Athens, just like any city that has existed for thousands of years, has seen countless transformations from its local inhabitants and from foreigners alike. And if you’re a megalomaniac foreigner, let’s say a conqueror, you’re number one priority is to leave a mark that will make the people you’ve subdued remember who the boss is but at the same time making them happy in the process. A win-win situation. That’s what the Romans did when they’ve included Greece in their ever growing empire. So our next destination after our morning in the Athens Acropolis (click on this link for the full blog about it) was ROMAN ATHENS, or what’s left of it that is, the humongous TEMPLE OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS and the ARCH OF HADRIAN.
Just a couple of minutes walk from the Acropolis, you can actually see the monuments from up there, is Roman Athens. You can buy the tickets at the entrance to the site and what welcomes you first is the Arch of Hadrian.
The Arch of Hadrian became the main gateway towards the new section of Athens that the Romans built. Hadrian, who loves to leave his mark in the provinces of his vast empire such as Hadrian’s Wall in the UK and another Arch in Jerash Jordan (blogged in this link), would settle for nothing less in the heart of the Greek Mainland – hence we are left now with this kind of a triumphal arch that still welcomes people as they enter this part of the city.
The Arch of Hadrian would have been majestic if not for the structure that stands only a couple of meters from it, the Temple of Olympian Zeus – considered to be the largest temple ever built in Greece! It consisted of 103 columns of which only a few remains standing and took 6 centuries to be finally built completely. Within it was housed one of the largest cult statues ever created of Zeus, with the builders trying to outdo that of Athena’s in the Pantheon and other existing Wonders of the Ancient World.
Unfortunately with a temple this big and old, much of its stones and all were eventually reused to build other buildings so what were are left now is just a shadow of its former splendor. However, just by standing beside it, you can understand the scale on which it was built and you feel dwarfed by the Corinthian columns that remains.
And with the Acropolis Hill on the background, it is one of the most surreal spots to take photos of the glories gone of Ancient Athens!
Other things that can be seen in Roman Athens are the ruins of the House of Plato and many more. But since time was short, and Jill and Me are starting to want to have lunch, we decided to leave the site and head onto the labyrinth of PLAKA, the area which is basically what was Athens after it became a backwater town of the Roman/Byzantine Empire and before it was transformed into the Capital of Modern Greece almost 200 hundred years ago!
For the next blogpost, join us as we take a walk in the narrow streets of Plaka and find out more about the old world charm that remains in Athens even to this day!
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