A Great Coin Collection in Athens: The Numismatic Museum

The city of Athens is home to a selection of interesting cultural centers including a number of museums and art galleries, which, aside from the famous Acropolis, are a must-see for visitors.

Established in 1834, the Numismatic Museum of Athens is one of Greece’s oldest museums. Today, it is housed in the Iliou Melathron building in the city’s center, walking distance from Syntagma Square.

Housed in the Iliou Melathron is a unique collection of stunningly detailed coins from Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine and Medieval eras, as well as the Ottoman Empire, leading up to the coins, banknotes, and credit cards of today. In whole, the museum owns 500,000 pieces, mostly coins, gems, and medals dating from the 14th century B.C. to modern times. This fairly large exhibit depicts the magnificent craft and detail of coins belonging to the various city-states of Ancient Greece, some bearing owls, lions, mythological creatures, kings, and gods.

The two-story Iliou Melathron was built in 1879 by German architect Ernst Ziller, as the lavish residence of the Schliemann family. Meaning “the Palace of Troy,” the Iliou Melathron is associated with Heinrich Schliemann’s personal fascination with antiquity, and most impressively, his discovery of the ancient city of Troy.

As a man of arts and letters, Schliemann possessed a passion for Greek mythology and history, something evident in his work, life, and taste in décor. His residence’s various rooms, including the Hesperides Hall, boast a unique style and intricate detail melding Italian renaissance, and Grecian antiquity. The wall and ceiling art decorating each room was hand-painted by Slovenian painter Jurij Subic.

Elaborate designs and ornate art decorating the walls include select excerpts from various ancient writers such as Hesiod and Homer, while the stunning mosaic floors throughout the building depict motifs and artifacts discovered during Schliemann’s various excavations.

Titled the “father of Mycenaean archaeology,” Schliemann died in 1890 and the building was eventually sold to the Greek state in 1926. Before the Iliou Melathron was turned over to the Ministry of Culture in 1983, it also temporarily housed the State Council, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeals. In 1998 it became the permanent host of the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

More about Schliemann:

Born in 1822, Heinrich Schliemann was a self-made international trader who later in life abandoned his enterprises to pursue archeology. He settled in Athens and married Sophia Engastromenou, bearing two children, Agamemnon, and Andromache. Inspired by the works of Homer from a young age, Schliemann developed a thirst for discovering things of the ancient Greek past, eventually leading him to the discovery of Troy, as well as other notable sites such as Mycenae, and Orchomenus.

Located in the museum’s garden is a café, for visitors to sip on their favorite drink on historical grounds, surrounded by terracotta copies of ancient statues original to the Schliemann residence.

Visitors’ information:

The Numismatic Museum is located on Panepistimiou 12 in Athens and is currently open to the public every day of the week except on specific holidays. Full-cost entrance to the coin exhibit is 3 euros. For a special 3D look at a select number of coins, or for more information on the Numismatic Museum of Athens, visit nma.gr. Source: nma.gr.