Areopagus



The Areopagus (/ˌæriˈɒpəɡəs/) is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Its English name is the Late Latin composite form of the Greek name Areios Pagos, translated "Hill of Ares" (Ancient Greek: Ἄρειος Πάγος). In classical times, it was the location of a court, also often called the Areopagus, that tried cases of deliberate homicide, wounding and religious matters, as well as cases involving arson of olive trees.[1][2] Ares was supposed to have been tried by the gods on the Areopagus for the murder of Poseidon's son Halirrhothius (a typical example of an aetiological myth).

Near the Areopagus was also constructed the basilica of Dionysius Areopagites.

In pre-classical times (before the 5th century BC), the Areopagus was the council of elders of the city, similar to the Roman Senate. Like the Senate, its membership was restricted to those who had held high public office, in this case that of Archon.[3] In 594 BC, the Areopagus agreed to hand over its functions to Solon for reform. He instituted democratic reforms, reconstituted its membership, and returned control to the organization.[4]

Under the reforms of Cleisthenes enacted in 508/507 BC, the Boule (βουλή) or council was expanded from 400 to 500 men, and was formed of 50 men from each of ten clans or phylai (φυλαί).

In 462 BC, Ephialtes put through reforms which deprived the Areopagus of almost all its functions except that of a murder tribunal in favour of Heliaia.

In The Eumenides of Aeschylus (458 BC), the Areopagus is the site of the trial of Orestes for killing his mother (Clytemnestra) and her lover (Aegisthus).

Phryne, a hetaera of the 4th century BC who was famed for her beauty, appeared before the Areopagus accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries. One story has her letting her cloak drop and so impressing the judges with her almost divine form that she was summarily acquitted.[5]

In an unusual development, the Areopagus acquired a new function in the 4th century BC, investigating corruption, although conviction powers remained with the Ecclesia.

The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, that the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, "Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Areopagus sermon, Acts 17:24)

The term "Areopagus" also refers to the judicial body of aristocratic origin that subsequently formed the higher court of modern Greece.

Coordinates: 37°58′20″N 23°43′25″E / 37.97222°N 23.72361°E / 37.97222; 23.72361

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