The city of Minerva, the chief city of Attica in Greece, situated on the Saronic Gulf, forty-six miles east of Corinth, and about five miles from the coast. The city was in a plain extending to the sea on the southwest, where it had three ports, the passage to which was defended by long and broad walls. Several rocky hills rose in the plain, the largest of which was the citadel, or Acropolis. Around this the city was built, most of the buildings spreading towards the sea. The summit of the hill was nearly level, about eight hundred feet long and four hundred wide. The only way to the Acropolis was through the Propylea, a magnificent gateway on the western side, adorned with two temples decorated with the finest pieces of sculpture and painting. These splendid portals crowned an ascent by marble steps to the summit of the hill, on which were erected the temples of the guardian divinities of Athens. On the left was the temple of Pallas Athene, (Minerva,) regarded as the protectress of the city. Under the same roof was the temple of Neptune. In the area, on a high pedestal, stood a bronze statue of Minerva seventy feet high. On the right arose the Parthenon, the glory of Athens, the noblest triumph of Grecian architecture. From whatever quarter the traveller arrived, the first thing he saw was the Parthenon rearing its lofty head above the city and the citadel. Its ruins, still sublime in decay, are the first object that attracts the eye of a stranger. It was of the Doric order of architecture, built of beautiful white marble, and was about one hundred feet wide, two hundred and twenty-six feet deep, and seventy feet high. There was a double portico of columns at the two fronts, and a single row along each side. There was an architrave, or frieze, along the exterior of the nave, beautifully sculptured, with the representation of a procession in honor of Minerva. Within the temple was a statue of Minerva, by Phidias, celebrated for its exquisite beauty. It was make of gold and ivory, and was nearly forty feet high. The goddess was represented erect, covered with her aegis, holding in one had a lance, and in the other a figure of victory. At the foot of the Acropolis, on one side was the Odeum, or music hall, and the theatre of Bacchus: on the other side was the Prytaneum, where the chief magistrates and most meritorious citizens were entertained at a table furnished at the public expense. A small valley lay between the Acropolis and the hill on which the Areopagus held its session; it also separated the Areopagus from the Pnyx, a small rocky hill on which the general assemblies of the people were held. Here the spot is yet pointed out from which the eminent orators addressed the people. It is cut in the natural rock. In this vicinity also was the agora, or marketplace, Ac 17:17, an open square surrounded by beautiful structures; while on every side altars, shrines, and temples were seen, some of them exceedingly magnificent. This beautiful city was also celebrated for the military talents and the learning, eloquence, and politeness of its inhabitants. It was the very flower of ancient civilization; its schools of philosophy were the most illustrious in the world, and its painters, sculptors, and architects have never been surpassed. Yet no city was so "wholly given to idolatry." The apostle Paul visited it about the year A. D. 52, and though alone among its proud philosophers, preached Jesus and the resurrection to them with fidelity and success, Ac 17:15-34. See AREOPAGUS. At present Athens is comparatively in ruins, and has a population of about 28,000 addicted to the superstitions of the Greek Church.
the capital of Attica, the most celebrated city of the ancient world, the seat of Greek literature and art during the golden period of Grecian history. Its inhabitants were fond of novelty (Ac 17:21), and were remarkable for their zeal in the worship of the gods. It was a sarcastic saying of the Roman satirist that it was "easier to find a god at Athens than a man."
On his second missionary journey Paul visited this city (Ac 17:15; comp. 1Th 3:1), and delivered in the Areopagus his famous speech (Ac 17:22-31). The altar of which Paul there speaks as dedicated "to the [properly "an"] unknown God" (Ac 17:23) was probably one of several which bore the same inscription. It is supposed that they originated in the practice of letting loose a flock of sheep and goats in the streets of Athens on the occasion of a plague, and of offering them up in sacrifice, at the spot where they lay down, "to the god concerned."
Capital of Attica, the center of Grecian refinement and philosophy. Paul visited it in journeying from Macedonia, and stayed sometime (Ac 17:14, etc.; FOUR-DRACHM OF ATHENS. 1Th 3:1). Four hills are within it, the Acropolis, N.E., a square rock 150 feet high; W. of it is the Areopagus. (See AREOPAGUS.) S.W. is the Pnyx, or Assembly Hill. S. of this is the Museum Hill. The Agora where Paul disputed was in the valley between the four. The newsmongering taste of the people (Ac 17:21) is noticed by their great orator Demosthenes, "Ye go about the marketplace asking, Is there any news?"
