Roman Market – Library of Hadrian

The Roman Market and the Library of Hadrian

The group of the Roman Market and the Library of Hadrian was constructed east of the Agora, exactly behind the Stoa of Attalos. It was the centre of the commercial activity in the roman years. In the next years until the beginning of the 19th century, the area of the Roman Market, was occupied by newer buildings and continued to have commercial use. It was known as the Bazaar of Athens.

 

 Κάτοψη της Ρωμαϊκής Αγοράς και της Βιβλιοθήκης του Αδριανού. Σημειώνονται τα εξής κτήρια: 1.Βιβλιοθήκη Αδριανού, 2.Πάνθεον, 3.Ρωμαϊκή Αγορά , 4.Βεσπασιανές, 5.Ωρολόγιον Κυρρήστου, 6."Αγορανομείον".

Aerial view of the area: 1.Library of Hadrian, 2.Pantheon, 3.Roman Market , 4.Vespasianai, 5.Tower of the winds, 6.”Agoranomeion”.

Roman Market (19-11 BCE)

The story of the Roman Market (or The Market of Caesar and Augustus) begun with the donation of Julius Caesar in 51 BCE for the construction of a market. In 47 BCE when Julius Caesar visited Athens it seems that the plans were prepared and possibly some work began which was soon interrupted. The main work however was completed by Augustus between 19 and 11 BCE.

The Roman Market was the first organised commercial centre of Athens. All the commercial activities were transported there, mainly the trade of olive oil. The building was almost square with an internal colonnade which accommodated the shops. It had two entries: the eastern was of Ionic order and a western one of  Doric order and was known as “The Gate of Archigetis Athena“.

 

Library of Hadrian (132 CE)

The Library of Hadrian was built around the year 132 by the emperor Hadrian. It is a rectangular building with dimensions 122 x 82 m.  It had an internal courtyard with a garden and a pool in the centre. In the eastern part were the rooms where the papyruses with the texts were kept. The two rooms in each wing were amphitheatres where lectures took place. There were also two other smaller rooms used as reading rooms.

In 267 CE the Library was destroyed during the raid of Heruli. The remains were incorporated into the late roman wall. In the christian period, were successively built three churches.

 

The Tower of the Winds

This octagon building was constructed around 47 BCE by the astronomer Andronicus Kyrrestes. On the top of each side, there are bas-reliefs representing the winds. On the top of the roof there was a bronze statue of a Triton that,  according to the actual wind, showed with his trident one of the wind sculptures. Thus the tradesmen could see from the nearby Market the direction of the winds so that they could calculate the time the merchandise needed to reach the port of Piraeus. A sundial also existed in each side. During the cloudy days one could see the time from the hydraulic clock that was found in the interior. During the ottoman domination the building was used as a Tekke (Sufi muslim monastery). This helped in its excellent preservation until today.

 

 Το Ωρολόγιον του Κυρρήστου από βόρεια. Στο πάνω μέρος του φαίνονται τα ανάγλυφα με τους προσωποιημένους ανέμους. Δεξιά φαίνεται το Ιωνικό πρόπυλο της Ρωμαϊκής Αγοράς.

The Tower of the Winds from the north. On the upper part of each side, the bas-reliefs depicting the winds can be seen. On the right is the Ionic gate of the Roman Market.

Vespasians (1st c. CE)

This square building was built in the 1st century CE and was used as a public toilet of the Roman Market. The building took its name after the emperor Vespasian who built many similar buildings around the Roman empire. In order to use them you had to pay a small amount.

 

 Οι Βεσπασιανές από νοτιοανατολικά.

The Vespasianai from the southeast.

The Agoranomeion (circa 50 CE)

It is a building of unknown use whose facade includes three arches made from grey Hymettus marble. The access to it was made via a big staircase. The older hypothesis for the identification of the monument as the “Agoranomeion” appears to be invalid. Most likely, it was dedicated to the imperial family (Sebasteion). But according to newer researches, the arches may have been the monumental entry to a street with stoas.

 

Το "Αγορανομείον" με τις τρεις καμάρες, δεξιά από το Ωρολόγιον του Κυρρήστου. Στο βάθος, η Ακρόπολη.

The “Agoranomeion” with the three arches on the right of the Tower of the Winds. In the background is the Acropolis.

The Pantheon (130 CE)

The Pantheon is known through various ancient sources. It was a temple dedicated to the gods and was built by Hadrian around the year 130. The place where it stood is not known with precision. Nevertheless, the foundations of a big building which were found east of the Library of Hadrian, very likely belong to the Pantheon.

 

 Το Πάνθεον. Υποθετική αποκατάσταση της ανωδομής από ανατολικά. Στο βάθος αριστερά διακρίνεται το Ωρολόγιον του Κυρρήστου και οι Βεσπασιανές.

The Pantheon. Hypothetical restoration. View from the east. In the background is the Tower of the Winds and the Vespasianai.

For other monuments of Roman Athens click below:

ACROPOLISAGORAOLYMPIEION