The New Acropolis Museum, which will be officially inaugurated on Saturday, contains five Permanent Collections: The Acropolis Slopes, divided into sub-categories on The Settlement, and The Sanctuary; The Acropolis during the Archaic Period, with sub-categories on The Hekatompedon, The Ancient Temple, abd The Votives; The Parthenon, with sub-categories on The Monument, The Metopes, The Pediments, and The Frieze; Other Monuments of the Classical Acropolis, with sub-categories on The Propylaia, The Temple of Athena Nike, and The Erectheion; and Other Collections, with sub-categories on The Sanctuary of Artemis Vravronia, The Votives of the Classical and Hellenist Periods, and The Votives of the Roman Period. ANA-MPA takes its readers on a tour of the collections, in three parts, leading up to the official opening. The Museum opened its electronic gates (www.theacropolismuseum.gr) on Monday.
THE ACROPOLIS SLOPES
The first gallery of the Museum houses finds from the slopes of the Acropolis. The gallerys glass floor affords views to the excavation, while its upward slope alludes at the ascent to the Acropolis. In antiquity, the slopes of the Sacred Rock constituted the transition zone between the city and its most famous sanctuary. This was the area where official and popular cults, as well as large and small sanctuaries existed alongside private houses.
Among the sanctuaries, or at a slightly lower level, archaeological excavations brought to light parts of the urban fabric of ancient Athens and gave evidence of its almost uninterrupted settlement from the end of the Neolithic period (about 3000 BC) until late antiquity (6th century AD). Houses and workshops, roads and squares, wells and reservoirs, as well as thousands of objects left behind by the local people in antiquity all provide valuable insight into the past. Most finds are made of clay, as objects made of other perishable materials have been lost to us, while the most valuable objects have been looted. The finds include tableware and symposium vessels, cooking pots, perfume holders, cosmetics and jewelry containers, childrens toys and others.
The slopes, caves and plateaus of the Acropolis hill were sacred to gods, heroes and nymphs. The south slope was home to two of the most important sanctuaries of the city, those of Dionysos Eleuthereus and Asklepios. It was also the site of several other temples, smaller in size, yet of great importance to the Athenians.
At a short distance from the Sanctuary of Asklepios was a small open-air temple dedicated to the Nymphe, who was the protector of marriage and wedding ceremonies. There, the Athenians dedicated the nuptial bath vases, as well as other votive offerings, such as perfume bottles, cosmetics and jewelry containers and symposium vases.
THE ACROPOLIS DURING THE ARCHAIC PERIOD
The period throughout the 7th century BC, until the end of the Persian Wars is called Archaic. This period is characterized by the development of the city-state and the development of democracy. It is also characterized by great achievements in the economy, art and intellectual life.
In the early 6th century BC, the cult of Athena Polias on the Acropolis continued to be pursued in her late-geometric temple. In 566 BC, the tyrant Peisistratos re-organized the Panathenaia, the greatest festival in honor of the Goddess. It is possible that at that time, for reasons of political propaganda, a large temple was erected at the site to be occupied later by the Parthenon. This temple is the Archaic Parthenon or Hekatompedon, dedicated to the military facet of Athena Parthenos, the patron divinity of the city.
The earliest building known on the Acropolis was the Hekatompedon or Hekatompedos neos – meaning 100 feet long, and comes from an inscription referring to the layout of the sanctuary. It is thought that the building was built on the site, later occupied by the Classical Parthenon. The fragments of poros architectural members and sculptures uncovered to the south and east of the Parthenon, reveal that the Hekatompedon was a Doric peripteral temple.
The lioness pediment is distinguished by its high-relief carving and its striking size. It depicts a lioness with an unusually bushy mane, rearing on its hind legs and tearing apart a calf. It is believed to have adorned the east pediment of the temple. Two compositions belong to the west pediment. The one to the left depicts Herakles on his right knee, wrestling with the Triton, a creature with a body of a man ending in the scaly tail of a sea monster. The group to the right is the Triple-Bodied Monster, a composite creature consisting of three male figures conjoined at the waist. Each figure holds an object in its left hand: the first has water, the second fire, and the third a bird (symbolizing air).
The Gigantomachy pediment belongs to the decoration of the Old Temple of Athena. It has been argued that the Temple had an earlier building phase (570 BC), involving the poros sculptures that are now assigned to the Hekatompedon, while the marble sculptures were associated with a renovation by the sons of Peisistratos. It is possible, however, that the Temple was built and given its marble sculpted decoration in the last quarter of the 6th century BC. The compositions of the pediments consist of larger than life-size statues, carved in Parian marble, which are attributed to the workshop of an important Athenian sculptor, either Antenor or Endoios.
From the time of Peisistratos onwards, the site of the Acropolis began to fill with votive offerings, offered to the Goddess, both as tokens of respect and as marks of financial and artistic development. These important offerings were mostly statues meant to please the Goddess. The human form was at the core of artistic pursuit, and its depiction resulted in technique perfection.
On the Acropolis, statues and other expensive artefacts were commissioned by members of aristocratic families and wealthy professionals, manual workers, as well as women, such as washer women and bakers. Clay plaques depicted Athena either as Promachos, fully armed and resting one foot on a chariot, or as Ergane, seated and spinning.