In which is a walk-through of Philippi

by Craig on February 28, 2011

Last time we stepped inside the gates of Philippi for the first time.

I figured we’d need a map for the walk through. So here’s one I’ve been working on. If you click on it it gets bigger.

It’s a topographical map – so those lines you see? That’s a very steep hill. You can see how they made handy use of it with the Amphitheater.

I’ve marked the route of our tour in gray. We’ve already entered down at the lower right – we’ll walk straight for a bit then turn right. then go down to that big rectangle and turn left, then follow the other big rectangles as we head south again to the road we first came in on.

Looking  around we see – Philippians.

Practically everyone would be considered middle class or poor by those around them. But they’d almost all look woefully poor to us. We would run into slaves here and there, but we would hardly notice them as such.

There would be some military Roman types around but mostly we’d see shop-keepers, quarry men, bakers, butchers, fabric traders, money changers, and actors. We’d see lots of the guys on the right of the picture below – and very few of the ones in the middle and left.

Philippi was a not too big, not too small, and very urban city.

When Rome attacked and conquered Greece they granted large amounts of property (read wealth) to the soldiers. The soldiers moved in and the formerly Greek city of Philippi became…a Roman colony.

There were lots of Greeks left, but they had lost citizenship along with their property. They were no longer citizens of Greece, and only a very special few were allowed to become citizens of Rome. They were not happy about this.

The first thing we noticed as we entered the city gates was a gleaming amphitheater to our right.  After ooohing and ahhhhhing we’d look straight ahead to see the road continue clear to the opposite city wall.

It would be lined solidly on both sides by 4 and 5 story high buildings. They’d look very much like ancient city apartment buildings, row after row, and with narrow alleys between them. That’s because it’s what they were.

This is a part of Roman city planning that we aren’t familiar with. We know of great temples and coliseums but these tenements, called insulae, are one of the dark secrets of Roman society –cramped, unlit, unsanitary, and unsafe.

Almost everyone in Philippi was living day to day with just enough to get by.

When the Romans displaced farmers from the surrounding area to build nice big villas – most moved inside the city walls.

There were ten thousand people cramped into a small hilltop plateau. The only way  to get so many people inside the gates was to build upwards.

The elite would own the tenement buildings and the regular people (plebians) would rent a small living space. For most, it was so small that they would choose to spend most of their lives out in the city streets and only use their ‘apartment’ like we would use a hotel room on a vacation.

Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at these “apartment” buildings.

This is where almost all of the church at Philippi lived.

God Bless.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie February 28, 2011 at 11:41 am

I love learning about all of this! Thank you! So much I don’t know, so fun to find out! :) God bless you for teaching and sharing!


Craig February 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thank you Deb. I hope its fun for everybody – thank you to the archaeologists for literally digging up the city and the anthropologists for figuring out what all the pieces meant. We can have a really clear picture of Philippi – it’s a blessing.

God Bless, Deb.


Dianna McBride February 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Loving this tour! Looking forward to tomorrow’s portion.


Craig February 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Thank you Dianna – I love this city, this church. I loved researching it – and now sharing. I’m really glad you’ll be along for the tour. God Bless.


imperfect prose February 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm

i love your way of telling a story, the way you draw us in here… so good to meet you. thank you for stopping by my place today. you bless me.


Craig February 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Coming from you that is high praise. Thank you. Although I’m not really sure this is a “story” – what does one exactly call an historically correct, yet fictional tour of an ancient city? Well I guess it kind of is a story – but – well – you probably know what I’m trying to say. Still – thank you for the kind words God Bless.


Michelle March 1, 2011 at 2:48 am

I think I’d be a pleb. I’d like an apartment with a window please.


Craig March 1, 2011 at 3:01 am

Nooooooooooooo. You don’t want to be a pleb. It’s all nice in the romantic sense. But all the power resided in the 1-3% at the top Michelle. That’s 97% fighting for the approval of the 1-3%. I wouldn’t want you to be a pleb. Just say no to “plebage”.


Michelle March 1, 2011 at 5:00 am

True, the 1-3% would be nice. But all those people clamouring…..

I think I like now times.


Craig March 1, 2011 at 9:28 am

Amen – at least the “now” times in America (North America for our Canadian friends)


Professor Richard Cassidy January 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm

For a commentary on the Letter to the Philippians, I am in need of the best possible map for the site of Philippi. The map you show here is helpful but not distinct enough for my purposes. Also for my purposes I do not necessarily need to have the topography indicated.

What you have regarding the Insulae is helpful. However, is it possible to document the remains of any multi-storied buildings. Any reference that you can provide me with would be extremely helpful.

Thanks for what you have already presented above. I hope that you can assist me in the areas that I have mentioned.

With appreciation,

Professor Richard J. Cassidy
Sacred Heart Major Seminary


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