National Archaeological Museum (Athens)

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Portico of the museum
Poseidon from Cape Artemision , bronze statue 460 BC Found in 1926 on the seabed off Cape Artemision .

The National Archaeological Museum ( Greek Εθνικό Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο ) in Athens is primarily dedicated to Greek antiquity and is considered the most important collection of works of art and everyday objects of that time. The 11,000 exhibited objects come from all regions of Greece, as all important finds were brought there exclusively until the 20th century. There is also a collection of exhibits of Egyptian art . It is the most visited museum in the city.

With the catalog Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens , all sculptures in the collection were published in one publication in 2002 for the first time.

History and buildings

The planning of an archaeological museum began with the founding of the Greek kingdom . From 1854 onwards, 10,000 drachmas were set aside annually from the household, in 1856 Dimitrios Bernardakis, a Greek from Saint Petersburg , donated 200,000 drachmas. In the same year, King Otto initiated a public tender, which was directed by the Munich Academy . The award went to the Italian Arturo Conti, and the architect and director of the Academy Ludwig Lange , who had previously worked in Greece, was commissioned to carry out the work. However, the plans were considered to be too expensive and execution was postponed. When funding was secured, work began in 1866 under the direction of Panagiotis Kalkos . After his death in 1875, Theophil von Hansen was suggested to continue the work. Since he refused to build according to Lange's plans, his student and colleague Ernst Ziller was entrusted with the completion of the building. The classical facade comes from Ziller . The main building was inaugurated in 1874, and the two side wings followed in 1881 and 1885.

The Society of Friends of the Archaeological Museum was founded in 1933, and a wing was opened in 1935. In 1940 the museum was closed due to the war and most of the exhibits were buried in boxes in secret places, the remaining objects were stored in the basement. The museum was able to receive visitors again as early as 1945.

At the end of February 2009, the museum was expanded by around 24,000 square meters of exhibition space, so that over 2,000 more ancient exhibits can now be shown, which were previously stored in the museum's extensive depots due to lack of space. The new premises are partly underground and are the largest expansion in the museum's history to date. The construction costs amounted to around 50 million euros.


Halls of the museum, 1901

Despite many renovations, the character of the museum as an exhibition building and collection from the 19th century is present. The objects are not staged, but mostly shown very objectively in showcases. The historicist building does not seek a contrast to the exhibits, but rather merges into an overall impression.

The departments are:

  • Prehistoric collection with the subdivisions:
    • Neolithic collection
    • Cycladic collection
    • Thera collection
    • Mycenaean collection
  • Sculpture collection (16,000 objects)
  • Bronze collection (also collection of metalwork)
  • Vase and cabaret collection (with 6,000 exhibited objects, it is the largest sub-collection, 2,500 of which alone show the seamless development of ancient Greek ceramics from the 11th to the 4th century BC) with more specific individual collections:
    • Stathatos Collection (around 970 objects from the Middle Bronze Age to the Post-Byzantine Period with a focus on gold jewelry, the collection is displayed separately in one room, unlike the other donor collections)
    • Vlastou Serpieri Collection
    • Terracotta figurine collection
    • Jewelry collection
    • Glass collection
  • Egyptological collection
  • Cyprus Collection (850 items)
  • Special exhibitions

The Karpanos Collection is presented separately.


The museum has 52 rooms of different sizes for the presentation, 49 rooms for the permanent exhibition and three rooms for changing special exhibitions. While the ground floor is almost completely open for the presentation of the collection, apart from the extension in the northeast, only the rear part of the upper floor is open to the public.

Prehistoric collections

Directly behind the entrance hall you enter a central wing that connects the front and rear of the building. The museum's prehistoric collection is shown in these rooms 3 to 6 and in room 48 on the upper floor. Finds from the three successive prehistoric civilizations are shown here, the Neolithic , the Cycladic and the Mycenaean civilization. It spans a period from the 7th millennium to around 1100 BC. BC and shows in particular finds from the Aegean region , from the Cyclades , from Thessaly as well as from Mycenae and Thera .

