in the footsteps of paul
 Wider World
detail map


 Home | History | Series
 Tarsus (Birth - 30CE)
 Jerusalem (30-34)
 Antioch (34-43)
 Spreading the Word (43-48)
 The Wider World (49-50)
 Corinth (50-52)
 Ephesus (52-56)
 Into the Fire (56-70)
The Wider World: The Second Missionary Journey

We were busy for several days in Philippi. On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gates to the river where we thought we might find a place of prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who had gathered there. One was a woman called Lydia, a dealer in purple fabric; she revered God, and the Lord opened her heart to receive Paul's message. She and her household were baptizedů
–Acts 16.11-15

Paul wrote to his congregation in Philippi
Paul wrote to his congregation in Philippi
(historical re-creation)

When it was day, the generals sent their officers to the prison , saying "Release those men." The jailer repeated the command to Paul, saying "The generals have ordered that you be released. So you are free to go in peace." Then Paul replied "So, having flogged us when we were uncondemned--we who are Roman citizens-they cast us into prison. And now they cast us out in secret? No, let them come here and lead us out." The officers took the message to the generals, who were alarmed when they heard the men were Roman citizens. They went to the jail and apologized, then escorted them out and asked them to leave the city.
–Acts 16.35-39

Paul crossed the mountains before crossing into Greece
Paul crossed the mountains before crossing into Greece
(historical re-creation)

Were you a slave when called? Think nothing of it. But if a possibility of freedom arises, be sure to take it. He who is called to the Lord as a slave is freedman in the Lord.
–1 Corinthians 7.21-22

The Greek countryside
The Greek countryside
(from the film)

The commander came over and said "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And Paul said "Yes." The commander replied "I purchased my citizenship at a great price." And Paul said "I was born into it."
–Acts 22.27-28

eaving Antioch on his own, Paul traveled overland. He would have headed inland through Tarsus, and passed through the Cilician Gates, a narrow mountain pass on the only road through the mountains. This pass had been a key site in the invasions of the previous centuries, the scene of decisive action in the Persian conquest of the West, and then for Alexander's opposing drive to the East. After stopping at the congregations he had founded on his first mission -- Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch near Pisidia-he continued across the plain into the western quarter of modern Turkey-called Asia Minor during the Roman period -- to the town of Troas, the main hopping off point to cross over into Greece. The prospect of spreading his message into the cultural heart of the Mediterranean must have appealed to Paul. Though Greece had long since lost the commercial and military strength of earlier centuries, it was the birthplace of the architecture, language, mythology and philosophy that had permeated the entire East.

The first city on the Greek mainland where Paul stayed for any length of time was Philippi. With rich veins of gold and silver, the site had been a kind of gold rush town in the fourth century BCE-but it was also vulnerable to attack. In 356 BCE, the mines were seized by Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and he named the town after himself. The mines were rich enough to finance Philip's campaigns, as well as Alexander's first campaigns against the Persian Empire. But Philippi did not become a substantial settlement until it passed into Roman hands, and was included on the route of a new major road linking the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. Then, in 42 BCE, Philippi was thrust into the limelight. It was the site of one of the most significant battles in Roman history. Julius Caesar had been assassinated in 44 BCE, and the armies of his avengers lined up for a final showdown against the armies of his assassins. The avengers won: the Roman Republic was dead. Julius Caesar's adopted son Octavian -- soon to become the first emperor Augustus -- created a Roman colony on the site, both to commemorate the victory, and to provide land for retired soldiers. Roman military colonies were typically laid out on a grid pattern of streets, and the soldiers were given rectangular allotments of land called centuries.

Perhaps because he could locate no settled synagogue, Paul looked outside the city walls for a congregation. According to Acts, he found a group of women near the river, perhaps meeting for prayer, or gathering water, or doing the laundry. A woman named Lydia was receptive to his message. Acts says that she and her household were baptized. That she had a household -- a phrase used to cover both a family and their dependents and slaves -- indicates that she was probably prosperous. While in Greece, Paul would find that a number of prominent women would welcome his message, and it seems the patronage of influential women was an important support for the growth of the young congregations. As with many of the episodes included in Acts, modern scholars question the historical reliability of this story, as well as the conclusions drawn from it.

Whereas Paul had been run out of towns all across central Turkey, in Philippi his objectors brought him before the city magistrates. He was arrested and jailed. A Jew proclaiming a king other than Caesar was cause for concern. According to Acts, Paul made a surprising claim upon his release -- that he was a Roman citizen. An individual of provincial ancestry could acquire Roman citizenship in very few ways: first, by imperial grant, a favor most likely bestowed on those with money or power; second, through military service; and third, through slavery and manumission. Slaves of Roman masters became Roman citizens upon manumission, and owners of slaves could set prices for slaves to buy their freedom. Slaves were allowed to own property, and owners often used the offer of manumission to ensure stability. With the hope of freedom in sight, slaves who did skilled labor could save their earnings and purchase their freedom and citizenship. Powerful individuals would often have slaves serving in key positions, as secretaries, advisors, and administrators. Consequently, some slaves could wield considerable influence, and amass great wealth. Freed slaves rarely rose through the ranks of the Roman hierarchy; though it was possible, social prejudices did impose restrictions. Paul's route to citizenship is unknown.

next chapter