June 3rd, 2014
Our second full day of sightseeing was dedicated to museums. Our strategy for today was to take a taxi to the National Archeological Museum, arriving as it first opened to avoid the crowds. This worked out really well, as we had the place practically to ourselves.
I think that the first thing that struck us was just how long ago man had occupied this area of Greece. As far back as 2,300 BC, in the Early Cycladic Period, people were living in this area and fashioning art objects, like these figurines or vases or painted pottery pieces.
As early as 3.200 – 2,800 BC, people were using black Obsidian knives to carve beautiful marble vases.
This is a burial mask once thought to belong to King Agamemnon (c. 1200 BC), but later found to predate him by several hundred years.
In the center of this first picture is the gold burial plating for an infant. on the right, is a very detailed gold ornament.
The sheer amount of gold leaf on display at this museum and the detailed construction of the pieces left us very impressed…..
Along with gold ornamentation, there were many examples of bronze weaponry…..
As well as bronze pots and cooking utensils.
I think what we most enjoyed about our tour of the Archeological Museum was following along with Rick Steves Audio tour and learning all about the evolution of artistic expression.
There were many examples of Kore (clothed women) or Kouros (naked men) which are life sized statues in the Egyptian form, with stiff, bodies and blank, or serene, facial features. This statue is c. 650 BC.
As the art forms evolved, people were depicted as much more proportional, and life-like, and often in motion.
C 460 BC, this bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon (they are not sure which, because the staff he held is gone) is symmetrical, proportional, and shown with dynamic tension.
The facial features are serious (not serene) and expresses noble strength and heroism. Greece was entering her Golden age, having emerged victorious over Persia, and the art reflected that pride.
This is a small scale (1/12th) replica of the 40 foot statue of Athena that stood in the Parthenon (c. 438 BC) Athena was said to love snakes, which shed their skin, signifying renewal. The small statuette of Nike which is held in her hand would have originally been 6 foot tall.
There were many of these carved marble tombstones on display. They represent Greek Golden Age Art……
With a mastery of the body to convey emotion.
And finally, this bronze statue of a young boy (he is a jockey riding a horse) c 140 BC. A good example of Hellenistic art, the boy has the features of a non-Greek (perhaps Ethiopian) and shows unbridled emotion.
This evolution of artistic style, something that we had never been exposed to, was a real learning experience.
From the Archeological Museum, we took the metro back to the area of our hotel and walked over to the New Acropolis Museum. This museum was opened in 2009 and was built to show case the treasures of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Though it had far fewer exhibits than the Archeological Museum, it was impressive and well done.
Unfortunately, picture taking was prohibited, so we don’t have pics to post. However, I pulled these pictures off the Internet to give you an idea.
The building is modern and the top floor is set at an angle to parallel the Parthenon.
As you first walk in, you are greeted by a display of statues that are either original, or replicas of those taken from the Acropolis.
This display is of the Caryatids (the women from the porch of the Erechtheion). These are four of the original statues, the fifth and sixth figures are on display in other museums.
The crowning glory of the Acropolis Museum is the top floor dedicated to the Parthenon Marbles.
This floor is set up to duplicate the size and layout of the Parthenon. You stroll around the outer edge, with the carved marble panels of the Parthenon frieze depicting the Panathenaic Parade- horses, oxen, dancing girls, and all – encircling the perimeter.
The marble reliefs are displayed in their entirety, with signs telling you which are original, and which are replicas of those that Sir Elgin took with him to the British Museum. This is a bit of a sore subject for Athens, as they now have a place to display the missing marbles and REALLY want them back.
This display put the final touch to our experience of the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
They say that you need a couple of days to see Athens….and then get out! This seemed about right. Athens is a big city, after all. We were glad to have had two full days to sightsee, but felt as though we saw what we had come to see.
The next day, we would have a bit more time to look around, then we would be boarding our cruise ship for a 9 day cruise of the Greek isles and Turkey.