National Archaeological Museum of Athens
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest museum in Greece and houses the largest collection of Ancient Greek artifacts, numbering over 20,000 different objects. They all relate to the earliest forms of civilization found in Greece and, of course, to the ancient era itself. The museum is located in the Exarchia district in the center of Athens between Epirus Street, Bobolinas Street and Tositsas Street, and the entrance is on Patission Avenue next to the historic Polytechnic of Athens.
The first National Archaeological Museum in Greece was founded by the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Kapodistrias on the island of Aegina back in 1829. Since then, the archaeological collection has changed several exhibition sites. Construction of the museum lasted from 1866 to 1889. The building was designed in a neoclassical style and with an interior which was in perfect harmony with the character of the art objects on display.
The museum received its name in 1881 from the Greek Prime Minister Charilaos Trikopis. During World War II, the museum was closed and the exhibits were placed in special protective boxes and buried to avoid destruction or theft of the museum collection. In 1945, the exhibitions resumed under Christos Karouzos. In 1999 Athens had an earthquake that partially damaged the building, so it had to be closed for renovation. The museum reopened before the 2004 Olympics. The frescoed rooms opened to the public in 2005. In May 2008, Minister of Culture Michalis Liapis opened one of the most anticipated collections of Egyptian exhibits and the Eleni and Antonis Statatos Collection. In 2008, a new plan was proposed to expand the museum underground, under the main facade.
The museum’s collections are divided into sections:
The Prehistoric Collection contains exhibits from the Neolithic (6800-3000 BC), Early and Middle Bronze Age (3000-2000 and 2000-170 BC, respectively), as well as exhibits relating to Cycladic and Mycenaean art.
Neolithic and Early to Mid-Bronze Age Collection
Ceramic finds from various important and large Neolithic sites, such as Dimini and Sesclo in Middle Greece, as well as from Boeotia, Attica and Thyos, are collected here. Some exhibits come from Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations at Troy.
Cycladic Art Collection
The Cycladic art collection features famous marble figurines from the Aegean islands of Delos and Keros, including Lutistos. These mystical human images have much in common with modern art and have inspired many artists.
Mycenaean Art Collection
From the Mycenaean civilization came the domestic stone utensils as well as articles of bronze, ceramics, ivory, glass and faience objects, gold seals and rings found in the underground tombs of Mycenae and other places in the Peloponnese (Tiron and Dendra in Argolis, Pilos in Messinia and Vafio in Laconia). Of great interest are two golden bowls from Vafeio, showing a scene of catching a bull.
The Mycenaean collection also includes the remarkable 19th-century finds made by Heinrich Schliemann in Mycenae in the round tombs, A, and a little earlier in round tombs B. Among them the most famous are the gilded funeral masks that covered the faces of the late Mycenaean leaders. Also present are exhibits collected during excavations of the Mycenaean citadel, including relief steles, gold containers, tools, and jewelry made of glass, alabaster, and amber. Other prominent pieces include a group of ivory pieces depicting two goddesses with a child, a painted head of a goddess on limestone, and a famous military vessel from the late 12th century.
Egyptian Art Collection
The Egyptian collection consists of 6,000 pieces. Today, however, only 1,100 of them can be seen in public exhibitions. It is considered to be one of the best collections of Egyptian art in the world. The exhibition features rare statues, tools, jewelry, mummies, each mummy has its own wooden plaque, intact bird eggs and a 3,000-year-old loaf of bread without a single slice. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a bronze statue of the princess priestess Takushit, created around 670 B.C. She is 70 cm tall and wears a woman’s dress with hieroglyphics. The statue was found in 1880 in southern Alexandria.
The Statatos Collection is named after the donors and great patrons of Greece, Antonis and Eleni Statatos. The collection contains about 1,000 objects, mostly jewelry, but also metalwork, vases and pottery from the mid-Bronze Age through the post-Byzantine era. The most striking objects from the Greek period are the gold ornaments from Karpenissi and Thessaly.
