Archaeology and Paul’s Campaign at Philippi -- By: Merrill F. Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 119:474 (Apr 1962)
Article: Archaeology and Paul’s Campaign at Philippi
Author: Merrill F. Unger


Archaeology and Paul’s Campaign at Philippi

Merrill F. Unger

On the journey to European Macedonia Paul’s ship, Luke records, touched the Samothrace, an Aegean island. Here was the place where Demetrius Poliorcetes, “the taker of cities” in the fourth century B.C., set up the statue of the Winged Victory, which was discovered there in 1863, and has since adorned the Louvre in Paris as one of its most superb pieces. It may be that Paul saw this splendid monument of Greek art and religion. But if he did “it meant to him only another evidence of the triumphant idolatry he was working to overthrow.”1

The 175-mile trip between Troas and Neapolis (modern Kavalla) on the Macedonian mainland, was made without incident and required two days, including the stopover at Samothrace, about midway across. At Neapolis, the port of Philippi and the terminus of the great Egnatian Road, Paul and his group landed. Situated on a promontory with the Aegean on two sides, its position was important as a connecting link by sea with Asia Minor and by land with Europe. The latter connection was made by the Egnatian Way, which ran through nearby Philippi and thence across Macedonia to Dyrrachium (Durazzo) opposite Brundisium in Italy (across the Adriatic), where the Appian Way connected with Rome. In Neapolis a typical motley array of races and languages, characteristic of port towns, reigned. This was to be expected in a town that was the first point of contact for traffic that flowed between two continents.

From Neapolis the ten-mile journey inland to Philippi was made. Sir William Ramsay has advanced the attractive hypothesis that Luke himself was a Philippian,2 which, if true, would explain the emphasis laid on the importance of the city (Acts 16:12) and the vivid detail of the narrative of Acts 16:11–40.

1. History and importance of Philippi. The city took its name from Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, who was attracted there by the gold of nearby Mount Pangaeus, and transformed the ancient village of Krenides into a thriving fortress city. From this military base Alexander in 334 B.C. set out on his phenomenal career of world conquest.

In 42 B.C. on the surrounding plains along the Gangites River the battle took place between the murderers of Julius Caesar and his avengers. In commemoration of the hard-won victory there Octavius constituted the city a Roman colony, which made it “a miniature Rome in the Middle East.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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