The Areopagus, situated on (and named after) Ares' Hill beside the Acropolis, was originally a council of nobles who gradually deprived the king (basileus
) of all power, changing rule of Athens to an oligarchy. Instead of the king, it elected nine archons to run the city state. Its powers repeatedly waxed and waned. In 462 Ephialtes deprived the Areopagus of most of its powers leaving it at least jurisdiction over homicide.
"The Council of Areopagus had the official function of guarding the laws, but actually it administered the greatest number and the most important of the affairs of state, inflicting penalties and fines upon offenders against public order without appeal; for the elections of the Archons went by birth and wealth, and the members of the Areopagus were appointed from them, owing to which this alone of the offices has remained even to the present day tenable for life."
Ath. Con. 3.6 From the Perseus Project
Alternate Spellings: Areios Pagos
The Areopagus, situated on Ares' Hill beside the Acropolis, was a criminal court.