Library of Archaeology
The museum has a library of archaeology, which is well over 100 years old. Books and publications on ancient art, science and philosophy are collected here. The library fund consists of about 20,000 volumes, including rare editions up to the 17th century. The library has books on archaeology, history, art, ancient religion and ancient Greek philosophy, as well as ancient Greek and Latin literature. Of particular value are the diaries found during various excavations, including that of Heinrich Schliemann. The library was reconstructed with funds from the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. This renovation was completed on May 26, 2008, and the library is now named after Alexander S. Onassis.
In addition, the museum has a large, recently renovated gift store with copies of exhibits and a café for tourists in the sculpture garden. The entrance to the museum is equipped with a hoist for the disabled. There are also guides for visitors with hearing difficulties.
The Archaeological Museum of Athens
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is one of the best museums in the city. About half a million people visit it in a year.
If you love ancient art, be sure to visit it, you will have a great pleasure.
History of the museum
The history of the museum goes back to 1829 when the young Greek Republic, just liberated from the Turks, established an archaeological museum on the island of Aegina. After the relocation of the capital to Athens the decision was made to build a new museum building.
However, a fairy tale is told quickly, but not very soon. Construction began only in 1874 and was completed in 1889. The building was designed by architects P. Kalkos, L. Lange and E. Ziller.
From the outside, the museum is styled as an ancient Greek temple.
Inside it is very simple: the walls are painted in discreet grayish or beige colors, without any decorations, so that nothing distracts from the exhibits. And tall windows for even lighting.
Before the First World War the eastern wing was added. During the German occupation of Greece during World War II, the exhibits of the museum were placed in different sheltered places in order to protect them from the bombs and the greedy Germans. Therefore, after the war the exhibition was redesigned.
The current configuration of the exposition was changed just before the Olympics in 2004, as the Archaeological Museum was heavily damaged during the 1999 earthquake.
How to get there
The museum is located in the center of Athens on 28is Oktovriou Street 44. See on map
The closest metro stations are Omonia and Victoria of the Green Line. From metro to museum on foot 8-10 minutes, Victoria a little closer.
The Omonia area is not very well known, it is populated mostly by migrants. However, the street 28is Oktovriou, which we walked from the subway to the museum, looks decent, it’s wide and lively.
Opening hours and ticket prices
The museum is open from November to April. 13.00 – 20.00, Wed. – Fri. 9.00 – 16.00. From April to October: Fri. 12.30 – 20.00, Wed – Fri. 8.00 – 20.00.
The museum is closed on December 25-26, January 1, March 25, Easter and May 1.
The ticket costs 12 euros from April to October, 6 euros from November to May. Children under 5 years are free.
Sections of the museum
The Athens Archaeological Museum is huge, with a collection of more than 20,000 items and includes the following sections:
– Prehistoric collection (Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean and Minoan)
– sculpture collection, also divided by epochs
– collection of vases and other ceramics
– collection of metal objects
A large collection of magnificent tombstones, some of them works of art.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also has temporary exhibitions. We were lucky enough to find ourselves at the wonderful exhibition “Uncountable Aspects of Beauty.”
This exhibit features various objects embodying different aspects of beauty: statues and statues, incense bottles, and jewelry.
A video showing the process of making ancient perfumes, recreated on the basis of an ancient perfume workshop found in Pyrgos, was played in the hall. Ancient distillation cubes, mixing vessels, tubes, and bottles were found in this workshop. One of the fragrances was recreated by historians from ancient records, and you could smell it at the exhibition. It was very pleasant.
Ancient Greek perfume bottles
One section of the museum is dedicated to Ancient Egypt and the Middle East. This section is very rich and certainly interesting, but the fact that it is in the same museum as Greek art seems wrong to me. The Greek government should have a separate museum for them.
A separate exhibit is the Eleni Stafatou Collection, which includes Greek objects from prehistory to the 18th century.
The museum is extremely interesting, and its collection is so large and diverse that it seemed to me impossible to perceive it deeply at once. You can only get some impressions. So, if you have limited time, choose what interests you and devote your precious time to it. Who is interested in archaic, look at archaic, who is interested in ceramics, study it. Who is interested in everyday objects, in particular children’s toys of the ancient Greeks, examine them. Who is interested in gold and jewelry, admire them. Whos sculpture, take a closer look at it.
The famous mask of Agamemnon.
