Athens Sights


Numismatic Museum Iliou Melathron Review

Even those uninterested in coins might want to visit this museum for a glimpse of the former home of Heinrich Schliemann, who famously excavated Troy and Mycenae in the 19th century. Built by the Bavarian architect Ernst Ziller for the archaeologist's family and baptized the "Iliou Melanthron" (or Palace of Troy), it flaunts an imposing neo-Venetian facade. Inside are some spectacular rooms, including the vast and floridly decorated Hesperides Hall, ashimmer with colored marbles and neo-Pompeian wall paintings. Today, in this exquisite neoclassic mansion, seemingly haunted by the spirit of the great historian, you can see more than 600,000 coins; displays range from the archaeologist's own coin collection to 4th-century BC measures employed against forgers to coins grouped according to what they depict—animals, plants, myths, and famous buildings like the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Instead of trying to absorb everything, concentrate on a few cases—perhaps a pile of coins dug up on a Greek road, believed to be used by Alexander the Great to pay off local mercenaries. There is also a superb 4th-century BC decadrachm (a denomination of coin) with a lissome water goddess frolicking among dolphins (the designer signed the deity's headband). A silver didrachm (another denomination of coin) issued by the powerful Amphictyonic League after Philip II's death shows Demeter on one side and, on the other, a thoughtful Apollo sitting on the navel of the world. To relax, head to the museum's peaceful garden café—a cozy oasis just a few feet away from Panepistimiou avenue's hustle and bustle.

Updated: 12-19-2013

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