The Painted Tombs of Paestum

With its three magnificent large Doric temples, Paestum became a well-known site thanks to the 18th century engravings by Piranesi and Goethe’s impressive descriptions in his Italian Journey. However Paestum is also renowned for its tombs decorated with painted scenes. During excavations in the 1960s, around 200 richly painted tombs from the Lucanian period (4th century B.C.) were discovered in a small necropolis about a kilometre north immediately outside the city walls.

The tombs were painted on the inside with scenes depicting funerals and the passage of the dead into the underworld. They were executed on site right after the four slabs had been put in place in the pit. These paintings were executed using  a technique resembling fresco. A thin layer of plaster was applied to a smoothed travertine slab. This style of tomb decoration blossomed under the Lucanians, a native people from mainland Italy who took over the city around 400 B.C. The scenes depict funerary games and rituals; the deceased on his/her deathbed, chariot racing, hunting scenes and duals between men.

One particularly richly decorated tomb is the so-called Tomb of the Diver. The tomb, which dates to around 480 B.C., is unique in the Greek colonies in Italy.  The significance of this particular tomb is that it contains the only example of Greek wall painting from the Archaic, or Classical period to survive in its entirety. It is made of five limestone blocks forming the four lateral walls and the roof, the floor being excavated in the natural rock ground. The paintings on the four walls depict a symposium scene, while the cover slab shows the famous scene that gives the tomb its name: a young man diving into a curling and waving stream of water, the passage from life to death.

Here is a series of images from the Paestum Archaeological Museum collection of paintings, starting with some pictures of the Tomb of the Diver.

The Diver, painting from the covering slab of the Tomb of the Diver, 470 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

The Diver, painting from the covering slab of the Tomb of the Diver, 470 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Fresco painting from lateral walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a symposium scene, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Detail of fresco from west walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a a cortege of guests, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Detail of fresco from west walls of the Tomb of the Diver depicting a a cortege of guests, 5th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a chariot race, from the Necropolis of Gaudo, 340-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a chariot race, 340-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man on a chariot, 350-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man on a chariot, 350-330 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man racing a chariot past the winning post, 3rd century BC, PaestrumPaestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a man racing a biga race, 3rd century BC, PaestrumPaestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of 2 warriors fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of 2 warriors fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a two men fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a two men fighting, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel and boxing contest, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel and boxing contest, 3rd century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a lion hunt, 3rd Century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a lion hunt, 3rd Century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 370-360 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 370-360 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 2nd half of 4th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a hunting scene, 2nd half of 4th century BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a rooster, about 350 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting of a rooster, about 350 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel judge by a sphinx, a flute player and two women weeping, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting a duel judge by a sphinx, a flute player and two women weeping, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased on her deathbed (prothesis), 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased on her deathbed (prothesis), 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased's departure for the underworld, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the deceased’s departure for the underworld, 340 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the goddess Victory on racing biga, 330-320 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum © Carole Raddato

Lucanian fresco tomb painting depicting the goddess Victory on racing biga, 330-320 BC, Paestum Archaeological Museum
© Carole Raddato

Further images of the painted tombs of Paestum can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

Posted in Italy, Magna Graecia, Museum | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Animula vagula blandula… Hadrian’s farewell to life

Originally posted on FOLLOWING HADRIAN:

On this day ante diem VI idus quinctilias (July, 10th) in 138 A.D., Hadrian died after a heart failure at Baiae on the Bay of Naples.

He lived 62 years, 5 months, 17 days. He reigned for 20 years, 11 months.

Marble bust of Hadrian, from Hadrian's Mausoleum, National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome © Carole Raddato

Marble bust of Hadrian, from Hadrian’s Mausoleum, National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
© Carole Raddato

Hadrian spent the last moments of his life dictating verses addressed to his soul. According to the Historia Augusta, Hadrian composed the following poem shortly before his death:

“Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos.”

—P. Aelius Hadrianus Imp. (138)

These five lines defied translation. Nobody knows what they really mean, yet there have been forty three translations from the best English-speaking poets. Anthony R. Birley writes: “Few short poems can have generated so many verse translations and such copious academic debate as these five lines—a…

View original 363 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Pompeiianum, a reconstructed Roman Villa in the German town of Aschaffenburg

It is picturesquely located high on a terrace ridge overlooking the River Main. Now a unique tourist attraction, the building is a testimony to the enthusiasm for Antiquities in the 19th century.

Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The Pompeiianum was built between 1840 and 1850 by order of Kaiser Ludwig I of Bavaria who had been inspired by the excavations in Pompeii. It was loosely modelled on the House of the Diosuri (Casa dei Dioscuri) in Pompeii. The Kaiser chose to built the Villa in Aschaffenburg because of its mild, sunny climate and its attractive position. The Pompeiianum was never intended to be a royal residence. It was a place where art lovers could study antiquity and see how life was like in a Roman house.

Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Pompejanum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Visitors stepping into the Pompeiianum find themselves transported back 2000 years into the world of a Roman patrician.

The Atrium, Pompejanum. Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The Atrium, Pompejanum. Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Detail of wall painting in the atrium, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Detail of wall painting in the 4th Pompeian style of the atrium, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The Atrium, Pompejanum. Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The Atrium, Pompejanum. Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The rooms in the house are situated around the central atrium, an open inner courtyard which acted as the reception and living area. Cubicula (bedrooms) are arranged around all four sides of the atrium providing the perfect setting for original works of Roman art. Since 1994, Roman artefacts from the State Antiquities Collection and the Glyptothek in Munich are now on display inside the rooms of the Pompeiianum.

