The Philopappos Monument, Athens, Greece

August 30, 2019

In Acts 17, when Paul preached at Athens, he was taken to the Areopagus where he was invited to explain what the Athenians called “this new teaching” (Acts 17:16-19). We have previously posted on Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus here and here.

In this post we want to notice one of the many sites you can see while standing atop the Areopagus. Here is the view looking to the southwest.

Hill of Philopappus, Athens Greece. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The Hill of Philopappus is also called Mouseion Hill. Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappus (AD 65-116) was a prince from the Kingdom of Commagene (northern Syria), and a Roman consul and senator, as well as grandson of Antiochos IV. At his death a white Pentelic marble tomb monument was dedicated to him by his sister Julia Babilla and the citizens of Athens. Here is a closer view:

Funerary Monument of Philopappus. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This of course is just one of many major landmarks in Athens. Near the monument are the remains of a prison where it is claimed that Socrates was imprisoned and died.

Lonely Planet makes this observation regarding this hill:

Inhabited from prehistoric times to the post-Byzantine era, the area was, according to Plutarch, the area where Theseus and the Amazons did battle. In the 4th and 5th centuries BC, defensive fortifications – such as the Themistoclean wall and the Diateichisma – extended over the hill, and some of their remains are still visible. (Lonelyplanet.com).

Click images for larger view.


Emperor Antoninus Pius (r. A.D. 138-161)

August 27, 2019

In going through some of my photos of Athens, Greece, I came across a shot I had taken of a bust of Antoninus Pius.

Antoninus Pius. Reigned A.D. 138-161. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

My priority in the limited writing I’ve done on Roman Emperors has been to deal with those who reigned during A.D. 1st century, i.e., those that intersect with biblical history. For example, click here (“Roman Emperors During the Gospels and Acts) and here (“Emperor Galba: the Year of Four Emperors). But here we offer at least a brief introduction to the life and reign of this 2nd century emperor, Antoninus.

Antoninus Pius was born in A.D. 86 at Lanuvium in Latium. He spent his youth at Lorium, not far from Rome. He married Annia Galeria Faustina. When Lucius Aelius Caesar, Emperor Hadrian’s (r. A.D. 117-138) adoptive son and heir died in January 138, Hadrian then adopted Antoninus, February 25. Antoninus ascended the throne upon Hadrian’s death, July 138.

Michael Grant states that Antoninus’s “deferential attitude” to the Roman senators “prompted them to confer on him the unusual title of ‘Pius’, honouring (sic) his religious and patriotic dutifulness” (The Roman Emperors, 83).

Antoninus Pius. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Regarding the land and people of Judea, Grant writes:

There Antoninus Pius soon modified, without completely abandoning, his predecessor’s [Hadrian] veto on circumcision; that is to say he allowed Jews to circumcise their sons but forbade them to admit converts to the rite, thus weakening Jewish competition with the actively proselytizing Christians. Moreover, the ban debarring Jews from entry into Jerusalem was maintained, and indeed enforced by the construction of a ring of military posts round the city (86).

However, Grant’s last statement above is contradicted by Nigel Rodgers, who stated, “Later, Antoninus Pius (reigned AD138-161) quietly revoked his predecessor’s decree and allowed any Jews, who wished to, to return to the now utterly desolate site of Jerusalem” (Roman Empire, 219).

Interestingly, as emperor, Antoninus never left Italy (Rodger, 35); “Antoninus himself never once left Italy throughout the course of his reign” (Grant.86).

At his death, his adoptive son Marcus Aurelius said, “Remember his qualities so that when your last hour comes your conscience may be as clear as his” (Grant, 88).

Gibbons lavished much praise on the period which included the reign of Antoninus:

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom. (Gibbon, E. (2004). The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. (H. H. Milman, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

That kind of praise and honor somehow puts me in mind of Proverbs 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.”


Athens, cont’d.

March 25, 2015

This morning we visited the Acropolis Museum, opened to the public in 2009.

The Acropolis Museum (Greek: Μουσείο Ακρόπολης, Mouseio Akropolis) is an archaeological museum focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on its feet, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies on the archaeological site of Makrygianni and the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens (Wikipedia).

You can see archaeological excavations at the entrance to the museum.

