(Ar·e·opʹa·gus) [Hill of Ares, Mars Hill].
A hill to the NW of the towering Athenian Acropolis, separated from it by a shallow valley. This rather narrow, barren ridge of limestone is about 370 feet (112.8 meters) high, and the Acropolis to its SE rises over 140 feet (42.7 meters) higher. The approach to Mars Hill is gentle from the N; on the S it is abrupt. Crowning this hill at one time were Grecian altars, temple sanctuaries, statues, and the open-air supreme court of the Areopagus. Today all this is faded away and only a few of the benchlike seats carved in the rock remain.
On one of the apostle Paul’s visits to Athens, certain Athenians laid hold of him and led him to the Areopagus, saying: “Can we get to know what this new teaching is which is spoken by you? For you are introducing some things that are strange to our ears.” (Acts 17:19, 20) In reply Paul carefully laid one solid fact of truth upon another, building up as he went along, a logical, persuasive and convincing argument. Paul never completed his speech, for “when they heard of a resurrection of the dead” mockers began to jeer. However, by the time this interruption came the apostle had succeeded in splitting his audience three ways in their opinions. While some mocked, and some said they would hear more later, others “became believers, among whom also were Dionysius, a judge of the court of the Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, and others besides them.” (Acts 17:22-34) Today a bronze plaque on Mars Hill commemorating the event contains this speech of the apostle Paul. It cannot be stated for a certainty that Paul spoke on that occasion before the court of the Areopagus, but he did have at least one member of that noted court in his audience.
The hill on which this famous court once held forth derived its name from the mythological Greek god Aʹres (Roman, Mars). The court of the Areopagus was itself of great antiquity, predating 740 B.C.E. Though its duties and jurisdiction were modified and changed from time to time through the centuries, it commanded the highest honor and respect down to the time of the Caesars.
[Picture on page 118]
The Areopagus (low hill in the foreground)