The Numismatic Museum is one of the most important museums in Athens. Housing a massive collection, it has exhibits which include coins from Ancient Greece, the Byzantine era, medieval Europe, and the Ottoman Empire. More importantly, it has the coolest name ever. Numismatic. That easily ranks in my top five words of all time! Read on to find out more about this interesting museum.
When I was putting together my list of museums in Athens, there was one name which stood out. The Numismatic Museum of Athens. I can't really explain why the name sticks out so much, but it does. Say it a few times, and see for yourself. Numismatic. Numismatic. Numismatic. See what I mean? It has a certain feel to it that I can't quite put my finger on. Anyway, enough of that. I had actually better write about the place now!
Visiting the Numismatic Museum of Athens
The Numismatic Museum is based in a mansion called the Iliou Melathron. This was once the home of world famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who made important finds in Mycenae and also discovered Troy. The building can be found at 12 Panepistimiou Street in Athens, and the closest metro station is Syntagma. It is about a 10 minute walk from the station to the museum, and you could check out the changing of the guards along the way.
The building itself is quite fascinating both inside and out. It has been recently restored and renovated, and has detailed mosaic floors as well as decorative ceilings. There is also a curious theme which runs throughout the Iliou Melathron, and that is the use of a left facing swastika.
In the western world, we mainly associated the right facing swastika at an angle, with the Nazi party of pre-war and wartime Germany. In effect though, they had hijacked a pre-existing symbol for their own purposes. The use of left and right facing swastika symbols stretches back to Neolithic times, and is believed to have originated in the Indus valley area. Even today, it is a common symbol used by Buddhists and Hindus. The reason that Heinrich Schliemann incorporated its use in the design of the mansion, was because he found several motifs in Troy which included this symbol.
Inside the Numismatic Museum of Athens
The Numismatic Museum is laid out in a way that follows the history of coins, from ancient Greece through to the introduction of the Euro. The collection is comprised of coins discovered in ‘hoards', private donations, and discoveries made at excavations. The coins are well displayed in side lit cases, which illuminate them perfectly, but do make it a pain to take photos.
When I visited the museum, there was an interesting exhibition sponsored by Alpha bank called – “Athenian Archaic Coinage: Mines, Metals and Coins”. This was a very well put together exhibition, and runs until the end of October 2015. After this date, the exhibition will either be extended, or a new one will take its place.
There is a lot to take on board, and towards the end, I was a little ‘coined out'. This is not to say that it wasn't interesting though. It helped to patch some holes in my knowledge of the ancient Greek world, such as how each city state produced and minted coins. It was also very interesting to see that even in ancient times, issues such as inflation and fraud were major problems.
Final thoughts on the Numismatic Museum of Athens
If you are numismatist (check out the long word!), then you will love this place. If you are looking to expand your knowledge of Greek history, as well as some of the history of the Mediterranean area, you will like the Numismatic Museum. If you like bright shiny things, and money, then it will also appeal. In fact, anyone who is spending longer than 3 days in Athens should definitely include the Numismatic Museum on their sightseeing itinerary. It is also a nice place to have a coffee and a snack. The cafe is located in one of the ‘secret gardens' of Athens, and has a very relaxed feel to it. A welcome break from a city which at times can seem all concrete, noise and traffic!
If you have any questions about the Numismatic Museum of Athens, then just leave a comment below. If you are interested in reading about other museums, then there is a full list here – Museums in Athens.