Their pure atmosphere, open air life, and liberal institutions, stimulated liveliness of thought. Pausanias (1:24, sec. 3) confirms Paul's remark on their religiousness even to superstition: "the zeal devoted by the Athenians to the rites of the gods exceeds that of all others." (See ALTAR; AREOPAGUS.) Dionysius the Areopagite convert of Paul was, according to tradition, the first bishop of an Athenian church. Theseus' temple is the most perfect of the remaining monuments. The Parthenon or temple of Minerva, built of Penrelic marble, 228 feet long, 102 broad, 66 high, with 8 Doric columns on each front and 17 on each side, was the masterpiece of Athenian architecture. The colossal statue of Minerva Promachus, Phidias' workmanship, was 70 feet high, so as to be seen towering above the Parthenon by the mariner in doubling Cape Suniurn. Lord Elgin deposited in the British Museum several of the finest sculptures.
In the earliest times, Athens, on the Gulf of
The chief city of Attica, and the seat of Grecian learning and art. The city was wholly given to idolatry, and the people spent their time in strolling about and asking 'what news?' Paul laboured alone in Athens, while he waited for Silas and Timothy, and sought to reason with the Jews in their synagogue and in the market daily; then certain philosophers took him to Mars' Hill, where he delivered his memorable address to polished but heathen hearers. There was some fruit of his labours. Ac 17:15-22; 18:1; 1Th 3:1. Athens was an ancient city, and experienced many changes and different forms of government. It surrendered to Sulla the Roman general in B.C. 86 and became a part of the Roman empire, but in A.D. 267 it was besieged by the Goths, and in 396 was taken by Alaric, king of the Visigoths. Taken by Mahomet II. in 1456, and became the capital of the kingdom of modern Greece in 1833. It gradually lost all its renown, and the houses became roofless and in ruins. In 1834 the Greek king Otho encouraged the rebuilding of the city, and from that date it has again gradually become a populous city.
(city of Athene), the capital of Attica, and the chief seat of Grecian learning and civilization during the golden period of the history of Greece. Description--Athens is situated about three miles from the seacoast, in the central plain of Attica. In this plain rise several eminences Of these the most prominent is a lofty insulated mountain with a conical peaked Summit, now called the Hill of St. George, and which bore in ancient times the name of Lycabettus. This mountain, which was not included within the ancient walls, lies to the northeast of Athens, and forms the most striking feature in the environs of the city. It is to Athens what Vesuvius is to Naples, or Arthur's Seat to Edinburgh Southwest of Lycabettua there are four hills of moderate height, all of which formed part of the city. Of these the nearest to Lycabettus and at the distance of a mile from the latter, was the Aeropolis, or citadel of Athens, a square craggy rock rising abruptly about 150 feet, with a flat summit of about 1000 feet long from east to west, by 500 feet broad from north to south. Immediately west of the Aeropolis is a second hill of irregular form, the Areopagus (Mars' Hill). To the southwest there rises a third hill, the Pnyx, on which the assemblies of the citizens were held. South of the city was seen the Saronic Gulf, with the harbors of Athens. History.--Athens is said to have derived its name from the prominence given to the worship of the goddess Athena (Minerva) by its king, Erechtheus. The inhabitants were previously called Cecropidae, from Cecrops, who, according to tradition, was the original founder of the city. This at first occupied only the hill or rock which afterwards became the Acropolis; but gradually the buildings spread over the ground at the southern foot of this hill. It was not till the time of Pisistratus and his sons (B.C. 560-514) that the city began to assume any degree of splendor. The most remarkable building of these despots was the gigantic temple of the Olympian Zeus or Jupiter. Under Themistocles the Acropolis began to form the centre of the city, round which the new walls described an irregular circle of about 60 stadia or 7 1/4 miles in circumference. Themistocles transferred the naval station of the Athenians to the peninsula of Piraeus, which is distant about 4 1/2 miles from Athens, and contains three natural harbors. It was not till the administration of Pericles that the walls were built which connected Athens with her ports. Buildings.--Under the administration of Pericles, Athens was adorned with numerous public buildings, which existed in all their glory when St. Paul visited the city. The Acropolis was the centre of the architectural splendor of Athens. It was covered with the temples of gods and heroes; and thus its platform presented not only a sanctuary, but a museum containing the finest productions of the architect and the sculptor, in which the whiteness of the marble was relieved by brilliant colors, and rendered still more dazzling by the transparent clearness of the Athenian atmosphere. The chief building was the Parthenon (i.e. House of the Virgin), the most perfect production of Grecian architecture. It derived its name from its being the temple of Athena Parthenos, or Athena the Virgin, the invincible goddess of war. It stood on the highest part of the Acropolis, near its centre. It was entirely of Pentelic marble, on a rustic basement of ordinary limestone, and its architecture, which was of the Doric order, was of the purest kind. It was adorned with the most exquisite sculptures, executed by various artists under the direction of Phidias. But the chief wonder of the Parthenon was the colossal statue of the virgin goddess executed by Phidias himself: The Acropolis was adorned with another colossal figure of Athena, in bronze, also the work of Phidias. It stood in the open air, nearly opposite the Propylaea. With its pedestal it must have been about 70 feet high, and consequently towered above the roof of the Parthenon, so that the point of its spear and the crest of its helmet were visible off the promontory of Sunium to ships approaching Athens. The Areopagus, or Hill of Ares (Mars), is described elsewhere. [MARS' HILL] The Pnyx, or place for holding the public assemblies of the Athenians, stood on the side of a low rocky hill, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile from the Areopagus. Between the Pnyx on the west) the Areopagus on the north and the Acropolis on the east, and closely adjoining the base of these hills, stood the Agora or "Market," where St. Paul disputed daily. Through it ran the road to the gymnasium and gardens of the Academy, which were situated about a mile from the walls. The Academy was the place where Plato and his disciples taught. East of the city, and outside the walls was the Lyceum, a gymnasium dedicated to Apollo Lyceus, and celebrated as the place in which Aristotle taught.
