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Athens


Picture: Hadrian’s Arch which separated “the ancient city of Theseus” from the new city of Roman Emperor Hadrian (117–138AD). Behind you can see the Acropolis. 

Today we are in the great city of Athens surrounded by remnants of the Greek Classical Period (c. 480BC—323BC). This is the time of the Greek-Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian Wars between the city-states Athens and Sparta, and the great conqueror Alexander the Great. This is also the golden time for theatre and philosophy, when names like Sophocles and Euripides, and Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were well-known. 


Picture: Piraeus

We dock in the port city of Piraeus, a major port in Greece as it is the gateway to Athens. During St. Paul’s second missionary journey (49–51 AD) he would have docked his ship here in Piraeus before making his way to Athens. When St. Paul arrived in Athens, the first thing he would have seen is the “High City” — the “Sacred Rock” — the Acropolis. The Acropolis was the most important structure of Ancient Athens and is the most recognized Ancient Greek structure today. In 432 BC the temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens, was completed on top of the Acropolis. You can see the Acropolis from most places of the modern city. The temple of Athena is also known as the Parthenon and shares the Acropolis with several other temples to Olympia gods. 


Picture: Map of Paul’s second missionary journey, which included Athens.

Picture: The Acropolis from a distance driving through Athens and the Parthenon (Athena temple)

The Acropolis overlooks the Ancient Agora, the main center of the ancient city of Athens. The Agora was the market place and home to social events and entertainment. The Agora is where the philosopher Socrates taught (for which he was arrested and executed in 399 BC for “corrupting the youth”); where the playwright Sophocles would spend time and entertain crowds with his plays; and where St. Paul shared the Gospel with the people of Athens in 49 AD after being chased from Thessalonica (Acts 17). Epicurean and Stoic philosophers challenged Paul and brought him to the High Court on Areopagus (Hill of Ares), so Paul could explain himself and his teachings before the council. Paul could be killed for preaching a foreign god, but on his way through Athens he saw an altar with the inscription “To the unknown god” (Acts 17:23). So he preached Jesus as the unknown god Greeks already worshipped to avoid execution and spread the truth. Paul was laughed off the stage when he spoke on the Resurrection. Biblical scholars believe that, like Moses, St. Paul had a speech impediment, and the Athenians, who were used to hearing great orators who did not stumble or stutter over their words, probably did not pay much attention to Paul when he was in the Agora.


Picture: Temple of Olympia Zeus ruins, one of many temples of idols Athenians worshipped when Paul arrived to evangelize, with the Acropolis in the background

Picture: In the modern day Plaka shopping, similar to the Ancient Agora with its trade market

Picture: Areopagus where Paul taught the faith to the Athenian council. If they didn't like what he had to say they would have thrown him from the rock.

St. Paul left Athens with a few more disciples and made his way to Corinth to teach more Jews and Greeks about Jesus and how to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

Tomorrow we will be at sea all day making our way Jerusalem. We are praying for you! May God bless you always and in all ways. 

 

Holy Land Pilgrimage

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Follow Msgr. Lofton's group pilgrimage to the Holy Land: October 19th - November 4th.


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