History Podcasts

Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum


Heraklion Archaeological Museum’s collections re-exhibited

Known for its collection of Minoan artefacts, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, on Crete, is one of Greece’s oldest museums. Following the 2003-10 building renovation, during which the museum was closed, its displays were overhauled in line with modern museological practices under an EU-funded project. Spread across 27 galleries, the 8 000 artefacts are now arranged into thematic units integrated into a chronological narrative spanning seven millennia, from the Neolithic to the Roman period.

Styles = marker --> The displays in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete, were revamped in line with modern museological practices ©Heraklion Archaeological Museum Re-Exhibition

" Given that Heraklion Archaeological Museum is the museum of Minoan civilisation par excellence, the ultimate purpose of the re-exhibition project was to display the unique treasures of the museum’s Minoan collection according to modern museographical standards. The renovated museum is evolving into a significant tourist destination in Crete, and is gradually contributing to the economic growth of the whole island. "

Maya Komvou, Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

The project entailed conservation work on artefacts, fitting new display cases, redeveloping exhibitions and setting up electromechanical installations. Around 4 800 artefacts were conserved and thousands of mountings were created. Multimedia applications for features such as video displays and games can be accessed on large screens and touchscreens at 11 points on the museum’s two floors.

Informative material produced under the project includes a publication on pluralism in Minoan culture, a leaflet for visitors and two signs at the entrance – one of them in Braille.


Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum - History

The Herakleion Archaeological Museum is a Special Regional Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture - General Directorate of Antiquities. Its purpose is to acquire, protect, conserve, record, study, publish, display and promote Cretan artefacts from the Prehistoric to the Late Roman periods. It also organizes temporary exhibitions in Greece and abroad, collaborates with scientific and scholarly institutions, and houses a variety of cultural events.

Xanthoudidou St. and Hatzidaki,
71202, Iraklion, Crete
Greece (HELLAS)

Telephone: +30 2810 279086, +30 2810 279000
Fax: +30 2810 279071
Email: [email protected]
Website: odysseus.culture.gr/h/1/ eh155.jsp?obj_id=3327

From the 1st of November 2016 until the 31st of March: 5€
From the 1st of April 2016 until the 31st of October:
Full: €10, Reduced: €5
Special ticket package (Heraklion Archaeological Museum and Knossos): Full: €16, Reduced: €8
The special ticket package is valid for 3 days.
Information on admission fees, holidays, special days etc


Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum situated in the heart of Heraklion city invites you on a trip back into 5,500 years of history. It is one of the biggest and most important Museums in Greece and in Europe as it houses most of the findings on Minoan Civilisation and also showcases other Cretan archaeological treasures. The collection on Minoan antiquities is the most important in the world, so this is a museum “specialising” on Minoan Culture.

Among the Museum’s exhibits you can see items dating to Cretan prehistory and history, from the Neolithic Age to the Roman times (6th millennium BC – 3rd century AD). Most of them date to the Minoan Period and they involve works of ceramic art, stone carving, seal engraving, micro-sculpture, metal crafting and painting found in palaces, edifices, settlements, tombs, temples and caves.

Touring the Museum

Let history unfold before your eyes as you walk through the museum halls. The findings from Minoan necropolises include unique works of art as well as items of daily use. Wander through the 27 museum halls and:

