2014-02-23

Epigraphical Museum: A great museum not worth your time (and money)

The title of the post is not meant as a joke, but as a quick capturing of what you need to know about the Epigraphical Museum. It is a specialized museum, hosting exclusively epigrams, that is inscriptions written on marble and stone from all over ancient Greece. It is the largest museum of its kind in the world, although you wouldn't know it from the size of the building and the exhibition rooms. I guess most of the artifacts are kept in storage rooms. An archaeologist specialized in the study of ancient Greece would probably have a field-day in here, but for the rest 99.99% of the population this is probably not the most exciting place in the world. If you think of checking it out just out of curiosity -it is practically next door to the National Archeological Museum- the 3Euro ticket (reduced tickets: 2€) will probably deter you. Who knows! Maybe, it's even meant to deter you, so as to avoid any unwelcome breaking of inscriptions by careless visitors! Explanatory signs are written in Greek and English, but some larger, informative wall posters are only written in Greek.
 
Entrance of the Epigraphical Museum, 1 Tositsa St., Athens, Greece
Anyway, I did manage to find a handful of things that were of interest: 
  • First, an ancient voting machine, of the kind used by Athenians to count votes on specific proposals put forward by their fellow citizens, or to vote on ostracizing those deemed unwelcome. I think this is a major exhibit, at least from a political point of view, and I'm surprised that it's ended up in this no man's land of a museum. Its rightful place should probably be at one of the 2 major museums (the National Archaeological or the Acropolis).
  • Then, a couple of inscriptions written in the "boustrophedon" type of writing. The word, meaning "like the turn of the ox tail", describes a peculiar type of ancient writing, where the 1st row begins "normally", from left to right, but the 2nd row starts from the right and goes left, with letters also "looking" to the the left. Then, the 3rd row follows the direction of the the 1st and the 4th one the direction of the 2nd, etc... I did come across this type of writing a few years ago,  by cause of a book of modern Greek palindromes, written by my wife, if I may say so [I think I should add a link to the book for the speakers of Greek among you, now that I think of it!] So, these particular epigrams rang close to home.
  • Finally, the museum is interesting from an architectural point of view. Two of the rooms have large -protected- glass windows that look to the front yard, with natural light coming in from all over the place and there's a front yard and a back yard, the latter of which is practically connected to the National Archaeological Museum.
One of the halls of the National Epigraphical Museum in Athens, Greece

But I think, that sums it up pretty well, and most of you will likely find something else to spend your limited time in Athens!
 
The back yard of the National Epigraphical Museum, at 1 Tositsa St., Athens, Greece.

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