Athens » Museums
3rd - National Archaeological Museum
4th - Byzantine Museum
5th - Keramikos
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum houses priceless finds. If you visit the Museum prior to your walk around the site you will be able to better understand the history and function of the Acropolis, as the most important religious centre of the city of Athens and thus enjoy it even more.
Important exhibits The Moschoforos (The calf bearer) - An exceptionally fine statue of a bearded youth of the 6th century B.C., carrying a calf on his shoulders, gift to the goddess
The Kores - The Archaic Kores were statues of young women, offered to Athena over a long period of time. No Kore is similar to another. The difference in the way their hair is set and their dresses pleated, offer one a chance to admire the evolution of the art of sculpture in ancient Greece.
Sculptures from the decoration of Parthenon - (444-432 BC) These are the few remains of the masterpiece of all time. See, among them, a few slabs from the frieze depicting the Olympian gods, a few metopes depicting a scene from the Centauromachia and so on.
The Caryatis - These statues of beautiful priestesses, were used to support the roof of the south porch of the Erechtheion (420 B.C.). They were probably named after the women of Caryes (an ancient city in Arcadia, Peloponnese), who were supposed to be the models for the statues. During the Turkish occupation the Caryatids were called Petrified Princesses or Girls of the Castle. Tradition says that when Lord Elgin "abducted" one of the Caryatids, together with the other sculptures from the Parthenon, the remaining five used to weep every night for the loss of their sister. Crying or not, they are magnificent, unique and unforgettable. The ancient Kerameikos was on the north-west fringes of ancient Athens and extended both inside and outside the walls which now traverse the site of the excavations. In the centre of the site, very close to each other, can be seen the two most famous gates of ancient Athens, the Dipylon and the Sacred Gate. The area around these gates was the most ancient and largest cemetery known in Attica. It was also the burial site of the citizens honoured by the city of Athens. Kerameikos, according to the traveller Pausanias, was named after Keramos, a hero of the deme of Kerameis. But most probably the name is due to a settlement of potters on the banks of the Eridanos river. (Kerameikos: ceramic or having to do with ceramics or ceramists). The ancient demos of Kerameikos included an area much larger than the one excavated. It is believed that it streched from the north- west limits of the Agora to the grove named after the hero Academos.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums of ancient Greek art. Its numerous and very important exhibits will give you the chance for a journey into the depths of history. You will certainly find its riches fascinating and indeed, to do the museum justice, you should visit it several times. If you intend to visit only once, make sure you have ample time at your disposal. The following is by no means intended to be a detailed guide to the museum. Such an account would demand more space than we have at our disposal here. Just a few of the Museum's most important exhibits are mentioned below.
The Poseidon of Artemision - Is it a statue of Poseidon or Zeus? The archaeologists still argue about it. The bronze statue, one Iof the masterpieces of Classical sculpture, was found in 1928, in the wreckage of a ship off cape Arlemision. Its height is 2.09m and it is one of the few original bronze statues that survive.
The statuette of Zeus - This is a statuette of Keravnovolos Zeus from Dodoni. Notice the god's posture as he prepares to launch his thunderbolts. It is the same as that of the Poseidon of Artemision.
Demeter and Persephone This beautiful and well preserved relief from Eleusis, which was sculpted circa 440-430 BC, depicts Demeter presenting Tripto/emos, the young King of Eleusis, with ears of wheat. Her daughter Persephone, on the right, is giving her blessing. Notice the difference in size of Triptolemos and Demeter. In fact it was common practice that when gods and people were depicted together on a stele, the gods were represented much taller, as a token of respect.
The Lekythos of Myrrine - It is the main exhibit of room 16 which was named after it. This lekythos, made of white marble, was found in Syntagma Square in 1873. It is decorated with a relief showing Hermes leading by the hand the young woman Myrrine. As is written above her head, the god's intention is to deliver her to Plouton (the god of Ades). The scene is witnessed by three of Myrrine's male relatives. Notice Myrrine's bent head and the sad look on her face (430-420 BC).
The stele of Hegeso - Do not fail to see the most famous of the stelae (5th century BC). It was found in Kerameikos, where its replica can be seen today. The relief shows Hegeso seated, taking a jewel out of a box that her female slave is holding. It is believed that the background of the relief and the jewel were painted blue and gold respectively. At the top of the stele, her name is engraved: "Hegeso Proxeno". The skill with which the melancholy expression on Hegeso's face and the folds of her dress are depicted is beyond description.
The Jockey-Boy" of Artemission - This bronze statue of the 2nd century B.C. was found with the statue of Poseidon, off cape Artemision. It is possible that the "Jockey-boy" and his horse were cast separately. Notice the superbly depicted tension of the horse's muscles and the "Jockey boy's" anxious expression.
Demeter, Persephone and Asklepios - Persephone stands on the left holding two torches in her right hand. In front of her, seated, is Demeter and to her right stands Asklepios. Six suppliants can be seen on the right. As the inscription tells you, five of them dedicated this relief to Asklepios and the two Eleusinian deities. Their names are written at the bottom of the relief, inside crowns made of olive branches, since they were famous doctors crowned by the state for their services.
The head of Hygeia - You are undoubtedly familiar with the head of Hygeia (Goddess of Health) seen in thousands of photographs. Now you have the chance to admire her expression of gentleness at close quarters. It was found in the temple of Alea Athena in Tegea and was possibly part of a statue (350-340 BC).
