Greece – Hadrian’s Athens

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit

Once Greece had been captured, it captures its wild conqueror, Horace wrote.

This sentence summarizes the influence of Greece on its Roman conquerors. In 196 BC Rome defeated the Macedonian King Philip V and Greece fell into Roman influence.  However Julius Caesar and Augustus were fascinated by the Hellenistic way of life and after them many emperors had a great devotion for Greece; Nero for example travelled there extensively and granted a large tax exemption to the country.

Emperor Hadrian's legacy in Athens

Emperor Hadrian’s legacy in Athens

Athens was especially favoured by the Romans and Rome’s 14th Emperor, Hadrian, enlarged the city. Several monuments were built during Roman rule, mainly near the Acropolis.  The Library of Hadrian is located on the north side of the Acropolis, immediately north of the Roman Agora.

Limestone and marble make up the walls and Corinthian columns of Hadrian’s Library. Inside the complex was an open air courtyard, with a central pool and garden, surrounded by columns. At the eastern end of the colonnade were a series of rooms that housed the “library” where books were stored and served as reading rooms and lecture halls.


Hadrian’s Library in Athens

An ardent admirer of Greece, Hadrian sought to make Athens the cultural capital of the Empire. He even used his relationship with his favorite Greek youth, Antinous, to express his overpowering philhellenism. It also led to the creation of one of the most popular cults of ancient times. In fact, Hadrian deified his favourite, raising him to godlike status in the Roman pantheon.

Indeed, once Hadrian captured Athens, Athens stole his heart. The captor became the captured.

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