Library of Hadrian



Province Description

Roman intervention in Greek political affairs resulted in conflicts that led to the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C. and the sacking of Athens in 86 B.C. It was not until 27 B.C., however, that Augustus formally organized the Roman province of Achaea. Achaea consisted of the cities and territories of the southern Greek mainland between the Peloponnese and Thessaly, as well as Epirus in the northwest and the Ionian and some of the Aegean islands. The provincial capital was Corinth. Under Nero in the mid-1st century A.D. Epirus became a separate province, and in the mid-2nd century Thessaly was detached and added to the province of Macedonia. Under Roman domination many cities such as Athens, Sparta, Patras, and Corinth grew in size and prominence, the latter two partly owing to their importance as ports. After an initial decline in the number of rural sites in the early Empire, by the late Roman period the countryside was densely settled with farms and villas, due to changing landholding patterns and Roman improvements in agricultural and irrigation technology. The main exports from Achaea were wine, particularly from the northern Peloponnese, as well as olive oil and honey, linen and woolen textiles and marbles.


Athens (Pleiades)


Library of Hadrian


Garden Description

The most monumental building dedicated to education and intellectual pursuits in Athens was the so-called Library of Hadrian (Fig. 1). It consisted of four columned halls with exedrae at regular intervals on the north and south sides, and a library room flanked by lecture halls on the east.
In the center of the building was a large open peristyle courtyard with a long pool (stippled on plan). The courtyard has been reconstructed as a garden (G on plan) in which students and scholars could stroll, and there were almost certainly statues in this area. One is reminded of Vitruvius’ recommendation to plant the open areas between the colonnades of buildings with greenery, which he believed improved the air and made walks in this environment healthy for body and mind (Vitr. 5.9.5.). The building bears a strong resemblance typologically, and very likely thematically, to the late Hellenistic/early Roman gymnasium outside the city in the Academy. Pausanias, our literary source for Hadrian’s building projects in Athens, referred to the library as a splendid building with 100 columns, adorned with statues and paintings (Paus. 1.18.9).


plan of the Library of Hadrian with courtyard garden and apsidal pool

Fig. 1: Plan of the Library of Hadrian with its courtyard garden (G) and apsidal pool (stippled). Adapted from Travlos 1971, fig. 316.


2nd century CE and later


  • J. Travlos, Bildlexikon zur Topographie des antiken Athen. Tübingen, 1971, pp. 244-252, figs. 316-318. (worldcat).
  • D. Willers, Hadrians panhellenisches Programm: Archäologische Beiträge zur Neugestaltung Athens durch Hadrian. Basel, 1990, pp. 14-21, figs. 1-2, pl. 1.3. (worldcat).

Pleiades ID





Maureen Carroll (ORCID: 0000-0001-9958-8032)

Publication date

21 Apr 2021