Arch of Hadrian

Arch of Hadrian. Western side. Detail of arch and inscription. The inscription on this side of the arch reads: "This is Athens, the ancient city of of Theseus". Since the inscription on the other side of the arch says "This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus", many people think the arch is marking real division between the "old city" of Athens (that is, the area around the Acropolis), and a new section of the city built or sponsored by the emperor Hadrian (in the area of the Olympieion). Note that unlike our modern signs that usually mark the direction a person is traveling ("now entering Athens"), any ancient boundary stones marked the direction from which the inscription was meant to be read ("you are standing in Athens, the ancient city of Theseus, but pass through this arch and you will be in a new section of town"). Another way to interpret the inscriptions (Adams 1989) is to see them together as saying Hadrian has replaced the mythological hero Theseus as the KTISTES or "founder" of the city: "This is Athens, the FORMER city of Theseus" (that is, "We Athenians USED TO regard Theseus as our founder, but now we give those honors to the emperor Hadrian.). View from the west. Photo taken March 26, 2000.