The ancient city of Philippoi was built on the fringes of the marshes that occupied the south-east part of the plain of Drama. The first settlers were colonists from Thasos who were aware of the rich sources of precious metals, timber and agricultural products in the region and therefore founded the colony of Krenides in 360 BC. The new colony was soon threatened by the Thracians and in 356 BC sought the aid of Philip II, king of Macedonia. Discerning the economic and strategic importance of the city, Philip captured and fortified it and gave it his name: Philippoi.
The city prospered greatly in the Hellenistic period, hen it acquired its fortification walls, theatre, public buildings and private residences. The fact that the Via Egnatia passed through Philippoi in the 2nd c. BC made the city much more important and transformed it into a major centre of the region.
In 42BC, the battle of Philippoi, fought on the two low hills outside the west walls of the city, changed its character completely: after his victory, Octavian converted Philippoi into a Roman colony (Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis). The city expanded and developed into an economic, administrative and artistic centre, especially during the 2nd and 3rd century AD.
However, another important event was to change the personality of the city once again: the visit of St. Paul the Apostle, who founded the first Christian church on European soil here in AD 49/50. The predomination of the new religion and the transfer of the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople lent Philippoi considerable luster and reputation.
In the Early Christian period (4th-6th c. AD), the Octagon complex was built on the site of Roman buildings, with the cathedral dedicated to St. Paul and four magnificent basilicas.
Excavations were begun at Philippoi by the French School of Athens in 1914. After the Second World War, the Archaeological Service and the Archaeological Society conducted systematic excavations there. At present, the Archaeological Service, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the French School of Athens are continuing the archaeological investigation of the site. The finds from the excavations are housed in the Philippoi Museum.