(Α᾿θῆναι, plural of Α᾿θήνη, Minerva, the tutelary goddess of the place), mentioned in several passages of Scripture (2 Maccabees 9:15; Ac 17:15 sq.; 18:1; 1Th 3:1), a celebrated city, the capital of Attica and of the leading Grecian republic, and the seat of the Greek literature in the golden period of the nation (Müller, Topog. of Athens, trans. by Lockhart, Lond. 1842; Kruse, Hellas, Lpz. 1826, II, 1:10 sq.; Leake, Topography of Athens, Lond. 1841, 2d ed.; Forchhammer, Topographie von Athen, Kiel, 1841; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. 1, 1783 sq.; Grote, Hist. of Greece, 6, 20 sq.; Wordsworth, Athens and Attica, Lond. 1836; Stuart and Revelt, Antiquities of Athens, Lond. 1762-1816, 4 vols., and later; Dodwell, Tour through Greece, Lond. 1819; Pittakis, Αἱ παλαιαὶ Αθῆναι Athens, 1835; Prokesch, Denkwiurdigkeiten, Sttuttg. 1836, 2; Mure, Journal of a Tour in Greece. Edinb. 1842, 2; Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 1, 344 sq.), belonged in the apostle's time to the Roman province of Achsea (q.v.). The inhabitants had the reputation of being fond of novelty (Ac 17:21; comp. AElian, Var. Hist. 5, 13; Demosth. Philippians 1:4; Schol. ad Thuc. 2, 38; ad A ristopb. Plut. 338: see Wetstein, 2:567), and as being remarkably zealous in the worship of the gods (Ac 17:16; comp. Pausan. 1:24, 3; Stralbo, 10:471; Philostr. Apol. 6:3; 4:19; AElian, Var. Hist. 5. 17; Himer, in Phot.
cod. 243; see Eckhard, Athenae superstitiosc, Viteb. 1618); hence the city was full of temples, altars, and other sacred places (Liv. 45:27). Paul visited Athens on his second missionary journey from Bercea (Ac 17:14 sq.; comp. 1Th 3:1), and delivered in (but not before) the Areopagus (q.v.) his famous speech (Ac 17:22-31).
The earlier and more obscure period of the Grecian province named Attica reaches down nearly to the final establishment of democracy in it, and even then the foundations of her greatness were already laid. The infertile soil and dry atmosphere of Attica, in connection with the slender appetite of the people, have been thought favorable to their mental development; the barrenness of the soil, moreover, prevented invaders from coveting it; so that, through a course of ages, the population remained unchanged, and a moral union grew up between the several districts. To a king named Theseus (whose deeds are too much mixed with fable to be narrated as history) is ascribed the credit of uniting all the country towns of Attica into a single state, the capital of which was Athens. The population of this province was variously called Pelasgian, Achaian, and Ionian, and probably corresponds most nearly to what was afterward called AEolian (Prichard, Phys. Hist. of Man, 3, 404). When the Dorians, another tribe of Greeks of very different temperament, invaded and occupied the southern peninsula, great numbers of its Achaian inhabitants took refuge in Attica. Shortly after, the Dorians were repulsed in an inroad against Athens, an event which has transmitted to legendary renown the name of King Codrus, and thenceforward Athens was looked upon as the bulwark of the Ionian tribes against the barbarous Dorians. Overloaded with population, Attica now poured forth colonies into Asia, some of which, as Miletus, soon rose to great eminence, and sent out numerous colonies themselves, so that Athens was reverenced as a mother of nations by powerful children scattered along the western and northern coasts of Anatolia. Dim tradition shows us isolated priesthoods and elective kings in the earliest times of Attica; these, however, gradually gave way to an aristocracy, which in a series of years established themselves as a hereditary ruling caste. But a country "ever unravaged"' (such was their boast) could not fail to increase in wealth and numbers; and after two or three centuries, while the highest commoners pressed on the nobles, the lowest became overwhelmed with debt. The disorders caused by the strife of the former were vainly sought to be stayed by the institutions of Draco; the sufferings of the latter were ended, and the sources of violence dried up by the enactments of Solon. Henceforth the Athenians revered the laws of Solon (νόμοι) as the groundwork of their whole civil polity; yet they retained by the side of them the ordinances of Draco (θεσμοί) in many matters pertaining to religion. The date of Solon's reforms was probably B.C. 594. The usurpation of Pisistratus and his sons made a partial breach in the constitution; but upon their expulsion, a more serious change was effected by Clisthenes, head of the noble house of the Alcmoeonidoe (B.C. 508), almost in the same year in which Tarquin was expelled from Rome. An entirely new organization of the Attic tribes was framed, which destroyed whatever remained of the power of the nobles as an order, and established among the freemen a democracy, in fact as well as in form. Out of this proceeded all the good and all the evil with which the name of Athens is associated; and though greatness which shot up so suddenly could not be permanent, there can be no difficulty in deciding that the good greatly preponderated. Very soon after this commenced hostilities