The city of Berea or Beroea (modern Veria, Greece) of Macedonia is mentioned in ancient Greek texts as early as the 5th century BC, although little is known of the site prior to the Roman period (Thucydides; Polybius, Histories). Probably originally receiving its name from a king Beres of the kingdom of Berroia, the modern rendition, Veria, reflects preservation of the ancient name, and the city has been continuously occupied for nearly 2500 years. Situated about 45 miles west of the capital Thessalonica, Berea is just north of Mount Olympus, at the base of Mount Bermius, and near the Eliakomon and Axius rivers in a fertile agricultural area. In 168 BC Beroea was the first in Macedonia to surrender to the Romans after the Battle of Pydna, but it was no insignificant town in the Roman period, eventually even becoming a major religious center of Macedonia about 96 AD during the reign of Nerva (Livy, History of Rome; Plutarch, Pompey; Pliny, Natural History; Lucian, The Ass).
Paul and Silas (and Timothy probably also) arrived in Beroea on a night in about 50 AD after escaping a mob in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-10). While Paul may intended to be on a route leading to Rome, which would normally be reached by taking the Via Egnatia to the seaport of Dyrrhachium, sailing to Brundisium in Italy, and then travling the Via Appia to Rome, he was deterred (Romans 1:13). Located on a minor road off of the Via Egnatia, remote Berea would not have been a typical stopping point for travelers taking the east/west route (Keener, Acts; cf. Cicero). However, it was a logical place for Paul to avoid tensions in Thessaloniki and wait to see if the situation improved, especially since there was a community of Jews and a synagogue there (Acts 17:10-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18). In fact, it was used similarly as a remote retreat by Cicero when he was in Macedonia and attempting to avoid political problems almost a century earlier (Cicero, In Pisonem; Allen, “Cicero’s Provincial Governorship”). A ruling had been made against Paul in Thessaloniki, but that ruling only applied to the city of Thessaloniki, and thus Paul could begin teaching undeterred in Beroea. Almost no architectural remains have been uncovered from Beroea of the Roman period, but the discovery of various inscriptions and monuments do confirm that the name of the city was Beroea, it was in the Roman province of Macedonia, that both Greek and Latin were used there, many of the people worshipped the Greek gods (and later the Emperor), and there was a gymnasium in the city (Cormack, “Unpublished Inscriptions from Beroea”). As was his custom, Paul went to the Synagogue in Beroea and began to preach the Gospel and teach the Word of God (Acts 17:10). Although the synagogue has not been located, inscriptions from the Byzantine period suggest the presence of a community of Jews in the Roman period (Keener, Acts). According to Luke, the listeners at the synagogue in Beroea were described as people of noble character who eagerly received what Paul was teaching about Jesus Christ, but they also examined the Scriptures themselves to verify what he was claiming about the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah (Acts 17:11). In addition to Jews and God-fearers, apparently many of the Greek men and women of the city also believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 17:12). One of these new Christians, Sopater son of Pyrrhus of Berea, became a colleague of Paul and joined him during later travels in Greece and Macedonia, and when Paul was on his way back to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4; Romans 16:21). After Paul spent an unspecified time preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word of God to the people in Beroea, however, the Jews of Thessaloniki found out where he was and what he was doing, and made the 45 mile trek to also drive him out of Beroea. The Christians in Beroea, wanting to protect Paul, escorted him out of the city to the sea, and then brought him to Athens, perhaps giving their pursuers a wide berth before making the journey by land south to Athens (Acts 17:14-15). Ultimately, however, this merely served as a catalyst for Paul to visit Athens and Corinth in Achaia Province, and proclaim the Gospel there.