Philippi in the New Testament
Philippi was a city of Macedon, in,a plain between the Pangaeus arid Haemus ranges, nine miles from the sea. Paul from the port Neapolis (Kavalla) on the coast (Acts 16:11) reached Philippi by an ancient paved road over the steep range Symbolum (which runs from the W. end of Haemus to the S. end of Pangaeus) in his second missionary journey, A.D. 51.
The walls are traced along the stream; at 350 ft. from it is the site of the gate through which Paul went to the place of prayer by the river's (Gangites) side, where the dyer LYDIA (which see) was converted, the firstfruits of the gospel in Europe.
Dyed goods were imported from Thyatira to the parent city Philippi, and were dispersed by pack animals among the mountaineers of Haemus and Pangaeus.
The Satriae tribe had the oracle of Dionysus, the Thracian prophet god. The "damsel with the spirit of divination" may have belonged to this shrine, or else to Apollo's (as the spirit is called "Pythoness," Greek), and been hired by the Philippians to divine for hire to the country folk coming to the market. She met Paul several days on his way to the place of prayer, and used to cry out on each occasion "these servants of the most high God announce to us the way of salvation."
Paul cast out the spirit; and her owners brought him and Silas before the magistrates, the duumvirs, who inflicted summary chastisement, never imagining they were Romans. Paul keenly felt this wrong (Acts 16:37), and took care subsequently that his Roman privilege should not be set at nought (Acts 22:25; 1 Thes. 2:2).
Philippi was founded by Philip of Macedon, in the vicinity of the famed gold mines, on the site "the springs" (Kremides). Augustus founded the Roman "colony" to commemorate his victory over Brutus and Cassius Acts 16:12), 42 B.C., close to the ancient site, on the main road from Europe to Asia by Brundusium, Dyrrachium, across Epirus to Thessalonica, and so forward by Philippi. Philippi was "the first (i.e. farthest from Rome and first which Paul met in entering Macedon) city of the district" called Macedonia Prima, as lying farthest eastward, not as KJV "the chief city."
Thessalonica was chief city of the province, and Amphipolis of the district "Macedonia Prima." A "colony" (accurately so named by Luke as distinguished from the Greek apoikia) was Rome reproduced in miniature in the provinces (Jul. Gellius, 16:13); its inhabitants had Roman citizenship, the right of voting in the Roman tribes, their own senate and magistrates, the Roman law and language. That the Roman "colonia," not the Greek apoikia is used, marks the accuracy of Acts 16:12.
Paul visited Philippi again on his way from Ephesus into Macedon (Acts 20:1), and a third time on his return from Greece (Corinth) to Syria by way of Macedon (Acts 20:3,6). The community of trials for Christ's sake strengthened the bond which united him and the Philippian Christians (Phil. 1:28-30). They alone supplied his wants twice in Thessalonica soon after he left them (Phil. 4:15,16); a third time, through Epaphroditus, just before this epistle (Phil. 4:10,18; 2 Cor. 11:9).
Few Jews were in Philippi to sow distrust between him and them. No synagogue, but merely an oratory (proseuchee), was there. The check to his zeal in being forbidden by the Spirit to enter Asia, Bithynia, and Mysia, and the miraculous call to Macedon, and his success in Philippi and the love of the converts, all endeared it to him.
Yet the Philippians needed to be forewarned of the Judaizing influence which might assail their church at any time as it had crept into the Galatian churches (Phil. 3:2). The epistle (Phil. 4:2,3), in undesigned coincidence with the history (Acts 16:13,14), implies that females were among the prominent church members. Its people were poor, but most liberal (2 Cor. 8:1,2); persecuted, but faithful: only there was a tendency to dissension which Paul reproves (Phil. 1:27; 2:1-4,12,14; 4:2).
In A.D. 107 the city was visited by Ignatius, who passed through on his way to martyrdom at Rome. Immediately after Polycarp wrote to the Philippians, sending at their request a copy of all the letters of Ignatius which the church of Smyrna had; so they still retained the same sympathy with sufferers for Christ as in Paul's days.
Their religion was practical and emotional, not speculative; hence but little doctrine and quotation of the Old Testament occur in the epistle of Paul to them. The gold mines furnished the means of their early liberality, but were a temptation to covetousness, against which Polycarp warns them. Their graces were doubtless not a little helped by the epistle and the oral teaching of the great apostle.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).