Neolithic collection

"Thinker" from Karditsa

The Neolithic collection is exhibited in room 5. It initially includes finds from the Neolithic period between around 6800 and 3300 BC. BC Stone and clay exhibits predominate. A large part of the exhibits come from the two great Thessalian centers of the Neolithic, Sesklo from the middle and Dimini from the late Neolithic, whose ceramic production is very characteristic. Other finds, especially vases, utensils and idols made of clay and stone, come from Lianokladi or Halai . Tools made from bone and obsidian are also shown.

The Neolithic collection also includes finds from the Bronze Age , the early phase of which began in the 3rd millennium BC. Begins. This early Ladic epoch (about 3300 to 2100/2000 BC) is represented by finds from Orchomenos , Rafina , Askitario , Agios Kosmas and Poliochni . There are also finds from Troy donated by Sophia Schliemann . Finds from the Middle Helladic period come from Orchomenos, Dimini, Sesklo and Liaklonadi . Graumynian pottery predominates from this period .

Significant individual pieces include the Thinker , a Neolithic Tonidol from the Karditsa area , and the Kurothophos , a Tonidol in the form of a seated woman with a child in her arms.

Cycladic collection

Sculpture collection

The sculpture collection is considered to be the most important and largest of its kind in the world. The inventory includes a good 16,000 numbers of which around 900 pieces are on display in the museum. They are exhibited in 30 halls on the ground floor of the museum building and thus take up most of the museum. The halls (7 to 35) are more or less arranged around the two inner courtyards and the central building with the prehistoric collection and form a chronological tour from the beginning of the creation of large sculptures in Greece to late antiquity . The vast majority of the collection consists of stone sculptures, especially marble, but also limestone and other types of stone. However, there are also some large sculptural bronze works in the collection. Since many visitors only take this tour, some of the outstanding pieces of cabaret, especially ceramics, are also exhibited chronologically in the corresponding halls in the sculpture collection.

Room 7: Daedal style

The time of archaic sculpture in Greece begins with works of the so-called Daedalic style . Among other things , reliefs made from Poros from the Temple of Athena in Mycenae and three female seated statues are shown. The most important work is the statue of Nikandre , which was placed in the Oikos of the Naxians on Delos . The sculpture is the earliest known life-size sculpture made in Greece.

Halls 8 to 13: Archaic Art

Stone sculptures from the end of the 7th century BC are displayed in six halls. Until the end of the Persian Wars around 480 BC. BC, heralding the beginning of the classical period. The Kouros and Koren statues are particularly characteristic of this section of Greek sculpture . The National Archaeological Museum houses the largest number of such naked youth statues, the number of Koren is fewer. The most famous works include the Sounion-Kouros and the Kroisos-Kouros and the Kore Phrasikleia . The latter probably has a male counterpart , both statues were probably created by Aristion of Paros . The strong kouroi from Athens are contrasted by a melious kouros , which looks much slimmer and weaker. Other important works are the Kouros by Volomandra and the Kouros by Kea . Above all, the Kouros of Kea shows the artistic transition, at which the artists learn to see their works as a closed unit and not just as a work in several parts. The anatomy is worked out better and more detailed over time. The Kroisos-Kouros already shows well-developed muscles. Another group of Kuroi were found in the Apollon sanctuary in the Ptoon Mountains in Boeotia, here Kouros protrudes with bent and outstretched arms . At the end of the Kouroi is the last decade of the 6th century BC. Aristodicos created in the 4th century BC , who already points strongly to classical sculpture and no longer has much in common with the strict formal language of the early Kouroi.

In addition to the Kouroi and Koren, there are mainly reliefs on display. Most of them are grave steles that have a line of development from the Mycenaean period. The fragment of a grave stele (“Stele Diskophorou”), which shows the head of a young man in front of a raised disc , is of outstanding quality . The relief of a gun runner is also important . The naked warrior is shown in motion, possibly during a weapons dance. The trapezoidal shape of the stone is ideally used. Another well-known piece is the grave stele of Aristion by the sculptor Aristocles .

Rooms 14 and 15: strict style

View into room 15.