The Ephebe of Antikythera - (Ephebe: adolescent) One more statue that has been . an item of controversy among archaeologists. Since it is evident that he was holding some spherical object in his right hand, some say ,~. that it depicts Paris holding the ;"' apple and others that it is a statue of Perseus holding Andromeda's head (340 BC). It was found in a ship wreckage near Antikythera in 1900.
The boy of Marathon - This statue of a teenager was named after the bay of Marathon where it was unearthed in 1926. The sign on the statue's pedestal refers to it as one of a wrestler. With the exception of the left arm, which is thought to be a later repair, the statue is considered to be a masterpiece. It is probably the work of Praxiteles or one of his students (330 BC).
The golden mask of Agamemnon - Although it has been proved not to be the mask of Agamemnon, it remains an exhibit worth seeing. Schlieman's theory was wrong and it is now thought to be the death mask of a King who died three centuries before Agamemnon (16th century BC). You can see the mask in the Hall of Mycenaean Antiquities, which is right opposite the entrance hall, together with other items Gewellery, gold artifacts, swords and so on), found in the royal tombs of Mycenae.
The National Gallery
It is the biggest picture and portrait gallery in the country. The nucleus of the National Gallery collection, consisting of 117 paintings, was catalogued in 1878. It was later enriched by the donation of the private collections of Alexandros Soutzos, Euripides Koutlides and many other Greek painters and collectors. A number of important works of art, as is the "Crucifixion" by Lorenzo Veneziano and a collection of engravings of the 16th to 20th centuries, were purchased by the Gallery itself. Make sure you'll see: "The Kiss" by N. Lytras, "The Engagement" by N. Gyzis "The Concert of the Angels" by Dominikos Theotokopoulos "The Greek Rider" by Delacroix.
The Museum of the City of Athens
Since its opening in 1980, this Museum has been housed in the former mansion of Stamatios Vouros, which was also used as a temporary palace for King Otto between 1836 and 1842. Here, you will find paintings and engravings related to the history of the Greek capital, mainly from the beginning of the 18th and the 20th centuries. Also on exhibit are pieces of furniture which belonged to the first King of Greece, Otto. If you are an art lover make a note to visit the A' Cemetery of Athens. Works of some of the most important modern Greek sculptors are found in it. The cemetery is renowned for the artistry of its tombs and sculptures.
The Historical and Ethnological Museum
You will find the entrance of this Museum just behind the impressive statue of Kolokotronis (hero of the Greek War of Independence), on Stadiou Street, very near Syntagma Square. The building in which the Museum has been housed since 1961 was originally the seat of the Greek Parliament and is, therefore, also known as Palaia Vouli (Old Parliament). The exhibits in the Museum's 16 rooms cover all the periods of modern Greek history, from the 15th century AD until today.
The Theatrical Museum
It is housed in the ground floor of the Municipal Cultural Centre of Athens. You will learn a lot about the history of the Greek theatre here through the photographs, playbills, settings and masks used in modern stagings of ancient dramas. Costumes and persQnal items of great Greek actors are also on display in this Museum.
The Vorres Museum
Six thousand exhibits, reminders of 4,000 years of Greek history, are sheltered in the 4.5 acres of this Museum, which is actually separated into two different sections. In the first, you can see a collection of contemporary Greek art consisting of paintings and sculptures, all works of the 2nd half of this century. The other section of the Museum is housed in a complex of two traditional village houses and a building which was once used for wine pressing. Here you will have the chance to see daily life items: carpets, furniture, millstones and pottery pieces from various areas in Greece. Oil paintings and engravings related to historical events, as well as some archaeological finds, are also on exhibit in this part of the Museum.
It is a small square building around a courtyard which you are advised to visit after your walk around the site. The main exhibits are grave offerings found inside the tombs while the entrance is dominated by funerary stelae.
Goulandris Museum of Natural History
In this very important Museum, you will have the chance to learn a lot about the interdependence of all living things. The Museum exhibits rich collections of insects, mammals, reptiles, birds and shells, as well as rocks and fossils from all over Greece. It also organises seminars, lectures and temporary exhibitions relative to crucial environmental issues in Greece and the world.
Greek Folk Art Museum
The rich collections in this Museum cover the period from 1650 to the present. They include textiles, embroideries, costumes, silverware and puppet-theatre. Also, fold paintings, works by Theofilos Hatzimichael, wood carving and stone carving.
Gennadius Library Collections
Valuable manuscripts and books, documents, magazines, maps of the most important moments in Greek literature are here. There is also a Byzantine library, a reading room, and an exhibition room. Make sure to see the collection of Lord Byron's personal items (golden watch, his laurel wreath, seals etc).
The Byzantine Museum
This Museum can justifiably be proud of one of the richest collections of Byzantine icons in the world. The building housing it was once the town residence of the Duchesse de Plaisance. The building facing the entrance houses three different churches of different periods: Early Christian, Byzantine and post-Byzantine.
The Museum of Cycladic Art
This very well organised Museum was founded to house the Goulandris' private collection of Cycladic art. On the first floor you will find various examples of the Cycladic culture, while the second floor houses miniatures and memorabilia from the same period. In 1992 a new wing was added to the Museum, which is housed in the Stathatos Mansion. In it you can see the Athens Academy's collection of ancient Greek art. On the ground floor of the Neofytou Douka Street building, you can buy replicas of the Museum's exhibits.
The War Museum
It houses weapons from the Stone Age and the Classical period to the Second World War. Also on exhibit are various types of fighter- aircraft, maps, banners, military uniforms and models of warships and fighter-planes covering the whole span of Greek history.