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Areopagus

Areopagus (ărēŏp´əgəs) [Gr.,=hill of Ares], rocky hill, 370 ft (113 m) high, NW of the Acropolis of Athens, famous as the sacred meeting place of the prime council of Athens. This council, also called the Areopagus, represented the ancient council of elders, which usually combined judicial and legislative functions from the beginning. The Areopagus represented in the 5th and 6th cent. BC the stronghold of aristocracy. Jurisdiction in murder cases had probably been given to it by Draco; Solon gave it various censorial powers over the officers of the state. The change in the method of choosing the archons in 487 BC caused the beginning of the decline of the Areopagus. In 480 BC the Areopagus enabled the manning of the fleet for the battle of Salamis, and it recovered much of its influence in the war years. But c.462 BC a series of attacks began and eventually the august council was reduced to the status of a court of homicide only, although it maintained its religious character. Pericles was a leader in this democratizing movement; Aeschylus was an opponent, and he brought his trilogy of dramas to a close (in The Eumenides) with an appeal for the preservation of the ancient traditions of the Areopagus.

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Areopagus

Areopagus (in ancient Athens) a hill on which was sited the highest governmental council and later a judicial court. The name comes from Greek Areios pagos ‘hill of Ares’; the name for the site came to denote the court itself.

Areopagitica, the title of Milton's pamphlet on the freedom of the press published in 1644, derives from this name. The publication was partly inspired by attempts by Parliament to suppress Milton's own pamphlet on divorce.

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Areopagus

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