The capital city of Attica, Greece. About the time when Nehemiah was rebuilding the fortifications of Jerusalem, Athens, three miles from the Aegean Sea, was enjoying its era of unparalleled prosperity. The income from its empire and commercial enterprise made possible the construction of its magnificent public buildings. The Parthenon had marble friezes, now displayed, controversially, in the British Museum in London; Socrates taught philosophy in conversations in the market-place; and Sophocles was winning prizes in the theatre. The cultural prestige of Athens continued into the age of Augustus and Roman domination. It was a university town to which prominent Romans sent their sons to be educated; the emperor Hadrian lived in Athens from 123 to 126 CE.
In this self-assured city of learning Paul spoke on the hill called Areopagus (Acts 17: 19, 22) and the author of the Acts catches the atmosphere well. The council members were not passionately aroused to riot; they assessed the context of the speech with academic impartiality, and a few were convinced (Acts 17: 34).