ATHENS - Hadrian’s LibraryThe library was built by the emperor Hadrian in 131/2 A.D. It is located on the north side of the Acropolis, immediately north of the Roman Agora and facing Areos Street. As the Villa Adriana in Tivoli, Rome, is far more than just a villa, Hadrian’s library is more than just a library. Pausanius describes it; ‘Hadrian built other things in Athens, a shrine for Panhellenic Zeus and Hera, and a temple of all the gods; but his most famous things are the hundred columns of Phrygian marble, with walls built just like the columns, and pavilions with gilded roof work and alabaster, decorated with statues and paintings. Books are kept in them.’2 The Phrygian columns are no more ‘but the outer walls of the library still stand to their full height at some points. The walls on the north, east and south side are built of large porous blocks in isodomic masonry. The west wall and the columns of its façade are of Pendelic marble, except for the bases and monolithic shafts flanking the propylon which are of Karystian marble.’3 (Fig 9) These seven columns of cipollino are fairly complete, although they have been damaged and have supports. Facing them the furthest left hand column is chipped and broken at the base and the shaft is bound in two places; the next column has a crumbling base and the shaft is bound at the top; the third is also crumbling and has a big piece of marble chipped out at the base of the shaft; the fourth has a chipped base and shaft bound in 4 places; the rest are relatively undamaged. The distinctive cipollino marking is clearly visible on all of them. They have a concave scotia base of cipollino plus a square base of cipollino and a plinth of white marble. They are 8-9 metres /27-30 Rf high, with the bases, but without the Corinthian capitals, and an estimated .80 m. /2.7 Rf in diameter (Plates 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, & 3.5).

Outside the entrance to the new Acropolis Museum the paving stones are of cipollino (Plate 3.6).
Apart from Athens, there is evidence of cipollino marble in the Roman sites at Corinth, Nemea, Argos and Olympia, and in the grounds of the church at Osias Lukas. There are also some pieces on the island of Delos. Details of the cipollino in Vavrona are taken from Peter G. Themetis’ Guidebook.

2 Pausanius, Guide to Greece Vol 1: Central Greece, Penguin Classics, Penguin Books Ltd., England, translated by Peter Levi, 1971, p.53except

3 Travlos, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens, Thames & Hudson, London, 1971, p.245. (picture)

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Maps and Plates

Fig 9 Hadrian’s Library, Athens

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Plate 3.1 Seven cipollino columns still standing, flanking the Propylon at Hadrian’s Library, Athens.

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Plate 3.2 The author with six of the seven cipollino columns in Hadrian’s Library, Athens.


Plate 3.3 Three middle cipollino columns, one with bands, Hadrian’s Library, Athens.


Plate 3.4 Two cipollino columns on the right, Hadrian’s Library, Athens.

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Plate 3.5 Close up of a cipollino base, Hadrian’s Library, Athens.

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Plates 3.6 Cipollino paving outside the Acropolis Museum.