As a philhellene, Ludwig I patronized the arts and commissioned many neoclassical buildings, especially in Munich. He was also a frenetic collector. Through his agents, he managed to acquire such pieces as the Medusa Rondanini, the Barberini Faun, and the figures from the Aphaea temple on Aegina. The Glyptothek, which he commissioned, houses his collection of Greek and Roman sculptures.

Frament of Fresco from the theatre at Herculaneum, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Frament of Fresco from the theatre at Herculaneum, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

 Drunken Satyr statue, Pompejanum. Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Drunken Satyr statue, Pompejanum. Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The splendid decoration of the interior and the mosaic floors were copied or adapted from ancient models.

Pompejanum, the Sacrarium, a place where sacred objects were kept, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Pompejanum, the Sacrarium, a place where sacred objects were kept, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Directly behind the atrium, opposite the entrance, is a room open on two sides (though both sides could be closed with curtains or folding doors in Roman times), the tablinum.

The Tablinium facing the Atrium, decorated in the 4th Pompeii style, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The Tablinium facing the Atrium, decorated in the 4th Pompeii style, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The tablinum was the office in a Roman house, the master of the house (paterfamilias) centre for business, where he would receive his clients. It often had an attractive mosaic floor and wall paintings.

Painting from the Tablinum, Minerva Preventing Achilles from Killing Agamemnon, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Painting from the Tablinum, Minerva preventing Achilles from killing Agamemnon, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Decorated coffered ceilings in the Tablinum, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Decorated coffered ceilings in the Tablinum, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The Roman domus was typically designed so that anyone standing in the vestibule could see straight through the atrium and tablinum to the colonnaded garden in the back of the house (peristylium). This has clearly been recreated in the villa.

The Atrium, Tablinum and Peristylium, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The Atrium, Tablinum and Peristylium, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Instead of surrounding their houses with large lawns and gardens, the Romans created their gardens inside their domus. The peristylium was an open courtyard within the house; the columns surrounding the garden supported a shady roofed portico whose inner walls were often embellished with elaborate wall paintings.

The back part of the house is centred around the peristylium much as the front centred on the atrium. Surrounding the peristyle in the Pompeiianum are the summer triclinium, the winter tricinium.

Winter triclinium with wall painting, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Winter triclinium with wall painting, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

A triclinium is a formal dining room. It was named after the three couches (klinai, known as lectus triclinaris) typically found in this room. Each klinē was wide enough to accommodate three diners who reclined on their left side on cushions while some household slaves served multiple courses, and others entertained guests with music, song, or dance.

Summer triclinium with wall painting, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Summer triclinium with wall painting, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Dining rooms, like other rooms in Roman houses, often had beautifully painted walls and mosaic floors like the ones reproduced at the Pompeiianum.

Mosaic floor inside the summer triclinium, Pompeiianum, idealized replica of a Roman villa, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Mosaic floor inside the summer triclinium, Pompeiianum, idealized replica of a Roman villa, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

In addition to the triclinia, surrounding the peristylium, are the culina (kitchen) and a single latrine. Wealthy matronae did not prepare meals; that was the job of their household slaves. The kitchen is complete with replica utensils and cooking wares. Baking was done in ovens, whose tops were used to keep dishes warm. Embers from the oven could be placed below metal braziers for a form of “stove-top” cooking as seen in this reconstructed kitchen.

The Culina, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The Culina, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The Culina, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The Culina, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Antique Roman glass, bronze vessels and Terra sigillata ware are among several authentic items on display too.

Beside the kitchen is a tiny room, no bigger than a cupboard, but one which often intrigues visitors most. It’s a Roman latrine. Single latrine in the house were located in or next to the kitchen. This was a typical arrangement which enabled the latrine to be used for the disposal of kitchen waste.

Reconstruction of a single latrine next to the culina (kitchen), Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Reconstruction of a single latrine next to the culina (kitchen), Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Upstairs are more cubicula (bedrooms) where several display cases have been installed, displaying ancient household objects, medical and cosmetic utensils, jewellery, children’s toys and oil lamps.

Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

In World War II, the Pompeiianum was heavily damaged by Allied area bombing but it was totally reconstructed and restored. It opened to the public for the first time in 1994.

In March 1995 the restoration of five rooms on the upper floor began and these new rooms have been open to visitors since July 2002. The ancient works of art exhibited on a permanent basis originate for the most part from the State Collections of Antiquities and the Glyptothek in Munich, which co-oversee the Pompeiianum as a branch museum. Since 2009 the Collections of Antiquities and the Glyptothek have also presented special exhibitions that change every year. The exhibition “The Immortals – The Greek Gods” is currently being shown until October 2014.

The exhibition room, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

The exhibition room, Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

Cave canem mosaic (beware of the dog), Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany © Carole Raddato

Cave canem mosaic (beware of the dog), Pompeiianum, Aschaffenburg, Germany
© Carole Raddato

The Pompeiianum enables visitors to get a vivid impression of what a Roman villa looked like and how life was lived in the domus. It is open daily except Mondays 9:00 to 18.00 from April 2 to October 12.

Posted in Germany, Museum, Photography, Pompeii, Roman Domus | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Mosaic of the Doves

This week’s masterpiece from Hadrian’s Villa is a mosaic depicting a group of doves drinking from an ornate bowl, called Mosaic of the Doves.

Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl, from Hadrian's villa, 2nd century AD, probably a copy of Sosus's work (2nd century BC), Musei Capitolini, Rome © Carole Raddato

Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl, from Hadrian’s villa, 2nd century AD, probably a copy of Sosus’s work (2nd century BC), Musei Capitolini, Rome
© Carole Raddato

The mosaic is made of thousands of small tesserae in a dazzling range of colors called opus vermiculatum, by far the most sophisticated mosaic technique. It depicts four doves on the rim of a large basin of gilt bronze. One of the birds is drinking from this extremely refined vessel, whose handle is supported by a caryatid. The mosaic panel is an emblema, a decorative element designed to be the central point of an otherwise plain floor or wall. The emblema was originally an import from the Hellenistic eastern Mediterranean, where, in cities such as Pergamum, Ephesos and Alexandria, there were artists specializing in their production. One of them was Sosus of Pergamum, the most celebrated mosaicist of antiquity, who worked in the second century BC. The workmanship was said to be so perfect that real doves flew against the mosaic in a vain attempt to join their stone companions. (Source: S. Walker, Roman art -London, 1991-)

Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl, from Hadrian's villa, 2nd century AD, probably a copy of Sosus's work (2nd century BC), Musei Capitolini, Rome © Carole Raddato

Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl (detail), from Hadrian’s villa, 2nd century AD,
probably a copy of Sosus’s work (2nd century BC), Musei Capitolini, Rome
© Carole Raddato

The mosaic was discovered in 1737 during excavations at Hadrian’s Villa led by Cardinal Giuseppe Alessandro Furietti. Some scholars believe the mosaic to be Hellenistic and that it could be the famous Dove Mosaics by Sosus, which ancient sources described in the royal palaces of Pergamum. Other scholars think it is probably a copy of Sosus’ work made for Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. There are numerous copies that were made of this mosaic, even into late antiquity. In addition to Tivoli, these have been found at Delos; at Pompeii and Capua; in Marocco and Tunisa; and in the Christian mausoleums of Santa Costanza in Rome and Galla Placidia in Ravenna. But the finest copy of the Drinking Doves is the one discovered at Hadrian’s Villa. (Source: Umberto Pappalardo and Rosario Ciardello, Greek and Roman mosaics – Abbeville Press, 2012)

Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl, from Hadrian's villa, 2nd century AD, probably a copy of Sosus's work (2nd century BC), Musei Capitolini, Rome © Carole Raddato

Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl (detail), from Hadrian’s villa, 2nd century AD,
probably a copy of Sosus’s work (2nd century BC), Musei Capitolini, Rome
© Carole Raddato

The mosaic today is preserved in the Musei Capitolini in Rome and hence is known as the Capitoline Doves.

Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Hellenistic Art, Museum, Roman art, Roman Mosaic, Roman villa | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The Hadrianic reliefs from the Arch of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo), Rome

About halfway along today’s via del Corso, once called via Lata, a large arch of Roman age spanned the street up to the mid 17th century. It was earlier known as the Arcus Hadriani, but from the sixteenth century it was called Arco di Portogallo (Arch of Portual) because it adjoined the residence of the Portuguese ambassador, the Palazzo Peretti-Fiano.

The arch was removed in 1662 by Pope Alexander VII in order to widen the Corso and facilitate the running of horse races during Carnival. Many drawings of this arch, dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, show that it consisted of a single archway, flanked on each side by a pair of columns and surrounded by a cornice.

The two features of the arch which have drawn the most interest are a pair of panel reliefs that were originally incorporated in the north side of the structure. These are now heavily restored and displayed in the main staircase of the Palazzo dei Conservatori Museum in Rome. One of the reliefs shows the apotheosis of Hadrian’s wife Sabina, who was deified after her death. Hadrian sits on an upright chair and watches as Sabina is carried away from her funeral pyre (ustrinum) on the back of the torch-bearing personification of Aeternitas (Eternity). The reclining semi-nude youth at Hadrian’s feet is a personification of the Field of Mars (Campus Martius).

Relief from the Arc of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo) representing the apotheosis of Sabina (wife of Hadrian), 136-138 AD, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums © Carole Raddato

Relief from the Arc of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo) representing the apotheosis of Sabina (wife of Hadrian), 2nd century AD, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums
© Carole Raddato

When Sabina died in 136/137, Hadrian erected a monumental altar in her honour, probably on the northern Campus Martius to which this large marble relief may have belonged.

Relief from the Arc of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo) representing the apotheosis of Sabina (wife of Hadrian), 2nd century AD, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums © Carole Raddato

Upper part of the relief from the Arc of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo) representing the apotheosis of Sabina (wife of Hadrian), 2nd century AD, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums
© Carole Raddato

The second relief depicts Hadrian mounted on a Rostrum, reading from a scroll to two men and a child in front of a temple. Behind him are the Genius of the Senate and two attendants. It has been suggested that the panel commemorates Hadrian’s continuation of the institutio alimentaria, a public distribution of largess, began under Nerva or Trajan.

Relief from the Arch of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo): Hadrian's donation of food to Roman children, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums © Carole Raddato

Relief from the Arch of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo): Hadrian’s donation of food to Roman children, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums
© Carole Raddato

While the reliefs are either late Hadrianic or early Antonine in date, the architectural character of the arch seems to belong to a much later period (4th or 5th century AD), and that it was decorated with sculptures from earlier monuments, as was the case with the arch of Constantine.

Detail of the relief from the Arch of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo): Hadrian's donation of food to Roman children, (the head of Hadrian is restored), Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums © Carole Raddato

Detail of the relief from the Arch of Portugal (Arco di Portogallo): Hadrian’s donation of food to Roman children, (the head of Hadrian is restored), Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums
© Carole Raddato

Sources: Wikipedia, LacusCurtius, Musei Capitolini

Posted in Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Italy, Museum, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Roman art, Rome | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Photoset: The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), the so-called “Parthenon of the Peloponnese”

“Off all the temples in the Peloponnese this one could be considered second only to the temple at Tegea for its proportions and the beauty of its stone”. Pausanias, “Description of Greece”, Book VIII, 41, 8

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae © Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, South-east side
© Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios (‘Apollo the Helper’) was built in a quiet and isolated site, high on a rocky ridge of Mount Kotylion (1,131 metres) at Bassae in south-west Arcadia. The mountain is scored with ravines (bassai or bessai in ancient Greek), which gave the place the name “Bassae”.

