The Acropolis Museum

The Acropolis Museum (1866-1873) stands in the south eastern corner of the sacred rock and houses finds from excavations on the Acropolis.  There are nine galleries in all which display, in chronological order, the strides forward made by art in the most brilliant period of Athenian history.

There are two periods of Greek art which are glorified on the Acropolis, the Archaic and the Classical.  By strange good fortune, disaster salvaged the former for us.  In 480 BCE, the Persians occupied Athens for a short period of time demolishing the treasures of the Acropolis.  When the victorious Athenians returned shortly afterwards,  the ruins were buried with reverence in hollows in the rock where they remained forgotten for centuries, thus avoiding the disasters and thefts which subsequently laid waste the Acropolis. 

The classical votives did not have the same luck.  Very important statues of bronze and marble, works of the best known artists of antiquity have been lost forever.  Their existence is known only from the precious description of the traveler Pausanias (middle of the 2nd century CE).   Fortunately, several of the sculptures which adorned the monuments have survived from this period.  Most have been taken abroad, mainly to the British Museum, part of them are still in-situ on the monuments and others are on display in the Acropolis Museum.

Click on the thumbnails below in order to see pictures of the Acropolis Museum.  Use your browser's back button to return to this page.  The exhibits are arranged in roughly chronological order, archaic to classical periods.

Lioness killing a cowLioness killing a cow from the decoration of the pediment of a large poros temple of circa 600 BCE, perhaps the first post-Geometric phase of the so-called "Old Temple" of Athena Polias. GorgonHead and small part of the body of a marble Gorgon.  The Gorgon was the acroterium of a large temple from the beginning of the 6th century BCE, perhaps the Old Temple of Athena. SnakeLarge snake from the decoration of the rear frieze of the large temple.
Hercules wrestling with a Triton

Hercules wrestling with a Triton (a sea demon half man, half fish) on the left extremity of the composition of the pediment from a large temple of the beginning of the 6th century BCE, perhaps the Old Temple of Athena.
Three Bodied DemonThis is Nereas, demon of the watery element who was continually changing shape.  It's portrayed here as a winged, three bodied demon with a serpent's tail on the right extremity of the same pediment at left.  Each of the three demons holds a symbol in its hands, water, fire and a bird (a symbol of air). Hercules on Olympus

The narrative style of this period is admirably represented by the pediment of the deification of Hercules on Olympus.  Zeus majestically seated with Hera at his side received the mighty hero on Olympus.  The temple which was the source of this pediment is unknown.
MoschophorosThe marble Moschophoros (calf-bearer) dated to 570 BCE. According to the inscription on its base, it was offered by Romvos, certainly a noble man from the countryside, who is portrayed advancing joyfully to proffer his calf to Athena.  Eyes full of light and a deeply human smile give life to his innocent face. Marble QuadrigaMarble quadriga (four-horse chariot), 'ex voto' of 570 BCE. The Persian RiderThe Persian Rider, a marble horseman of 560-550 BCE. During the archaic period, statues of horsemen were a significant class of dedications made in the sanctuary of Athena. The reasons for making these dedications are not known. Perhaps they were offerings made by knights, i.e. the second highest class in Athenian society during the archaic period.
Two lions killing a bullTwo lions killing a bull from the center of the pediment of the Old Temple of Athena.  They occupied the center of the same pediment on which Hercules and the Triton as well as the three bodied demon occupied the two corners.  The subject is of the same quality as that of the corners but differs in that this composition, being later than the other, is less constricted.  The bodies are more realistic and the movement faster and more violent, the realism almost raw. Marble SphinxMarble sphinx of 560 BCE. Marble SphinxMarble sphinx of 540 BCE.
PeplophorosMarble kore, usually referred to as the Peplophoros, or Peplos Kore, on account of the peplos, a simple unpleated garment of Doric provenance, which she is wearing.  Superior, with its phenomenally rigid stance, radiant face, eyes full of light, finely chiseled face, this work of circa 525 BCE must have come from the chisel of a great artist of the era.  There are still traces of color preserved on her eyes, lips and curly hair, which was held by a metal diadem. Marble DogLifelike marble hunting dog (530 - 520 BCE) presumed to have guarded the sanctuary of Brauronian Artemis, attributed to the same artist as the Peplophoros. Marble lion head waterspoutMarble lion head waterspout from the Old Temple of Athena, just south of the Erechtheion, which the sons of Peisistratos rebuilt in honor of Athena around 525 BCE (3rd post-Geometric phase).  The lion head, its savage expression strikingly rendered, is vividly painted on the mane, jaws, and eyes and framed by a painted palmetto.
Marble Athena from PedimentLarge marble Athena from the pediment bearing a representation of Gigantomachy from the Old Temple, as it was renovated in 525 BCE by the sons of Peisistratos (3rd phase of the Old Temple).  The pediment represents the battle of the Olympian gods with the Giants.  Athena is portrayed launching into battle with a wide stride, allowing her terrifying aegis with its snakes to billow as she stoops over an opponent to deliver the final blow. Marble koreMarble kore of 510 BCE, perhaps of Peloponnesian workmanship.  The kores are simply votive statues of young maidens that brought pleasure to the goddess who was evidently more delighted with these offerings than with any other.  They do not depict specific persons nor are they exclusively female votives. Marble KoreMarble kore of 500 BCE.  The korai (young maiden kores as opposed to kouroi, the young males) are clothed in rich robes and with their hair elaborately dressed.  They stand straight and with the facial expression typical of Archaic art (the Archaic smile).  In one hand, they hold offerings (flowers, birds, fruit) while the other raises their dress.

