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Philippi Archaeological sites: From the Hellenistic to Roman period

The archaeological site of Philippi is located in Eastern Macedonia between the modern cities of Kavala and Drama, at the southeast edge of the plain of Drama.

For the most part, the landscape that surrounds the archaeological site has been preserved intact from antiquity to this day. The most important sites, apart from the theater from the Hellenistic times up to Roman period are:

The Acropolis

The Acropolis of Filippoi is at the summit of the fortified hill above the city. The fortress was in use throughout the Byzantine period until the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks in the late 14th century. On the south slopes of the acropolis sanctuaries of various deities, founded in Roman times, preserve rock-cut reliefs and inscriptions.

On the enclosure of the Acropolis, the various building phases of the walls of the ancient city are distinguished. The wall of Byzantine times of the 10th century is founded above the ancient wall of the time of Philip II.

In the interior of the acropolis dominates a large quadrilateral tower of Late Byzantine times. Its entrance is located to the north, at a height of 1.50m. above the ground surface for safety reasons. Characteristic are two decorative brick themes on the outer sides of the tower: a cross on the south and a fish on the west side.

Surface pottery found on the Acropolis of Filippi, confirms that the hill was already inhabited since the early Iron Age. Sculptures on the rock (stylized wheels, ship), dated to the 5th c. BC, also witness the presence of life on the hill before the arrival of the Thasian colonists.

The tower is later than the rest of the fortification and is located in the time of the Palaiologos around the 14th century.

Acropolis of Filippoi-Ακρόπολη Φιλίππων

The Walls

The enclosure of the walls began from the top of the hill, where the fortified Acropolis was, and proceeding to the steep slopes of the southern slope, enclosing at the foot of the hill a part of the plain, which was offered for habitation and for the development of public spaces. The earliest phase of the enclosure dates back to the time of Philip II (the middle of the 4th century BC) and the youngest in the years of Justinian I (527-565 AD). The wall of Philip II, visible on the eastern main leg and acropolis, has a thickness of 2,30-2,85 m. and is built of large marble bricks. The total length of the perimeter of the walls reaches 3.5 km. Towers surround all 3 gates identified by the excavations. Of these, the two are on the west side of the wall and the third on the east.


The Sanctuaries of the Rocks

Within the boundaries of the Macedonian Kingdom and later of the Roman Empire, there was a religious syncretism, the parallel worship of various deities of different origins. This fact is obvious by the sanctuaries of Artemis, Sylvanos, Cybele, Isis and other deities, that are dating back to Hellenistic and Roman times and can be seen on the south slopes of the Acropolis. A votive inscription, informs us about the worship of Artemis and Apollo the Comeus, deities that must have come to Filippi along with the Thasian colonists. Going from the theater to the west side, we meet the sanctuary of the god Sylvanos the worship of whom the Roman colonists brought with them. Right next to it, we see the sanctuary of Cybele that along with other eastern deities (Mithra, Atti), their worship was very popular at the late Roman Ages.

The Egyptian gods Isis, Serapis, Oros or Arpocrates and probably also the Telesphorus were worshiped in a small sanctuary of the Roman period, excavated on the hillside of the acropolis, 150 meters northwest of Basilica I. The worship of the Egyptian gods must have been introduced to Filippi as well as to other Macedonian cities since the 3rd century BC, but the building complex of the sanctuary dates back to Roman times.

Also, very popular was the Thracian contribution to the amalgam of the Filippi deities: the worship of the Hero-Horse rider. The symbol of snake with him is showing his heroic character and his connection to the worship of the dead. This iconographic type will be a model for the depiction of two horsemen of the Cristian Saints of Agios Georgios and Agios Dimitrios.


The Hellenistic Hero Tomb

It is about a very important monument of Macedonian style, laying under the octagon complex and was revealed by the archaeological excavation of Dimitris Lazaridis in 1964.

From this Hellenistic hero tomb, today we can see the underground chamber, and a part of the quay of the building rising above the vaulted tomb, in three levels. The underground tomb is a one-storied rectangular space with an arch on the roof and an entrance to the south. Its marble door was completely in place. In the interior of the chamber there are five niches on the sidewalls and a tender bank at the northeast corner, while underneath the floor, the excavation revealed an undamaged box-like grave in the center of the chamber. On the cover of the tomb, is preserved the name of the deceased, which was “Evifenis Eksikestou”

It should be noted that the appearance of this tomb in the center of the ancient city of Filippi, but also the jewelry and the young age of the deceased, is remarkable (the dead was probably a child). Among the jewels were a gold crown, a gold diadem, and gold patches in his clothes, which show the official place of the dead in the ancient city of Filippi.

It is very likely that the deceased is identified with Evifenis Eksikestou, who, in an inscription of Filippi, appears as the initiator of the Kavirian mysteries of the sanctuary of Samothrace.

The tomb dates back to the 2nd century BC. However, the worship of tomb must continue in the Roman era and be transformed into Christian worship in the 4th – 5th century AD., as revealed by the respect in which the building was virtually incorporated into the Early Christian temple, the well-known Octagon of the Filippi.