Excavations at Entrance to Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Excavations at Entrance to Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Among the interesting exhibits are the original Caryatids which originally stood as support columns at the Erechtheion on the acropolis.

Original Caryatids at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Original Caryatids at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Yet another exhibit was the Brèal Cup. The inscription reads: “Olympic Games 1896. Marathon trophy donated by Michel Brèal.”

Brèal Cup at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Brèal Cup at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We were able to visit Mars Hill, and there I read Paul’s sermon in Acts 17 to our group. See previous posts here and here.

We had a “bonus” this afternoon, getting to see the changing of the guard at the royal palace.

Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace, Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace, Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army, also known as Tsoliades, who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people. The Presidential Guard, as the unit is now called, was constituted in 1868 and has taken many names through centuries (Guard of the Flag, Royal Guard, etc). The duties of the soldiers are part of a ceremonial nature. Every soldier guards for about an hour, 3 times in total every 48 hours. Throughout these 60 minutes, they have to stand perfectly still until it is time to switch with another guard. During the changing, they work in pairs so they can perfectly coordinate their moves. The steps that the official ceremony requires at the time of changing are carried out in really slow motion to protect their blood circulation after 60 min of immobility. The soldiers of the Presidential Guard are selected according to their height, excellent physical condition and psychological state as well as character and morality, as they follow a hard training before they become part of this honorary unit. The training lasts for one month and includes exercises to keep the body and mind still. Apart from staying still, the soldiers must also not make any face or eye move and must not show any expression. Source: http://www.greeka.com

Tomorrow we are scheduled to leave early for Corinth, then on to Delphi, and from there to Kalambaka as we travel to northern Greece (biblical Macedonia) to “walk in the steps of Paul.” Thanks for following our travels.

Inside


Greetings From Athens Greece

March 24, 2015

My group arrived safely in Athens this afternoon and all of our luggage arrived as well! We are thankful.Newark seems a bit distant now.

Gathering at Newark International. Photo by Donna Keith.

Gathering at Newark International. Photo by Donna Keith.

Everyone was tired following the overnight flight. A good dinner was welcome!

Dinner at Metropolitan_IMG_0171Donna Keith

Dinner at Metropolitan in Athens. Photo by Donna Keith.

???????????????????????????????

Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Gate in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

En route to our hotel we saw the Arch of Hadrian, which was constructed in honor of the emperor following the completion of the temple of Zeus. Hadrian  walked through it the arch  to attend the dedication of the temple in AD 131. The western side of the arch has the inscription, “This is Athens, the city of Theseus.”

Tomorrow is scheduled to be an all day tour of Athens. We plan to post photos from our biblical study trip as time (and internet) permit.


View from Roman Forum in Athens Greece

February 10, 2015

Yesterday we had another view down the south side of the acropolis in Athens, Greece. Now we move to the north side, down below the acropolis, to the Roman Forum. In our photo here you can see a portion of the forum, the Tower of the Winds (right), and to your distant left Mount Lykavittos.

Roman Forum, Tower, and Mt. Lykavittos in Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Roman Forum, Tower, and Mt. Lykavittos in Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Tower of the Winds has an interesting history:

The Tower of the Winds stands in the Pláka below the north side of the Acropolis. In the planning of the modern city of Athens in the 19th century. Eólou Street, named after the wind god Ailos, was aligned directly on the tower, which forms a landmark at its southern end.

Built about 40 B.C., the tower is an octagonal structure 12m/40ft high, with sundials on the external walls; it originally housed a water-clock.

Around the top runs a frieze with reliefs representing the eight wind gods – the beardless Notos, pouring out rain from an urn (south); Lips, holding the stern ornament of a ship (southwest); Zephyros, a youth scattering flowers (west); Sykron the bringer of snow (northwest); the bearded Boreas, blowing into a shell (north); Kaikias, also bearded, the bringer of hail (northeast); Apeliotes, a young man bearing ears of corn and fruit (east); and Euros, wrapped in a cloak (southeast).

To the south of the tower is a building of the Roman period (first century A.D.) with the springing points of arches. Its function is uncertain (office of the market police, Caesareum?).

Adjoining the entrance to the excavated area is a marble latrine with seating for nearly 70.

The water-clock is located outside the western entrance to the Roman Market. It served as a form of meteorological station by combining a sundial, a waterclock and a weathervane showing the direction of the wind.

