That was not very clever: visiting the National Archaeological Museum on the last day of a two week trip through northern and central Greece. Of course, it was a nice summary of everything we’ve seen, but I think it would have been better to start over here. Ever a teacher, I might have used the museum’s splendid collection of sculpture to explain to my companions the development of Greek art.
That’s what you’ll find on the first floor: lots of sculpture in a series of rooms surrounding a large hall, which is devoted to Mycenaean art. There, you will find the golden objects from Mycenae that Schliemann found. The sculpture rooms surround it. Your tour starts with some kouroi and you can easily follow the growth to greater accuracy in representing the human body. When you’ve finished about a third of your tour, the Greek sculptors have mastered every aspect of anatomy, and you will pass along many classical sculptures, including two dazzling copies of the Diadumenianus and the Cnidian Aphrodite. After that, more sculpture: the fourth century, Hellenism, and finally the Roman age.
On the ground floor, there’s also a series of rooms that contain metal art. Here, you will see the Anticythera Mechanism, but also collections of arrowheads from Marathon and Thermopylae. The Egyptian part – also on the ground floor – is a bit odd in a museum dedicated to Greek art, but the collection is too small to be exposed in a museum of its own and too important to keep stored away. In the Hellenistic part of the Egyptian collection, I noticed a statue of Hephaestion that I had never seen before.
Upstairs, you will find a marvelous collection of pottery and some objects that don’t fit anywhere else, like the Lemnian inscription, written in a language related to Etruscan. Next to it is a section dedicated to the investigations at Santorini, where some splendid frescoes have been found.
Do not forget to visit the basement. There’s a little café with a garden, where you will see some of the sculptures found in the Anticythera wreck. They have a certain beauty because they are partly eroded. I found the giant Heracles absolutely fascinating.