Hadrian’s Library - History and Facts | History Hit

Hadrian’s Library

Attica, Attica, Greece

Built by the Emperor Hadrian, this ancient library originally housed over 17,000 books, scrolls, documents and papyri. The ruins of the site were opened to the public in 2004.

Antara Bate

20 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Hadrian’s Library

The ruins of Hadrian’s Library in Athens are all that remain of this important centre of ancient learning, which was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian between 125 and 132 AD.

Hadrian’s Library history

Hadrian was a great admirer of Greek culture and constructed a number of significant buildings in Athens, including this grand library. In its heyday, it would have housed over 17,000 books, scrolls, documents and papyri.

The principal facade with the entrance from the side of what is now known as  Monastiraki Square from Areos Street, formed a portico of 12 metres wide with four Corinthian columns in projection on the two lateral sides. Each side was adorned with seven monolithic columns in smooth shaft with marble from Karystos and Corinthian capitals of white marble from Mt. Penteli.

Destroyed by the Herulae in 267 AD it was later repaired before being damaged again during the later barbarian invasions. During the Byzantine era a series of churches were built on the site and further renovation was carried out in the Ottoman period. After suffering this continual series of damage, reconstruction and alteration, the site was excavated, studied and opened to the public in 2004.

Hadrian’s Library today

The most impressive of the ruins are the great Corinthian columns on the well-preserved outer wall, and the impressive portico which served as the entrance to the courtyard.

Although Hadrian’s Library is not very well preserved, you can easily get an idea of how grandiose the building was when it was built.

The Ancient Athens combined ticket which is for the Acropolis and its landmarks, also includes the Library of Hadrian.

Getting to Hadrian’s Library

Hadrian’s Library is situated to the north of the Athenian Acropolis. The entrance is on the southern side of Monastiraki Square. The nearest metro stop is Monastiraki.

Featured In

Greece Historic Sites

Alongside its contributions to philosophy, astrology, and medicine, Greece's sites from classical antiquity have stood the test of time. Here are 10 must-see sites for any visiting history enthusiast.

Roman Ruins Greece

Along with Ancient Greek ruins, Greece's Roman ruins hold a unique insight into the country's changeable past. Enjoy our pick of 10 that you can't miss.