Athens and Areopagus Hill

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My wife, Althea and I decided that we would move to Athens because we love the city. We’ve visited it many times and we decided that we would leave England this year. As EU citizens, it is relatively easy for us to move there. We arrived a week ago to find a place to live. Susanne, the real estate agent, British like us very helpful. She suggested that we could rent an apartment in Athens which would be a little more expensive than if we were to rent a place in other cities like Kypseli, Vyronas, Nea Smyrni, Kallithea and Psychiko.

We visited all of these cities she mentioned and fell in love with Kypseli, a neighborhood with its mixture of African and Middle Eastern and we loved the mixture of old world Greek life and multicultural community. It was nice seeing old men like my grandfather sitting and playing dominoes outside of the traditional ouzeries. There were Ethiopian restaurants, Kurdish kebab houses and shisha bars nearby. We felt so much at home there and the rent of an apartment is cheaper than the rent in Athens. Kypseli is ten minutes from Athens.

We found an apartment with two bedrooms which was very spacious, very bright and in a building with a balcony at the front and back. It was in a building which had an elevator and was steps from the Kypseli square, one supermarkets, stores, troleys, cafes and restaurants. The location was perfect and we really liked the apartment. However, it had only one bathroom and we wanted two and it wasn’t furnished. We promised ourselves that when we had a family, we would buy a house there.

We saw another apartment which didn’t have two bathrooms but it was furnished, however, we didn’t like it as much as the other one. There was one with three bedrooms and two bathrooms but it wasn’t furnished and far above our budget. We ended up getting a two bed room, 1.5 Bath furnished apartment in Kallimarmaro, a small neighborhood of Athens, named after the Panathenaic Stadium. We have access to public transportation and other amenities and we’re close to the city square. The best thing is that the apartment is under budget.

Kallimarmaro wasn’t on the list of cities we considered but Susanna took us there and we’re happy she did. We absolutely love it and have been to the the Panathenaic Stadium which is the home of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and is the only stadium in the world built entirely out of marble.

Kallimarmaro is not far from the Areopagus and that’s where we are now. “No matter how many times we’ve been here, I still get the same thrill that I got when I saw it for the first time,” Althea said.

“I know what you mean,” I said, looking around me in awe. “I always feel blessed when I’m in a place which is mentioned in the Bible.”

“Me too. You feel as if you’re walking in their footsteps. Paul was here in Athens and it was while he was waiting for Silas and Timothy that he became deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to have discussions with the Jews and the devout Gentiles and he spoke daily in the public square to all who were there. There were skeptics who called him a dreamer and said that he was because he spoke to them about Jesus and His resurrection, but they invited him to come here to the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill to tell more them about this new religion.”

“I can just imagine Paul standing there with all eyes on him as he told them about the Unknown God whom he wished to make known to them.”

“I liked that he didn’t condemn them for their idolatry. Instead, he said he noticed that they were very religious.”

I glanced at her. “I think it was the Holy Spirit’s doing because initially, Paul was provoked by what he saw. If he had spoken in anger and condemnation, they wouldn’t have been interested in hearing anything he had to say. They wouldn’t have invited him to speak again. It goes to show that when we share our faith with others, we have to be mindful of how we do that. We can’t come across as condemnatory or we will turn people off.”

“Yes,” Althea agreed. “Paul encouraged believers to correct and rebuke people when they need it, encourage them to do right and all the time feed them patiently with God’s Word.”

“Peter said it best. He said, if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.”

“Religion isn’t something we should force down people’s throats. Jesus invited those who became His disciples and it’s the same thing with us. He invites us to follow Him and it’s up to us to accept His invitation or not. The disciples forsook everything–their careers, families, etc. to follow Him and their lives were never the same. Likewise, when we give up everything to follow Him, our lives will change forever.”

“Yes,” I said. “But think of the reward. We will have eternal life.”

Althea smiled happily. “Yes, we will.”

I put my arm around her shoulders and said, “And soon we will begin a new life here in the city of Athens with its famous Acropolis and homeland of philosophy, democracy & gods.”

“And real Greek food.”

We both laughed as we made our way towards the rock to climb slowly up the steps to the top of the Hill where Dionysius, the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris were among those who heard Paul’s sermon about the “God who made the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by hands.” And about the resurrection. They believed and became Christians. Dionysius became the patron saint of the city of Athens and it was for this reason why the Pope always visited the hilltop whenever he was in Athens.

At the foot of the rock, we paused at the foot of the hill to look at Paul’s bronze plaque which contained a portion of his sermon. We took photos of each other and asked another tourist to take a couple of us together. We stayed there for a while, reflecting on how so many centuries later, Paul was still remembered for his visit here. Then, we gingerly climbed the 7-8 high stone steps although we were both wearing flat shoes with a good grip.

Photo of St Paul plaque at Areopagus from Wikimedia Commons

“This hill belonged to Mars and that’s why it’s called Mar’s Hill,” I told Althea when we reached the top. “As the story goes, Mars, the Roman god of war, after slaying Halirrhothius, the son of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, for the attempted violation of his daughter Alicippe was tried for the murder here before twelve gods as judges. This place was the location where the judges convened who, appointed by Solon, had jurisdiction of capital offences such as willful murder, arson, poisoning, malicious wounding and breach of established religious usages. The court itself was called Areopagus from the place where it sat.”

“Paul wasn’t brought here because he was on trial but was invited by the Athenians and foreigners who wanted to hear more of his strange and new doctrine.”

“It was a great opportunity for him to tell those who worship so many gods about the one, true God.”

“I wonder if he had the opportunity to see this amazing view of the Acropolis.”

“It’s possible,” I said, my gaze shifting from the impressive view of the Acropolis to the Stoa of Atticus, the Byzantine church of Ayios Apostoloi (the church of the Holy Apostles) and the Temple of Hephaestus. Standing there surrounded by history, amazing views and ancient ruins, I can’t wait for us to start our new life here in Athens.

Sources: High Heels and a Backpack; Travel Math; Time Out; Why Athens; Julia Something; Dave’s Travel Pages; Around Greece; Lonely Planet; Greek City Times; Blue Letter Bible; Athens and Beyond

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