If you haven’t been to Athens since June, 2009, you haven’t seen the Acropolis Museum. That’s when it opened, and it’s worth a return trip to troubled Greece. Practically across the well-used Grand Promenade from the entrance to the Acropolis, it costs only 5 euros to enter. This is a spectacular bargain. Ruth and I visited on December 29 and it was opened and crowded until 8 pm. Its normal hours are 8 am to 8 pm Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday and opened until 10 pm on Friday. It now protectively houses everything found from the archaic and Roman periods on the high, flat plateau known as the Acropolis and in and around the caves and springs on its slopes. Everything, about 4,000 objects, is available for close inspection, but no photography is allowed. That’s why the photo above is of the Caryatid copies now on the Acropolis porch.
After its Golden Age, Athens endured Alexander the Great, Roman imperialism, barbarian invasions, etc. During the Byzantine Era it was little more than a small, overlooked city. Evidence of the Golden Age virtually disappeared over time. By the 19th century when the Acropolis’ cultural value was finally recognized, the only surviving monuments to survive on this hill were finally protected and what little was left scattered about was catalogued and is now beautifully displayed in this spacious Museum.
After spending 2 hours in its excellent, reasonably priced, and crowded (at least on this day) restaurant with a seriously overworked staff, Ruth & I found it best to start at the top and work our way down. Level 3 offered a video area with a continuously running, interesting film about the building of the Parthenon with a focus on its 2 pediments. The east one, now completely lost, depicted the birth of Athena, who sprang fully armed and ready for action from her father Zeus’ head. It and the pediment at the opposite end of her temple have been totally re-created as has the entire temple-circling frieze, 115 blocks depicting hundreds of humans, gods, horses, etc. Alexis Averbuck in Pocket Athens calls this level “The museum’s crowning glory” and she’s right. However, I was even most thrilled to see the original Caryatids, the women columns from the Erechtheion, on the Level 2 mezzanine.
The archaic gallery on the first floor was crammed but not crowded with votive offerings, what was left of the sculptures that decorated the temples of the Acropolis, etc. Below that was the Gallery of the Slopes showing in typical museum cases everyday objects–bowls, saltcellars, vase fragments, etc. One showed a slave at the beginning of a procession leading a pig to sacrifice. If you think we don’t know much about the ancient Greek world, visit the Acropolis Museum to realize that very little is not known.
After I have read a travel article about a distant museum, I often feel as if I’ve visited and don’t need to make the effort. Be assured this not true about the Acropolis Museum.