Hadrian's Library
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Hadrian's library is a structure on the northern side of the Acropolis. The Roman emperor Hadrian founded it in the 2nd century BC. Being the biggest building in Athens, Hadrian’s library is arranged similar to the Roman Agora.

Architecture and features of the attraction

The architectural style of the Hadrian's library in Greece is quite typical for a Roman forum. There was just one entrance with a propylon of Corinthian order. It was surrounded by a high wall with extending niches on the long sides, a courtyard encircled by columns and a decorative oblong pool in the middle of the territory. The library was located on the eastern side; the rolls of papyrus “books” were stored there. The interconnecting halls were used as reading rooms, and the corners served as lecture halls.

Initially, the Library had a form of a large rectangle of 122 by 82 metres size. Today, only the western side and the remains of several parts of the building are preserved. In addition to the main hall, where ancient scrolls and books were kept, there were two lecture halls with stone benches and reading auditoriums. There was also a small museum. By the way, archaeologists managed to find the remains of some statues that were in it, including the statue of Nike completely made from one piece of white marble.

The famous geographer Pausanias wrote that the Library had 100 columns of Phrygian stone. The internal rooms were also wonderful, as well as the halls of the building. They were gilded, and decorated with many paintings and statues. The famous and incredibly durable pentelic marble became a part of the structure as well. It was used in the construction of a large square courtyard and the surrounding western wall. The rest were built from the Poros limestone.

The library of Hadrian in Athens was severely damaged during the invasion of the Herulians in 267, and was restored thanks to the eparch of Illyria, Herculius, as early as 407-412. When Greece was ruled by Byzantium, three churches were built on the site of the library, the ruins of which have survived to these days. These are the Tetraconch, the three-nave Basilica and the Cathedral, which is also known as the Orthodox Church of Megali Panagia (Great mother of God). 

According to some facts about the Hadrian’s library, one more church was built opposite the northern facade almost at the same time as the Cathedral. But, compared to the other structures, even no foundation of it survived.

Other functions of the Hadrian’s library

Of course, initially the place served for exclusively educational purposes, and was considered to be a cultural centre of Athens. But the story of Hadrian the Library is quite interesting, and it acquires the most unexpected shades at the beginning of the 19th century. It was then that a new cultural, multi-purpose centre with a garden, many paintings and statues, a modern library and lecture halls was located on its territory.

In the 1830s, during the Turkish occupation, the Library became a commercial centre and later turned into an administrative and commercial one. In addition, in its south-western part there was the residence of the military chief of the invaders. In 1835, it housed the barracks of Otto, the first king of Greece. The market, which was located in the eastern part of the Library, had burned down the year before, in 1884. For the next 100 years, everyone forgot about the building, so it began to collapse and lose its former beauty.

Excavations and restoration 

People remembered about the Hadrian’s library in the 20th century. The central and eastern parts of the landmark were excavated under the guidance of V. Derpfeld and C. Koumanoudis. Italians and Greeks continued works in 1942–1950. The next few decades a number of scientists and restorers have been reviving the different parts of the structure. For example, they managed to partially reconstruct the western facade and colonnade of the Basilica. They are available for visiting since 2004.

Hadrian's library is located next to “Monastiraki” station and 1 km from the centre of the city, the Constitution Square (Syntagma). You can easily to get here on foot, just walking around the city. You can also use a private car, but there is no parking near the Library, and you will have to pay a few euros per hour for paid ones. Therefore, if you travel from another part of the city, choose public transport that runs at intervals of 5–7 minutes. Buses No.025, 026, 027, 035, 227 and 500 run close to the attraction. Ask the driver to tell you when the bus will reach the “Monastiraki Square” stop.