Paul is making an unexpected visit to Athens. His proclamation of Christ crucified had angered the Jews at Thessalonica so much that they had followed him to Beroea to incite riots in the crowds there. Rather than risk Paul’s safety, the Beroean believers had sent him off to Athens. There, while he waits for his colleagues to join him, Paul takes in the sights, tours the city and tries to learn something about its people. When he finds city shrines and altars dedicated to a variety of idols, he debates their existence wherever and with whomever he can: in the synagogue with the Jews, in the marketplace with the buyers and sellers, in the town center with the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers.
In this last location, the Areopagus, Paul gives his only speech in Acts to an entirely pagan audience. There he appeals to their religiosity and then tells them that their worship of graven images is a misguided search for the divine.