The clock is commonly known as “Aerides” (the winds) (Planetware.com).

A highly visible landmark, Lykavittos, also known as Lykabettos, stands 227 meters/909 feet in altitude. It was:

once well outside Athens but now surrounded by the city on all sides, is the dominant hill in the plain of Attica. It is a hill of cretaceous chalk, covered with various species of plant life, and is a popular place to go to escape from the hurly-burly of city life. At the top stands the chapel dedicated to St George, from where there are extensive views of the whole city (Planetware.com).

Click photo for larger view. Use search box at upper right for more posts on Athens, as well as other biblical sites.


Odeon of Herodes Atticus

February 9, 2015

On the south slope of the Athenian Acropolis you can view the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. An odeon was a theater built for musical performances and poetry competitions. This structure post-dates the apostle Paul and his preaching here (Acts 17) by about a century.

Odeum of Herodes Atticus. Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

From Wikipedia:

It was built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-sloped amphitheater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive, cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000. It lasted intact until it was destroyed and turned into a ruin by the Heruli in 267 AD.

The Odeon (AD 161) was a gift from Herodes Atticus:

whose life reads like something out of the Arabian Nights; he inherited his extraordinary wealth from his father, who found a treasure outside Rome. Famous in its time for having no interior columns to support its long-gone cedar wood roof, the 6,000 seat Odeion hosts the excellent Festival of Athens, where modern European and ancient Greek cultures meet in theatre, ballet and classical concerts performed by companies from all over the world. (Greece by Dana Facaros & Linda Theodorou. Cadagan Guides. p.119).

Click image for larger view. For other posts on Athens, Greece use search box at upper right.


Paul’s Acts 17 Sermon, Greek Text, at Aeropagus, Athens Greece

February 5, 2015

In Acts 17 Luke narrates how Paul was invited to speak to the men of Athens in the midst of the Areopagus, at Mars Hill. Among the listeners were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (v.17). He began his address by referencing an altar in their city with this inscription: “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” Using that as his starting point, he contrasted the true God with the idols they worshiped. The true God made all things, including us. He gives unto us life, breath, and all things. Because He is the Creator, and we are His creatures, we must seek after Him and find Him. He commands all men everywhere to repent; a day is coming in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the One whom He raised from the dead (summary of vv. 23-31).

Today at the site of Mars Hill there is a bronze plaque with the text of Paul’s sermon engraved in the Greek language.

Paul's Acts 17 sermon, on bronze plaque at base of Mars Hill, Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Paul’s Acts 17 sermon, on bronze plaque at base of Mars Hill, Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Greeks did not believe in a resurrection, so as soon as Paul mentioned that, many of his audience stopped listening (v.32). Others procrastinated (v.32). But there were some converts to Christ there: Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (v.34).

We have numerous other posts on Athens. Use search box at above right.

Click image for larger view.


Sanctuary of Asclepius at Athens

January 31, 2015

In biblical times, Asclepius was widely worshiped as the god of healing. As we continue our view down the southern slope of the Athenian acropolis, we can see the remains of the sanctuary of Asclepius.

Athen's Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing. Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Fant and Reddish observe, “Above the Stoa of Eumenes, and to the left (west) of the Theater of Dionysus, can be seen the scant remains of the Asclepeion, a center for healing run by the priests of Asclepius. The sacrificial altar remains, but it is difficult to discern amid the various stones currently being stored there” (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p.26). (We should note that when they say “left” it is from the perspective of one who is down from the acropolis. When you’re on the acropolis looking down, the sanctuary would be to your right of the theater of Dionysus–LM). 

We have previous written on Asclepius here and here  regarding the famous healing center at Pergamum. Even in Israel there was a temple devoted to this god.

Planetware.com has this info:

On a narrow terrace above the Stoa of Eumenes, directly under the steep south face of the Acropolis, is the Asklepieion, the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios, whose cult – initiated largely by Sophocles – was brought to Athens from Epidauros in 420 B.C. The sanctuary is centered on two sacred springs.

The earliest part of the sanctuary lay at the western end of the precinct, where there are the foundations of a stoa and a small temple. A number of herms have been brought together in the stoa. At the west end of the complex is a rectangular system with polygonal walls dating from the same period. To the south is a later cistern.