  • Learn about the evolution of local pottery from the Neolithic plain style (Neolithic period: 7th – 4th millennium BC) to Minoan Period elaborate forms, during the early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC – the so called Prepalatial Period), and the middle and late Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC - the so called Protopalatial, Neopalatial and Postpalatial periods)
  • Admire the impressive Kamares ware notice the lovely colours and themes, the plant and animal motifs as well as two symbols of the Minoan Times: the sacred double axe and the bull’s head
  • Take some time before the Phaistos Disc, the museum’s most prominent exhibit. It is made of clay, with hieroglyphic carvings and ideograms on it and holds a place among archaeological mysteries since the purpose of its creation is unknown and the meaning of its inscriptions is yet to be deciphered
  • Meet the Minoan famous ‘Snake Goddesses’ figurines, with their impressive upright body posture, holding up snakes on both their hands and wearing the traditional Minoan costume
  • Learn about the Minoans’ everyday life and their favourite sport, bull-leaping, on the wonderful murals on display and the ivory bull-leaper figurine
  • Observe items of daily use found in Minoan necropolises, like Zatrikio, a type of chess played by Minoans, or ivory combs and eyebrow tweezers modern man is not - after all - so different from the Minoan period man, is he?
  • Feast your eyes on the lovely ‘La Parisienne’ fresco (aka Minoan Lady) and the ‘Lily Prince’, two amazing murals displayed on the Museum’s first floor, along with the dolphins mural, and the commanding simplicity of the clay sarcophagi
  • Read the Kourites Hymn at the sanctuary of Zeus Diktaios, which was chanted by young men in the nude while they danced during secret rites. They clashed their copper shields in an attempt to imitate legendary Kourites who guarded the divine infant [Zeus]. They danced noisily while banging their shields in order to cover up the baby’s crying and so protect him from his father Cronus, who was known for eating his children
  • Notice the details on the signet of King Minos ring and a lovely piece of jewellery known as the ‘Bees’, unearthed in the Malia area, which depicts two bees carrying a drop of honey into their honeycomb.

Other collections

The next rooms to be visited on the 1st floor display exhibits from the Subminoan, the Early Geometric and the Geometric Periods as well as other less known findings of great interest. The Classical and Hellenistic Periods are next.

The majestic and beautifully arranged sculpture hall is the last room of your tour. It includes items from the Archaic up to the Roman Periods, unpublished material, oversized statues, a sarcophagus, portraits and statues of gods and mortals.

Extra tip: Make a point of visiting Knossos, the most important centre of the Minoan Civilisation. It is found on an idyllic area on Kefala hill, 5km SE of Heraklion amidst olive trees, vineyards and cypress trees. Knossos is known to have been the capital of the Minoans and the seat of their king Minos. Two famous myths are related to the Palace of Knossos: that of Daedalus and his son Icarus as well as that of Minotaur and the Labyrinth.


The Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe.
It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times.
The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces.
The Heraklion Museum is rightly considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide.
The museum, located in the town centre, was built between 1937 and 1940 by architect Patroklos Karantinos on a site previously occupied by the Roman Catholic monastery of Saint-Francis which was destroyed by earthquake in 1856.
The museum’s antiseismic building is an important example of modernist architecture and was awarded a Bauhaus commendation.
Karantinos applied the principles of modern architecture to the specific needs of a museum by providing good lighting from the skylights above and along the top of the walls, and facilitating the easy flow of large groups of people. He also anticipated future extensions to the museum.
The colours and construction materials, such as the veined polychrome marbles, recall certain Minoan wall-paintings which imitate marble revetment.
The two-storeyed building has large exhibition spaces, laboratories, a drawing room, a library, offices and a special department, the so-called Scientific Collection, where numerous finds are stored and studied.
The museum shop, run by the Archaeological Receipts Fund, sells museum copies, books, postcards and slides. There is also a cafe.
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a Special Regional Service of the Ministry of Culture and its purpose is to acquire, safeguard, conserve, record, study, publish, display and promote Cretan artefacts from the Prehistoric to the Late Roman periods.
The museum organizes temporary exhibitions in Greece and abroad, collaborates with scientific and scholarly institutions, and houses a variety of cultural events.

The collections of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum include unique works of Cretan art, found in excavations across the central and eastern part of the island and which cover a chronological span of roughly 5500 years, from the Neolithic (5000 BC) to the Late Roman period (late fourth century AD).
Most objects date to prehistoric times and to the so-called Minoan period, named after the island’s mythical king, Minos.
They include pottery, carved stone objects, seals, small sculpture, metal objects and wall-paintings, which were discovered in palaces, mansions, settlements, funerary monuments, sanctuaries and caves.
After the completion of the new exhibition project, the exhibition will occupy a total of twenty three rooms and will be organised in chronological sequence.
Several important subject units, such as Minoan wall-paintings, will be presented separately from the overall chronological sequence.
The objects will be mainly grouped by find-place and, thus, give a complete image of Cretan civilization, as it developed in different regions and important centres.
Explanatory texts, photographs, drawings and models of monuments will complete the exhibition.