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae © Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, East colonnade
© Carole Raddato

The Greek historian Pausanias wrote, in the second century AD, that the name ‘Helper’ was given to Apollo by citizens of nearby Phigaleia, as thanks for their deliverance from the plague of 429-427 BC. He also wrote that the temple was designed by Iktinos, who had been responsible for the Parthenon.

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, east colonnade © Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, east colonnade
© Carole Raddato

The temple is covered by a tent at the moment while the structure is made more secure. The severe weather conditions in this exposed location have caused some damage to the temple. The design of the canopy incorporates slopes and pitches which prevent the accumulation of large quantities of snow.

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, the temple is covered by a tent a present, while the structure is made more secure © Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae covered by a tent
© Carole Raddato

Archaeological researches have determined that the site was in continuous use since the archaic period, the existing temple being the last of four on the site. The classical temple is thought to have been built between 430 BC and 400 BC. It is made of local grey limestone, while parts of the roof, the capitals in the cella and the sculptured decoration are made of marble. Like several other temples of Arcadia, the temple is aligned north-south, instead of the usual east-west, probably due to some local tradition or to the limited space available on the steep slopes of the mountain.

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, Opisthodomos and west colonnade © Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, Opisthodomos and west colonnade
© Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, Proanos © Carole Raddato

The Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, Proanos
© Carole Raddato

The temple is unique as it combines elements of the three architectural orders of antiquity (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Doric columns form the peristyle while Ionic columns support the porch and Corinthian columns feature in the interior. The Corinthian capital is the earliest example of the order found to date. The temple has six columns on the short side and fifteen on the long sides, instead of the period’s usual ratio 6 x 13. That feature gives the temple its characteristic elongated shape.

Cut-out section showing the position if the architectural and sculptural components of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, British Museum

Cut-out section showing the position if the architectural and sculptural components of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, British Museum

A great part of the Temple’s building material now lies on the modern terraces built specifically for the purpose to the west and southwest of the monument. In the 1980′s, a major effect was made to collect, systematically order, and protect the architectural elements. Thousands of building blocks and architectural fragments were moved to selected areas, where they were identified, numbered, and arrange according to type.

The scattered architectural elements of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae © Carole Raddato

The scattered architectural elements of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae
© Carole Raddato

A Doric frieze of undecorated metopes and triglyphs ran along the outer facades. Only the inner metopes of the short sides were decorated: those on the proanos may have depicted the return of Apollo the Hyperboreans and those on the opisthomodos represented the rape of the daughters of the Messenian king Leukippos by the Dioskouroi but this is not certain.

The Bassai sculptures, male figure wearing a chiton and an alopekis (Thracian cap), holding a kithara, may be identified as Apollo or Orpheus, fragment of the north metope from the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Arcadia), British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, male figure wearing a chiton and an alopekis (Thracian cap), holding a kithara, may be identified as Apollo or Orpheus, fragment of the north metope from the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Arcadia), British Museum

The most eminent decorative feature of the temple is the continuous Ionic frieze that run around the interior of the cella. On the south and south east sides of the frieze are arranged a series of slabs showing the battle fought by Herakles and the Greeks against the Amazons, the mythical race of warrior-women.

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Greeks fight Amazons, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Greeks fight Amazons, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Greeks fight Amazons, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Greeks fight Amazons, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The north and west sides of the frieze show the fight between the Lapiths, Greek inhabitants of Thessaly, and the Centaurs, mythical beasts, part man, part horse. The Centaurs had drunk too much wine at the wedding of the Lapith King Perithoos and tried to carry off theirs host’s womenfolk.

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Lapiths fight Centaurs, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Lapiths fight Centaurs, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Lapiths fight Centaurs, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The Bassai sculptures, marble block from the frieze of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae (Greece), Lapiths fight Centaurs, about 420-400 BC, British Museum

The frieze was removed by Charles Robert Cockerell and taken to the British Museum in 1815. They are still to be seen in the British Museum’s Gallery 16, near the Elgin Marbles.

Further pictures of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

Sources: Bassae Sculpture British Museum,Wikipedia, Hellenic Ministry of Culture: Bassae

 

Posted in Arcadia, Archaeology Travel, Greece, Greek temple, Photography | 6 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Statue of Apollo holding the kithara

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble statue of Apollo holding the kithara (Apollo Citharoedus) from the Temple of Venus (Casino Fede).

Statue of Apollo holding the kithara, from the Temple of Venus (Casino Fede) at Hadrian's Villa Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket © Carole Raddato

Statue of Apollo holding the kithara, from the Temple of Venus (Casino Fede) at Hadrian’s Villa
Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket
© Carole Raddato

Apollo is depicted with his attributes, the kithara and the sacred snake Python. The tree trunk around which the snake is wrapped is inscribed with the words “Apollonios made it”.

Circa 150 AD (during the reign of Antoninus Pius), restored c. 1790. Item number IN 1632.

This statue is on display in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket, Copenhagen.

Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Italy, Museum, Mythology, Roman art, Roman villa | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Photoset: The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece

The Cape of Sounion with its famous temple dedicated to the god Poseidon is one of the most beautiful natural areas of Attica and one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Greece. In ancient times it was called Sounias Akra (edge) and was connected with the legends of Athens and the Aegean. Cape Sounion is the spot where Aegeus, king of Athens, allegedly jumped off the cliff, thus giving his name to the Aegean Sea. It is also referred to as a sacred place in the Homeric epics. The site was chosen for its direct relationship with the sea, since this was the last piece of land seen by ships departing from Athens and the first on returning from their voyage.

