View of the archaeological site of Philippi.The city was founded at about the end of the 7th century BC by settlers from Thassos, who called it Neapolis (Νεάπολις; "new city" in Greek). It was one of the colonies that the Thassians founded along the coastline in order to take advantage of the rich gold and silver mines of the territory, especially those located in the nearby Pangaion mountain (which were eventually exploited by Phillip the Second of Macedonia).The worship of "Parthenos", a female deity of Greek–Ionian origin, is archaeologically attested in the archaic period. At the end of the 6th century BC Neapolis claimed its independence from Thassos and cut its own silver coins with the head of Gorgo (γοργὀνειο) on the one side. At the beginning of the 5th century BC a large Ionic temple made from thassian marble replaced the archaic one. Parts of it can now be seen in the archaeological museum of Kavala.In 411 BC, during the Peloponnesian War, Neapolis was besieged by the allied armies of the Spartans and the Thassians but remained faithful to Athens. Two Athenian honorary decrees in 410 and 407 BC rewarded Neapolis for its loyalty.Neapolis was a town of Macedonia, located 14 km (9 mi) from the harbor of Philippi. Neapolis was a member of the Athenian League; a pillar found in Athens mentions the contribution of Neapolis to the alliance.
Via Egnatia in Kavala.The military Roman road Via Egnatia passed through the city helped commerce to flourish. It became a Roman civitas in 168 BC, and was a base for Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC, before their defeat in the Battle of Philippi. (Appian, B.C. iv. 106; Dion Cass. xlvii. 35.). The Apostle Paul landed at Kavala on his first voyage to Europe (Acts, xvi. 11).
In the 6th century, Byzantine emperor Justinian I fortified the city in an effort to protect it from barbaric raids. In later Byzantine times the city was called Christoupolis ("city of Christ") and belonged to the theme of Macedonia. The first mention of the new name is recorded in a taktikon of the early 9th century. The city is also mentioned in the "Life of St. Gregory of Dekapolis". In the 8th and 9th century, Bulgarian attacks forced the Byzantines to reorganize the defense of the area, giving great care to Christoupolis with fortifications and a notable garrison. In 926 the Byzantine general (strategos) Basil Klaudon reconstructed the fallen walls of the city, ("τα πριν φθαρέντα και πεπτωκότα τείχη") according to an inscription that is now in the archaeological museum of Kavala. Due to the location of Christoupolis, the city experienced an economic resurgence, securing the contact between Constantinople and Thessaloniki. During the Norman raid of Macedonia in 1185, the city was captured and burned. In 1302, the Catalans failed to capture the city. In order to prevent them from coming back, the Byzantine emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos built a new long defensive wall ("το παρά την Χριστούπολιν τείχισμα"). In 1357 it is mentioned that the Byzantine officers and brothers Alexios and John controlled the city and its territory. Recent excavations have revealed the ruins of an early Byzantine basilica under an old Ottoman mosque in the old part of the city (Panagia peninsula). This Christian temple was used until the late Byzantine era, as the also recently revealed small cemetery around it shows. The Ottoman Turks first captured the city in 1387 and completely destroyed it in 1391, as a Mount Athos chronicle testifies.
Kavala was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1387 to 1912. In the middle of the 16th century, Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, contributed to the prosperity and growth of Kavala by the construction of an aqueduct. The Ottomans also extended the Byzantine fortress on the hill of Panagia. Both landmarks are among the most recognizable symbols of the city today.Mehmet Ali, the founder of a dynasty that ruled Egypt, was born in Kavala in 1769. His house has been preserved as a museum.
Kavala was briefly occupied by the Bulgarians during the first Balkan War in 1912, but was finally captured by Greece in 1913 during a successful landing operation by the Greek Navy that was commanded by the famous admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis. During World War I Kavala suffered from the Bulgarian military occupation with many victims among its Greek population. After the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, the city entered a new era of prosperity because of the labour offered by the thousands of refugees that moved to the area from Asia Minor. The development was both industrial and agricultural. Kavala became greatly involved in the processing and trading of tobacco. Many buildings related to the storage and processing of tobacco from that era are preserved in the city.
During World War II and after the fall of Athens, the Nazis awarded Kavala to their Bulgarian allies in 1941, causing the city to suffer once again, but finally was liberated in 1944.
In the late 1950s Kavala expanded towards the sea by reclaiming land from the area west of the port.
In 1967, King Constantine II left Athens for Kavala in an unsuccessful attempt to launch a counter-coup against the military junta.