Travels in Greece
The face of Athena, from a statue that once was the
centerpiece of the Pathenon's sculpted pediment

The Acropolis Museum

After I had been on top of the Acropolis for a while, I realized it was time to get out of the sun. This suggested it might be a good time to visit the Acropolis Museum. Located at the southwest corner of the Acropolis, the museum is a good piece of engineering. To keep it from detracting from the Parthenon's commanding position, it was built below-ground, it's roof roughly level with the surrounding areas of rock.

The museum interior is largely illuminated by natural light through the liberal use of glass block construction. This is wonderful from a preservationist standpoint, but makes photography a little difficult. (Flashes are not allowed). For these pictures I used a combination of ASA 400 film and a normal lens with a wide-open aperture (and a steady hand).

The museum entrance is approached by a pair of opposing staircases, which meet at the front entrance by a pedestal supporting a sculpture of a stylized owl, sacred to the goddess Athena. The owl also appeared on the coins of the region, and, for a time, 'Attic Owls' were prized above all other currencies. The museum is quite a bit larger than it looks. The rooms are designed to let you focus on one, or a few things at a time. Only after you glance around you do you realize that the rooms continue onward in another direction.

One of my disappointments is that I failed to take notes describing most of the freizes and statues that I photographed in the museum. These ae my best guesses (where I can guess) from memory. Please correct me if you can.

Lion Devouring a Horse

As you enter the doors of the museum and turn to your left - this is what you see. It is a large statue, with the lion at least double life size.

Athena the Defender

This statue stood in the center of the pediment above the front face of the Parthenon. It is Athena, with her left arm draped in protective mail or something similar. A reconstruction shows her right arm extended with a long, slender sword.


There were several statues in this style. The marble used in them is especially white, and the detail of the carving in the braided hair is very intricate. On these, as on other statues in the museum, there is evidence that paint was used to make the statue more lifelike than the plain marble. An iron clamp is used to hold the fractured head of the lefthand statue together. Notice the delicate spirals in the suspended hair tresses of the statue on the right.

Parthenon Freize

This segment from the Parthenon's freize shows that even the Gods participated by watching the Panathenaic procession. This carving shows up in many textbooks, always captioned differently. The general opinion is that this is Poseidon, Apollo, and Artemis.


Aspects of this statue suggest it is from later times, and is made from a much different material than most of the pieces in the museum. Compare its simple face and hair with the two white marble women above.

A Caryatid

This is one of the original Caryatids, rescued from th eoutside environment an put in the museum for safekeeping. This is not a very good picture because of the glass reflections in the foreground, but you can still appreciate the elegance of the pose and the care and art that went into creating it.

Parthenon Freize

This does not look like any pose of Athena, so I will guess it is Hera or Demeter. I have seen this one in books too, but can't remember who it is. You can see the robes and feet of other gods facing her, along with some smaller, probably human figures. Look at the detail in the drape of her dress.

©1997 Stephen L. Spanoudis; All Rights Reserved

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