("Mars' Hill".) A rocky eminence in Athens, separated from the W. of the Acropolis by a raised valley, above which it rises sixty feet. Mythology made it the scene of the god Mars' trim before the gods, at Poseidon's accusation, for murdering the son of the latter, Halirrhotius. The most venerable of all the Athenian courts, consisting of all exarchons of blameless life. It was the Upper Council, to distinguish it from the five hundred, who met in the valley below. It met on the S.E. top of the rock. Sixteen stone steps in the rock still exist, leading from below to Mars' hill, and directly above is a bench of stones cut in the rock facing S., and forming three sides of a quadrangle. Here the judges sat, in criminal and religious cases, in the open air.
The accuser and accused had two rude blocks, still to be seen, one on the E., the other on the W. side, assigned them. Paul, "daily disputing" in the market (agora), which lay between the Areopagus, the Acropolis, the Pnyx (the place of political assemblies), and the Museum, attracted the notice of "certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics." They brought him up from below, probably by the steps already described, and, seated on the benches, heard from him the memorable address, so happily adapted in its uncompromising faithfulness, as well as scholarlike allusions, to the learned auditory, recorded in Acts 17. Paul's intense earnestness strikingly contrasts with their frivolous dilettantism.
With the temple of Mars near, the Parthenon of Minerva facing him, and the sanctuary of the Eumenides just below him, the beautiful temple of Theseus, the national hero (still remaining) in view, what divine power he needed to nerve him to declare, "God that made the world ... dwelleth not in temples made with hands"; and again in the midst of the exquisitely chiseled statues in front, crowning the Acropolis, Minerva in bronze as the armed champion of Athens, and on every side a succession of lesser images, to reason, "Forasmuch as we are the offspring of God" (which he confirms by quoting his fellow countryman Aratus' poem, 'We are His offspring'), we ought not to think that the Godhead is like gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man's device."
Yet he does not begin by attacking their national worship, but draws them gently away from their ignorant worship of the Deity under many idols to the one true God, "Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you." In opposition to the Greek boast of a distinct origin from that of the barbarians; he says, "God hath made of one blood all nations to dwell on all the face of the earth"; and ends with announcing the coming judgment by the Lord Jesus.