The Ancient City of Athens
Arch of Hadrian

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This site was created for educational purposes by Kevin T. Glowacki. All content on this website (including text and photographs), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The Arch of Hadrian was erected in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D (and probably a little before 131/132 A.D. when we know Hadrian visited Athens). The arch was built over the line of an ancient road that led from the area of the Acropolis and the Athenian Agora to the Olympieion and southeast Athens. (It was never an actual gate in a wall). An inscription (IG II2 5185) on the western side of the arch (facing the Acropolis) states: This is Athens, the ancient [or former?] city of Theseus." An inscription on the eastern side of the arch (facing the Olympieion) states: "This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus". Scholars have traditionally interpreted the inscriptions as meaning that the arch stood at the boundaries of "old Athens" (to the west) and "new Athens" or "Hadrianoupolis" (to the southeast). Another interpretation sees the inscriptions as honoring Hadrian as the new founder (what the ancient Greeks called a ktistes) of all of Athens, replacing even the hero Theseus in the hearts of the Athenians.

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Select Bibliography:
  • Adams, A. 1989. "The Arch of Hadrian at Athens," in The Greek Renaissance in the Roman Empire, eds. S. Walker and A. Cameron, London, pp. 10-15.
  • Camp, J. 2001. The Archaeology of Athens, New Haven and London, pp. 201-202.
  • Travlos, J. 1971. Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens, London, pp. 253-257, figs. 325-329.
  • Willers, D. 1990. Hadrians panhellenisches Programm: archäologische Beiträge zur Neugestaltung Athens durch Hardian (Antike Kunst Beiheft 16), Basel, pp. 68-92.

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