Roman Agora – Hadrian’s Library


 

The archaeological sites of the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library occupy a total area of 28,000 m2 in the heart of the ancient city, at the north of Acropolis and east of the Ancient Agora.

The Roman Agora, or Agora of Caesar and Augustus, built in an area in the heart of the city, which already had a commercial character, was centre of organised commercial activity in Athens during Roman times. Trade of oil took also place inside the Roman Agora, as testified by an inscription of Hadrian’s era, preserved in situ. Much later, during the Ottoman period, the Roman Agora is known to be called “Staropazaro”, being a wheat marketing space.

The archaeological site includes also, among other monuments dating to the 1st c. AD (Agoranomeion, Vespasianae), to the 7th and to the 17th century (Early Byzantine basilica and Fethiye mosque adequately), the Horologion of Andronikos of Kyrrhos (end of 2nd century BC), an impressive architectural creation of the late Hellenistic period, known also as the ‘Tower of the Winds’ or ‘Aerides’ (the blowing winds), which has ‘housed’ some of the most important achievements of astronomy, physics and engineering of the time, in particular a unique mechanism of ‘timepiece’ or ‘planetarium’, of a manufacturing philosophy comparable to that of the famous Antikythera mechanism.

Hadrian’s Library, an important part of the extensive building programme of the philhellene emperor Hadrian, was built in 132 AD, in order to accommodate the city’s largest library and, probably, the State Archives; but also the worship of the emperor. A building of roman inspiration and luxurious construction, with colourful marbles in both its facade and interior, it was the largest spiritual and cultural centre of the city during imperial times. In the late 3rd century AD, its external enclosure was incorporated in the fortifications built for the future protection of the city from barbaric invasions. In the early 5th century AD, a building  was constructed in the inner courtyard, the so-called Tetraconch. Possibly it is the first church built within the ancient city walls, replaced in the same position by two Byzantine churches dating to the 7th and 11th century. During the Ottoman period, Hadrian’s Library and its surrounding area constitutes the administrative and commercial heart of the city, and houses it’s bazaar and the Governor’s official offices and residence (Voevodaliki). After the liberation of the city, the building was converted into infantry and cavalry barracks (1835), which were gradually demolished over the last century, in order to unearth the magnificent Roman building.