Temple of Poseidon, built around 444 - 440 BC, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

Temple of Poseidon, built around 444 – 440 BC, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

The site of Sounion was inhabited since prehistoric times. From the 8th century BC however, the cult of Poseidon and Athena started to develop but the sanctuaries were destroyed in 480 BC by Persian troops during Xerxes I’s invasion of Greece. In the mid-5th century BC, by order of Pericles, the Temple of Poseidon was rebuilt, the ruins of which now dominate the cape’s summit with its 16 standing columns partly restored.

Temple of Poseidon, part of the south colonnade with foundations of the earlier poros temple dating from the Archaic Period, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

Temple of Poseidon, part of the south colonnade with foundations of the earlier poros temple dating from the Archaic Period, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

In a maritime country like Greece, the god of the sea was bound to occupy a high position in the divine hierarchy. His implacable wrath, manifested in the form of storms, was greatly feared by all mariners. In an age without mechanical power, storms very frequently resulted in shipwrecks and drownings. The sanctuary of Poseidon, therefore, was a venue where mariners, and also entire cities or states, could propitiate Poseidon, by making animal sacrifice, or leaving gifts.

Temple of Poseidon, part of the south colonnade with foundations of the earlier poros temple dating from the Archaic Period, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

Temple of Poseidon, part of the south colonnade with foundations of the earlier poros temple dating from the Archaic Period, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

The sacred precinct (temenos) of Poseidon was entered through a monumental gateway of poros and marble, to the north of the temple, the propylaea. Beyond, along the north side of the temenos, runs a stoa, some 40 m. long by 9 m. wide, divided into two aisles by an internal colonnade of six columns. A second smaller stoa occupied the west side of the precinct. The stoas served as accommodation for visitors to the sanctuary.

The propylaea, a monumental constructon of poros and marble, to the north of the temple, through which the sacred precinct of Poseidon was entered, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

The propylaea, a monumental gateway of poros and marble, to the north of the temple, through which the sacred precinct of Poseidon was entered, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

The north stoa, 40 m. long by 9 m. wide, divided into two aisles by an internal colonnade of six smooth columns, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

The north stoa, 40 m. long by 9 m. wide, divided into two aisles by an internal colonnade of six smooth columns, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

The temple of Poseidon is a Doric peripteral temple with six columns on the narrow sides and thirteen on the long ones, made of locally quarried white marble. At the centre of the temple colonnade would have been the hall of worship (naos), a windowless rectangular room, similar to the partly intact hall at the Temple of Hephaistos in Athens (which is considered to be the work by the same architect). It would have housed a colossal bronze statue of Poseidon.

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, north side colonnade, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, north side colonnade, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion from the northeast, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion from the northeast, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

A sculptured frieze originally lined the four sides of the area in front of the pronaos. It depicted the Battle of the Centaurs, the Battle of the Gods and Giants, and the deeds of Theseus. However, like on the temple of Hephaistos in Athens, there was no frieze decoration on the metopes. The relief friezes have suffered considerably from climatic conditions and exposure to the elements. The best preserved are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Laurion.

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion from the north, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion from the north, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

The decline of Sounion began at the end of the Hellenistic period. By Roman times the two temples had already been deserted. Pausanias describes the monuments in the 2nd century AD, confusing the temple of Poseidon with the temple of Athena which may indicate the abandonment of the area.

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion from the north, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

The temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion from the north, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

Archaeological excavation of the site in 1906 uncovered numerous artefacts and inscriptions. Fragments of 17 early archaic kouroi were found in a deep pit east of the Temple of Poseidon. The statues were probably damaged by the Persians at the time they destroyed the earlier temple. Since they were sacred dedications, they could not be entirely discarded, and thus they were deposited in the pit to make way for newer, undamaged dedications. The best preserved of these statues is a 7th century BC marble kouros statue  known as the Sounion Kouros now on exhibit in the Athens National Archaeological Museum.

Statue of a Kouros, from the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Sounion, ca. 600 BC National Archaeological Museum of Athens © Carole Raddato

Statue of a Kouros, from the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Sounion, ca. 600 BC
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
© Carole Raddato

In the 19th century, Sounion was a popular destination for tourists, many of whom have engraved their names on the ruins of the temple of Poseidon. The most famous signature is that of the Romantic poet George Lord Byron.

Temple of Poseidon, 19th century Graffiti on the left pillar, Cape Sounion, Greece © Carole Raddato

Temple of Poseidon, 19th century Graffiti on the left pillar, Cape Sounion, Greece
© Carole Raddato

“Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swanlike, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine–
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!”

The Isles of Greece by Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Temple of Poseidon, built around 444 – 440 BC, Cape Sounion © Carole Raddato

Temple of Poseidon, built around 444 – 440 BC, Cape Sounion
© Carole Raddato

Sources: The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical SitesWikipedia

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Greece, Greek temple, Mythology, Photography | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Exploring Hadrian’s Athens

Hadrian was a dedicated philhellene who admired Greek culture and did his best to be accepted and admired by the Greeks. He visited Greece three times when he was emperor (124/5, 128/9 and 131/2 AD) and he was especially fond of Athens. Pausanias writes that “the Emperor Hadrian generosity to his subjects was bestowed most of all on Athens” whilst Cassius Dio tells about Hadrian’s generosity in a passage referring to his stay: “He granted the Athenians large sums of money, an annual dole of grain, and the whole of Cephallenia”. The philhellenic emperor did all he could to raise Athens to a special position in the Roman empire and hoped to restore the city to the greatness of its distant past.

