The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. 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 National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Originally destined to receive all the 19th century excavations, mainly from Attica and other parts of the country, it gradually took the form of a central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all parts of the Greek world. His rich collections, enumerating more than 11,000 exhibits, offer the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity.
The Sculpture Collection, with its rich and unique exhibits, presents the evolution of ancient Greek sculpture from 700 BC to the 5th century AD. The core of the Collection was formed in 1874 when sculptures from the temporary archaeological collections of Athens were gradually transferred to the Archaeological Museum that was under construction. The neoclassical building also housed most of the antiquities retrieved by accident. The gradual handing over of antiquities recovered during excavation or acquired by the Archaeological Society (1884-1893) and also the relocation to the Museum of the most significant sculptures of the provinces contributed decisively to the enrichment of the Collection which nowadays numbers approximately 16.000 sculptures . The works come from sanctuaries, necropolises and public buildings in Attica, Eastern Sterea Ellada, the Peloponnese and the Aegean islands. In addition, a significant number of sculptures come from Thessaly, Western Greece, Macedonia, Thrace and Cyprus.
The Bronze Collection of the National Archaeological Museum constitutes one of the richest collections of original works made of bronze in the world. The majority of the them were unearthed during the major systematic excavations conducted in the late 19th and the early 20th century. Other antiquities were handed over, confiscated, purchased or donated, with the collection of the antiquarian politician K. Karapanos (1902) and its counterpart of 903 medical tools of the doctor K. Lambros (1899) being the most prominent ensembles. The metal artefacts consist in male and female figurines in various representations, mythological creatures and animals. In addition, vases and vessels of every kind, weapons and the finds retrieved from the Shipwreck of Antikythera, including the famous Mechanism, a scientific instrument of the 1st century BC used for astronomical and calendar forecasts comprise significant groups of objects. Through these sculptures and objects of minor arts one can delve into the development and evolution of ancient toreutics and metalworking, distinguish the multiple artistic trends, the accomplishments and the interaction between various workshops and, simultaneously, approach the daily life of the people with their traditions, practices, cults and religious beliefs, from the Geometric to the Roman period.
At the World War II, the Museum was closed, and its pieces were stored in wooden boxes and buried to avoid looting from the German troops. When the war was over, the museum reopened in 1945.
Poseidon of Artemision
A big mystery. The archaeologist cannot stop arguing on this matter. The most famous statue of the museum, made with bronze, is an absolut masterpiece of classical period sculpture art. Its height reaches 2.09 m and is one of the few original bronze statues preserved until now.
Dated at 5th century B.C. is the most famous and well famous preserved column. Unearthed from Kerameikos and at present its copy stands in the former location. The bas-relief depicts Igeso seated, taking a jewel from a box that her slave holds. It is believed, that the colors used for the relief’s background and the jewel were blue and gold respectively. The name “Igeso of Proxenos” is curved on the upper part of the column. Remarkable is also how skillfully the artist depicted Igesos melancholy as well as the pleats of her dress.
The golden mask of “Agamemnon”
Although is has been proven not to be Agamemnon’s mask, it is still a remarkable exhibit worth seeing. The theory of E. Schliemann was wrong and nowadays it is believed to be the mask of a dead king, who died three centuries before Agamemnon. You can see the mask together with other objects (jewels, golden artifacts, swords etc) found in Mycenaean royal tombs in The Mycenaean Collection Room right opposite the entrance.
The Artemision Jockey
This bronze statue (2nd century B.C.) was discovered with the Poseidon statue outside Artemision cape. The jockey was probably smelted separately from his horse. Pay attention on the depiction manner of the horse strained muscles as well as the agony on the face of the jockey.Marble votive bas-relief: Dimitra, Persephone and Asclepius. Persephone stands on the left side of the relief holding two torches on her right hand. In front of her sits Dimita and on her right stands Asclepius. On the right side of the relief you can see six beggars who, according to the inscription, dedicated this bas-relief to Asclepius and to the two Elefsinian goddesses.