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Archaeological site of Philippi

Date de soumission : 16/01/2014
Critères: (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of Greece to UNESCO
Etat, province ou région :
Region of East Macedonia and Thrace, Regional Unit of Kavala
Ref.: 5863

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The area of Philippi hosts a series of archaeological monuments, witnesses to a long historical path during which civilisations intersected and developed. The first archaeological evidence of organised life in the area dates from prehistoric times (5500 BC) and is found in the tell of Philippi, Dikili Tash. This is the oldest Neolithic settlement in the whole of East Macedonia and Thrace, and one of the largest tells in the Balkans. Life in the ancient city of Philippi began when the Thasians founded the colony of Krenides in the interior in 360 BC. The colony was soon (356 BC) conquered by Philip II of Macedon (359-336 BC), fortified and renamed Philippi. The Battle of Philippi took place in 42 BC, between the armies of the Republicans Cassius and Brutus, and the supporters of Julius Caesar, Octavian and Mark Antony. The Emperor accorded Philippi the honour of implementing Roman Law and the name Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis in 27 BC.

The Via Egnatia, one of the longest military and trading roads in the ancient world, also passed through Philippi, bringing the city to the forefront of major historical events.

Philippi played a decisive role in the expansion of Christianity when, in 49/50 AD, Paul the Apostle visited the city, founded the first Christian church in Europe and baptised the first European Christians, an event that affected the whole continent. The Epistle to the Philippians, the first Christian community in Europe, sealed the long and close relationship between the Apostle and the Philippi congregation. There was an episcopal see of Philippi from as early as the mid-4th century AD. The exceptional examples of early Christian architecture (the three Early Christian basilicas, the Octagon church, baths that remained in use into the Christian period, the “Bishop’s Palace”, private houses), dating from the mid-4th century AD onwards, bear eloquent witness to the power and vitality of the Church of Philippi and its influence on the contemporary Christian world. These were closely linked to developments in the metropolitan see of Constantinople, if not directly financed by it.

The immediate historical landscape of Philippi also includes:

Α) The rock art in the Lekani foothills, approximately two kilometres east of the city of Krenides, depicting human and animal figures and the distinctive “horseman”.

Β) The important mines in the area east of Philippi and northeast of the ancient port of Neapoli (modern-day Kavala), identified with those referred to by Herodotus and Thucydides as Skapte Hyle. 

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle

The Philippi area is linked to great historical figures and events that shaped the world as we know it. Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, is unquestionably the leading political figure of the Late Classical period, and directly determined the fate of the Ancient World. With his son Alexander’s expedition to the East, Greek civilisation was disseminated to India and had an exceptional influence on the political and cultural development of the whole Ancient World. Philippi certainly played a major economical and political part in Philip’s plans. Furthermore, the Battle of Philippi set the course of the Roman Republic towards the Empire that was to conquer the Ancient World. Great statesmen of the Roman era, such as Mark Antony and Octavian, determined the history of the city. The other great contribution of Philippi to human history is the establishment there of the first Christian church in Europe by Paul the Apostle himself, founding a religion in the West which still influences the political and cultural history of a large part of the world today. This tradition is deeply rooted in Philippi, guarded as a treasure and honoured by the local communities.

The architectural remains of Philippi represent important transitional periods in the history of the architecture of the Byzantine Empire from its earliest days. The building phases identified in the ruins of the Octagon church and Basilica B demonstrate the evolution of human architectural ingenuity, to which the exquisite functional and ornamental elements of Basilica C add the aesthetic component.

At Philippi we can also see the diachronic and uninterrupted continuity of universal values that exist until today; they were passed on from Ancient Greek tradition to the Roman world, incorporated in Christian communities. A characteristic expression of this religious continuity is the incorporation of the Hellenistic funerary heroon in the first Christian house of prayer (eukterios oikos), built in the early 4th century and dedicated to Paul the Apostle, according to the dedicatory mosaic inscription: “Bishop Porphyrios made the mosaics of the basilica of Paul, in Christ”. The Hellenistic tomb was preserved as the core of the Christian religious buildings even when, circa 400 AD, the small house of prayer was replaced by the great Octagon church with its various annexes. 

Criterion (ii): The material remains of Philippi demonstrate the development of political, social, economic, religious and artistic values from the Classical to the Middle Byzantine period in a manner representative of the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine world.

Criterion (iii): It bears exceptional witness to the introduction and early expansion of Christianity through the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire before it even reached Rome.

Criterion (iv): Its architectural remains are excellent examples of the early development of architectural types such as the Octagon church, the transept Basilica and the domed Basilica. The small early 4th century prayer house dedicated to Paul the Apostle, which was later incorporated into the Octagon, is the earliest securely dated building of Christian worship in the world.

Criterion (vi): Philippi is directly and tangibly connected to events that changed world history, such as the Battle of Philippi and the expansion of Christianity to the western world. 

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

Several of the monuments of the ancient city have always been visible. Comparison with 19th and early 20th century depictions confirms that their state of preservation has not altered radically.

There have been small-scale interventions to all the monuments of the ancient city for reasons of consolidation, presentation and interpretation. The Archaeological Service has carried out all the conservation and restoration work in accordance with national legislation and the international conventions ratified by Greece.

The seats of the ancient theatre were excavated and restored between 1957 and 1964 in order to host the Philippi-Thasos Festival of Ancient Drama. Excavation, documentation, restoration and rehabilitation work has continued from 1975 to the present under the guidance of a scientific committee. 

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

The archaeological site of Philippi surpasses many other sites of outstanding value because it bears significant witness to human history through the ages. It includes the prehistoric settlement of Dikili Tash, comparable only to the greatest tells of the Balkans and Anatolia. Its Hellenistic phase, although not represented by many impressive monuments, is directly connected to Philip II, one of the most important figures in world history. As a Roman city, it is comparable to Nicopolis in Epirus, as the latter is also connected to Octavian and the Battle of Actium, another decisive battle for the Roman Empire.

Philippi boasts a splendid collection of inscriptions which enrich our knowledge of the operation of a Roman colony as a “little Rome” in the wider area of the East Mediterranean. Philippi is a singular case of an untouched archaeological site with monuments in an exceptional state of preservation and long-term development prospects since there is no modern settlement within the boundaries of the archaeological site (as is the case with Corinth, Antioch, Beirut and even Rome itself). The city in its Roman phase formed the social and historical context in which Christian teaching took root and grew. It is therefore beyond compare and is unique on a symbolic level as the first city in Europe in which Paul the Apostle preached and baptised the first Christian woman. It is thus the cradle of Christianity on European soil and worldwide. The Early Christian monuments of Philippi are among the best-preserved monuments of this type and period in the world.