The buildings in the eastern part of the precinct were erected about 350 B.C. Immediately under the Acropolis rock, here hewn into a vertical face, is a stoa 50m/165ft long, originally two- storyed, designed to accommodate the sick who came here to seek a cure. Associated with it is the cave containing a spring which is still credited with healing powers; and accordingly the cave is now used as a chapel.

Parallel to this stoa, which was rebuilt in Roman times, another stoa was constructed, also in Roman times, on the southern edge of the precinct; of this second stoa some remains survive.
Both stoas faced towards the center of the precinct, in which stood the temple. This was oriented to the east and had four columns along the front (prostylos tetrastylos). The foundations of the temple and the altar which stood in front of it are still to be seen.
In early Christian times a basilica was built over the remains of the temple and the altar, and some architectural fragments from this can be seen lying about the site.

(http://www.planetware.com/athens/asklepieion-gr-ath-askle.htm)

Click on image for larger view.


Athens Temple of Themis

January 30, 2015

Many of the sites in ancient Athens are world renown. The Parthenon, for example, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World (see our previous post here).

Other sites are not as well known. Looking down the south slope of the acropolis you can see the remains of the small temple of Themis, seen here at center of photo.

Temple of Themis in Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Themis in Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In Greek mythology,

Themis was the Titan goddess of divine law and order–the traditional rules of conduct first established by the gods. She was also a prophetic goddess who presided over the most ancient oracles, including Delphoi. In this role, she was the divine voice (themistes) who first instructed mankind in the primal laws of justice and morality, such as the precepts of piety, the rules of hospitality, good governance, conduct of assembly, and pious offerings to the gods. In Greek, the word themis referred to divine law, those rules of conduct long established by custom. Unlike the word nomos, the term was not usually used to describe laws of human decree.

Themis was an early bride of Zeus and his first counsellor. She was often represented seated beside his throne advising him on the precepts of divine law and the rules of fate.

Themis was closely identified with Demeter Thesmophoros (“Bringer of Law”). Indeed Themis’ six children, the spring-time Horai and death-bringing Moirai, reflect the dual-functions of Demeter’s own daughter Persephone. Themis was also identified with Gaia (Earth) especially in the role of the oracular voice of earth. http://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanisThemis.html

This temple is mentioned by Pausanias (ca. AD 110-180), a Greek traveler and geographer, in his Description of Greece. This lengthy work describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations. His brief notation on this temple was, “After the sanctuary of Asclepius, as you go by this way towards the Acropolis, there is a temple of Themis.”
We have several other posts on ancient Athenian temple and other sites, here, here and here. Use the search box at top of home page. Click image for larger view.

Propylaea of Athens

January 23, 2015

The Propylaea (entrance before the gate) still stands as the access to the Acropolis today. This monumental entrance gate was commissioned by the great statesman and builder of the Acropolis, Pericles. Construction was begun in 437 B.C.

Propylaea leading to Athens Acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Propylaea leading to Athens Acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Fant and Reddish have this information:

The Propylaea (“before the gate”) visible today is the fourth of such structures to be built at this site; earlier ones were destroyed in various wars. The road from the agora below, the Panathenaic Way, led up to this point. A flight of marble steps ascends to the hall of the Propylaea. One step is of gray Eleusinian marble; the others are of white Pentelic marble. The monumental pedestal (25 feet tall) on the left of the steps originally was designed for a statue with a chariot and four horses to honor King Eumenes II of Pergamum for his contribution of the Stoa of Eumenes. Later it was reinscribed with a dedication to Marcus Agrippa in honor of the odeion he contributed to the agora. Designed by the architect Mnesicles and begun upon the completion of the Parthenon (437 B.C.E.), the Propylaea consisted of a central section with five doorways, originally fitted with wooden doors, and projecting wings on either side. The wing on the left side, the north wing, was known as the Pinakotheke, or art gallery, because of the magnificent collection of paintings inside. In 150 C.E. Pausanius named a number of the paintings he could recognize, including some by Polygnatus of Homer (5th century B.C.E.). The room was used for official banquets by dignitaries who reclined on couches in the Greek fashion. The wing on the right side, the south wing, could not match the other in design because of the Temple of Athena Nike and other buildings that impinged upon it. This wing was never completed due to the start of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.E.). (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey).

We are looking forward to seeing Athens again in a couple of months.

Click image for larger view.