Spring Break: The National Archaeological Museum

For my last full day in Athens, Haley and I planned a day to ourselves as the other two girls, Joc and Sarah, were in Nafplio and J.T. wanted a day to himself. We began with breakfast at DaVinci Gelato as we had passed their store-front at least two times a day. Unfortunately, though their website said they opened at nine, in reality they began serving at ten so we sat on a bench out front and people-watched for 30 minutes. Once we were able to go in and order, we chose the Ferrero “Donut on a Stick” and then just regular donuts. The “Donut on a Stick” turned out to be ice cream in a chocolate shell which was interesting, but not the best for breakfast.

The window of DaVinci Gelato showing dipped cones, different flavours of “Donut on a Stick,” and gelato.
The Ferrero “Donut on a Stick.”

We then headed to the National Archaeological Museum. Established in 1829, it has been expanded multiple times and now houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece from prehistory to late antiquity.

The courtyard and entrance to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The museum features seven different collections in addition to multiple special exhibits. Below are some of my favourite pieces, starting with a bronze statue of a horse and young jockey, known as the “Artemision Jockey” from around 140 BC. It was retrieved in pieces from the shipwreck off Cape Artemision in Euboea and reassembled in 1971.

The back of the “Artemision Jockey.” The rider would have held his whip in this hand.
The front of the “Artemision Jockey.” The rider would have held the reins in this hand.

Another bronze statue, this sculpture is either of Zeus or Poseidon from 460 BC. He was found in the sea of Cape Artemision, in northern Euboea, by fishermen in 1928. His left arm had been brought up two years earlier. The divine symbol (lightning bolt or trident) that he held is still lost in the sea, hence the difficulty in identification.

The larger-than-life sculpture of Zeus or Poseidon.

My favourite exhibit, a special collection in fact, was titled “Odysseys” and focused on sea travel in Ancient Greece. Quotes from famous Greek mythological writers about sailing and the ocean were written on the walls.

Marine style Minoan vases featuring octopi.
A marble statue of an unkown figure.

The wall-painting of Spring, it was created in 1970 and portrays an imagined Theran landscape in early spring.

The wall-painting of Spring.

In addition to sculptures and pottery, the museum also featured some skeletons from the tombs in the Kerameikos. Dated to mid-400 BC, the bodies were accompanied by numerous grave offerings.

One of the skeletons from the tombs of Kerameikos.

The second floor of the museum featured a large collection of vases and other works of pottery. From Eretria, this vase from 450 BC features the departure of a warrior. The eye in the center of his shield is what drew me to this piece in particular.

A vase featuring the departure of a warrior.

In the back room of the second floor were the remains of quite a few frescoes, one of which was of boxing children. The painting depicts two naked boys wearing belts and boxing gloves. The one on the left wears jewelry indicating his higher social status.

A fresco of boxing children.

Though we only had an hour-and-a-half at the museum, it was great to see all the different artifacts and the history behind them. I particularly enjoyed the special exhibit “Odysseys” and the room of frescoes. This museum is certainly a must for anyone interested in Greek history and art.


One thought on “Spring Break: The National Archaeological Museum

  1. What a wonderful museum. It’s impressive to see pieces from so long ago in history, and to know that many of them were reclaimed from the sea and then restored to their original condition. The artistry of the sculpted pieces and the pottery is incredible. I can understand how you were attracted to the Artemision Jockey. It sounds like you and Haley made the most of your final day in Athens.
    PS: I received your postcard from Cyprus today – beautiful photos of the countryside. Also, I just enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate using the Spoon Hot Chocolate Drop you gave me. It made me feel like I was back in Europe (and I had it without whipping cream, just the way I like it).


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