to another legend, Mount Pangeo is also the place of Orpheus murder by the Mainades (monstrous creatures of revenge). It is also the place where the myth of king Lykourgos of the Idonon, Dionysus' rivalry, takes place.
On the full of trees slopes of the mount, ideas about the euthanasia were born, as well as the first theatrical Dionysian groups.
Another ancient tradition saved by Appianos -Roman Civil War IV,105- places near Phillipi, at a small creek called Zygati, the area where Plouton kidnapped Persephone to his dark kingdom, while she was collecting flowers in the creek meadow.
Pesisastros also came to Mount Pangeo while exiled, to acquire gold and mercenaries. Thoukididis passed the years of his own exile at Pangeo too, writing the history of the Peloponnesian Wars and this is most probably the place of his death as well.
The gold mines of Mount Pangeo, have always been the basic economic factor that contributed the most to the rise of the Macedonian kingdom.
Long before the Greeks come to Philippi, there was a Neolithic age settlement, discovered in recent decades, close to the water sources of Dikili-Tash.
During the historical era, Thracian races, well known as most capable artisans of war, inhabited the area of Mount Pangeo.
Greeks came later to the area. The Athenians were first to try and conquer the fertile area in 465 B.C. and a fierce battle was carried out between Athenians and Thracians. The Athenians lost, living 10.000 dead at the battlefield. Later, between the years 260-369 B.C. Greek colonists from the island of Thasos came and settled in the area of Philippi, building the very first small town. Their leader was the exiled Athenian orator and politician, Kallistratos. That small first town, before being named after the Macedonian king Phillipos, was known as Krinides or Daton. The name Krinides (Springs) was due to the numerous water springs of the area, as also mentioned by Appianos in Roman Civil War IV, 105,439. The name Daton is due to the famous fertility of the area, expressed in an ancient Greek proverb starting similarly. - Daton agathon kai agathon agathidas -.
During the reining years of Philippos II, the activities of the Thracian kings were a constant cause of worry and trouble at the northern border of the Macedonian kingdom. Phillipos was forced by special circumstances way too many times to get involved in the affairs of Thrace. When Philippos occupied Amphipole in 357 B.C., at the lower banks of Strymona, a Thracian king called Ketriporis, was raiding against the greek towns of the plain of Daton. Krinides was one of those towns and asked Philippos of his protection. Phillipos accepted, put an end to the Thracian raids, appended the area to his kingdom and re-established Krinides as Philippi.
Philippos foresaw the strategic and economic importance of Krinides. Once occupied, he enriched the population by settling Macedonian colonists and naming the new city after his own name. This is how Philippi was born. A tall and fortified wall surrounded the city and its theater, which was one of the best and most well known in ancient Greece..
The city of Philippi was considered the very first regal colony and its appendance to the Macedonian kingdom was the first step towards the enlargement of Macedonia, covering all area between Strymona and Nestos rivers. Philippos mined heavily the gold of the area, the gold mines called 'syla (from the word asylum), possibly because all outlaws, fugitives and slaves who were coming here to work mining the gold, were finding asylum - as the French archaeologist Heuzey assumed.
Herodotos, VII, 115, calls the gold mines Syleos Plains and Skapti Yli (Diging Mater), estimating their yearly income at 1000 talants (anchient Greek coin). The Greek royal mint was also established at Philippi, and the famous coin called Phillipeon was cut there.
During the Macedonian era, Philippi is one of the most important cities of the kingdom, with economic flourish and special privileges. However, the population of the city decreases significantly over the years up to the time of the Roman occupation (169 B.C.).
86 B.C., the city of Philippi is mentioned at the war of Rome with Mythridates, king of Pontus, as the Roman troops pass through Philippi towards their war campaign. Later, in 42 B.C. a great historical event, the Battle of Philippi takes place here and makes the name of the city well known through out the world.
In Roman Era, especially during the years of the rein of Antonians, arts thrive in Philippi. Huge, expensive buildings are built, like the Forum, the commercial market, the gymnasium, the hot spring baths and a huge water supply reservoir at the west side supplying water the entire city. Statues and monuments were built, changing both the living and cultural status of the city. The Religion beliefs of the native Thracian population were mingled with those of the Greek colonists as well as the Romans, plus the religion tendencies of the East, creating the Pantheon (all Gods) of the Colony.
At last the Christian Religion comes to the area. The cross replaces all pagan symbols. The people of Philippi are the very first European inhabitants to listen to the sermon of the new religion.
A day in 49 or 50 A.D., Apostle Paul comes off a ship at Naples (most possibly the town of Kavala nowadays), along with Timotheous and the writer of the acts of the Apostles, most possibly meaning Apostle Loucas. Via Appia Egnatia, they come and accommodate at Philippi. Near the west fortress wall of the city, a small river was assigned as the Jewish Prayer area. That's where Apostle Paul headed to during the Sabath, along with his companions and addressed his sermon for the very first time to the gathered women.
Lydia from Theatira listens to him carefully and is the first to receive the baptism of the new religion. She begs Paul to accept her hospitality and becomes the very first European baptised Christian.
The new Christian religion uses the Greek language over the Latin of the Roman colonists. Starting the 3rd A.D. century, Greek inscriptions become popular again. The Athenian orator Imerios also certifies this fact. He was a guest of Emperor Ioulianos in 362 A.D, to pass through the city and address the people of Philippi with his eloquent speech.
Once Great Konstantine officially declared Christianity as the official religion of the state, Philippi became the headquarters of the Metropolite that had under its jurisdiction 5-7 bishops. During the same era, the appearance of the city changes completely by the new constructed buildings. Digging excavations have brought to light a couple of huge churches of PalaioCristian Basilist architecture, with rich decorations. The archaeological finds of that era lead us to the conclusion that Philippi was a fully organized Christian community without financial problems.
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