Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Areopagus or Mars Hill, Athens

Acts 17:19-23
Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

The Areophagus is a hill that is sited between the ancient Athenian Agora and the plateau of the Acropolis. The sacred road or the "Panathenaic Way" or "West Road" ran through it from the port, through the Agora and all the wall up to the Temple of Athena in the Parthenon in the Acropolis.

The name of the hill is probably derived from Ares, the god of war or from Ares-Erinyes (arai:curses), divinities of punishment and revenge. It was on this hill that the Boule of the Areopagus (Council of the Areopagus) sat in judgement of murderers. It was also a cult place or sacred place where the sanctuary of Eumenides or Semnai Theai (the kindly ones) was located.

This view is from the Areopagus facing north. Beyond the edge of the cliff is the ancient Athenian Agora. The large building on the right is the restored Stoa of Attalos. In its time it would contained shops and shade, a regular shopping mall.

Another view from a slight higher elevation, facing south. The building with columns on the left is the Temple of Hephaisteion, devoted to the god of metal working and where the metal workers worked. On the right is the Church of the Ayioi Apostolioi (Holy Apostles), a Byzantine church built over the Roman Nymphaion, a fountainhouse, which in turn was built over the Athenian Southeast Fountainhouse where Paul would have taken a drink.

To the north is the imposing Acropolis. Restoration works is being carried out and the building with the scaffolding is the Prophylaia, the impressive entrance to the Acropolis. The smaller scaffolded building to the extreme left is the Temple to Athena Nike (nike means victory).

This is supposedly the site where Paul preached to the Athenians.

And a plague commemorating that occasion. Apparently a number of Athenians were converted. One of them was Dionysios the Areopagite. Dionysios became the first Bishop of Athens. When he died, he became the patron saint of Athens. A church/Basilica named after him was built on this site.

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Blogger Paul said...

Nice! One day I hope to be able to go there ...

5:27 AM  
Blogger Kar Yong said...

Nice shots! I did not manage to get a picture of the agora from the hills when I was there!

I think you can do the seminar on Sept 22 already....

7:58 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi paul,

It is nice! Well worth going especially if you are interested in ancient civilisation.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi kar yong,

the seminar is about Corinth, remember? This is Athens.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Sora said...

so where is the altar to the unknown god?

10:05 PM  

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