Athens: 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
(Acts 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
(Acts 17:15) comp.
(1 Thessalonians 3:1) and delivered in the
Areopagus his famous speech
(Acts 17:22-31) The altar of which Paul
there speaks as dedicated "to the [properly "an"] unknown God"
(Acts 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."