Open from: 1 April- 30 November: Monday, Sunday and holidays: 9:00 - 16:00 Tuesday-Saturday: 08:00 - 20:00 The temporary collections are accessible to disabled visitors.


Phaistos Disc – Minoan Bronze Age Mystery

The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the Minoan Bronze Age in the second millennium B.C.

The disk is covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols featuring 241 tokens, comprising 45 distinct signs.

The symbols were made by pressing hieroglyphic “seals” into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling toward the center of the disk.

Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology.

The Phaistos Disc has captured the imagination of archaeologists, and many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc’s signs.

Although it is generally accepted as authentic by archaeologists, a few scholars believe that the disc is a forgery or a hoax.

This assumption that it is genuine is supported by the later discovery of the Arkalochori Axe with similar but not identical glyphs.

A gold signet ring from Knossos, the Mavro Spilio ring, found in 1926, contains a Linear A inscription developed in a field defined by a spiral, similar to the Phaistos Disc.

A sealing found in 1955 is considered as evidence that the Phaistos Disc is a genuine Minoan artifact.

Side A of the Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc was discovered in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the south coast of Crete. Specifically, the disc was found in the primary cell of an underground “temple depository.”

The site collapsed as a result of an earthquake, possibly linked with the eruption of the Santorini volcano that affected large parts of the Mediterranean region during the mid-second millennium B.C.

In the famous book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond describes the disc as an example of a technological advancement that did not become widespread.

He claims it was made at the wrong time in history and contrasts this disk with Gutenberg’s printing press.

Minoan Civilization

The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization on the island of Crete, which flourished from c. 2700 to c. 1450 BCE, before declining and ending around 1100 BC. The culture was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century.

The name “Minoan” is derived from the mythical King Minos and was coined by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who identified the site at Knossos with the labyrinth and the Minotaur.

The Minoan civilization has been described as the earliest of its kind in Europe.


Sculpture Gallery in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Let’s make a short virtual tour at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, which is regarded as one of Europe’s most important museums.
It contains the most notable collection of Minoan Civilization artifacts, but something that many people are not aware of are the Sculpture Collection rooms. Find them on the ground floor and check out a few samples of the sculpture gallery.
You can admire sculptures covering a period from 7th century to the 3rd century AD. The Archaic statues demonstrate the contribution of Cretans to the creation of Greek monumental sculptures. Check out Roman emperors’ statues and Roman copies of classical antiquity. It is evident the the island flourished during the Roman period, during the time that Gortys became the capital of the Roman province of Crete & Cyrenaica
(With information from the official website)
https://heraklionmuseum.gr/?page_id=151
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Ας κάνουμε μία σύντομη περιήγηση στο Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείου Ηρακλείου, που θεωρείται από τα πιο σημαντικά της Ευρώπης.
Καλύπτει εκθέματα περιόδου επτά χιλετιών και την πιο πλήρη συλλογή από εκθέματα του Μινωικού Πολιτισμού. Κάποιοι ίσως δε γνωρίζουν πως υπάρχουν 2 αίθουσες με γλυπτά που συνιστούν αυτόνομη ενότητα. Φιλοξενούνται γλυπτά από τον 7ο ως τον 3ο αιώνα μ.Χ. Μπορείτε να θαυμάσετε τα αρχαϊκά γλυπτά που αναδεικνύουν τη συμβολή της Κρήτης στη δημιουργία Ελληνικής γλυπτικής. Μπορείτε να θαυμάσετε πορτραίτα Ρωμαίων αυτοκρατόρων και ρωμαικά αντίγραφα από την κλασική αρχαιότητα. Είναι φανερή η ακμή του νησιού κατά τους ρωμαϊκούς χρόνους, με τη Γόρτυνα πρωτεύουσα της Ρωμαϊκής επαρχίας της Κρήτης και της Κυρηναϊκής.


Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum - History

One of the most important museums of Greece, if not Europe, covering 5,500 years of history, is situated in Heraklion and is a ideally combined with a visit to the Palace of Knossos.
The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is definitely a must-see, with impressive exhibits from the Neolithic Age to the Roman times and the greatest collection of Minoan art in the world!

The building of the Museum was first constructed between 1935 and 1940 and was renovated in 2014. Its original architecture combined different styles and trends of the time and received the Bauhaus prize in the interwar period.

