Athens—the capital of Attica, the most celebrated city of the ancient world, the seat of Greek literature and art during the golden period of Grecian history. Its inhabitants were fond of novelty (Acts 17:21), and were remarkable for their zeal in the worship of the gods. It was a sarcastic saying of the Roman satirist that it was "easier to find a god at Athens than a man."
On his second missionary journey Paul visited this city (Acts 17:15; comp. 1 Thess. 3:1), and delivered in the Areopagus his famous speech (17:22-31). The altar of which Paul there speaks as dedicated "to the [properly "an"] unknown God" (23) was probably one of several which bore the same inscription. It is supposed that they originated in the practice of letting loose a flock of sheep and goats in the streets of Athens on the occasion of a plague, and of offering them up in sacrifice, at the spot where they lay down, "to the god concerned."