Athens, the capital city of Greece, is a place of great historical and cultural significance. One of the most iconic landmarks in Athens is the Acropolis, which is home to several ancient greek ruins and architectural wonders.
But what many people don’t know is that there is a museum that is dedicated to showcasing the rich history of the Acropolis and its surrounding areas. This museum is none other than the Acropolis Museum, which is a must-visit destination for anyone who is interested in Greek history and culture.
Disclosure: This post does contain affiliate links that I earn a small commission for at no extra cost to you. Any purchases you make through my links help keep the site running. Thanks in advance for your support!
The Acropolis Museum Guide: What to See at the Acropolis Museum
Visiting the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum was officially opened in 2009 and is located at the southeastern edge of the Acropolis rock. It has a total floor area of 25,000 square meters and houses a vast collection of ancient artifacts that date back to the Bronze Age.
I suggest visiting the Acropolis Museum after seeing the Acropolis itself. Both sites complement each other, as Acropolis is proof of the magnitude of ancient greek people, the museum offers visitors a comprehensive overview of the history of the Acropolis and its surrounding areas, and it is a testament to the enduring legacy of ancient Greek civilization.
Whether you are an archaeology enthusiast, a history buff, or simply a curious traveler, a visit to the Acropolis Museum is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
🎫How long does it take to visit the Acropolis Museum? With over 3000 items to see, the Acropolis Museum is definitely not a small museum. I would reserve at least 2 hours to visit this museum.
The Acropolis Museum Highlights
Caryatids of the Erechtheion
Probably the most famous piece on display in the Acropolis museum and one of the most recognizable works of art from ancient Greece worldwide.
These six female figures were used as columns to support the roof of the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis. The Erechtheion was built between 421 and 406 BC, during the Golden Age of Athens, and it was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.
The Caryatids are made of Pentelic marble and stand approximately 2.3 meters tall. Each figure is depicted wearing a flowing robe, a crown, or a headband, and, what called my attention the most, each one of them wears an intricately detailed hairstyle, completely different from one others.
Today, five of the Caryatids are displayed in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, while the sixth is located in the British Museum in London, having been removed during the Ottoman occupation of Greece in the 19th century. While replicas were placed in the Erechtheion as a way to protect their originals.
The Parthenon Frieze is a sculpted marble band that adorned the exterior of the Parthenon temple. It was created in the mid-5th century BC and depicts a procession of Athenians, gods, and mythical figures in honor of the goddess Athena.
The frieze is approximately 160 meters long and 1 meter high, and it originally consisted of 115 blocks of marble, which were individually carved and then fitted together to create the continuous sculpted band. Today, approximately 80 meters of the frieze are preserved, with the remaining sections having been lost or destroyed over time.
The figures are depicted with flowing drapery, graceful poses, and expressive faces, and the scenes are arranged in a continuous narrative that draws the viewer’s eye around the frieze.
Pediments of the Parthenon
The Pediments of the Parthenon are some of the most significant artifacts on display at the Acropolis Museum.
The east pediment of the Parthenon features a depiction of the birth of Athena from the head of her father Zeus. The composition is organized around the central figure of Athena, who stands at the center of the pediment holding her spear and shield. To her right, Zeus is shown seated, while to her left, a group of goddesses known as the Hours is depicted.
The west pediment depicts a scene from the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the patronage of Athens. The composition centers around the figure of Poseidon, who stands at the center of the pediment with his trident, while Athena is shown emerging fully armored from the earth. The composition is also filled with various other figures, including horses, gods, and mortal men.
Some of the original sculptures are housed in the Acropolis Museum, while others are on display at other museums around the world. A significant part is on display at the British Museum and is a subject of controversy. Lord Elgin brought the Elgin Marbles, as it is known, to England in the 19th century, and since them, Greece sought the return of these marbles.
The Moschophoros, also known as the “Calf-Bearer,” is a sculpted marble statue that is believed to have been created in the early 6th century BC and dedicated to the goddess Athena as a thanksgiving offering. It is considered one of the finest examples of Archaic Greek sculpture.
The Moschophoros depicts a young man carrying a calf on his shoulders, a scene that was likely part of a religious procession or sacrifice. One of the most striking features of the Moschophoros is the level of detail and realism in the figure’s anatomy and musculature.
Athena Nike Temple Parapet
The Athena Nike Temple Parapet is a marble frieze from the Temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis that depicts various mythical and historical scenes, including battles and religious ceremonies.
The Temple of Athena Nike was built in the 5th century BC as a small temple dedicated to Athena Nike, the goddess of victory. The parapet is the sculpted band that runs along the top of the temple’s exterior walls, and it is believed to have been created in the 420s BC.