Prior to becoming Emperor, the Athenians gave him Athenian citizenship and elected him  archon eponymous, their chief officical, in 112 AD. The city of Athens honoured him with a bronze statue in the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens.

Statue base of Hadrian set in the Theatre of Dionysus, the epigraphic inscription commemorates Hadrian's election as archon of Athens by the Athenians, The Theater of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis © Carole Raddato

Statue base of Hadrian set in the Theatre of Dionysus on the south slope of the Acropolis, the epigraphic inscription commemorates Hadrian’s election as archon of Athens by the Athenians
© Carole Raddato

As emperor, Hadrian returned to Greece in early autumn 124 AD, in time to be initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries and again in late summer 128 AD together with Antinous. In March of 125 AD, he presided as agonothetes (superintendent of the sacred games) at the Great Dionysia, the ancient dramatic festival held in Athens in honour of Dionysus. It is said that twelve statues of Hadrian were set up in the Theatre of Dionysus by the twelve Attic tribes, one statue by each tribe. A new era began upon Hadrian’s first visit as emperor and a thirteenth tribe called “Hadrianis” was added. The inscriptions on the bases of four of these statues have been found in the theatre.

Epigraphic inscription commemorating Hadrian's election as archon of Athens by the Athenians. The inscription was set up in the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens © Carole Raddato

Statue base of Hadrian set up in the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens
© Carole Raddato

According to A. Karivieri in Greek Romans and Roman Greeks, Hadrian restored the Theatre of Dionysus and built a monumental scaenae frons with reliefs depicting the life of Dionysus. A. Karivieri gives a summary of Hadrian’s benefactions to Athens as well as the emperor’s association with Zeus, Theseus, and in particular Dionysus through the iconographic program of the scaenae frons of the Theatre of Dionysus. Hadrian assimilated himself with Dionysus in these reliefs. He was the new Dionysus, the new founder of Athens.

Hadrianic reliefs from the stage front (scaenae frons) of the Theater of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece © Carole Raddato

Hadrianic reliefs from the stage front (scaenae frons) of the Theater of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis, Athens
© Carole Raddato

The Theater of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis, Athens © Carole Raddato

The Theatre of Dionysus on the south slope of the Acropolis, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Many of Hadrian’s benefactions to Athens have been dated to his 3rd visit in 131/2 AD. Hadrian added a new quarter to the city of Athens; it was located to the east of the old city. Ancient authors, like the Greek traveller Pausanias, give a first-hand account of Hadrian’s benefactions to Athens. Among his most ambitious projects was the completion of the vast Temple of Olympian Zeus, a project begun over six hundred years earlier by the Athenian tyrant Peisistratos but soon abandoned when the tyranny was overthrown. Only the platform and some elements of the columns had been completed by this point, and the temple remained in this state for 336 years. It was not until 174 BC that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes revived the project with new designs by the Roman architect Cosssutius.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece © Carole Raddato

The ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and a column that collapsed in 1852 in the foreground, Athens,
© Carole Raddato

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens © Carole Raddato

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
© Carole Raddato

The new temple followed its predecessor’s plan, but used the Corinthian order and Pentelic marble instead of poros stone. However, the project ground to a halt again in 164 BC with the death of Antiochus. The temple was still only half-finished by this stage.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Corinthian columns and capitals detail, Athens © Carole Raddato

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Corinthian columns and capitals detail, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Serious damage was inflicted on the temple by Sulla’s sack of Athens in 86 BC. While looting the city, Sulla seized some of the incomplete columns and transported them back to Rome, where they were re-used in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. Further work was carried out during Augustus’ reign, but it was not until the accession of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD that the project was finally completed about 638 years after it had begun. Hadrian attended its dedication ceremony in the winter of 131 AD.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens © Carole Raddato

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Today, only fifteen of the 104 massive 17.25 meters high columns (57 ft) remain standing. A sixteenth column was blown over by a fierce windstorm in 1852 and was left where it fell. According to Pausanias the temple featured a colossal chryselephantine (ivory and gold) statue of Zeus which “[exceeded] all other statues in size except the Colossi of Rhones and Rome” (1.18.6). Pausanias also tells about a colossal statue of Hadrian erected by the Athenians behind the temple.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens © Carole Raddato

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Hadrian was therefore associated with Zeus and received the epithet “Olympios”. He was even called “Hadrianos Zeus Olympios”. While the temple was originally dedicated to Zeus,  in effect it became a centre for the imperial cult. Pausanias lists more Hadrianic buildings near the Olympieion; a Temple of Kronos and Rhea and a ground sacred to Olympian Earth, Gaia (1.18.7).

Marble portrait bust of the emperor Hadrian, found in the temple of the Olympieion, Athens ca. AD 130, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Marble portrait bust of the emperor Hadrian, found in the temple of the Olympieion, Athens ca. AD 130, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Also mentioned by Pausanias are other Hadrianic constructions in Athens; a gymnasium with one hundred columns of Libyan marble (from Simitthu in Tunisia), a Temple of Hera Panhellenia and Zeus Panhellenios, a new library and a Pantheon, a “sanctuary common to all the gods”. The latter has been partially excavated on Odos Adrianou, some fifty meters east of the Library and the Roman Agora. However it is also believed to be the Panhellenion, a meeting place of the deputies of city-states, work of Hadrian as well.

The partially restored Hadrianic Pantheon, a three-aisled basilica near the Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora, Athens © Carole Raddato

The partially restored Hadrianic Pantheon, a three-aisled basilica near the Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Location of the Hadrianic Pantheon, a three-aisled basilica near the Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora, Athens, Greece

Location of the Hadrianic Pantheon, a three-aisled basilica near the Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora, Athens, Greece

One of the most impressive and luxurious buildings built by Hadrian is the so-called Library of Hadrian.  Pausanias describes it as “a hundred columns of Phyrgian marble, with walls built just like the columns, and pavilions with gilded roofwork and alabaster, decorated with statues and paintings. Books are kept in them” (1.18.9).

