Acts 16:12 From the port of Neapolis, Paul, Silas and Luke travel inland along the Via Egnatia to Philippi (see 4 on Map 24).
Philippi is an old Greek city that was conquered by Philip of Macedon in 300BC and was re-founded over two hundred years later as a Roman ‘colonia’ by retired Roman soldiers and their families (see Map 24). Philippi was an important gold-mining centre, and gold coins were minted there. It was a busy commercial settlement on the Via Egnatia (the ‘Egnatian Way’) – an important routeway leading west along the coast and, eventually, across the Adriatic Sea to Rome.
The Via Egnatia at Philippi (Acts 16:12)
Today, visitors can still walk along the original route of the stone-paved Via Egnatia, and sit in the Roman amphitheatre – originally built by Philip II in the 4th century BC – or stroll across the Roman forum with its many shops, temples and public buildings.
The site traditionally identified as Paul’s prison was actually a cistern for storing water during the 1st century, but it was later transformed into a small church whose walls were covered in paintings of Paul’s arrest, his miraculous liberation and the baptism of his jailor’s family.
Paul's prison at Philippi (Acts 16:23)
The extensive remains of a number of 5th and 6th century early Christian churches have been joined recently by a new church – Lydia’s Church – built beside the River Zygaktis where it’s believed that Paul and Silas met with the early believers and Lydia was baptised.
Lydia's Church at Philippi (Acts 16:13)
Paul in Philippi
Acts 16:13-15 As there are few Jews and no synagogue in Philippi, Paul and his companions go to the riverbank just outside the city on the Sabbath day, and begin to speak to the women gathered there. One of them, Lydia – from Thyatira in the Roman province of Asia (see Map 24) – is a wealthy dealer in expensive purple cloth (which only the most important Roman citizens were allowed to wear).
The expensive purple dye was made from thousands of tiny murex shellfish. Thyatira was well known for its dyeing and garment making, and Lydia may have been an overseas agent for a Thyatiran manufacturer (see the feature on Thyatira in Section 20).
Lydia, who is probably a wealthy widow who has inherited her husband’s (or her father's) business, and all her household become believers. They are baptised, and her large town house (or ‘villa’) becomes Paul’s headquarters in Philippi.
Acts 16:16-40 Each day in Philippi, while crossing the central agora (the Roman market place fringed with pagan temples), Paul is pestered by a slave girl who makes her owners rich by fortune-telling. An evil spirit in her keeps shouting and drawing attention to Paul and his companions. Exasperated by this, Paul casts the evil spirit out of the girl – to the fury of her owners who see their profits disappear.
Shops lining the Roman agora at Philippi (Acts 16:19)
Paul and Silas are dragged before the Roman magistrates to explain their actions, but their voices are drowned by the chanting of the crowds. The magistrates order them to be stripped and flogged, after which they are flung into prison and locked in the ‘inner cell’ (probably an underground dungeon) until the magistrates meet the following morning.
Around midnight, however, Paul and Silas are set free by a violent earthquake. The jailer (and all his family) become believers and are baptised. In the morning, the magistrates send for the prisoners, but Paul and Silas insist that the magistrates come and apologise to them personally, because they have broken the Roman law by flogging and imprisoning Roman citizens without first giving them a fair trial.