The Kritios BoyThe Kritios Boy, a very beautiful marble statue of an ephebe athlete, certainly the victor in some contest.  The Archaic conception of the supporting of the body on both feet has been abandoned.  The right limb has been freed, the body turned to the same side as the inclined head and the expression is serious.  Classical art commences with the "severe style".  Work of 480 BCE attributed to the sculptor, Kritios, the teacher of Myron.

Pensive AthenaThe votive relief of Athena, who leans on her spear with her head inclined pensively, is one of the most famous and yet most unpretentious works.  It has an aura of finesse, sensitivity and austerity. The goddess is clad in an Attic peplos with a belt and slightly bends her head towards the stele depicted in front of her. Work of 460 BCE.

Nike adjusting her sandalNike unloosening her sandal.  The relief is from the parapet of the bastion of the temple of Athena Nike. Dated to circa 410 BCE.
Chariot horses from Parthenon friezeA portion of the Parthenon frieze.  Chariot and apobates (slaves riding the chariot horses) are depicted as part of the Panathenaic Procession. Youth leading cow to sacrificeA youth leading a cow to sacrifice from the Parthenon's north frieze.

Pitcher bearers from Parthenon friezeYoung pitcher bearers (hydriaphoroi) from the Parthenon frieze.

Poseidon, Apollo and ArtemisSection of the eastern Ionic frieze which ran around the  Parthenon inside the peristyle.  A masterpiece of the sculptor Phidias, this depicted - on a surface with a total length of 160 meters - the most important religious ceremony to take place in Athens: the Panathenaic Procession. The Great Panathenaea was held every four years in honor of Athena Polias and culminated with the symbolic endowment of the wooden cult statue of Athena Polias in the Erechtheum with a new robe.  From the left, Poseidon, Apollo and Artemis watch the presentation of the 'peplos' to the statue of Athena.

Alexander the GreatHead of Alexander the Great.  The Macedonian king is represented as a youth with luxuriantly wavy locks which rise upward from above the middle of his forehead like a lion's mane, a characteristic known from all Alexander portraits.  Probably an original work of the sculpture, Leochares, carved around 330 BCE.

Back to Athens & Attica

Rings page   Grisel's Home Page   Email Grisel

Go to the Ancient Agora

Sign Guestbook   Guestbook   View Guestbook

All pictures are Copyright 2000 Grisel Gonzalez and Jeff Prosise