Areopagus hill (or sometimes known as Areopagus rock) is a huge bare marble rock outcrop in Athens just in front of the entrance to the Acropolis and is very popular with tourists for the great views of the Ancient Agora and the Acropolis. It is amazing that although Areopagus is just a rock with no buildings or monuments, it has so much history and mythology connected to it that it is a major attraction in Athens. Throughout Areopagus' long history it has been used as a council meeting place a law court, but is most famous for St Paul who gave the sermon " of the unknown god" on the rock to the people of Athens in 52 AD.
The name of the rock is believed to come from the Greek god of war "Ares" and "pagos" rock, so it literally means rock of Ares. The Romans called it Mars hill, Mars being the Roman equivalent god of war. Another story is that Areo comes from Erinyes who punished people who broke the natural laws, this was connected to the myth of Orestes trial on Areopagus.
The myths that surround Areopagus rock are all to do with murder trials, which in later classical times it was used as. In mythology Areopagus was the setting of the trial of the God Ares (Mars) for the murder of Alirrothios the son of Poseidon, he was found innocent by the other gods and the rock took his name the Rock of Ares, Areopagus hill. In The Eumenides of Aeschylus, written in 458 BC, the trial of Orestes for the murder of his mother Clytemnestra and her lover took place on Areopagus rock.
Before classical times Areopagus was originally used as the council of elders of Athens, basically the government meeting place, but after reforms in 462 BC the rock was only used as a law court particularly for murder trials. The government of democratic Athens (Ecclesia) moved there meeting place to the Pynx hill. Areopagus was also used by both the Persians and Turks during sieges of the Acropolis.
Areopagus is most famously associated with St Paul who preached the sermon of the unknown God to the Athenians in 52 AD from the Areopagus hill. At the time the Greeks and Athenians were still worshipping the Olympian gods and many others, they even had an alter to an unknown god just in case they had left any out. Seeing this Paul used this as an example of false gods in his sermon trying to convert the people of Athens to Christianity, he wasn't that successful but did manage to convert two people a woman called Damaris and a man called Dionysios, who became known as 'Dionysos the Areopagitei ' and the patron saint of Athens. At the bottom of the stairs on the rock there is a bronze plaque with St Pauls sermon engraved in Greek on it.
Now a days the hill is used by tourists to get amazing views of the Athens and the Acropolis and to sit and take a break, it is very popular with couples at sunset. You can climb the hill either by the metal staircase, the safest way, or on the carved out steps which can be slippery if there has been any rain.