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Acropolis Museum

The former Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum is considered to be one of the most important museums in the world. It displays some of the masterpieces of ancient Greek art dedicated to the most significant sanctuary of Athens, that of Athena Polias and of the Parthenon.

The building is situated on the Sacred Rock, the Acropolis, east of the Parthenon. It was designed by the architect Panagis Kalkos and was built between 1865 and 1874. During the 1950s, it was extended eastwards. Today de construction of the new museum has begun on the corner of the Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and the Makrygianni Street in the neighborhood with the same name next to the Acropoli metro Station on the site of the old military hospital known as the Weiler building. It was built in 1834 by the Bavarian architect Wilhelm von Weiler and was one of the first impressive public edifices of the new capital of the Greek State. Today it houses the Centre for Acropolis Studies.

Only stone sculptures from monuments and excavations in the Acropolis area are included in the museum’s collections. Pottery and bronzes are kept in the National Archaeological Museum, while inscriptions are in the Epigraphic Museum.

The Acropolis Museum exhibits sculpted votive objects and pediments of the Archaic period, sculptures of the Severe style period, fragments of the Parthenon pediments, metopes and frieze, parts of the Erechteion frieze and the parapets and frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike. In addition, there are the original caryatids (all but one) and the terracotta figurines and pottery from the Shrine of the Nymph, excavated at the foot of the rock.

Most of the pediments, metopes and the frieze of the Parthenon as well as one caryatid were stolen at the beginning of the 19th century by the Englishman, Lord Elgin. They now are exhibited at the British Museum in London. Top

The entrance and room 1

Right from the museum’s entrance and set on a high pedestal, there is an owl, the sacred bird of Athena, dated to 500 BC. In the vestibule opposite the entrance, is a sculpture complex of the 5th century BC attributed to Alkamenes, Pheidias’ pupil. It depicts Procne, the mythical queen of Trace, planning to murder her son Itys to avenge her husband’s infidelity. In the same room there is an idealized bust of Alexander the Great, probably the work of Leochares who depicted the Macedonian King on the occasion of his sole visit to Athens after his victory at Chaeronea in 338 BC.

Right section of a limestone pediment depicting a lioness eating a small bull. This may have come from the east pediment of the Hecatompedos (one of the Pre-Parthenons). It dates back to the early 6th century BC. The head of the lioness looks like that of a male lion and one is led to the conclusion that it is a female animal because of its breasts whose nipples are painted red - Acropolis MuseumThe tour of the museum’s main room starts with a display of corks of the early 6th century BC. Especially impressive is the monumental poros complex of a lioness tearing up a calf. It comes from the pediment of a large temple dated to ca. 600 BC, perhaps from the ancient Temple of Athena Polias. Next to it is another, smaller, stone pediment belonging to a small temple or a treasury. It shows Herakles fighting the Lernaian Hydra while his friend Iolaos waits form him in his chariot. The ancient colors (red and deep blue) have been very well preserved.

Opposite is a marble Gorgon. Only the head and a small part of the body survived. It was an acroterion of a large temple from the beginning of the 6th century BC. It possibly belongs to the second construction phase of the ancient Temple of Athena. The fragments of the marble panthers exhibited on the left of the entrance, as well as the head of the panther displayed near the second room, probably belong to the frieze of the same temple. It is also likely that the fragment with the polychrome inscribed lotus flower belongs to the poros cornice of the same temple. Top

Room 2

The sculptures in the second room are also dated to the first half of the 6th century BC. On the long wall on the right there is a poros pediment also possibly from the second construction phase of the ancient Temple of Athena. At one end, Herakles is shown fighting the sea-demon Triton, half One of the oldest and most impressive votive offerings on the Acropolis and one of the few depicting a man, is the Moschophoros (calf-bearer), a statue made ca. 570 BC of Hymittos marble by an unknown sculptor. An inscription on the base bears the name of Rhombos, the patron who offered it - Acropolis Museumman, half fish, while at the other end there is a polychrome winged tri-bodied demon with a serpent’s tail. Part of the same pediment is also possibly thought to be the scene of Herakles’ apotheosis where Zeus, seated on a throne, and Hera, standing beside him, receive the hero on Olympus.

The big serpents beneath the window possibly decorated the other pediment of the same temple. However, it should be noted that the poros and marble sculptures, have recently been associated with the early archaic predecessor of the Parthenon, from written sources known as the Hekatompedon.

One of the freestanding votive sculptures of the sanctuary is the statue of the calf-bearer (570 BC) in the middle of the room. According to the inscription on its base, the statue was dedicated by someone called Rombos. Behind the calf-bearer stands the earliest kore of the Acropolis. Top

Room 3

Two of the kori (plural for kore) from Naxos are shown in the third room. Beside them, two lions tear up a bull, a piece possibly belonging to the centre of the pediment together with Herakles, the Trition and the tri-bodied demon.

Room 4

The Rider Rampin, 550 BC. The head of the rider was found in Athens in 1877 and was bought by the collector Georges Rampin who then donated it to the Louvre. The statue was found in 1886 - Acropolis MuseumThe fourth room contains marble sculptures of the second half of the 6th century BC. Entering the room, visitors face the Horseman also known as the Rider Rampin. The original head of the figure, which has been replaced by a plaster copy, is at the Louvre in Paris. The sculpture belonged to the French collector G. Rampin and has been named after him. The Horseman is also called the Persian because his attire is influenced by the East (for example his short chiton with painted palmettes and his breeches). Around him, a group of bigger and smaller horsemen of the Late Archaic period are shown, representing a votive equestrian group.

