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AREOPAGUS
Form: Gr. Areios pagos.
An ancient criminal court at Athens, so named because it sat on Ares' Hill beside the Acropolis, where the god of war was said to have been tried for the murder of Halirrothius the son of Poseidon. (See ABES.) Solon's legislation raised the Areopagus into one of the most powerful bodies by transferring to it the greater part of the jurisdiction of the Ephetae (q.v.), as well as the supervision of the entire public administration, the conduct of magistrates, the transactions of the popular assembly, religion, laws, morals and discipline, and giving it power to call even private people to account for offensive behaviour. The "Court of Areopagus," as its full name ran, consisted of life-members (Areopagites), who supplemented their number by the addition of such archons as had discharged their duties without reproach. Not only their age, but their sacred character tended to increase the influence of the Areopagites. They were regarded as in a measure ministers of the Erinyes or Eumenides (Furies), who under the name of Semnae (venerable) had their cave immediately beneath the Areopagus, and whose worship came under their care. The Areopagus proving too conservative for the headlong pace of the Athenian democracy, its general right of supervising the administration was taken from it by the law of Ephialtes, in 462 B.C., and transferred to a new authority, the Nomophylakes (guardians of the laws); but it recovered this right on the fall of the Thirty. Its political powers seem never to have been clearly defined; it often acted in the name of, and with full powers from, the people, which also accepted its decisions on all possible subjects. Under the Roman rule it was still regarded as the supreme authority. Then, as formerly, it exercised a most minute vigilance over foreigners.
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