At the beginning of the two rooms, which house sculptures of the so-called " strict style ", there are heads and hands from the temple of Aphaia on Aegina . Some of these are gable figures, but some are also holy gifts. The "Strict Style" began with the end of the Persian Wars around 480 BC. And lasted until the middle of the 5th century BC. BC, where he was replaced by the Parthenon period. The second room is dominated by the larger than life bronze statue of Poseidon or Zeus from Cape Artemision , possibly a work by the sculptor Kalamis , dating from around 460 BC. Is dated. The Omphalos Apollo is also shown , although this is a marble copy from the 1st century, which was also from 460 BC. Early bronze work by Phidias from BC copied. Furthermore, various grave reliefs are exhibited, which due to the legislation of Kleisthenes from the end of the 6th century BC. BC, which forbade grave luxury, did not come from Attica without exception. The stele of the Amphotto came from Thebes , the consecration relief with Aphrodite's head comes from Melos . The Attic relief, on the other hand, is represented by the votive stele of a self-crowning youth .

Room 16: Attic grave reliefs from the end of the 5th century. v. Chr.

During the Peloponnesian War , the laws against grave luxury were repealed in Athens. The first grave reliefs are still rather small, flat, reserved and rarely show more than one or two figures. But they quickly regain their monumentality. From the beginning the works are influenced by the Parthenon frieze . The grave stele of a youth from Salamis is even ascribed to the Phidias student Agorakritos . In addition to grave reliefs, marble lekyths with relief decorations were also common. The Grablekythos for Myrrhine shows the soul guide Hermes Psychopompos leading a woman into the underworld.

Hall 17: sculptures from temples

The hall shows marble metopes from the Hera temple near Argos . They show an Amazonomachy . Fragments of the eaves molding and a marble head of a Hera statue are also on display. There are also pond reliefs from various sanctuaries. Outstanding pieces are a relief that shows the robbery of the nymph Basile by Echelos , as well as the actor's relief , which shows a stored Dionysus , three actors with their masks and a maenad . It is linked by many researchers to the performance of Euripides ' tragedy " The Bacchae ", which would make it a historical document that goes beyond the artistic aspect.

Room 18: Monumental grave reliefs of the rich style

During the last three decades of the 5th century BC the polis of Athens BC and in the first decade of the 4th century BC Through difficult times including a plague epidemic in which, among other things, Perikles died, had to cope with the defeat in the Peloponnesian War and the rule of the Thirty , art reached a further high point with the Rich Style . The design of the Kerameikos tombs became more and more monumental. Often they took the form of small tombs called Naïskos . The sculptures show the deceased's isolation from the other people depicted. Dexiosis , the handshake between spouses or parents and children , is very popular . The most important pieces are the grave relief of Mikka and Dion and the famous grave stele of Hegeso , which may have been created by Callimachus .

Hall 19: Marble copies of classical bronze works of the 5th century BC Chr.

Round sculptural bronze works have only survived in Greece in exceptional cases, a large part of the often famous works of art were abducted by the Romans and later destroyed due to their material value. In many cases, however, they have been preserved in - often small-format - marble copies. Of particular importance here are several copies of the so-called Kassel Apollo , which shows the god as Apoll Parnopios , locust repeller , and the faithful replica of Athena Parthenos , which is known as " Athena Varvakion " after its place of discovery . You can still imagine the appearance of the original monumental statue through them. Both were originally works by Phidias. Other important works are the Roman bust of Athena vom Pnyx , the relief on a base of a lost statue that was donated as a consecration gift for victory in a weapons dance and the replica of a cult image of the goddess Nemesis from Rhamnous , the original of which was Agorakritos around 430 BC. Had created.

Significant exhibits

The following exhibits are described in separate articles:



  • 2015–2016: A Dream Among Splendid Ruins ... Strolling through the Athens of Travelers, 17th to 19th Century . Backing band.
  • further exhibitions in

See also

Web links

Commons : National Archaeological Museum  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Maro Kardamitsi-Adami, Manos Biris: Neoclassical architecture in Greece . Getty Publications, Los Angeles 2004, ISBN 978-0-89236-775-7 , pp. 146–148 (English, limited preview in Google Book Search - Greek: Neoklasikē architektonikē stēn Hellada . 2001. Translated by David Hardy). ( limited preview in Google Book search)

Coordinates: 37 ° 59 ′ 21 ″  N , 23 ° 43 ′ 57 ″  E