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The Areopagus, a rocky outcrop approximately 115 m. high is situated between three other hills, the Acropolis, the Pnyx, and the Kolonos Agoraios. Its name probably derives from Ares, the god of war, and the Ares-Erinyes or Semnes (also called the Eumenides), underground goddesses of punishment and revenge. A judicial body, the Areopagus Council, met on this hill to preside over cases of murder, sacrilege, and arson. The Areopagus was also a place of religious worship. Among the several sanctuaries located here was that of the Semnes or Eumenides, probably located in a cavity at the northeast side of the hill.
In the Mycenaean and Geometric periods (1600-700 B.C.) the northern slope of the hill served as a cemetery which contained both vaulted tombs and simple cist graves.
From the 6th century B.C. onwards the hillside as a whole became a residential quarter belonging to the fashionable district of Melite. Cuttings still evident in the bedrock attest to the district's many roads, wells, drains, reservoirs, floors, and irregular buildings. Access to this neighbourhood was provided by stairways cut right into the living rock.
By the Late Roman period (4th-6th centuries A.C.) four luxury houses, which probably served as philosophical schools - located at the north slope of the hill - had supplanted the houses of the Classical era.
The Areopagus is also associated with the spread of Christianity into Greece. Some time near the middle of the 1st century A.C. the Apostle Paul is said to have converted a number [of] Athenians by teaching the tenets of the new religion from the summit of the hill. Among the converts was Dionysios the Areopagite, the patron saint of the City of Athens, who according to tradition, was the city's first bishop. Remains of a church named in his honor are preserved on the northern slope of the hill.
The Church of St. Dionysios the Areopagite was a three-aisled basilica with a narthex at west central apse, diakonikon (the apse terminating the southern aisle) and prosthesis (the apse terminating the northern aisle). Built in the middle of the 16th century, it was probably destroyed by an earthquake in 1601. The church and grounds were completely enclosed to the north and west by the monumental Archbishop's Palace. This two-storey Palace was built between the middle of the 16th and end of the 17th century and consisted of a complex of rooms which included warehouses, a kitchen, a dining hall, and two wine presses.