with Persia; and the self-denying, romantic, successful bravery of Athens, with the generous affability and great talents of her statesmen, soon raised her to the head of the whole Ionian confederacy. As long as Persia was to be feared, Athens was loved; but after tasting the sweets of power, her sway degenerated into a despotism, and created at length, in the war called the Peloponnesian, a coalition of all Dorian and AEolian Greece against her (B.C. 431). In spite of a fatal pestilence and the revolt of her Ionian subjects, the naval skill of Athenian seamen and the enterprise of Athenian commanders proved more than a match for the hostile confederacy; and when Athens at last fell (B.C. 404), she fell by the effects of internal sedition more truly than by Spartan lances or Persian gold, or even by her own rash and over-grasping ambition. The demoralizing effects of this war on all Greece were infinitely the worst result of it, and they were transmitted to succeeding generations. It was substantially a civil war in every province; and, as all the inhabitants of Attica were every summer forced to take refuge in the few fortresses they possessed, or in Athens itself, the simple countrymen became transformed into a hungry and profligate town rabble. From the earliest times the Ionians loved the lyre and the song, and the hymns of poets formed the staple of Athenian education. The constitution of Solon admitted and demanded in the people a great knowledge of law, with a large share in its daily administration. Thus the acuteness of the lawyer was grafted on the imagination of the poet. These are the two intellectual elements out of which Athenian wisdom was developed; but it was stimulated and enriched by ex. tended political action and political experience. History and philosophy, as the words are understood in modern Europe, had their birth in Athens about the time of the Peloponnesian war. Then first, also, the oratory of the bar and of the popular assembly was systematically cultivated, and the elements of mathematical science were admitted into the education of an accomplished man. This was the period of the youth of Plato, whose philosophy was destined to leave so deep an impress on the Jewish and Christian schools of Alexandria. Its great effort was to unite the contemplative mysticism of Eastern sages with the accurate science of Greece; to combine, in short, the two qualities — intellectual and moral, argumentative and spiritual — into a single harmonious whole; — and whatever opinion may be formed of the success which attended the experiment, it is not wonderful that so magnificent an aim attracted the desires and riveted the attention of thoughtful and contemplative minds for ages afterward. In the imitative arts of sculpture and painting, as well as in architecture, it need hardly be said that Athens carried off the palm in Greece; yet, in all these, the Asiatic colonies vied with her. Miletus took the start of her in literary composition; and, under slight conceivable changes, might have become the Athens of the world. That Athens after the Peloponnesian war never recovered the political place which she previously held, can excite no surprise that she rose so high toward it was truly wonderful. Sparta and Thebes, which successively aspired to the "leadership" of Greece, abused their power as flagrantly as Athens had done, and, at the same time, more coarsely. The never-ending cabals, the treaties made and violated, the coalitions and breaches, the alliances and wars, recurring every few years, destroyed all mutual confidence, and all possibility of again uniting Greece in any permanent form of independence; and, in consequence, the whole country was soon swallowed up in the kingdom of Macedonia. With the loss of civil liberty, Athens lost her genius, her manly mind, and whatever remained of her virtue: she long continued to produce talents, which were too often made tools of iniquity, panders to power, and petty artificers of false philosophy. Under the Roman empire, into which it was absorbed with the rest of Greece, its literary importance still continued, and it was the great resort of students from Rome itself. During the Middle Ages it languished under the Ottoman yoke in every respect, but since Greece regained its independence (in 1834), it has revived (see Schubert, Reisen, 3, 473 sq.) as the capital of the new European king. dom. (For a detailed account of the history and topography of Athens, see the Penny Cyclopadia, s.v.; M'Culloch's
Gazetteer, s.v.; Smith's Dict. of Class. Geogr. s.v. Athenai.) SEE GREECE. In order to understand the localities mentioned in the sacred narrative, it may be observed that four hills of moderate height rise within the walls of the city. Of these, one to the north-east is the celebrated Acropolis, or citadel, being a square craggy rock of about 150 feet high. Immediately to the west of the Acropolis is a second hill of irregular form, but inferior height, called the Areopagus. To the south-west rises a third hill, the Pnyx, on which the assemblies of the citizens were held; and to the south of the latter is a fourth hill, known as the Museum. SEE AREOPAGUS.
