Roman Athens

The city under the Romans

After the destruction of the city by Sylla, Athens fell in the hands of the Romans for good. Α period of reconstruction immediately began. Many Roman generals, emperors and poets visited or studied in Athens (Julius Caesar, Pompeius, Brutus and Cassius, Marcus Antonius, Augustus, Oratius, Ovidius, Cicero…) and benefited the city. Thanks to these benefactions, Athens recovered her old glory and was now an important philosophical and cultural centre in Eastern Mediterranean.

Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus, gave money for the construction of the Roman Agora of Athens. August also built the temple of Rome and Augustus on the Acropolis in the entry of which, Caligula made later, a monumental staircase, while Nero created a new scene in the theatre of Dionysus. In the Agora, the son-in-law of Augustus, Agrippa, built a enormous odeum, in front of which the temple of Mars was set up after being transported by some other point of Attica.

The biggest however benefactor of Athens was emperor Hadrian who extended the city at 2.200 acres to the west (in the area of today Syntagma square) and built many buildings in the city. The most important of his projects was the completion of the temple of Jupiter Olympios (Olympieion). The emperor himself inaugurate the temple in the year 131 and to to honour him, the Athenians erected nearby the arch that is now known as the ”Gate of Hadrian”. He also constructed a big library, part of which is still in good condition in Monastiraki, and finally, the Pantheon and the Panellenion, sanctuaries that have not been located with certainty. Hadrian apart from the monuments he took great care of the city’s water supply and thus constructed an aqueduct which remained in use until the 19th century.

Around 115 CE the prince of the Kingdom of Kommagene, Gaius Antiochus Philopappos, who lived in Athens, built his burial monument on the Hill of the Muses (the monument of Philopappos).

In the same period with Hadrian and little later, the rich Athenian Herodes Atticus also benefacted the city. His most important monument was the Odeum, known as the ”Herodeion” (161 CE), which is still being used today. Herodes also payed for the renovation of the Panathenaic Stadium using pentelic marble.

   For the monuments of Roman Athens click below: