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; compare 1 Thess. 3:1), and delivered in the Areopagus his
famous speech (17:22-31). The altar of which Paul there speaks
as dedicated "to the [properly "an"] unknown God" (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."