THE NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM (Athens)
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.
THE POSEIDON OF ARTEMISION
Is it a statue of Poseidon or Zeus? The archaeologists still argue about it. The bronze statue, one of the masterpieces of Classical sculpture, was found in 1928, in the wreckage of a ship off cape Artemision. Its height is 2.09m and it is one of the few original bronze statues that survive.
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 ofArtemision.
This beautiful and well preserved relief from Eleusis, which was sculpted circa 440-430 B.C., depicts Demeter presenting Triptolemos, 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.
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 B.C.).
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 ARTEMISION
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.
MARBLE VOTIVE RELIEF: 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.
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
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 B.C). It was
found in a ship wreckage near Antikythera in 1900.
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 B.C.).
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 B.C.). You can see the mask in the Hall of
Mycenaean Antiquities, which is right opposite the entrance hall, together with other items
(jewellery, gold artifacts, swords and so on), found in the royal tombs of Mycenae.
The most important exhibits of the Thera exhibition are the frescos. Unearthed at Akrotiri on Thera, they are the earliest example of largescale painting in Europe. These wall paintings are a
valuable source of information on prehistoric life in the Aegean during the Bronze Age.
It depicts a rocky site overgrown with bright red lilies and swallows flying in pairs or by themselves.
THE FRESCO OF THE FISHERMAN
One of the better preserved, it shows a nude fisherman holding two strings of fish.
THE FRESCO OF THE BOXING CHILDREN
Here you see two children boxing. The one on the left wears boxing gloves and earrings. Notice their almond shaped eyes.