The relief sculptures on the east side of the parapet depict the battle between the gods and the giants, while those on the west side show the battle between the Greeks and the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. The north and south sides of the parapet depict scenes from Athenian religious ceremonies and sacrifices.
The level of detail and realism in the figures and their drapery are striking. The sculptors used the technique of “wet drapery,” in which the folds of the fabric cling to the body, creating a sense of movement and fluidity in the figures.
The Athena Nike Temple Parapet was removed from the Temple of Athena Nike in the 19th century and replaced with plaster casts. The original sculptures were then taken to the British Museum in London, where they remained until the early 21st century. In 2003, the Greek government successfully negotiated the return of the sculptures, and they are now on display at the Acropolis Museum.
This sculpture of a young male figure is considered a masterpiece of the early classical period. It is notable for its realistic depiction of the human form and its innovative contrapposto pose.
The Kritios Boy depicts a nude male figure standing in a relaxed, asymmetrical pose, with his weight shifted onto one leg and his arms held at different angles, a very unusual and innovative pose. The figure’s head is turned slightly to one side, and his face has a serene expression with subtle, lifelike features. The sculptor has also paid great attention to the figure’s musculature, creating a sense of naturalism and movement in the statue.
The statue is named after its discoverer, the German archaeologist Adolf Furtwängler, who found it in 1865 during excavations of the Acropolis. It is thought to have originally been part of a larger sculptural group, possibly depicting the god Apollo or a young athlete.
Archaic Kore Statues
The Archaic Kore Statues are a collection of sculpted figures of young women that were used as dedications to the goddess Athena. They are notable for their intricate clothing and hairstyles.
These statues were created during the Archaic period, which lasted from the 8th to the early 5th century BC, and are considered some of the finest examples of early Greek sculpture.
The term “kore” refers to a type of statue depicting a young woman, usually dressed in a flowing robe and wearing elaborate jewelry and hairstyles. These statues were often used as offerings in Greek temples and were meant to represent the goddess Athena or other female deities.
The Archaic Kore Statues at the Acropolis Museum include several examples of these beautiful and intricate sculptures. One of the most famous is the Peplos Kore, which is believed to have been created around 530 BC. This statue stands nearly 1.2 meters tall and depicts a young woman wearing a peplos, a traditional Greek garment, and a headdress. Her arms are held at her sides, and she has a serene expression on her face. The statue is particularly notable for its elaborate detail, including the intricate folds of the peplos and the intricate patterns on the headdress.
Other kore statues on display at the Acropolis Museum include the Kore of Acropolis, the Kore of Antenor, and the Kore of Hagne. Each of these statues is unique, but all exhibit the characteristic attention to detail and naturalism that are hallmarks of Archaic Greek sculpture.
This sculptural frieze adorned the entrance gate to the Acropolis and depicts various religious and mythological scenes. It is notable for its high level of detail and realism.
The panels are arranged in a continuous narrative, which tells the story of the Panathenaic festival, a major religious celebration held in honor of the goddess Athena.
One of the most famous scenes from the Propylaia Frieze is the depiction of the Panathenaic procession, which shows a group of people carrying offerings to the goddess Athena. The figures are arranged in a dynamic and lifelike way, with each person shown in a different pose and wearing different clothing. This gives the impression of a bustling and crowded procession, bringing to life the energy and excitement of the festival.
Other scenes from the frieze include depictions of the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, as well as various civic and religious ceremonies. The detail and craftsmanship of the frieze are truly remarkable, with every figure and object rendered in exquisite detail.
Today, only a small portion of the Propylaia Frieze remains intact, with much of it lost or destroyed over the centuries.
The Mycenaean Gallery displays artifacts from the Mycenaean civilization, which flourished in Greece during the late Bronze Age (1600-1100 BCE) predating classical Greece.
The gallery showcases a range of objects, including pottery, jewelry, and tools, that offer a glimpse into the daily life, religion, and culture of this ancient civilization.
One of the most striking objects in the gallery is the Mycenaean warrior’s armor, which is made of bronze and includes a helmet, breastplate, and greaves. The armor provides insight into the military culture of the Mycenaeans, who were known for their prowess in battle.
Another important artifact in the gallery is the Mask of Agamemnon, a gold funerary mask that was discovered in the royal tombs at Mycenae. The mask is believed to have been created in the 16th century BCE and is one of the most famous examples of Mycenaean art.
Bust of Alexander the Great
The bust is made of white marble and was discovered in 1886 near the Erechtheion. Opinions of when the statue was made differ, but it is believed to date back to the 2nd century BC.
The bust portrays Alexander with his trademark flowing hair and intense gaze, still at a young age, as he would be when he visited Athens after the Batlle of Chaironeia in 338 BC.