Areopagus

Areop'agus

the Latin form of the Greek words (ὁ ῎Αρειος πάγος), signifying, in reference to place, Mars' Hill, but, in reference to persons, the council which was held on the hill. The' council was also termed ἡ ἐν Α᾿ρείῳ πάγῳ βουλή (or ἡ βουλὴ ἡ ἐν Α᾿ρείῳ πἀγῳ), the Council on Mars'

Hill; sometimes ἄνω βουλή, the Upper Council, from the elevated position where it was held, and sometimes simply, but emphatically, ἡ βουλή, the Council; but it retained till a late period the original designation of Mars' Hill, being called by the Latins Scopulus Martis, Curia Martis (Juvenal, Sat. 9, 101), and still more literally, Areum Judicium (Tacit. Annal. 2, 55). The place was a rocky height in Athens, opposite the western end of the Acropolis, from which it is separated only by an elevated valley. It rises gradually from the northern end, and terminates abruptly on the south, over against the Acropolis, at which point it is about fifty or sixty feet above the valley already mentioned. Of the site of the Areopagus there can be no doubt, both from the description of Pausanias, and from the narrative of Herodotus, who relates that it was a height over against the Acropolis, from which the Persians assailed the, latter rock (Paus. 1, 28, § 5; Herod. 8, 52). According to tradition, it was called the hill of Mars (Ares) because this god was brought to trial here before the assembled gods by Neptune (Poseidon) on account of his murdering Halirrhothius, the son of the latter. The meetings were held on the south-eastern summit of the rock. There are still sixteen stone steps cut in the rock, leading up to the hill from the valley of the Agora below; and immediately above the steps is a bench of stones excavated in the rock, forming three sides of a quadrangle, and facing the south. Here the Areopagites sat as judges in the open air (ὑπαίθριοι ἐδικάζοντο, Pollux, 8, 118). On the eastern and western side is a raised block. These blocks are probably the two rude stones which Pausanias saw there, and which are described by Euripides as assigned, the one to the accuser, the other to the criminal, in the causes which were tried in the court (Iph. T. 961). — Smith. SEE AREOPAGITE.

Bible concordance for AREOPAGUS.

