The National Archaeological Museum

A 10-rninute walk north of the Omonoia Square, on Odos Patission, is the National Archaeological Museum, one of the most prestigious archaeological collections in the world. Finds cover 7000 years of Greek history and have been brought from numerous sites all across Greece. The collection brings the ancient Greek world to life shedding light on almost every aspect of the daily activities of the citizens. Prepare to spend at least 2 hours here, don't try and rush this amazing collection. The map of the museum issued with your ticket will be a great help in finding your way around the array of rooms and corridors.You are sure to find your own favourites, but here are a few acknowledged highlights.

In the prehistoric collection (rooms 3 - 6) enjoy the treasure-trove found at Mycenae, including the exquisite, gold Mask of Agamemnon. Schliemann thought that this was placed over the face of the dead King Agamemnon around 1200 BC, but in fact it dates from over 300 years earlier; the prehistoric rooms also have a collection of Cycladic figures dating from the 3rd millennium BC. The simple, rounded female figures were funerary or religious objects and are in total contrast to the intricate pediment and frieze carvings and religious statuary found at temples on the Acropolis and in the Acropolis Museum. You'll also see a rare male figure among the collection, and the beautiful Harp Player, a more complex carving in the same style.

Rooms 7- 35 concentrate on sculpture, perhaps the great Est collection of ancient sculpture in the world, and these are displayed to show the chronological development of the art form. Simply styled male and female figures (kouros and kore) of the Achaiac Age (7th-5th century BC) give way to more ornate and literal human forms as you walk through the collection into the Classical Age and then on to the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Greek gods are popular themes, followed by eminent human figures of Roman times. Room 7 holds the important early statue of Artemis by Nikandre of Naxos (640 BC). Room 15 is dominated by a fine statue of Poseidon in bronze (460 BC) found in the sea off the island of Euboea. The god is set to launch his trident against foes unknown. The Hall of the Stairs hosts another statue dredged from the sea, that of the Jockey of the Artemision. The diminutive jockey drives on the handsome steed which has its two front legs raised into the air, as if about to leap over an invisible obstacle.

Rooms 36 - 39 have an extraordinary collection of bronzes including votive offerings found at the Idaean Cave in Crete -mythical birthplace of the god Zeus. Rooms 40 and 41 display artefacts from Egypt covering every era of history in the land of the Pharaohs, including the Ptolemaic period when Ptolemy (a general under Alexander the Great, and therefore of Greek descent) took control of Egypt. One of his descendants was Cleopatra, perhaps the most famous ancient queen in history.

The second floor of the museum, which contains pottery, bronze vessels as well as a collection of wall paintings from Akrotiri, a 16th-century BC settlement on Santorini in the Aegean -is still closed following earthquake damage. Call the museum or the Greek tourist office to enquire about its eventual re-opening date.
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The National Gallery

Behind Evangelismos Metro station and next door to the Hilton Hotel is the National Gallery. The original compilation was boosted in the 1880s by a large bequest by art collector Alexandros Soutzos, but the two collections were only brought together in this gallery in 1976. Much of the permanent collection comprises 19th and 20th century Greek art and post-Byzantine icons, though you can also find works by El Greco, Picasso and Delacroix.

The Benaki Museum

Closest to Syntagma Square is the Benaki Museum, a collection donated to the state by Andonis Benaki on his death in 1954. Benaki was born in a Greek community in Egypt, and many of the artefacts on display originate from this other ancient land, though there is a good range of Classical and Roman statuary, and collections from the Early Christian and Byzantine eras including two paintings by El Greco.

The Museum of Cycladic and Ancient Art

On the same side of the street walking away from Syntagma is the Museum of Cycladic and Ancient Art run under the auspices of the Goulandris Foundation.This museum celebrates the art dating from before the Hadrian's Gate was built in development of Athens city- A.D. 131 to separate the old state-discovered in the city from the "new" Athens. Cyclades islands of the Aegean (c2000-3000 BC). A wonderful collection of naive figurines carved in marble was discovered in graves on the islands. Most of the figures are female, suggesting the worship of fertility or an earth-mother religion. Maps and drawings help visitors better understand this mysterious ancient people. In addition, the museum shows around 300 objects dating from Classical, Hellenic and Roman Greece including a collection of finely preserved bronze vessels. One wing of the museum is housed in a beautiful Neo-Classical house designed by Bavarian architect Ernst Ziller for Othon and Athina Stathatos, a prominent Athenian couple. This has been painstakingly restored and presents a beautiful street-side facade.

The Byzantine Museum

Across Avenue Vas.Sofias you'll find the Byzantine Museum, housed in a splendid 19th- century mansion built for Sophie de Marbois, wife of one of Napoleon's generals. She was a stalwart of Greek nationalism. The museum holds a wealth of artefacts from the early Christian and Byzantine eras, concentrating on the religious themes that were so important in unifying the Greek world at this time. The collection was amassed from churches all across Greece and Asia Minor. On the ground floor, the interiors of several churches of differing ages have been reassembled to explain the development of architectural styles, very useful if you intend to visit a range of churches during your stay. The upper floors display excellent examples of icons and frescoes, vestments and other religious objects.

The War Museum

Immediately next door to the Byzantine Museum is the War Museum, a modem building. Outside you'll see a range of fighter jets and missiles, while the galleries inside display historic uniforms, armour and hand-held weapons. Upper floors concentrate on military tactics and battle plans, examining campaigns from ancient times to World War Two.
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