After touring the Acropolis in Athens, you should take the time to visit the Acropolis Museum a few blocks away from the base of the hill. While on study abroad in May 2014, I had the opportunity to explore it.
The walkway leading up to museum entrance divides into two sections, with a hollowed oval in the center. Reaching the edge of the oval, I looked down upon the uncovered ruins of Athens, archeological evidence of the people here before us, houses and workshops left intact and incorporated into the new construction of the museum.
The wonderment of this sight continued on into the first level of the museum, where glass flooring is used to further reveal the ruins left intact. I marveled at what was beneath my feet, almost growing dizzy from walking and peering intently down at the same time. I imagined what it would be like if all the streets of Athens were glass, what wonders would we constantly behold as we walked along?
Even though museum policy states you cannot take photos on Level One, I had to snap a quick photo of the Magic Sphere. A friend stood in front of me, shielding me from the guard’s Argusian gaze. The sphere crackled with energy—I longed to touch it. It is covered in geometrical symbols. On one section is a circle with a triangle inscribed inside. Another section has five circles overlapping each other, similar to the modern Olympic symbol. A large lion, a dragon and a human/deity figure can also be seen on the sphere. It was found buried near the Theater of Dionysus, and is dated to the second or third century.
The first floor also houses the Archaic Gallery, which contains numerous marble
sculptures. At first, it is overwhelming, so many perfect figures, the light reflecting off of the marble giving them an otherworldly gleam. The statutes are arranged in what seems to be a random order, but according to Dr. Elizabeth Langridge-Noti, they are intentionally placed at random so that visitors both experience what it would have been like to be among the statues outside the temples of the Parthenon, and so that you “will wander and approach on a personal level.” When she said this, I wondered if the people of long ago felt as amazed and overwhelmed as I did, when I wove through the smiling Korai and statutes of Athena.
The third floor not only contains the Parthenon Gallery, it also imitates its dimensions and layout. Relief sculptures that decorated the Parthenon frieze are displayed at eyelevel in a continuous procession as they would have been when they adorned the Parthenon. The frieze depicts the Great Panathenaia, a festival held every four years in honor of Athena.
Nearby, above eyelevel, the outer metropes of the Parthenon are displayed between steel columns. The metropes feature scenes from Greek mythology. One portion is called the Centauromachy, about the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. According to one of the museum placards, these depictions represent the struggle of civilization and barbarism. In some of the sections, only the fragments of a head or torso remain, with the portions appearing to float in space.
The acroterion—the roof ornamentation of the Parthenon—has been fully reconstructed. It is massive, almost touching the ceiling. Like the Corinthian column, the acroterion incorporates the leaves of the acanthus into the design of its base. The sculpture curves upwards from the leaves into two palmetto fans. While impressive in its height, the pieces seem fragile, as if a puff of wind could blow it away.
I ended my tour of the museum by viewing the Michel Bréal cup, awarded to Spyros
Louis, winner of the Marathon during the rebirth of the Olympic Games in 1896. It seemed fitting that I should see the ornate silver goblet last as a culmination of my walk through time beginning with the haunting archaic ruins to a triumph of the modern era.