See Mars Hill
Character.--The remark of the sacred historian respecting the inquisitive character of the Athenians
is attested by the unanimous voice of antiquity. Their natural liveliness was partly owing to the purity and clearness of the atmosphere of Attica, which also allowed them to pass much of their time in the open air. The Athenian carefulness in religion is confirmed by the ancient writers. Of the Christian church, founded by St. Paul at Athens, according to ecclesiastical tradition, Dionysius the Areopagite was the first bishop. [DIONYSIUS]
Present condition.-- (The population of Athens in 1871 was 48,000. Its university has 52 professors and 1200 students. Educational institutions are very numerous. A railway connects the Pirzeus or port with the city and its terminus stands in the midst of what was once the Agora.--ED.)
ATHENS, a celebrated city of Greece, too well known to be here described. St. Paul's celebrated sermon, Acts xvii, was preached on the Areopagus, or Hill of Mars, where a celebrated court was held which took cognizance of matters of religion, blasphemies against the gods, the building of temples, &c. (See Areopagus.) The inscription on the altar, "to the unknown God," which St. Paul so appropriately made the text of his discourse, was adopted on the occasion of the city having been relieved from a pestilence; and they erected altars to "the God unknown," either as not knowing to which of their divinities they were indebted for the favour, or, which is more probable, because there was something in the circumstances of this deliverance, which led them to refer it to a higher power than their own gods, even to the supreme God, who was not unfrequently styled, the "unknown," by the wiser Heathens. The existence of such altars is expressly mentioned by Lucian. On the place where the great Apostle bore his noble testimony against idols, and declared to them the God whom they ignorantly worshipped, Dr. E. D. Clarke, the traveller, remarks, "It is not possible to conceive a situation of greater peril, or one more calculated to prove the sincerity of a preacher, than that in which the Apostle was here placed; and the truth of this, perhaps, will never be better felt than by a spectator, who from this eminence actually beholds the monuments of Pagan pomp and superstition by which he, whom the Athenians considered as the setter forth of strange gods, was then surrounded: representing to the imagination the disciples of Socrates and of Plato, the dogmatist of the porch, and the skeptic of the academy, addressed by a poor and lowly man, who, 'rude in speech,' without the 'enticing words of man's wisdom,' enjoined precepts contrary to their taste, and very hostile to their prejudices. One of the peculiar privileges of the Areopagitae seems to have been set at defiance by the zeal of St. Paul on this occasion; namely, that of inflicting extreme and exemplary punishment upon any person who should slight the celebration of the holy mysteries, or blaspheme the gods of Greece. We ascended to the summit by means of steps cut in the natural stone. The sublime scene here exhibited is so striking, that a brief description of it may prove how truly it offers to us a commentary upon the Apostle's words, as they were delivered upon the spot. He stood upon the top of the rock, and beneath the canopy of heaven. Before him there was spread a glorious prospect of mountains, islands, seas, and skies; behind him towered the lofty Acropolis, crowned with all its marble temples. Thus every object, whether in the face of nature, or among the works of art, conspired to elevate the mind, and to fill it with reverence toward that Being who made and governs the world, Ac 17:24,28; who sitteth in that light which no mortal eye can approach, and yet is nigh unto the meanest of his creatures; in whom we live, and move and have our being."