The citable of Athens was wisely chosen to be built on the top of the hill it is still found today, with the location having significant strategic importance; apart from being the city’s higher point, it was also surrounded by three hills that offered protection: Pnyka hill, Areopagus (Mars Hill) and Philopappou hill. Each hill had its own importance during ancient times, along with a myth associated with it. Those myths have stood the test of time, and have survived to this day
Aerial view of Phillopappos hill - credits: Aerial-motion/Shutterstock.com
Pnyx was the meeting place of all Athenians gathering to hold their assemblies, vote and speak their mind. That's way, it swiftly became one of the most important symbols of democracy. A flat stone was used as the speaker’s stepping stone, while the rest of the crowd sat on the hillside facing them. There were five hundred seats in total, one for each member of the Council, which was elected every year to run the city of Athens. Great politicians like Pericles, Aristides, Themistocles, and Alcibiades had made some of the most famous speeches in Pnyka hill. Its key location offers a panoramic view of the ancient Agora, the social and commercial meeting point of Athens.
People on Aeropagus hill - credits: Jana Janina/Shutterstock.com
Areopagus (Mars Hill), the hill to the northwest side of the Acropolis, was named after the god of war, Ares, and it is translated as the “Rock of Ares”. It was believed, that the area hosted the trial of Ares, conducted by the rest of the Olympian gods, for the murder of Alirrothios. The latter was one of Poseidon’s sons who was murdered by Ares when he tried to rape the god's daughter. Eventually, the god of war was absolved of the crime. Since then, this hill served as the court for judging deliberate homicide by the Athenians. This was the place where Phryne, a hetaera (one of a class of highly cultivated courtesans in ancient Greece) famed for her beauty, appeared before the judges, accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries. In order to save herself, she let her cloak drop, and the judges were so impressed by her divine-like form, that she was summarily acquitted. Additionally, according to Aeschylus, this was the place of the trial of Orestes after killing his mother. Nowadays, the term 'Areopagus' refers to the judicial body that forms the higher court of modern Greece. The hill, though, remains popular amongst young people who love to spend time there, especially during the warm August nights.
Philopappou Hill, Athens - credits: Anastasios71/Shutterstock.com
The hill took its current name after Philopappos, a Syrian consul who lived in Athens, had classical Greek education and became respected for being a benefactor of the city. Philopappos had, among other friends, many philosophers like Plutarch who describes him in his writings as an extremely generous person. Thus, his death caused great sorrow to the citizens of Athens and they built a mausoleum as a dedication to honor his memory. Today, the hill is a great place for a walk, especially during spring and early summer. Walking on its paths, visitors will enjoy the flora variety, the serenity, while having the chances of being 'meeting' the Muses that according to legend, used to have the hill as their home.
Fascinating stories can be found around every corner of Athens or, in this case, on top of every peak of the city -our Athens travel guide can prove so to the most demanding of you lot! You can join us in our morning walking tour of Athens where we'll admire the astonishing view from Areopagus hill with the whole city below our feet!