The west facade in Pentelic marble with columns of Karystos marble of the Library of Hadrian, Athens © Carole Raddato

The west facade in Pentelic marble with columns of Karystos marble of the Library of Hadrian, Athens
© Carole Raddato

The complex  -which measured about 120 meters long and 78 meters wide (400 x 260ft)- consisted of a square, enclosed garden with an ornamental pool in the middle surrounded by porticoes and a series of rooms at the eastern end which housed a library of papyri and lecture rooms.

The west facade in Pentelic marble with columns of Karystos marble of the Library of Hadrian, Athens © Carole Raddato

The west facade in Pentelic marble with columns of Karystos marble of the Library of Hadrian, Athens
© Carole Raddato

The entrance  on the west side was richly decorated with Corinthian columns and a four-column propylon. The complex functioned  as a library as well as a cultural centre.

The Library of Hadrian, the Auditorium, Athens © Carole Raddato

The Library of Hadrian, the North Auditorium used for lectures and text’ readings, it had marble seats and prohedriae (seats of honour), Athens
© Carole Raddato

The library of Hadrian  was seriously damaged during the sack of Athens in 267 AD by the Germanic Heruli tribe and was subsequently incorporated into the Late Roman fortification wall (post-Herulian city-wall).

Re-erected Corinthian columns of the propylon of Pentelic marble, The Library of Hadrian, Athens © Carole Raddato

Re-erected Corinthian columns of the propylon of Pentelic marble, The Library of Hadrian, Athens
© Carole Raddato

In the 5th century a church was built in the centre of the courtyard. During the Ottoman occupation it became the seat of the Voevode (Governor) and in 1835 it was incorporated into the barracks built by King Otho.

View of the interior peristyle with the 5th century AD remains of the "tetraconch" building (perhaps the earliest church in Athens), The Library of Hadrian, Athens © Carole Raddato

View of the interior peristyle with the 5th century AD remains of the “tetraconch” building (perhaps the earliest church in Athens), The Library of Hadrian, Athens
© Carole Raddato

The library proper was the central room behind the east colonnade with rows of niches holding wooden cases with shelves for the scrolls.

The Library of Hadrian, the eastern end of the peristyle court with the remains of several rooms, the room (with the scaffolding) would have been the "library" proper, where ancient scrolls were stored, Athens © Carole Raddato

The Library of Hadrian, the eastern end of the peristyle court with the remains of several rooms, the room (with the scaffolding) would have been the “library” proper, where ancient scrolls were stored, Athens
© Carole Raddato

he Library of Hadrian, the eastern end of the peristyle court with the remains of several rooms, the room (with the scaffolding) would have been the “library” proper, where ancient scrolls were stored, Athens © Carole Raddato

he Library of Hadrian, the eastern end of the peristyle court with the remains of several rooms, the room (with the scaffolding) would have been the “library” proper, where ancient scrolls were stored, Athens
© Carole Raddato

A short distance to the south of the Library are located the remains of the Roman Agora, the centre of commercial activity of the city during Roman times. All the commercial activities, including the trade of oil, were transferred there. The building was almost square in shape with an internal colonnade that accommodated the shops. It had two entries: the Eastern was of ionic order and a western one of Doric order that is known as “The Gate of Archigetis Athena”. The court of the Roman Agora was paved with slabs during the reign of Hadrian, and various repairs were done on the entire internal peristyle. This restoration and ornamentation of the Agora should be connected with Hadrian’s new constructions at the so-called Library of Hadrian and Pantheon.

The colonnade on the east side of the courtyard of the Roman Agora, Athens © Carole Raddato

The colonnade on the east side of the courtyard of the Roman Agora, Athens
© Carole Raddato

A decree of Hadrian regulating the sale of olive oil, an important branch of Attic commerce, is engraved on the north jamb of the doorway of the Gate of Athena Archegetis which served as the main entrance to the Roman Market (see a picture here as I missed it!!). The decree states that oil producers shall deliver 1/3 of their production in taxes. Its aim was also to reassure that the city would always have a sufficient amount of olive oil for sale. The top line reads KE NO ΘE AΔPIANOY: “chief points from the law-giving of Hadrian”.

The Gate of Athena Archegetis, the main entrance to the Roman Market, Roman Agora, Athens © Carole Raddato

The Gate of Athena Archegetis, the main entrance to the Roman Market, Roman Agora, Athens
© Carole Raddato

A monumental gateway resembling – in some respects – a Roman triumphal arch was erected in 131 AD to honor Hadrian for his many benefactions to the city, on the occasion of the dedication of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It is not certain who commissioned the arch, although it is probable that the citizens of Athens or another Greek group were responsible for its construction and design. There were two inscriptions carved on the architrave, facing in opposite directions, naming both Theseus and Hadrian as founders of Athens. The arch was placed strategically so that people coming from the Agora went through the arch and could read the text on the west and the text on the east when returning from the Olympieion.

Arch of Hadrian, southeast side (facing the Olympeion), Athens © Carole Raddato

Arch of Hadrian, southeast side (facing the Olympeion), Athens
© Carole Raddato

The inscription on the eastern side of the arch (facing the Olympieion) states: “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus”.

Arch of Hadrian, the central projecting pediment of the upper level of southeast side (facing the Olympeion), Athens © Carole Raddato

Arch of Hadrian, the attic upper level of southeast side (facing the Olympeion), composed of a series of Corinthian columns and pilasters with an Ionic architrave, Athens
© Carole Raddato

The inscription on the western side of the arch (facing the Acropolis) states: This is Athens, the ancient [or former?] city of Theseus.”

