The Greek National Archaeological Museum has been proclaimed to be among the ten best museums in the world according to pinticles.com . It came eighth in the world list "with an extensive collection of artworks from the various archaeological areas of Greece, covering the whole wide range from prehistoric to late historic periods of history."
The Greek National Archaeological Museum is housed in a stately building constructed in the late 19th century, designed by L. Lange and remodeled by Ernst Ziller. The Ionian style propylaea are adorned with clay statues, the copies of ancient works, while on either side is an oblong arcade. There is a café at the atrium and another one in the beautiful garden in front of the Museum, where Athenians like to hang out, especially in the summer.
The completely renovated museum is the largest archaeological museum in Greece and ranks among the most important archaeological museums in the world. It was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, thus displaying their historical, cultural and artistic value.
The "Antikythera Youth", bronze, ca. 335 BC
The "Antikythera Youth" The young nude male is shown standing in a frontal pose, supported by the entire sole of his left leg; the right leg, bent at the knee, is set obliquely towards the right and withdrawn, with the two inner toes resting on the ground. The figure raises and extends diagonally the right arm while the left arm is lowered, relaxed, and close to the body. His head is inclined strongly to the right, without focusing his gaze on the object he once held in his right hand. The short hair has wavy, overlapping curls, which are rendered with particular detail and plasticity.
The "Antikythera Youth" has been variously interpreted as Apollo, a "Learned" Hermes holding a caduceus and declaiming, Heracles with club or lion-skin, a victorious athlete holding as prize a lekythion, a sphere, a wreathe, a phiale, or an apple. The figure has even been considered the funerary statue of a young man.
Scholars are divided between two most prevalent views: The first identifies the figure as the Argive hero Perseus, displaying in his right hand the head of the Gorgon Medusa, grasping her by the hair, and holding in his other hand the adamantine harpe (sickle) with which he beheaded her. This interpretation is based on comparable scenes on vases, but above all on coins and ring bezels from Roman Argos. However, the sculpture is missing requisite identifying elements such as the chlamys, winged sandals and Hades' magical Helm of Darkness, which made the hero invisible.
The second view identifies the Ephebe as the Trojan hero Paris, holding the Apple of Discord in his extended right hand and the bow - symbol of the slaying of Achilles - in his left. The second interpretation focuses on the characteristics that make up the multi-faceted nature of Paris as a judge of the goddesses, lover of Helen, and slayer of Achilles. However, the absence of basic identifying elements of the hero, including the spear, the mantle (chlamys) and Phrygian cap, is surprising.
The statue, which is widely regarded as an original, dates to the decade 340-330 BC. But its attribution to a specific artist finds scholars divided. An artist from the circle of sculptor Scopas from the island of Paros, or the sculptor Euphranor from Corinth (whose works, however, are characterized by influences from Attica) are among the candidates. At any rate, the majority of scholars, who consider the "Antikythera Youth" a work of the Argive-Sicyonian school of successors to Polykleitos, would prefer to attribute it the Sicyonian Kleon, a sculptor of the "third generation" of the school's artists, on "the road towards Lysippos".
The God Poseidon, brother to Zeus and master of the Seas, among other masterpieces at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
The museum contains approximately 11,000 masterpieces dating from the 7th millennium B.C to the 5th century B.C which are classified in 7 collections: Prehistoric (Neolithic, Cycladic and Mycenaean antiquities), Sculptures, Bronze, Egyptian Antiquities of world-wide importance, Stathatou, Vases and Miniatures and Cypriot. In addition, the Museum also holds temporary exhibitions and educational programs.
The building of 8,000 sq. m., houses the following collections:
The Sculpture Collection at the National Archaeological Museum.
The Prehistoric Collection, consists of unique works of the great civilizations that flourished in the Aegean from the seventh millennium BC to 1050 BC: objects from the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age from mainland Greece, the Aegean islands and Troy, the enigmatic Cycladic marble figurines and sculpture, the treasures from the royal tombs at Mycenae, the Linear B tablets, and superbly preserved wall-paintings from the prehistoric settlement at Thera of Santorini.
Attributed as The Mask of Agamemnon, this golden funeral mask was discovered at Mycenae in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann who believed that he had discovered the body of the legendary Greek leader Agamemnon. Today it is thought to be the mask of a king who died three centuries before Agamemnon (16th century BC). In the gallery of Mycenaean Antiquities, other than the mask, you can see jewels,
golden works of art, swords etc, found in the royal graves of Mycenae.
The Sculpture Collection at the National Archaeological Museum.