The Areopagus possesses peculiar interest to the Christian as the spot from which Paul delivered his memorable address to the men of Athens (Ac 17:22-31). It has been supposed by some commentators that he was brought before the Council of Areopagus, but there is no trace in the narrative of any judicial proceedings. Paul "disputed daily" in the "market" or Agora (Ac 17:17), which was situated south of the Areopagus, in the valley lying between this hill and those of the Acropolis, the Pnyx, and the Museum. Attracting more and more attention, "certain philosophers of the Epicureans and Stoics" brought him up from the valley, probably by the stone steps already mentioned, to the Areopagus above, that they might listen to him more conveniently. Here the philosophers probably took their seats on the stone benches usually occupied by the members of the council, while the multitude stood upon the steps and in the valley below. The dignified bearing of the apostle is worthy of high admiration, the more so from the associations of the spot (see Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 1, 346-379). Nor does his eloquent discourse appear to have been without good effect; for, though some mocked, and some procrastinated, yet others believed, among whom was a member of the council, "Dionysius, the Areopagite," who has been represented as the first bishop of Athens, and is said to have written books on the "Celestial Hierarchy;" but their authenticity is questioned. The history in the Acts (Ac 17:22) states that the speaker "stood in the midst of Mars' Hill" (see Robinson's Researches, 1:10-12). Having come up from the level parts of the city, where the markets (there were two, the old and the new) were, he would probably stand with his face toward the north, and would then have immediately behind him the long walls which ran down to the sea, affording protection against a foreign enemy. Near the sea, on one side, was the harbor of Piraeus, on the other that designated Phalerum, with their crowded arsenals, their busy workmen, and their gallant ships. Not far off in the ocean lay the island of Salamis, ennobled forever in history as the spot near which Athenian valor chastised Asiatic pride, and achieved the liberty of Greece. The apostle had only to turn toward his right hand to catch a view of a small but celebrated hill rising within the city near that on which he stood, called the Pnyx, where, standing on a block of bare stone, Demosthenes and other distinguished orators had addressed the assembled people of Athens, swaying that arrogant and fickle democracy, and thereby making Philip of Macedon tremble, or working good or ill for the entire civilized world. Immediately before him lay the crowded city, studded in every part with memorials sacred to religion or patriotism, and exhibiting the highest achievements of art. On his left, somewhat beyond the walls, was beheld the Academy, with its groves of plane and olive trees, its retired walks and cooling fountains, its altar to the Muses, its statues of the Graces, its Temple of Minerva, and its altars to Prometheus, to Love, and to Hercules, near which Plato had his country-seat, and in the midst of which he had taught, as well as his followers after him. But the most impressive spectacle lay on his right hand; for there, on the small and precipitous hill named the Acropolis were clustered together monuments of the highest art, and memorials of the national religion, such as no other equal spot of ground has ever borne. The apostle's eyes, in turning to the right, would fall on the north-west side of the eminence, which was here (and all round) covered and protected by a wall, parts of which were so ancient as to be of Cyclopean origin. The western side, which alone gave access to what from its original destination may be termed the fort, was, during the administration of Pericles, adorned with a splendid flight of steps, and the beautiful Propylsea, with its five entrances and two flanking temples, constructed by Mnesicles of Pentelican marble, at a cost of 2012 talents. In the times of the Roman emperors there stood before the Propylaea equestrian statues of Augustus and Agrippa. On the southern wing of the Propylaea was a temple of Wingless Victory; on the northern, a Pinacotheca, or picture gallery. On the highest part of the platform of the Acropolis, not more than 300 feet from the entrance- buildings just described, stood (and yet stands, though shattered and mutilated) the Parthenon, justly celebrated throughout the world, erected of white Pentelican marble, under the direction of Callicrates, Ictinus, and Carpion, and adorned with the finest sculptures from the hand of Phidias. Northward from the Parthenon was the Erechtheum, a compound building, which contained the Temple of Minerva Polias, the proper Erechtheum (called also the Cecropium), and the Pandroseum. This sanctuary contained the holy olive-tree sacred to Minerva, the holy salt-spring, the ancient wooden image of Pallas, etc., and was the scene of the oldest and most venerated ceremonies and recollections of the Athenians. Between the Propylaea and the Erechtheum was placed the colossal bronze statue of Pallas Promachos, the work of Phidias, which towered so high above the other buildings that the plume of her helmet and the point of her spear were visible on the sea between Sunium and Athens. Moreover the Acropolis was occupied by so great a crowd of statues and monuments, that the account, as found in Pausanias, excites the reader's wonder, and makes it difficult for him to understand how so much could have been crowded into a space which extended from the south-east corner to the south-west only 1150 feet, while its greatest breadth did not exceed 500 feet. On the hill itself where Paul had his station, was, at the eastern end, the temple of the Furies, and other national and commemorative edifices. The court-house of the council, which was also here, was, according to the simplicity of ancient customs, built of clay. There was an altar consecrated by Orestes to Athene Areia. In the same place were seen two silver stones, on one of which stood the accuser, on the other the accused. Near them stood two altars erected by Epimenides, one to Insult (῞Υβρεως, Cic. Contunelice), the other to Shamelessness (Α᾿ναιδείας, Cic. Impudentiae). SEE ATHENS.

The court of Areopagus was one of the oldest and most honored, not only in Athens, but in the whole of Greece, and indeed in the ancient world. Through a long succession of centuries it preserved its existence amid changes corresponding with those which the state underwent, till at least the age of the Caesars (Tacitus, Ann. 2, 55). The ancients are full of eulogies on its value, equity, and beneficial influence; in consequence of which qualities it was held in so much respect that even foreign states sought its verdict in difficult cases. But after Greece had submitted to the yoke of Rome, it retained probably little of its ancient character beyond a certain dignity, which was itself cold and barren; and however successful it may in earlier times have been in conciliating for its determinations the approval of public opinion, the historian Tacitus (ut supra) mentions a case in which it was charged with an erroneous, if not a corrupt, decision. The origin of the court ascends back into the darkest mythical period. From the first its constitution was essentially aristocratic; a character which to some extent it retained even after the democratic reforms which Solon introduced into the Athenian Constitution. By his appointment the nine archons became for the remainder of their lives Areopagites, provided they had well discharged the duties of their archonship, were blameless in their personal conduct, and had undergone a satisfactory examination. Its power and jurisdiction were still farther abridged by Pericles through his instrument Ephialtes. Following the political tendencies of the state, the Areopagus became in process of time less and less aristocratical. and parted piecemeal with most of its important functions. First its political power was taken away, then its jurisdiction in cases of murder, and even its moral influence gradually departed. During the sway of the Thirty Tyrants its power, or rather its political existence, was destroyed. On their overthrow it recovered some consideration, and the oversight of the execution of the laws was restored to it by an express decree. Isocrates endeavored by his Α᾿ρεοπαγιτικὸς λόγος to revive its ancient influence. The precise time when it ceased to exist cannot be determined; but evidence is not wanting to show that in later periods its members ceased to be uniformly characterized by blameless morals.

