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    Philippi: The tomb of a hero, umbilicus of the city?

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    by Theodoros An. Spanelis

     

    One of the few monuments of the Macedonian era that is visible to today’s visitor.

     

    If we want to identify in the ancient city of Philippi the point zero or in other words, the state’s spiritual navel, it probably wouldn’t be difficult. A locus foreseeable and close to the forum, hosts the most important Christian church, the octagon but also the only, brilliant Hellenistic heroon, situated within the city walls, which was, in fact, found intact.

    What kind of tomb is this and for who it was built next to the market? Why did it acted out as the centerpiece for the development of the Christian religion and what are the remarkable findings that survived over time?

     

    This heroon is one of the greatest mysteries of the city of Philippi, that has yet to be solved. Although there are many findings and decades of study, scientists have not agreed on what exactly happened to the tomb of the dead canonized as a hero and initiate of the mystery cult of the Kabeiroi and Paul’s Basilica that later was built at the same spot, incorporating a part of the heroon.

    At this point though, more questions come into view. Who is the one for whom burial was permitted with in the city walls, what is the capacity of the canonized as a hero man and potential settler? Why the tomb wasn’t demolished but instead it was incorporated into the first Christian monument? Do we have here a very interesting example of syncretism, where the old national cult goes into the new era after 311 A.D.?

    To this day, there isn’t one and only interpretation, although there are several views (at least two), with strong arguments each and that makes the case even more interesting.

     

    The dead found in the tomb, along with his impressive golden treasures, though at a young age (presumed to be around the age of 14), was initiated in the mystery cult of Kabeiroi. He is Euephenes, son of Exekestos. In this way, we have an affirmation of the connection of Philippi with the mysteries of the Great Gods of Samothrace.

     

    On top of the macedonian heroon of Euephenes Exekestos, shortly after 311 A.D. and in any case in the early years of the 4th century, the first basilica was built and was attributed to Apostle Paul.  That is deducted from a mosaic inscription which informs us that Porphyrios made a mosaic floor in this Basilica of Paul.

    This particular shrine has an octagonal shape in all its successive building phases and its shape is indicative that is was built in memory of martyrdom. This is where the thread of Christian times in the history of Philippi began to unravel.

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    Επιτρέπεται η αναδημοσίευση του περιεχομένου της ιστοσελίδας εφόσον αναφέρεται ευκρινώς η πηγή του. Νόμος 2121/1993 και κανόνες Διεθνούς Δικαίου που ισχύουν στην Ελλάδα.