Arch of Hadrian, northwest side (towards the Acropolis), Athens © Carole Raddato

Arch of Hadrian, northwest side (towards the Acropolis), Athens
© Carole Raddato

Some scholars have traditionally interpreted the inscriptions as meaning that the arch stood at the boundaries of “old Athens” (to the west) and “new Athens” or “Hadrianoupolis” (to the southeast). Other scholars have proposed that the inscriptions, rather than dividing Athens into an old city of Theseus and a new city of Hadrian (Hadrianopolis), claim the entire city as a refoundation by the emperor, suggesting that the inscription should be read “This is Athens the former city of Theseus”.

Arch of Hadrian, northwest side (towards the Acropolis), Athens © Carole Raddato

Arch of Hadrian, northwest side (towards the Acropolis), Athens
© Carole Raddato

In the Greek Agora, the civic heart of Athens, stands a headless statue of Hadrian, originally placed beside the statue of Zeus Eleutherios in front of the stoa of Zeus. A striking scene is depicted on the cuirass; Athena standing on the back of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, an allegory for Hadrian’s vision of the Athenian cultural heritage nourished by Roman rule. Athena is flanked by two winged Victories emphasizing the importance of Athens. This statue shows Hadrian’s relation to both Athens and Rome.

Statue of Hadrian, Ancient Agora of Athens © Carole Raddato

Statue of Hadrian, Ancient Agora of Athens
© Carole Raddato

To respond to the city’s fundamental need for water, Hadrian commissioned the building of a new aqueduct. Its construction started in 125 AD and was completed fifteen years later in 140 AD, during the reign of Antoninus Pius. The aqueduct consisted primarily of an underground tunnel at a length of over twenty-five kilometers.

Section of the Hadrianic aqueduct near the Ancient Agora, Athens © Carole Raddato

Section of the Hadrianic aqueduct near the Ancient Agora, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Hadrianic aqueduct, Remains of water bridge in Nea Ionia, Athens © Carole Raddato

Hadrianic aqueduct, Remains of water bridge in Nea Ionia, Athens
© Carole Raddato

It was designed not only to transfer water towards the city but also to collect it through a number of smaller catchment works along the way. It continued to supply Athens with water until the twentieth century. Archaeological remains may still be found, notably two water bridges in Nea Ionia, underground shafts at the Olympic Village and the water reservoir located on Lycabettus Hill in the city of Athens.

Hadrianic aqueduct, Remains of water bridge in Nea Ionia, Athens © Carole Raddato

Hadrianic aqueduct, Remains of water bridge in Nea Ionia, Athens
© Carole Raddato

In Monastiraki metro station, we can admire the archaeological ruins found during the construction work. These are the remains of a stream of the river Eridanos and various settlements dating from the 8th century BC (Geometric period) to the 19th century. In the late Classical period of Athens, the river bed (2.60 m wide) was secured by walls of large blocks of conglomerate. Under Hadrian, the river was roofed over by a brick vault, covered with earth and converted into a sewer. The river’s constant flow and unstable route through the centre of the densely populated city were the main reasons that led to its canalization.

Exposed section of the Eridanos river which was bricked over during Hadrian's reign, Excavations of Monastikari Square, Athens © Carole Raddato

Exposed section of the Eridanos river which was bricked over during Hadrian’s reign, Excavations of Monastikari Square, Athens
© Carole Raddato

Hadrian certainly left his mark all over the country, especially in Athens, which benefited greatly from its imperial patron. As a whole, Hadrian’s gifts to Athens served to unite Greece solidly under Roman control while reaffirming the city as a centre of culture and education.

Portrait bust of Emperor Hadrian wearing the corona civica, National Archaeological Museum of Athens © Carole Raddato

Portrait bust of Emperor Hadrian wearing the corona civica, found in Athens, National Archaeological Museum of Athens
© Carole Raddato

Location of Hadrianic buildings:

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Bibliography:

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Volume 1: Central Greece, translated by Peter Levi (Penguin Classics 1971)

Anthony R. Birley Hadrian: The Restless Emperor (Routledge 1997)

Boatwright, M. T. Further Thoughts on Hadrianic Athens http://www.ascsa.edu.gr/pdf/uploads/hesperia/147788.pdf

Boatwright, M. T. Hadrian And The Cities Of The Roman Empire (Princeton Universtiy Press 2000)

Arja Karivieri Just One of the Boys – Hadrian in the Company of Zeus, Dionysus and Theseus in Greek Romans and Roman Greeks (Aarhus Universtiy Press 2002)

Christopher Mee and Antony Spawforth Greece An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press 2001)

Posted in Archaeology Travel, Greece, Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Photography | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli!

Originally posted on FOLLOWING HADRIAN:

Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was born Marcus Annius Verus on April 26, 121 A.D. of a distinguished family of Spanish origin. He was the last of the five “good” emperors of Rome and a major Stoic philosopher. When Marcus Aurelius was a young child he gained the attention and favor of Hadrian by the frankness of his character. Hadrian nicknamed him Verissimus, meaning most truthful or sincere.  In 127, at the age of six, Hadrian gave him equestrian honors, and made him a priest of the Salii at the age of eight.  After the death of Aelius Caesar (the adopted son and intended successor of Hadrian), Hadrian adopted as his heir Antoninus Pius, Marcus’ uncle, on condition that he in turn adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Ceionius Commodus (Lucius Verus), son of Aelius Caesar. This became know as the Antonine Dynasty. Their reigns were considered as the height of Roman…

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