In 146 BC, the Romans ousted Athens’ Macedonian rulers and incorporated the city into their vast new province of Achaia, whose capital was at Corinth. The city’s status as a renowned seat of learning (Cicero and Horace were educated here) and great artistic centre ensured that it was treated with respect, and Athenian artists and architects were much in demand in Rome. Athens, though, was a backwater – there were few major construction projects, and what building there was tended to follow Classical Greek patterns.
The one Roman emperor who did spend a significant amount of time in Athens, and left his mark here, was Hadrian (reigned 117–138 AD). Among his grandiose monuments are Hadrian’s Arch, a magnificent and immense library, and (though it had been begun centuries before) the Temple of Olympian Zeus. A generation later Herodes Atticus, a Roman senator who owned extensive lands in Marathon, became the city’s last major benefactor of ancient times.