Definition of areopagus

It is not easy to give a correct summary of its several functions, as the classic writers are not agreed in their statements, and the jurisdiction of the court varied, as has been seen, with times and circumstances. They have, however, been divided into six general classes (Real-Encyclopadie von Pauly, s.v.).

(1.) Its judicial function embraced trials for murder and manslaughter (φόνου δίκαι, τὰ φονικά), and was the oldest and most peculiar sphere of its activity. The indictment was brought by the second or king-archon (ἄρχων βασιλεύς), whose duties were for the most part of a religious nature. Then followed the oath of both parties, accompanied by solemn appeals to the gods. After this the accuser and the accused had the option of making a speech (the notion of the proceedings of the Areopagus being carried on in the darkness of the night rests on no sufficient foundation), which, however, they were obliged to keep free from all extraneous matter (ἔξω τοῦ πράγματος), as well as from mere rhetorical ornaments. After the first speech, the accused was permitted to go into voluntary banishment if he had no reason to expect a favorable issue. Theft, poisoning, wounding, incendiarism, and treason belonged also to this department of jurisdiction in the court of the Areopagus.

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(2.) Its political function consisted in the constant watch which it kept over the legal condition of the state, acting as overseer and guardian of the laws (ἐπίσκοπος καὶ φύλαξ τῶν νόμων).

(3.) Its police function also made it a protector and upholder of the institutions and laws. In this character the Areopagus had jurisdiction over novelties in religion, in worship, in customs, in every thing that departed from the traditionary and established usages and modes of thought (πατρίοις νομίμοις) which a regard to their ancestors endeared to the nation. This was an ancient and well-supported sphere of activity. The members of the court had a right to take oversight of festive meetings in private houses. In ancient times they fixed the number of the guests, and determined the style of the entertainment. If a person had no obvious means of subsisting, or was known to live in idleness, he was liable to an action before the Areopagus; if condemned three times, he was punished with ἀτηεία, the loss of his civil rights. In later times the court possessed the right of giving permission to teachers (philosophers and rhetoricians) to establish themselves and pursue their profession in the city.

(4.) Its strictly religious jurisdiction extended itself over the public creed, worship, and sacrifices, embracing generally every thing which could come under the denomination of τἀ ἱερά sacred things. It was its special duty to see that the religion- of the state was kept pure from all foreign elements. The accusation of impiety (γραφὴ ἀσεβείας) — the vagueness of which admitted almost any charge connected with religious innovations — belonged in a special manner to this tribunal, though the charge was in some cases heard before the court of the Heliaste. The freethinking poet Euripides stood in fear of, and was restrained by, the Areopagus (Euseb. Prep. Evang. 6, 14; Bayle, s.v. Eurip.). Its proceeding in such cases was sometimes rather of an admonitory than punitive character.

(5.) Not less influential was its moral and educational power. Isocrates speaks of the care which it took of good manners and good order (τῆς εὐκοσμίας, εὐταξίας). Quintilian relates that the Areopagus condemned a boy for plucking out the eyes of a quail — a sentence which has been both misunderstood and misrepresented (Penny Cyclop. s.v.), but which its original narrator approved, assigning no insufficient reason, namely, that the act was the sign of a cruel disposition, likely in advanced life to lead to baneful actions (Quint. 5, 9). The court exercised a salutary influence in general over the Athenian youth, their educators and their education.

(6.) Its financial position is not well understood; most probably it varied more than any other part of its administration with the changes which the constitution of the city underwent. It may suffice to mention, on the authority of Plutarch (Themis. c. 10), that in the Persian war the Areopagus had the merit of completing the number of men required for the fleet by paying eight drachmae to each.

In the following works corroboration of the facts stated in this article, and further details, with discussions on doubtful points, may be found: Sigonius, De Rep. Ath. 3, 2, p. 1568; De Canaye, Recherches sur l'Areopage, p. 273-316; Miem. de l'Acad. des Inscr. 10; Schwab, Num quod Areop. in plebiscita ant confirmanda aut rejicienda jus exercuerit legitimum (Stutt. 1818); the treatises, De Areopago, of Hauer (Hafn. 1708), Meursius (Lugd. B. 1624, and in Gronov. Thes. 5, 207), Schedius (Viteb. 1677, and in Iken. Thes. 2, 674 sq.), and Bockh (Berl. 1826); Forbiger, Handb. d. alt. Geogr. in; Meier, Von der Blutgerichtsbarkeit des Areopag.; Matthia, De Jud. Ath. in Misc. Philol.; Krebs, De Ephetis; Potter, Gr. Antiq. bk. 1, ch. 19; Smith's Dict. of Class. Ant. s.v. Areiopagus; Grote's Hist. of Greece (Am. ed.), 3:73, 79, 122; 4:141; 5:352-366. SEE MARS HILL.

 
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