Looking down from the Acropolis to the northwest lies a much smaller rock known as the Areopagus in Greek and as Mars Hill in its Romanized designation. A little further beyond Mars’ Hill lies the Ancient Agora, a marketplace that is filled with temples and other symbols of ancient Greek culture.
The Areopagus was a center for life in classical times. It was a place of judgement for murderers as well as those convicted of blasphemy. However, in a strange twist, the rock also became a place of sanctuary as murderers found safety in the temple of Erinyes. And the hill became even more well known for the sermon delivered by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament to the philosophers of Greece. As he ventured through the market and made his way to Mars’ Hill, Paul delivered a treatise expounding knowledge of the “Unknown God” because he observed that they were a very religious people (Acts 17).
Getting to the Areopagus can be a little difficult. The path was easy, but when asking for directions, the security guards did not know where we were wanting to go. I thought this was fascinating that a place so well known in history seemed forgotten by locals.
Looking down from the Areopagus, the market is visible. The church to the right is the Church of the Holy Apostles built around 1000 AD, one of the oldest churches in Athens. To the left, the ruins of the gymnasium and Oedon of Agrippa are situated.
The Temple of Hephaestus sits opposite of the church. It is one of the best preserved temples in Athens with little restoration being done to it. Hephaestus was the patron god of metal working which provides context to many of the shops that occupied the market. Metal workers and potters worked daily creating and selling their goods. Seeing this temple also helps one to get a picture of the temples encountered by Paul as he made his way through the market place before speaking at the Areopagus.
Looking back from the Areopagus, this enormous slab of marble allows for an excellent overview of the market as well as a different perspective of the Acropolis. It puts into perspective the size and number of the temples above for different deities. Visiting the Areopagus also gives insight into the stories of historical Christianity as one reflects on the Apostle Paul’s visit. Even for those who may not be familiar with the story, the message is on a monument before climbing the stairs. It may be educational for some, and much more.