The Sculpture Collection contains a large number of unique pieces that present the evolution of ancient Greek sculpture from 700 BC to the 5th c. AD. The nucleus of the Collection was formed in 1874, when sculptures up to that time housed in temporary archaeological collections in Athens began to be transferred to the Archaeological Museum, then under construction. The majority of the chance finds were also housed in the neoclassical building. A major contribution to the enrichment of the Sculpture Collection, which includes about 16,000 works, was made by the gradual acquisition of antiquities yielded by excavations or purchased by the Archaeological Society of Athens (1884-1893), and also by the transfer of the most important sculptures in the provinces of Greece to the National Museum. The works come from sanctuaries, cemeteries and public buildings from throughout Greece and Cyprus.
The marble grave stele of Hegesso, found in Kerameikos, Athens
The Stele of Hegesso Grave stele (h. 1,56 m., w. 0,97 m.), made of Pentelic marble, found in 1870 in the ancient cemetery of the Kerameikos and dated 410-400 BC. An Athenian lady seated on a chair, her feet resting on a footstool, looks at some jewelry held in her raised right hand, originally rendered in paint. Opposite her, a sorrowful standing attendant holds an open jewelry box. According to the inscription on the epistele, the deceased is Hegesso, daughter of Proxenos. Her imposing appearance, along with the magnificence of the family grave plot, to which the stele belongs, indicate her noble origin. It is an exquisite work, attributed to Kallimachos.
The Rider at the National Archaeological Museum.
The Vases and Minor Objects Collection was mostly assembled at the end of the 19th c. Today, about 6,000 objects are on display. The original core of the collection contains around 2,500 artifacts which reveal the uninterrupted evolution of Greek pottery and vase painting from the 11th to the 4th c. B.C., and is represented by the principal workshops (Attic, Boeotian, Corinthian, Laconian, Ionian, islands). Also exhibited are artifacts from important sanctuaries, such as Sounion in Attica, Thermon in Aetolia, Artemis Orthia in Laconia, the Heraion of Perachora in Corinth, and the Heraion of Argos in the Argolid. Recently, the exhibition program of the Collection was completed with the display of the Stathathos and Vlastos–Serpieris Collections withHellenistic and glass vases, figurines, as well as gold and silver vessels and jewelry.
Vase Collection at the National Archaeological Museum.
The Metallurgy Collection, with many fundamental statues, figurines and minor objects, is one of the world’s richest collections of original bronze works. Most were found in the large systematic excavations of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th c. Others were handed over, confiscated, purchased, or donated. Among them, a collection of 903 medical tools, donated by K. Karapanos and K. Lambros. The metal artifacts depict male and female figures with different characteristics and mythological or imaginary beings and animals. Important groups also include vases of all types and tools, the weapons and finds from the shipwreck at Antikythera, including the famous mechanism, a scientific instrument of the 1st century B.C. used for astronomical and calendar calculations. Through these statues and minor arts one can trace the development and evolution of ancient repousse and chasing and metalworking, discern various artistic trends, the achievements and interactions of the workshops, and at the same time approach the daily life of human beings, with their habits, customs, cults, and religious beliefs, from the Geometric until the Roman periods.
The compilation of the Cypriot Collection occurred in various stages from the 19th c. onward, with purchases from the Archaeological Society at Athens and donations of collectors. The enrichment of the Collection continued at the beginning of the 20th c. with purchases, donations and through an official exchange program of antiquities. Today, the Cypriot Collection totals to around 850 artifacts, representative of all chronological periods of the Cypriot history and art, from the Early Bronze Age (around 2500 BC) to the Roman times (4th c. AD).
The Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection, with works dating from the pre-dynastic period (5000 BC) to the Roman conquest is of worldwide importance because of the wealth, quality, and rarity of its artifacts. The donations of Ioannis Dimitriou and Alexandros Rostovitch, two Greek expatriates in Egypt, offered to the Museum, make up the core of the collection, which was enriched further by donations from the Greek Archaeological Society, the Egyptian government, small donations as well as archaeological finds from excavations within Greece.
Within a short distance from the National Archaeological Museum you may check Meliá Hotel Athens. A 4-star hotel, it features a rooftop restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis. All guests enjoy free access to its health club, outdoor pool and hot tub. The nearest metro station is at 50 m. Guest rooms are soundproofed, have A/C, and are decorated in earthy tones with sycamore furniture and paintings signed by contemporary Greek artists. They feature a minibar, satellite TV and free WiFi, and marble bathrooms with jet shower cabins or spa baths. On the top floor, the free-access, health club includes a sauna and hamam. Facilities include a lobby bar serving Mediterranean flavors, drinks and wine, while Sky Lounge Rooftop Dining Bar, offers a variety of flavors and spectacular views.
Sculpture at the National Archaeological Museum.
The National Archaeological Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions such as the "THE ANTIKYTHERA SHIPWRECK: The ship - the treasures - the Mechanism”, which included antiquities recovered from the legendary shipwreck off the small island of Antikythera, south of the Peloponnese, with its cargo dating from the 4th to the 1st c BC. For information on this exhibition visit THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISMpage.
From the exhibition "The Antikythera Shipwreck" at the National Archaeological Museum.