The city of Philippi was an important administrative centre in Macedonia, the northern part of Greece. (For map see MACEDONIA.) It was named after Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great), who conquered it about 356 BC and made it into one of his strategic cities.

During the Roman civil war, Philippi was the scene of a vital battle in 31 BC, after which the victor gave the city the status of a Roman colony (Acts 16:12). (For the privileges that citizens of a Roman colony enjoyed see ROME, subheading ‘Roman citizenship’.) Philippi was on the main route from Rome to Asia Minor. Its port was Neapolis (Acts 16:11-12). Paul and Silas visited Philippi on Paul’s second missionary journey, and found their first converts among a group of God-fearing Gentiles who met for prayer at the river bank (Acts 16:13-15).

When the missionaries healed a demonized girl, their opponents stirred up trouble and had them thrown into prison (Acts 16:16-24). But this resulted in more people turning to Christ (Acts 16:31-34). Though released the next day, Paul and Silas had to leave the city, but they left behind the beginnings of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:39-40). Paul appears to have visited Philippi twice on his third missionary journey – once when travelling through Macedonia south to Achaia (Acts 20:1-2), and once when returning through Macedonia to Troas (Acts 20:6). He probably visited Philippi again after release from his first Roman imprisonment (1 Tim 1:3). The Philippian church saw itself as a partner with Paul in his missionary work and helped support him financially (Phil 1:7-8; 4:14-18). The church brought Paul much joy and drew from him warm expressions of true friendship (Phil 1:4; 4:1; see PHILIPPIANS, LETTER TO THE).

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