Satyr and Aphrodite
Roman statue. The Romans were worthy disciples of the Greeks
What’s particularly memorable
Of all the rich exposition of the museum, the four bronze statues that I remember the most.
Few bronze works have survived from the ancient Greeks: bronze has always been quite expensive, these products were remelted, and not many of them survived to our time.
These statues were preserved by the sea, to the bottom of which they fell after the shipwrecks. Well, “there was no luck, but unhappiness helped. And if Poseidon from the cape of Artemision was known to me, then the other three statues were an unexpected discovery. These are the Horseman from Cape Artemision, the Marathon Boy and Ephebe from Antikythera. Let us examine each work separately.
Poseidon of Cape Artemisia.
A 5th century B.C. statue found by sponge divers in 1926 and raised in 1928.
A 1st century A.D. Roman ship wrecked near Cape Artemision in the Aegean Sea. The mighty god, Poseidon or Zeus (the debate among scholars) is depicted as he prepared to hurl the weapon that did not survive (a trident for Poseidon or a lightning bolt for Zeus). What is called “stop a moment, you are beautiful!” The skill of the sculptor, (and among the possible authors mention Calamide, Ageladi and Myron) is beyond praise. And although the figure has lost its eyes, made, it is assumed, of ivory, it looks magnificent. It’s a must-see.
Rider from Cape Artemision
The sculpture was found in the same place as the previous one (it seems that the Romans took the statues they liked out of Greece). Raised in the same 1928, while some fragments were raised later, in 1937.
It represents a boy riding a horse without a saddle.
The boy looks as if he were alive, but the horse is somewhat abstract. There are more perfectly executed horses in the museum, such as this one.
And the size does not match: the boy is too small (only 84 cm). But on examination, scientists found that the horse has remnants of the boy’s clothing, so they did make one piece. Yes, the disproportionality of the sculpture is striking, but this does not detract from its merits. What power, what expression! Both the horse and the boy seem alive.
Epheb of Antikythera
Found by sponge fishers in 1900 as fragments. Already in the archaeological museum a statue was recreated from these fragments.
The island of Antikythera is not far from Crete. Near him, at the beginning of the 1st century BC, a shipwreck loaded with many valuable products. Among the wreck was the famous Antikythera mechanism, a complicated mechanism of pressed gears. The function of this mechanism is still not precisely understood. This mechanism is also on display in the museum.
But back to the statue. It depicts a young man holding an object in his hand. Since the object is lost, there are different versions of what it was. According to the main version, it was the head of the Gorgon, and then it was Perseus. According to another, it was an apple, and then it was Paris with the apple of discord. Who the author is is unknown. There is speculation that it is Euphranor, a follower of Polycletus. But whoever it was, he created an undoubted masterpiece.
The Young Man of Marathon.
The sculpture is so named because it was raised by fishermen from the bottom of the Bay of Marathon. It was in 1925. It is supposed to be the god Hermes, but not a fact. It has also been suggested that the statue was influenced by the great Praxiteles. But this too is only speculation.
It is believed that the figure of a young man should be leaning on the wall with his raised hand. I imagined a conductor raising his baton at the start of a performance, or a painter raising his brush. He is immersed in himself, concentrated and ready for the beginning of the creative act, during which man becomes a creator, becomes equal to the immortal gods. Wonderful music is about to flow, or a beautiful painting will be created. I would call this statue “the anticipation of creation. It made the biggest impression on me.
When you look at ancient Greek sculptures, you realize that the Hellenes reached such heights that you can only repeat and complement, but you can’t surpass. And after all, if they were the creations of individual genius authors! Not at all. Everyone interested knows the names of sculptors Miron, Fidiji, Praxiteles … But no one knows the authors of the brilliant Venus of Milos, Nike of Samothrace and many other works, accidentally discovered on the site of shipwrecks or excavations.
At the same time, when you look at the archaic, most ancient works of the same Greeks, you see that they do not stand out against the general background of the art of the time. And suddenly a powerful rise in just a century and a half to two centuries, such that other civilizations turn out to be lagging behind forever. What happened to the ancient Hellenes, why did they have such a creative explosion? There is no answer to this great riddle. Nor does the Athens Archaeological Museum provide an answer. We can only admire the creation of the great civilization.