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Areopagus

In pre-classical times (before the 5th century BC), the Areopagus was the council of elders of the city, similar to the Roman Senate. Like the Senate, its membership was restricted to those who had held high public office, in this case that of Archon. In 594 BC, the Areopagus agreed to hand over its functions to Solon for reform. He instituted democratic reforms, reconstituted its membership and returned control to the organization. In 462 BC, Ephialtes put through reforms which deprived the Areopagus of almost all its functions except that of a murder tribunal in favor of Heliaia. The Areopagus acquired new functions in the 4th century BC, investigating corruption and functioning as the high Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases. In the 4th century BC, Phryne, the hetaera famed for her beauty, appeared before the Areopagus accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries - one story has her letting her cloak drop, so impressing the judges with her almost divine form that she was summarily acquitted. The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times.

The council and judicial body were named for rocky hill where they met, north-west of the Athenian Acropolis. The Areopagus (Romanized to ďMarsí hill") is the composite form of the Greek name Areios Pagos, translated "Ares Rock." Ares was supposed to have been tried there by the gods for the murder of Poseidon's son Alirrothios. From this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous Areopagus sermon, "Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Acts 17:24)