The marble dog in the middle of the room was probably the guardian of the entrance to the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia. The marble lion-head on the dividing wall served as a water sprout of the ancient Temple of Athena (ca. 525 BC). Beside it is a small relief showing Hermes leading some nymphs.

Amongst the valuable exhibits in this room are the statues of the kori (young girls), the most prominent of the votive sculptures from the period 530 to 500 BC. They are lined up in chronological order along the long wall and in a semicircle at the far end of the room. The kore beside the entrance is known as the Lyon kore. Most of her upper body and the head are plaster copies of the original which is in the French town of Lyon.

A little further is the Peplos kore. She wears a chiton and a richly adorned peplos. The colors of her eyes, lips and wavy hair, held by a metal wreath, are still preserved; The small-figured kore with a sweet smile and also richly colored, is the work of a Chian artist. On both sides of the dividing wall at the far end of the room, are the heads of kori statues. The showcases on the left contain terracotta figurines and vessels from the shrine of a nymph, excavated at the foot of the rock.

A seated Athena in the center of the kori semicircle is probably the work of the sculptor Endios and one of the very few to have survived the Persian destruction of 480 BC. Beside her is the kore with the almond-shaped eyes. She wears a chiton and a short himation fastened on the left shoulder. Her wreath and her dress were adorned with a painted meander band (500 BC). Top

Room 5 & 6

The fifth room of the Acropolis museum is dominated by the bigger than life-size marble figures from the eastern pediment of the ancient Temple of Athena. This pediment relates to the gigantomachy (battle with the giants). The exhibits show Athena fighting a giant. The entire work is dated to ca. 520 BC, the period when the Peisistratids (people under the rule of Peisistratos) gave the temple a face-lift.

The Kritias Boy (ca. 480 BC), is the marble statue of an ephebe (a youth between the ages 18 and 20) attributed to the sculptor Kritos or Kritias who, working with the sculptor Nesiotes, made a copy of Antinor's work The Tyrannicides, which the Persians took with them when they left. It was a milestone between the Archaic art and the conquests of the 5th century. The statue no longer is two dimensional and the inclination of the back gives the statue a greater flexibility. The eyes are inset and the long, wavy hair is rolled up around the head - Acropolis MuseumThe largest of the kori, a work by the sculptor Antenor dedicated by the potter Nearchos, is on the right side of the room. In a small side-room, known as the alcove, the frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike is exhibited. Exact cement copies have replaced the original stones on the monument.

Sculptures in the Severe style (first half of the 5th century BC) have been assembled in the sixth room. Attention of the visitors is drawn to the Kritias Boy, the statue of a youth with long wavy hair twined around his head. It is the work of Kritios, teacher of Myron and it is dated 480 BC. Beside it is the head of the Blond Youth. Traces of golden-yellow color are preserved in his hair.

The relief of the Mourning Athena is dated to 460 BC. The goddess wears an Attic belted peplos and bends her head slightly towards the stele in front of her. Of particular interest is the Sulky Kore, so named because it does not have the characteristic Archaic smile, dedicated by Euthydikos. Top

Room 7, 8 & 9

Fragments from the west (Cecrops and his daughter and Poseidon) and the east (Selene with her chariot and the horses with the neighing heads) pediment of the Parthenon are exhibited in the seventh room. There also is a metoop showing a centaur grabbing a Lapith woman by the waist and a head of Iris that belongs to the eastern frieze of the temple.

Fragments from the friezes of the Parthenon, the Erechteion and the parapet of the Temple of Athena Nike are shown in room eight. Pieces from the northern frieze of the Parthenon (440 BC) were placed along the long wall of the room: young horsemen, chariots and water-bearers, olive-branch bearers and youths leading lambs or bulls for sacrifice.Two of the five original Caryatids (420 BC) in the Acropolis Museum. The Caryatids are statues of young women dressed in a peplos. They supported the roof of the south porch of the Erechtheion and probably were the work of Alkamenes, a student of the great sculptor Pheidias - Acropolis Museum

The exhibit with the Olympian gods (Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis and Aphrodite) receiving the procession, belongs to the eastern frieze. Fragments from the Erechteion frieze (409-406 BC) are on display on the small dividing wall in the middle of the room. In the corner of the room there are pieces of the parapet from the tower of the Temple of Athena Nike (410 BC) with scenes of Nike leading bulls to sacrifice and a young Nike bending to tie or untie her sandal.

In a specially air-controlled chamber in the last room, the original caryatids (all but one) of the Erechteion are on display.

Visitors are allowed to make photos in the Acropolis Museum but without the use of a flash. Out of respect for the historical value, it is not allowed to pose in front of the exhibits and have your photo taken.

The first floor of this brand new museum will be open to the public at the end of October and the rest of the building in 2008.

InformationThe old museum on top of the Acropolis closed its doors in July 2007 to prepare the works of art to be moved to the new museum. The brand new Acropolis Museum opens its doors to the public on 20 June 2009.. It will house more than 3.000 ancient Greek works of art. There is no possibility of visiting the museum before this date.

Locaton map Acropolis
Nearest metro station Acropoli

For typical words, please consult our Greek Glossary

Photo gallery See photos of the exhibits of the Acropolis Museum


   Entrance and Room 1
   Room 2
   Room 3
   Room 4
   Room 5 and 6
   Room 7, 8 and 9

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