The Numismatic Museum of Athens is a fantastic boutique museum experience. It focuses exclusively, of course, on coins and everything related to money. A narrow topic you would think? Absolutely not – it ends up being fascinating. However, the exhibits are just one aspect that makes this museum well with visiting. The other charms of the Numismatic Museum of Athens are the historic building, and the cafe – one of the secret spots for Athenians in the know.
A Guide to the Numismatic Museum in Athens
The Numismatic Museum of Athens – the Exhibits
A collection of over 6,000 objects from the 14th century BC to the present. These include coins, standard measures, medals, dies, stamps, and related objects.
The superb collection is strong on coinage from the 6th century BC through the 5th century AD, which takes us through the most fascinating eras of the world of Ancient Greece, from the Golden Age of Athens (5th century BC) through the Hellenistic (4th through 1st centuries BC) and Roman (1st century BC through 4th century AD) eras, and the dawn of the Byzantine Empire.
These are joined by coins and other related objects from the whole of the Byzantine era and the middle ages, from Greece as well as other parts of Europe, as well as coinage and related objects from the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece from the 15th century through the first quarter of the 19th century (and for some parts of Greece through the early 20th century).
The coins of the Ancient Greek world represent the city states, kings, and rulers of the archaic, classical, and hellenistic eras – a fascinating history to see in such detail. The Roman Emperors and the provinces of the Roman republic are also represented in coinage.
In addition to the selection of coinage from the Byzantine Empire, there are also coins and objects from the Frankish states of Greece – the rule of the Latins called the “Frankokratia” in some regions and the “Venetocratia” where the Venetians ruled. From the 4th crusade (1204) – some French and Italian states were established in territories formerly part of the Byzantine Empire.
The coinage and objects represented also include those from most states of the modern world that had relationships with Greece from the 5th to the 20th centuries. Coins and banknotes of the modern Greek state complete the thorough survey of coinage.
The collection narrates the complex history of Greece through the ages – a fascinating and illuminating overview.
The Numismatic Museum’s Building – the Famous “Illiou Melathron”
Of course, interesting as the collection is, the Numismatic Museum would be fascinating to visit on its own. The building is in itself a fascinating and beautiful landmark – a key landmark for both the history of archaeology as well as the history of architecture in Athens.
The name of this building is the Iliou Melathron, which means “the Palace of Troy.” It was the home of the famous amateur Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, one of the most famous and inspiring figures in the world of Archeology.
Schliemann, an extremely savvy and dynamic businessman who succeeded in the world of international trade – trading gold in the US, the raw materials for ammunition during the Crimean War, and indigo dye – among many activities. He amassed a great fortune.
He did something fascinating with his wealth. Transported by the world of Homer, he sought to find historical proof of the events in the Iliad and the Odyssea. He looked for the Troy of the great epic in present-day Turkey, and excavated fascinating pieces, which he took to be the Gold of Priam and the Jewels of Helen of Troy.
He turned his attention next to the Kingdom of Agamemnon, excavating Mycenae, one of the most famous archaeological sites of all the world. Among the treasures is what we call today the Mask of Agamemnon.
Iliou Melathron was, therefore, a logical name for his home. This neoclassical masterpiece where he lived with his wife Sophia and their children, Andromache and (of course) Agamemnon, is an expression of his passion for the world of Ancient Greece. The richly colored walls have inscriptions in ancient Greek from Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, and others. Mosaics and murals depict scenes of the Trojan war.
The mansion was designed by the famous neoclassical architect Ernst Ziller, who built other masterpieces of Athens, such as the Stathatos mansion – presently home to the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art – the presidential mansion, and the Andreas Syngros mansion. The Illiou Melathron was built between 1878 and 1880. The three story mansion was the most opulent private residence in Greece when it was built.
The Cafe of the Numismatic Museum
As the Iliou Melatron is in the very heart of downtown Athens, its garden cafe is an especially welcome oasis of elegance and calm. Coffees, drinks, and light meals are available. The Cafe is also the setting for cultural events, notably live music on summer evenings – Jazz on Thursday nights. It is not necessary to purchase an entrance to the Numismatic Museum in order to visit the cafe, and it’s open from 9:00 am until midnight, a perfect spot for a late-night drink.
Numismatic Museum Opening Hours and Tickets
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Monday 09.00 – 16.00, Tuesday: Closed
Closed: Tuesdays, 1 January, 25 March, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 December, 26 December
Tickets: Full Price 6 Euros, Reduced ( 1 April – 31 October): 3 Euros
Special Ticket package: 15 Euros valid for 3 days that includes entrance to the Archaeological Museum, the Epigraphic Museum, the Numismatic Museum, and the Byzantine and Christian Museum.