The Roman emperor Hadrian had a great affection for Athens. Although he did his fair share of spiriting its Classical artwork to Rome, he also embellished the city with many temples and infrastructure improvements. As thanks, the people of Athens erected this lofty monument of Pentelic marble in 131 AD. It now stands on the edge of one of Athens' busiest avenues.
In Roman times, it stood across the road to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and, beyond, the sanctuary of Pan near the Ilissos River, long covered by pavement but emerging briefly in the wild greenery past the temple. The inscriptions laud the new Roman era: the northwest frieze reads, 'This is Athens, the Ancient city of Theseus', while the southeast frieze states, 'This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus'.