Athens: Arch Hadrian, Temple Zeus

After our time at the Acropolis, Ari (see This Post for details) walked with us over the the Arch of Hadrian and the Temple of Olympus Zeus, regaling us with stories of Greek history and current political intrigue.

In previous travels, Scott and I had found to what extent much of European citizen’s concept of who are Americans are and how we live, is molded by television.  It is actually somewhat upsetting.  Take a moment, and think of the TV shows that show American homes and lifestyle that are big hits… Now imagine that a large number of the people throughout the world think that’s actually how we live!  Disturbing if you really give it some thought.  I find myself biting down on my immediate cry of “No, no no!  Our houses don’t all look like that!  We’re not all that shallow – in fact most of us past the age of 12 aren’t.  We don’t really live like that!”

But at the same time, I realize that our idea of people in other countries is largely shaped by television also, and I need to keep in mind how sensationalized and one-sided that is.  So, we always enjoy asking someone we’ve established a bit of rapport with what their opinion of current events in their country is, and what their daily life is like.

Arch of Hadrian with the highway behind

I love learning about this history, the tradition, the culture of an area.  However, I also truly enjoy hearing about the every day life of the people we meet, and look for opportunities to do so.

Arch of Hadrian

The first stop was at the Arch of Hadrian, which is somewhat unceremoniously plunked down on the side of the the main, busy highway.   Except, of course, it was here long before the highway and has just been built up around.    In fact, it once was an archway over a main road through the center of Athens, but the road it once stood over is long since gone, and the much wider, taxi-laden highway now runs past instead of through it.

Detail of Arch of Hadrian

The Arch was apparently built to honor Hadrian, the Roman Emperor, when he arrived for the dedication of the Temple of Olympus Zeus, though this is some supposition and inference from location and the inscription on the Arch.  The Temple of Olympus Zeus is adjacent to the arch, so it’s a likely theory.

Temple of Olympus Zeus

The Temple of Olympus Zeus was begun around 520BC, but abandoned sometime in the 510sBC.  Then it was resumed in 174BC by Antiochus IV Epiphanes who claimed to be the an embodiment of Zeus – so you can see the attraction for him.  But he died in 164BC, and again, all work stopped.

View of the standing structure of the Temple

It wasn’t until Roman Emperor Hadrian’s rule that the construction was actually begun again, and the temple was completed and dedicated to Hadrian in 132AD.

Detail of the Temple of Olympus Zeus

After all of that, the Temple of Olympus Zeus was significantly damaged during the sack of Athens in 267AD.

Detail of the Corinthian columns of the temple
Temple of Olympus Zeus with the Acropolis in the distance


Lunch at Ερις

elis-menu-wandertoesA morning of Acropolis, Arch of Hadrian, and Temple of Olympus Zeus was a LOT of walking.  So, once we settled up with Ari, we headed into the heart of Plaka, looking for food and place to sit and rest.  What we found was Aris (TripAdvisor information HERE), and sat ourselves down for an extremely leisurely lunch.

Ερις is located just on the other side of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates from ΤΑΒΕΡΝΑ ΔΙΟΓΕΕΝΗΣ, and is really right on the street and in the middle of the activity – as we were about to find out.

The cafe on the right, white umbrellaed tables on the left also part of their seating.


The meal was good enough, but not overwhelming.  The Chaloumi cheese was the most interesting, tasting like grilled mozzarella with the texture of grilled feta.  The chocolate profiteroles were very good, so that earned a lot of points for me  (my favorite dessert!).  Doing our own tasting of the Greek coffee, we decided it was milder than espresso with hints of celery and lima bean.  Try it, see if you think we’re right.

The service was slow.  Really, really slow.  At first, we think the two servers out there each thought the other was helping us.  Even after this was sorted out, it was slow.  Since we were in no hurry, we just shrugged it off for the most part.  However if you are fitting a quick lunch in, maybe this isn’t the best choice.

A glimpse of our meal of grilled chaloumi cheese, lamb & beef kabob, lamb souvlaki, finishing with chocolate profiterole and Greek coffee:

What really became interesting to us, was that since we were sitting right on a major street through Plaka, we were visited repeatedly by people trying to sell us something, entertain us for tips, or just ask for money.  Honestly, it was at first annoying, then moved on to incredible, and we finally finished with hysterical.  By the end of the meal, I had made a list of who visited our table, giving tick marks beside the list for repeat visits.  This included:

  • Two kids playing a guitar (x2)
  • Girl playing according
  • Girl’s older sister playing according (x2)
  • 4 man musical group (x2)
  • Women offering “free” roses – hint, once your hand is on it, it’s not free and you can’t get away!  (x6)
  • Woman selling some form of large cloth – she would aggressively try to get you to take one corner so she could hold it out for you to see handiwork, but once your hand was on it, she wouldn’t take it back as she trapped you and haggled.  (x3)
  • Guy who approached the table trying to get you to take something, and as close as I could tell, it was floss.  I never understood that one.  (x2)
  • Elderly couple walking down opposite sides of the street, asking for any coins (x6)
  • Guy selling watches


Lunch with my honey

For a handy traveler’s map of our favorite stops in Plaka, see our post:  Map of Top Things to Do

2 thoughts on “Athens: Arch Hadrian, Temple Zeus

    1. It really is. I found it sad, to see the proud Greek people brought to where they are today. There were many different reactions from the people we talked to, from anger at the EU, to an almost pleading that the EU just doesn’t have the same interests Greece does and therefore isn’t serving their needs. I really appreciated one older man who ended out conversation with “But the Greeks, we’ve been here a long time. We will continue to be.”

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