As part of our continuing relationship with Falangas Tours, based in the United States, we present this first blog post about the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. This is a phenomenal new museum and offers visitors exceptional opportunities to view, study and learn about the treasures of ancient Greece. Read on!
Hello! My name is Antiope Petronikolou and I am a professor of philology and literature. I studied history and philosophy at the University of Bucharest, Romania, and Greek philology at the University of Athens, Greece. I have worked in secondary education in the Athens area for many years, teaching Ancient and Modern Greek, history, and literature.
My commitment to teaching the above disciplines and my love for Classical culture incited my desire to join as a volunteer the team of FalangasTours, LLC and contribute to the success of their cultural tours. My principal aim is to help travelers become familiar with destinations related to the ancient Greek civilization.
My participation in this cultural tourism project is also due to my admiration for Professor Andronikos Falangas, for his mind, character, spirit, and passion.
Please see below a brief presentation of the new Acropolis Museum, based on a recent educational visit I organized for my students. I will be more than happy to see you in Athens.
A Tour to the Acropolis Museum
4.000 Exhibits from the Acropolis Archaeological Site in a 150,000 Square Feet Space
The new Acropolis Museum was built to shelter every ancient object found on the “Sacred Rock” of the Acropolis. Its collections cover a long period of time that extends from the Mycenaean Age (ca 1600-1100 BCE) to Roman and Early Christian Athens. It is located close to the Acropolis Hill, in the archaeological site of Macriyanni, an integral part of Roman and Byzantine Athens.
The new Acropolis Museum opened its doors to visitors in the summer of 2009. It is a modern, austere, clear-cut, and in no case pretentious building. It is intended to not distract visitors’ attention from the unique artwork in its interior, so that it may incite curiosity, admiration, and emotion. The museum faces the Acropolis Hill and offers a splendid view of its monuments, and also a panoramic vista of the modern city extending down the hill below.
Before entering the museum, visitors see the archaeological excavations through a glass platform leaning on carefully built concrete supports. The ancient findings lying under their feet create the amazing feeling of walking through a 3.000-year-old Athenian neighborhood.
First Level – Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis
After crossing the museum’s threshold, visitors cannot avoid the emotional charge, as they find themselves surrounded by artistic creations coming from the small or large temples and nearby dwellings built on the rocky slopes of the Acropolis, a transition zone between the city of Athens and its sacred citadel. All these findings are eloquent witnesses of the city’s public and private life.
Visitors are symbolically moving up the “Sacred Rock,” as they are crossing a long uneven rectangular hall that enables them to contemplate the Acropolis’s past over a period of 1.000 years, from the Archaic to the Roman Imperial period (7th c. BCE – 3rd c. CE). In the hall’s south side, they see a wide range of findings: artifacts from houses and tombs; sculptures from the House of Proklos; offerings from the small temples of Celestial Aphrodite, Eros, Pan, Aglaurus, and Apollo. The north side is dedicated to pottery and votive tablets from the temples of Asclepius and Dionysus. At the top of the monumental stairway leading to the next level, you may have like me the strong sensation of having ascended the Acropolis Hill.
Exterior view of Archaeological Museum Athens
A large trapezoidal hall is the characteristic feature of the second level. It houses objects dating from the Mycenaean Age (2.000-1.100 BCE) to the Archaic (800– 480 BCE) and early Classical periods (5th c. BCE). They are displayed in the following order:
- Archaic exhibits: architectural sculpture and building parts from the Older Parthenon (ca 490 BCE).
- Votive sculpture from workshops in the Cycladic islands of Naxos and Paros.
- Early Attic sculpture: Moschophoros—Calf-bearer (ca 560 BCE), etc.
- Sculpture from the middle Archaic period: Peplos Kore (maiden) (ca 530 BCE), etc.
- Votive statues from horsemen: Rampin Rider (ca 550 BCE), etc.
- Monumental Attic sculpture: Antenor Kore (ca 520 BCE), etc.
- Kore (maiden) statues and other sculpture from the late Archaic and early classical periods: Nike of Callimachos (490 BCE), Kritios Boy (ca 480 BCE), the marble relief of Mourning Athena (ca 460 BCE), etc.
The northwest side of the hall accommodates exhibits that followed the construction of the Parthenon (447 BCE).
The tall concrete columns evoke the architecture of the large Greek sanctuaries inspiring esthetic awe. The glass walls allow the daylight to penetrate and genuinely highlight the exhibits in a way that changes their aspects and dimensions depending on the time of the day.
Anteroom preceding the glass hall with the Parthenon sculptures:
- Architectural members from Propylaea and related inscriptions.
- Sculptures from the Temple of Athena Nike (ca 420 BCE) and parts of the frieze of the building’s entablature.
- Parts of the frieze at the Erechtheion (406 BCE) and inscriptions related to the temple’s construction.
- The famous Caryatids, the original maiden statues from the south porch of the Erecthteion. They are put in a prominent place on a specially made platform.
- Sculptural complexes and other artwork from the Classical era to Late Antiquity (5th BCE – 4th c. CE).
All sculptures from the Parthenon still existing in Athens are exhibited on the museum’s upper level in a special hall surrounded by glass walls. Its dimensions are the same as those of the inner chamber of a Classical temple, so that the elements of the frieze can be displayed as they were originally in the Parthenon. The frieze, almost 5 feet tall, immortalizes the Panathinaic procession to the Acropolis, part of the festival held in honor of goddess Athena, and the related offering of the robe for the statue of goddess that was kept in the Parthenon.
The marble sculpted panels (metopes) that were decorating the top of the walls of the Parthenon look like supporting the hall’s ceiling. They depict legendary battles among gods and humans: Trojan War: Centauromachy, Amazonomachy, Trojan War.
The sculptures of the Parthenon’s pediments are placed in a way that makes them widely visible. The east pediment represents the birth of Athena from Zeus’s head in presence of other gods and humans as well. The west pediment illustrates the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the land of Attica.
The original artwork collocates with the copies of the ancient sculptures displayed in foreign museums.
The Acropolis Museum keeps in its bosom Archaic and Classical masterpieces, unique creations of the ancient Greek civilization and treasures of the world heritage. They offer to each of us a unique experience, further initiating us to the mysteries of the finest and always man-centered aesthetics.
For further reading:
Do you know that Parthenon means the temple of the virgin goddess? The term derives from parthenos, virgin in Greek. In fact, Athena was one of the three Greek virgin goddesses, Hestia and Artemis being the other two. And Parthenon was dedicate to the cult of Athena. According to an Athenian tradition, the temple also commemorates four other virgins, the daughters of legendary King Erechtheus of Athens. We should then keep in mind that the most important monument of Classical Age is related to women.