Greece is issuing a circulating commemorative €2 coin to celebrate the ancient settlement of Philippi. A total of 750,000 of the coins are due for release in the second half of 2017. So what's this settlement and why is it important enough to feature on a coin?

Philippi, or Philippoi (Φίλιπποι) was a city in eastern Macedonia, in the Edonis region. Its original name was Krenides (Κρηνῖδες), meaning "Fountains". It was establishment by Thasian colonists in 360/359 BC. The city was renamed by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC and would eventually be abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. It was made a World Heritage Site in 2016.

The objective of conquering the town was to take control of the neighboring gold mines and to establish a garrison at a strategic passage: the site controlled the route between Amphipolis and Neapolis, part of the great royal route which crosses Macedonia from the east to the west and which was reconstructed later by the Roman Empire as the Via Egnatia. Philip II endowed the city with important fortifications, which partially blocked the passage between the swamp and Mt. Orbelos, and sent colonists to occupy it. Philip also had the marsh partially drained, as is attested by the writer Theophrastus. Philippi preserved its autonomy within the kingdom of Macedon and had its own political institutions (the Assembly of the demos). The discovery of new gold mines near the city, at Asyla, contributed to the wealth of the kingdom and Philip established a mint there. The city was fully integrated into the kingdom under Philip V. The city contained 2,000 people at the height of it Hellenic era. The most important (Hellenic and Roman) monuments of the site are:

The walls and the acropolis: The structure has two architectural phases: the first was built by Philip II and the second by Justinian I in A.D. 527-565. Inside the acropolis there is a tower dated to the Late Byzantine period.

The theatre, which was probably built by king Philip II around the middle of the 4th century B.C. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries it was overhauled to meet the demand in .

The Agora was the administrative center of Philippi in the Roman period. It is a complex of public buildings arranged around a central open square. The most imposing buildings are the North-East temple and the North-West temple.

Basilica A is a large, three-aisled basilica (130 x 50 meter) with transept aisle on the east side, a square atrium, and gallery over the aisles and the narthex. Fragments of the luxurious pavement and part of the ambo are preserved in the middle aisle. Particularly impressive are the frescoes that imitate orthostates (dados) in the porch of a chapel. Dated to the end of the 5th century A.D.

Basilica B is a three-aisled basilica dated to ca. 550 A.D. It has a narthex and annexes to the north and south (phiale, vestry). The almost square in plan, central aisle was covered with a vault supported by large pillars. This is the basilica portrayed on the coin.

Basilica C is another three-aisled basilica. It had luxurious marble inlays on the floor and rich sculptural and architectural decoration. The basilica is dated to the 6th century A.D.

The excavations on the site of Philippi began in 1914 by the French School of Archaeology at Athens. After the Second World War, excavations were resumed by the Greek Archaeological Service and the Archaeological Society. Nowadays, the archaeological exploitation of the site is carried out by the Archaeological Service, the Aristoteleian University of Thessaloniki and the French School of Archaeology at Athens. The finds from the excavations are housed in the Museum of Philippi.

An image of the archaeological site featuring part of Basilica B, and linear motifs inspired by a border pattern from an ancient Greek mosaic discovered at the site, appears on the obverse of the coin. Inscribed along the inner circle are Greek inscriptions translating to “Archaeological Site of Philippi” and “Hellenic Republic.” Also inscribed in the background is the year of issuance 2017 and to the right a palmette (the Mint mark of the Greek Mint). Visible at the lower left is the monogram of the artist, George Stamatopoulos.