Where is Philippi where St. Paul was imprisoned?
Philippi was a leading city in Macedonia (northern Greece) and also a Roman colony in the time of St. Paul. The famous Ignatian Way connected the harbor where St. Paul landed by ship to Philippi. Along this route, St. Paul would have seen the Pangaeus mountain range famous for its gold mines.
O. Meinardus says at the extensive archaeological site of Philippi, you see two basilicas plus an early Christian basilica, the marketplace, forum, library temple, theater, the sanctuary of the Egyptian divinities, the town walls, the acropolis, a cistern, latrines and the prison where St. Paul was confined. Philippi was founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the fourth century B.C. Philippi became famous for the battle between Julius Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius, and the victors Octavius and Marc Antony. After this battle, Philippi became a Roman garrison town whose language was Latin. The number of Jews in Philippi must have been small, because there was no synagogue. Rather there was only a proseuche or temporary place of prayer outside the city gate near the river Ganga where the Jewish washings could take place.
It was at this river where St. Paul met Lydia, a wealthy pagan woman who sold purple goods from the town of Thyatira in western Turkey. Lydia and her whole household ended up being baptized. Lydia invited Paul and his companion Silas to her house. On the way they met a fortune-telling slave girl who made much money for her masters by telling fortunes. This girl followed Paul around for several days shouting “These men are servants of God; they will make known to you a way of salvation.” Paul became annoyed and drove the spirit out of the girl. When her masters saw they would make no more money on the girl, they dragged Paul and Silas to the magistrates for disturbing the peace. Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown into prison with their feet chained to a stake. Around midnight, a severe earthquake shook the prison, the doors opened, and the chains were pulled loose. There were many earthquakes in ancient Greece. The jailer was going to kill himself, because he thought all the prisoners escaped. But then he saw them remaining in prison and was so impressed that he said, “Men, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas preached the Gospel to the jailer and finally he and his whole household were baptized. This “household” could include children and slaves. So here we see a hint at infant Baptism in the early Church right in the Bible.
When the magistrates learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they took them out of jail and asked them to leave Philippi. Paul and Silas first stopped by Lydia’s house and then left for Thessalonica (modern Thessaloniki) in Macedonia. Eventually Paul would make a second and third visit to Philippi and write an epistle to the Philippians now found in the New Testament.
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