11 We therefore[a] set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth.
Lydia must have been extraordinarily wealthy to be a dealer in this product. Also, the area around Philippi must have been very prosperous to have customers for her. We can also reasonably guess that Lydia was literate.
All of the places St. Paul visited were part of the Roman Empire. “Roman Colony” meant that in addition to being ruled by Rome, Roman civil law applied there. At this time Rome allowed many of its possessions to keep their local laws and customs, as long they paid their taxes and did not rebel. However, a colony was actually a Roman city, and Roman law applied there. This may have given Lydia more rights than she would have had in another Macedonian city.
Meanwhile, he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
Tanning was a very smelly activity. Simon’s place was likely on the edge of town, on the downwind side.