Ares’ Priests and a Hill in His Name

BNJ 123 F 6 [=P.Oxy., 2.218, col. 2.8]

“If one of Ares’ priests die, he is wrapped well by the local people and taken into some public space after the third die. When his relatives cremate him, the temple acolyte elected by the people places the god’s sword under the body. Once there is total silence, if everything is done lawfully, the priest receives those things which are done.

But if there is some knowledge of an accusation, once the iron is put under the priest’s body, he is called back to like and he offers an accusation of how much he transgressed against the god. Once this is prosecuted—there is a [ of the accounts]…and he bears [the penalty] for the entire responsibility. This is how Arkhelaos and Zenodotus explain it in their works…”

ἐὰν ἱερεὺς ἀποθάνηι τοῦ ῎Αρεως, περιστέλλεται εὐκοσμίως ὑπὸ τῶν ἐγχωρίων καὶ εἴς τινα τόπον φέρεται δημόσιον μετὰ τὴν τρίτην ἡμέραν. καιόντων δὲ τῶν συγγενῶν (?) ὁ χειροτονηθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ δήμου ζάκορος ὑποτίθησι τῶι νεκρῶι τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ξίφος. καὶ σιγῆς γενομένης βαθείας, ἐὰν ἦι νομίμως, λαμβάνει τῶν γινομένων· ἐὰν δὲ ἐγκλήματός τινος ἔχηι συνείδησιν, ἐπὶ τῶι τὸν σίδηρον ὑποβληθῆναι ἀ … εται καὶ αὐτὸς ἑ[αυτ]ο̣ῦ̣ κα[τηγ]ο̣ρεῖ ὅ̣σα παρενόμησεν εἰς τὸν θεόν. διηγούμενος δ̣ .. | εχο̣ν δ[..] ν λόγων τῶν α̣μ [..]| τη κατ[.]..[.] ρονι̣ […]. ω̣[…]ραν ἐ̣[πιφ]έρει ὑπὲρ τ̣[ῆς] ὅλης [αἰτίας. οὕτως] | ᾽Αρχέλ̣[αο]ς καὶ Ζην[όδοτος | ἐν τοῖς] περὶ τύφου (?).


Hellanikos, BNJ 323a F 1

 “Areopagos. A combination of meaningful words. Areios and Pagos. It is court in Athens. It was called the “hill of Ares” because the court is on a hill and is on the top and after Ares because it is where murder cases are adjudicated and Ares is associated with murders. Or, this may be the place where Ares  stuck  [epêkse] his spear in a suit brought against him by Poseidon over the murder of Halirrothios. Ares killed him because he raped his daughter Alkippê from Agraulos, Kekrops’ daughter, as Hellenikos claims in his first book.”

 Anonymus, Συναγωγὴ λέξεων χρησίμων, 1, 422, 22

῎Αρειος πάγος· δικαστήριον ᾽Αθήνησιν …. ἐκλήθη δὲ ῎Αρειος πάγος ἤτοι ὅτι ἐν πάγωι ἐστὶ καὶ ἐν ὕψει τὸ δικαστήριον, ῎Αρειος δέ, ἐπεὶ τὰ φονικὰ δικάζει, ὁ δὲ ῎Αρης ἐπὶ τῶν φόνων· ἢ ὅτι ἔπηξε τὸ δόρυ ἐκεῖ ὁ ῎Αρης ἐν τῆι πρὸς Ποσειδῶνα ὑπὲρ ῾Αλιρροθίου δίκηι, ὅτε ἀπέκτεινεν αὐτὸν βιασάμενον ᾽Αλκίππην, τὴν αὐτοῦ καὶ ᾽Αγραύλου τῆς Κέκροπος θυγατέρα, ὥς φησιν ῾Ελλάνικος ἐν ᾱ.

 This court was largely limited to homicide after the Ephialtic reforms (c. 465 BCE). The second tale pushes the basic etymology (“Hill of Ares”) even further and gives an aetiological narrative for Athenians putting a spear in the grave of murder victims. This narrative also recalls the conflict between Athena and Poseidon over the sponsorship of the city. See Fowler 2013, 454.

Modern Areopagus. By Berthold Werner, CC BY-SA 3.0,