A Christian Church existed in Athens soon after the apostolic times, having doubtless been planted by the labors of Paul (although no allusions to it occur in the N.T.), but as the city had no political importance, the Church never assumed any eminent position (see Baronius, Annal. Eccl. an. 354, n. 25, 26). Tradition, however (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3, 4), assigns as its first bishop Dionysius (q.v.) the Areopagite (Ac 17:34). There are two points requiring special elucidation connected with the N.T. mention of Athens (from Winer):
(1.) Respecting the "altar on which was inscribed, To the Unknown God," referred to in Ac 17:23, various opinions have been expressed by interpreters (see Fabric. Bibliogr. antiq, p. 296; Wolf, Cur. 2, 1261 sq.; Dougtsei Anal. p. 86 sq.; Kuinol, Comment. 4, 598 sq.; comp. also Grube [Segers], De ara ignoti dei, Regiom. 1710; Heller, De leo ignoto Athen. in Gronov. Thes. 7, 223 sq.; Schickendanz, De ara ignoto deo consecrate, Tervest. 1748; Geiger, De ignoto Athen. deo, Marb. 1754;1 Wallenius, De deo ignoto, Gryph. 1797; Baden, Diss. arce deo ignoto dicatas, Havn. 1787). It by no means follows from the classical passages usually adduced (Pausan. 1:1, 4; Philostr. Apoll. 6, 3; comp. Lucian, Philopatr. 9, 29), that any of the single altars mentioned in these writers had the inscription "to unknown gods" (ἀγνώστοις θεοῖς), in the plural, but more naturally that each was dedicated separately to an unknown deity (ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ); yet these instances in the singular must have been collectively employed with a plural reference, since they unitedly speak of all such altars. There appear, moreover, to have been several altars in various parts of Athens with the inscription "to an unknown god," a circumstance that is not invalidated by the mention (Pausan. v. 14, 6) of a single (in Elis!) "altar of unknown gods
(βωμὸς ἀγνώστων θεῶν). One plausible interpretation respecting the altar in question (in Eichhorn's Bibl. d. bibl. Lit. 3, 414) supposes that, as in ancient times the art of writing was not generally known, or but little practiced, there were (perhaps several) altars at Athens without any inscription (βωμοὶ ἀνώνυμοι, Diog. Laert. 1:10, 3). Eventually these, when found standing thus indefinite by the religious Athenians, would be marked by the words "to some unknown god" (ἀγν. θεῷ). It is simpler, however, to suppose that in spots where some supposed preternatural event had occurred, which persons sought by a memorial to attribute to some distinct deity as author, they erected such an altar, that profane steps might not approach too near (compare the phrases Si deo, Si deoe, used in such cases, Gell. 1:28, 3; Macrob. Saturn. 3, 9, ed. Bip.; see Dougtaei Anal. 2, 87) the unrecognized deity (comp. Neander, Planting, 1, 262 sq.). That the expression was intended to designate specially the God of the Jews (comp. the ironical expression "Judaea devoted to the worship of an uncertain god," in Lucian, 2:592), as Anton insists (Progr. in Act. 17, 22 sq., Gorlic. 1822), is very unlikely. (The treatise of Wolle, De ignoto Judaeor. et Athen. deo, Lips. 1727, is without worth; and Mosheim, Cogit. in N.T. loc. 1, 77 sq., treats the subject in an unantiquarian manner.) SEE ALTAR.
(2.) The "market" -(ἀγορά) at Athens, mentioned (Ac 17:17) as the place where Paul spoke to the assembled populace, has (with most modern interpreters since Kuinol) been understood as meaning, not the proper definite market-place called "the Forum in the Ceramicus" (ἀγορὰ ἐν Κεραμεικῶ), but a so-called new market-place lying much farther north, to which Meursius (Ceramic. gemin. c. 16) was the first to call attention, and which Müller (Hall. Encyclop. 6, 132) located on his plan from the notice in Pausanias (1, 17) and Strabo (10, 447); according to the latter of which; this spot appears to have borne the designation of the Erestria (Ε᾿ρετρία). Pausanias, however, refers to no other market-place than the well-known one lying between the Acropolis, the Pnyx, and the place of holding the Areopagus (Forchhammer, ut sup. p. 53 sq.); and Strabo's words ("from the Eretria at Athens, which is now the market-place"), which have been regarded as indicating that the Forum was situated there in his time, are susceptible of another and more probable interpretation (Leake, Attica, p. 21). Later inquirers have therefore acquiesced in the opinion that the passage in the Acts refers to nothing more than the usual market-place, in the neighborhood of which (see Forchhammer's Plan,
opposite the Acropolis on the west), moreover, lay the "miscellaneous porch" (στοὰ ποικίλη), of which avail may be made (as has usually been found necessary) for the explanation of Ac 17:18 (Cookesly, Map of Athens, Lond. 1852). SEE MARKET.
Treatises on Paul's proceedings in Athens have been written by Olearius (Lips. 1706, and since), Strimesius (Lund. 1706), Majus (Giess. 1727, and in Ikenii Thess. Diss. 2, 669 sq.); on his address in the Areopagus, by Anspach (Lugd. B. 1829), Anton (Gorl. 1822), Bentzel (Upsal, 1669), Eskuche (Rint. 1735), Heumann (Gott. 1724); on his disputations with the philosophers, by Boemer (Jen. 1751); also the essays of Joch, De Spiritu Attico (Viteb. 1726); Schurtzmann, De ἀναστάσει dea Atheniensibus credita (Lips. 1708); Zorn, De Atheniensium sarcasmo (Kilon. 1710); Alexander, St. Paul at Athens (Edinb. 1865). SEE PAUL.