The first Acropolis Museum was completed in 1874, right next to the Parthenon. However, after a century it was more than necessary a new one to be built as the existing was too small. Plus, Greek government saw this as the perfect opportunity to increase its chances for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, that are being displayed on the British Museum.
Alexander the Great
So after many years, the new Museum was finally founded in 2003. Built in Dionisiou Areopagitou, one of the most historic streets of Athens and less than 10 minutes from the Acropolis, it is a building that amazes every visitor. Architect Bernard Tschumi did a great job trying to combine classical and modern architecture, and the result is a museum that involves three concepts : movement, light and a tectonic & programmatic concept. During your visit to the museum, you will find out what Tschumi had on his mind. He wanted to offer the visitor the chance to walk through time and feel like he is on the Acropolis Hill. Moreover, one important fact that should be taken into consideration is that it’s based on natural light.
Excavation at the entrance
Before entering the museum, you will be able to see a small ancient settlement that had been discovered during the construction. Excavation is still on progress, as this area has been inhabited for dozens of centuries.
And after that, it’s time to start exploring the Greek civilization. On the first level there are the findings of the slopes of the Acropolis, that was full of houses, public buildings and sanctuaries.The upward slope alludes to the ascent to it. You will be able to see some of the finds that Athenians used in their everyday life to cook, to drink or to save items. I am sure that you will notice lots of objects from weddings or others that were found in tombs. The reason behind this is that wedding and death were two very important periods of human life for the ancient Greeks.
Statues from the slopes of the Acropolis
On the slopes of the Sacred Rock there were also some sanctuaries. On this level the visitor can see dedications from them. These are the sanctuary of Nymphe (protectress of marriage), the sanctuary of Asklipios (god of medicine) that was also used as a sanatorium, and the sanctuary of Dionysus(god of wine, fertility, religious ecstacy and theatre) which included a theater.
Scene from ancient Greek theater
On this level, you will have the chance to learn the history of Athens and the Acropolis. From the very first years when there was a smaller temple at the site where the Acropolis was built later (called Hekatompedos), till the 5th century AD and the relationship between Athens and Roman Empire. That’s why there are portraits of Roman emperors.
In case you didn’t know, Athens was named after the Goddess Athena, which was the daughter of Zeus and protectress of the city. Athena had many epithets, such as Nike, Poliada and Ergane. Near the Parthenon there is the temple of Athena Nike, and here you can see balustrade slabs from it or votives.
Roman emperor Lucius Verus
But the Parthenon and the one of Athena Nike weren’t the only temples. Another famous is the Erechtheion. It was considered to be the most sacred area of the Acropolis, and is dedicated to Athena and some other gods and local heroes. The amazing fact about it is that at the south porch the roof was supported by six statues of maidens, known as Caryatides. You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see them (although one of them is at the British Museum), and learn about the innovative program of their conservation and restoration.
Athenians also used to write down the decisions that were made on the public meetings. Don’t forget that they were the ones that came up with democracy. So, there are decrees for honoured citizens and foreigners and others recording the conditions of the alliances (common phenomenon in ancient Greece).
Decree for the alliance between Athens and Kerkyra (Corfu)
Finally, other finds that are on this level include portraits of gods, heroes or famous locals, male or female statues, marble sphinxs and the pediment of Hekatompedos.
This level is completely dedicated to the Parthenon. Walking around feels like walking right next to it. And what is more, you have a perfect view to the Sacred Rock. There are three kinds of exhibits from the Parthenon : the metopes, the frieze and the pediments. The 92 metopes depict 4 scenes from the Greek history & mythology that I would recommend to read if you haven’t already done this. These scenes are the Gigantomachy, the Amazonomachy, the Centauromachy and the Sack of Troy.
The frieze depicts the Great Panathinaia, which was the biggest festival in ancient Athens, included sacrifices, rituals, athletic and musical contests and took place every 4 years. Unfortunately, less than 50% of the frieze that survives today is at the Acropolis Museum.
Last but not least, you should see the statues from the Parthenon’s pediments. Their theme is so special, as half of them depict the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus, and the rest of them the fight between her and Poseidon for the claim of Attica.
East pediment of the Parthenon
• Admission fee is 5 euros
• The museum is open every day, except from NYE, Christmas and Easter day and 1 May
• The night of August’s full moon the museum remains open until late at night. So, it’s a great chance to visit it then, relax and see the Acropolis by night.
• Last year, the museum was 3rd on the top-50 list of The Financial Times.
• There are many finds from the Acropolis that are on museums such as the British Museum, the Louvre, the Vatican etc.
Part of Erechtheion's frieze