Arch of Hadrian - History and Facts | History Hit

Arch of Hadrian

Athens, Attica, Greece

The Arch of Hadrian of Athens is a triumphal gateway built in the second century AD.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About Arch of Hadrian

The Arch of Hadrian of Athens is a triumphal gateway built in the second century AD (circa 132 AD). This is definitely not the most impressive of ancient gateways, its Pentelic marble now damaged by years of exposure to pollution.

Arch of Hadrian history

The Arch of Hadrian is a large gateway that in some ways resembles a Roman triumphal arch.

It spanned an ancient road from the centre of Athens, Greece, to the complex of structures on the eastern side of the city including the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

The construction of the Arch of Hadrian is believed to have been started in 131 BC to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and to thank him for his benefactions for the city.

Since Hadrian had become an Athenian citizen nearly two decades before the monument was built, Kouremenos has argued that the inscriptions on the arch honour him as an Athenian rather than as the Roman emperor.

It is not known exactly who built this arch, though it is probable that it was the Athenians. Symbolically the location of the arch was to mark the line between the ancient part of Athens and Hadrian’s new city.

There were two inscriptions on the arch, facing in opposite directions, naming both Theseus and Hadrian as founders of Athens. While it is clear that the inscriptions honour Hadrian, it is uncertain whether they refer to the city as a whole or to the city in two parts, one old and one new. The early idea, however, that the arch marked the line of the ancient city wall, and thus the division between the old and the new regions of the city, has been revealed to be unlikely by further excavation.

At the time that it was recorded architecturally by Stuart and Revett in the mid-18th century, the base of the arch was buried to the level of around three feet. Given that it was not protected for around nineteen centuries of existence, the arch entered the modern era in extraordinary condition. Although the columns of the lower level are missing, the arch is preserved to its full height and towers over modern Amalias Avenue.

Arch of Hadrian today

In recent decades, atmospheric pollution has damaged the monument. There is extensive discoloration of the stone and degradation of the inscriptions.

The main structure of the Arch remains and it now stands on the edge of one of Athens’ busiest avenues.

Getting to the Arch of Hadrian

The arch is accessible by public transport including bus and tram. The nearest metro stations are Akropoli and Neos Kosmos.

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