Long before the Ancient Greeks located to Philippi, there was a Neolithic settlement that was discovered in the last decades, next to water springs, at Dikili-Tas (Orthopetra), lying 2km east of the ancient city.
This settlement in the prehistoric dark millennia can be considered as a distant ancestor of the city of historical times. Life began in the Late Neolithic (around 5500 BC) and continued without interruption until the Early Iron Age (1000-700 BC). Finds of this period date back to the Early Hellenic period (2850-2250 BC), while the newer findings date back to the settlement between 1700 and 1500 BC. Parts of large vessels, guns, pediments, agricultural tools and clay figurines of humans and animals were found.
During Historical times throughout the area of Pangeo live Thracian tribes, distinguished for their martial art and skill. The Greeks come later. There is a first attempt by the Athenians to conquer this fertile area in 465 BC, where a battle is taking place between the Athenians and the Thracian populations. The Athenians lose the battle, leaving 10,000 dead soldiers on the battlefield. Later, between 360-359 BC Greeks colonists from Thassos, led by the exiled Athenian orator and politician Kallistratos, came and settled in the Philippi area, building the first small town. This town, before taking the name of the Macedonian king Philip II, is sometimes known as Krinides and sometimes called Daton. The name Krinides is due to the abundant water that flows all over the area. The name Daton is an echo of the famous euphoria of this region. It was not, however, only the fertile land that attracted the Athenians and the Thasians. This land hided mine of gold, behind its Acropolis. With possession and their exploitation by the Thasians, new coins, gold and bronze were released, which had Hercules’ head for the main show and a tripod or other times a bow with a bat behind. These coins had the inscription THASSION EPIRUS.
This colony was of great importance. It was supported by historians that Plato’s 11th epistle to Thassian Laodamas concerns the legislation and organization of Krinides. In the years of Philip II’s reign, the activities of the Thracian kings were a permanent source of concern and created problems in the northern frontier of the Macedonian state. Philip was repeatedly obliged by circumstances to engage in the affairs of Thrace.
When Philip captured Amphipolis (357 BC) in the lower reaches of the river of Strymonas, a king of a Thracian tribe, Ketriporis, began to attack against Greek cities in the plain of Daton. One of them, Krinides, sought protection from Philip, who responded immediately, putting an end to the Thracian raids, appending the region and re-establishing Krinides as Philippi.
Philip foresaw the strategic and economic importance of Krinides. After capturing it, he increased its population with Macedonian colonists and gave it his name. Thus, the Macedonian city of Philippi was created. A big and powerful wall surrounded the city and a theater, one of the best in Ancient Greece, decorated it.
The city of Philippi emerged as the premier royal colony and its annexation was a steady step towards the expansion of Macedonia from Strymonas to Nestos river. At the same time, Philip began to exploit the gold mines that had the name “asyla”, perhaps because, (as the French archaeologist Heuzey assumed), those criminals or fugitive slaves came here, found asylum (asylia in Greek) by working on gold mines. Herodotus names the gold mines as “Syleos Pedion” and “Skapti Yli” (Digging Matter) – and attributes to the gold mines the profit of over 1000 “talanta” a year. In Philippi was installed the royal mint where the famous coin “Philippeon” was cut.
Theophrastus, who knew the region of Philippi, informs us that in the 4th century BC, with the establishment of the Macedonian colonists, a huge recourses work was being carried out. A large part of the plain, which until then was covered with waters and marshes, was drained. The desiccant work that has been achieved has resulted in the improvement of the region’s climate.
In 304 BC the city of Philippi also elevated an Olympic champion. Lambou Philippissious was the victor of the “téthrippon” (a four-horse chariot).
Unfortunately, the available information about the history and the culture of the Macedonian city is still very limited. The few inscriptions found in the excavations dating back to the Hellenistic period inform us of Alexander’s personal intervention on the issue of the draining of the Tenagoi, for the periodic sale of the priesthood rank, for a resolution in honor of a citizen who lent to the city money with little or no interest. From a Philippi resolution in the middle of the 3rd Century BC found in Kos, we learn about the reception of the Island’s Theologians, who came to Philippi to declare a ceasefire and make known the celebration of Asclepius. The local parliament gave the emissaries various prices and approved a military accompany for their escort to Neapolis (Kavala).
During Macedonian domination Philippi is one of the main cities of the Macedonian Kingdom with economic prosperity and privileges. However, the population and the importance of the city with the flow of time are greatly reduced, until the time of the Roman conquest (168 BC).