A guide to Areopagus Hill
The dramatic rocky outcrop of Areopagus lies just north-west of the Acropolis and offers visitors a dramatic view of Athens and in particular, the Acropolis, as well as the Ancient Agora immediately below. The area is rich in history, as it is where a temple once stood. Areopagus Hill was also the setting for Saint Paul’s preaching of the ‘Sermon of an Unknown God’.
Areopagus Hill – Areios Pagos meaning the ‘ rocky hill of Ares’. gets its names as it is where Ares once stood trial, although some historians believe that the name came from Erinyes as there was a temple dedicated to Erinyes standing at the foot of the hill and it is said that the was a popular shelter for murderers.
The Council of Elders started using the hilltop as a meeting place in 508- 507 BC. The council was sizeable, consisting of 500 men – 50 men from each phylai – clan. The role of the Council was similar to that of a Senate and its members were given the highest office.
By 462 BC the role of the Council of Elders had completely changed and one of its most important tasks was the trial of serious crimes including murder and arson. According to Greek tradition, the hill had once been the setting of many mythological trials.
It is said that it was there that Ares was charged with the murder of Alirrothios – one of the sons of Poseidon. In his defense, he protested that he was protecting his daughter, Allepe from Alirrothios’ unwanted advances. A second trial that is said to have taken there was the trial of Orestes who murdered his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover.
During the Roman period the Council of Elders continued to function, although Areopagus Hill was now referred to as ‘Mars Hill’ as this was the Roman name given to the Greek god of war. The hilltop was the place where the Apostle Paul preached his famous sermon in 51 AD.
As a result, the first person to convert to Christianity was Dionysus who became the city’s Patron Saint and many other Athenians converted soon afterward. In memory of this event, each time the Pope visits Athens, he climbs Areopagus Hill.
There is a bronze plaque commemorating the Apostle’s sermon situated at the foot of the rock. Close by, there is evidence of cuts in the bare marble rock and these were made for the foundations of the temple that once stood there.
As well as soaking up the atmosphere of this dramatic hilltop, it is worth visiting Areopagus Hill because of the amazing view it offers of the Acropolis and three other important sites – the impressive Stoa of Atticus, the Byzantine church of Ayios Apostoloi (the church of the Holy Apostles) and the Temple of Hephaestus.
Key information for visiting Areopagus Hill.
- Areopagus Hill is situated on the north-west side of the Acropolis just a short distance from the entrance to the Acropolis and a 20-minute comfortable walk from the nearest Metro station.
- The nearest Metro station is Acropolis (Line 2) which is about a 20 minute walk.
- Areopagus Hill is always open, but it is recommended that you only visit in good daylight.
- Entrance is free of charge.
- Visitors to Areopagus Hill are recommended to wear flat shoes with a good grip as the stones can be slippery. There are 7-8 high stone steps to climb too- many visitors find the modern metal staircase easier to use.