The tour starts in the ground floor and the Minoan Collection. The Minoan Civilization is considered to be the first civilization on European ground and it is quite impressive to see how advanced and elaborate it was. The exhibits are arranged in chronological order, from the pre-palatial period (3000 – 1900 B.C) to the last palatial period (1450 – 1300 B.C) and reflect the everyday life and culture of the Minoans. Visitors will see a large collection of beautiful ceramics, lithography works, votive offerings, stamps, marvelous pieces of jewelry and other items of awe-inspiring art. Don’t miss the famous double-headed labrys, and the ‘stars’ of the museum: the mysterious disk of Phaistos, the snake Goddess, the bee pendant, and the head of the Bull, the sacred animal of the Minoans. In the first floor, visitors can admire the magnificent Minoan frescoes, such as the Prince of the Lilies, a real gem of Minoan art.

All exhibits are well labelled and provide interesting information about the way the Minoan society, commerce and economy was structured, about Minoan ceremonial customs and religion (where female goddesses prevailed) and the cultural influences from other civilizations of the time. Most exhibits come from excavations in the great Minoan palaces and peripheral settlements, in Minoan cemeteries and sanctuaries and provide the perfect introduction about Minoan history before you visit the archaeological sites of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, ect.

The remaining collections of the first floor take us from the Subminoan and Geometric period to the Classical and Hellenistic times. Take the time to observe marvelous sculptures of famous gods and mortals from the Archaic and Roman period, a sarcophagus, the amazing coin collection and the two private collections of the museum. The archaeological Museum of Heraklion hosts about 5.865 exhibits in total, so make sure you can dedicate at least 2-3 hours to see it! After this unique journey in antiquity, take a rest at the museum garden, where you can observe more monuments of the city’s past and present.

Fodele Beach & Water Park Holiday Resort, is situated 25 km west of Heraklion international airport in Crete, and lies in a unique location with a breathtaking view, on the exquisite sandy beach of Fodele area (birthplace of the world-wide famous painter Dominikos Theotokopoulos, well known as EL GRECO).


Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum - History

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Herakleion Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe. It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times.

The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces. The Herakleion Museum is rightly considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide.

The museum, located in the town centre, was built between 1937 and 1940 by architect Patroklos Karantinos on a site previously occupied by the Roman Catholic monastery of Saint-Francis which was destroyed by earthquake in 1856. The museum's antiseismic building is an important example of modernist architecture and was awarded a Bauhaus commendation. Karantinos applied the principles of modern architecture to the specific needs of a museum by providing good lighting from the skylights above and along the top of the walls, and facilitating the easy flow of large groups of people. He also anticipated future extensions to the museum.

The colours and construction materials, such as the veined polychrome marbles, recall certain Minoan wall-paintings which imitate marble revetment. The two-storeyed building has large exhibition spaces, laboratories, a drawing room, a library, offices and a special department, the so-called Scientific Collection, where numerous finds are stored and studied. The museum shop, run by the Archaeological Receipts Fund, sells museum copies, books, postcards and slides. There is also a cafe.


Roman Collection of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum - History

The Museum collections began being put together in the late 19th century, when Crete was still under Ottoman rule. In 1878, during a period of temporary calm following the insurrection of the Cretan people, when the Turkish government granted certain freedoms and Crete was acknowledged as A privileged and autonomous province of the Ottoman state, a group of distinguished citizens established the Educational Association of Herakleion with a view to founding schools and developing Greek education and culture on the island.

The first exhibition hall of the museum

ln 1883 under its new chairman, the antiquity-loving doctor Joseph Hadzidakis, the Association expanded its activities and having secured a special written decree from the Sultan, obtained recognition as a quasi - official archaeological authority and devoted itself to collecting Cretan antiquities with a view to establishing a Cretan Museum. Donations of local private collections were gradually added to the artefacts gathered by the Association. This important archaeological material was originally housed in two rooms in the churchyard of the Cathedral of Aghios Minas and in this way was saved thanks to the actions of Hadzidakis, during the turmoil of the 1896 uprising. ln 1899 the struggles of the Cretan people for freedom were vindicated. And the autonomy of Crete was recognised under the protection of the four Great Powers. The Association ceded the Cretan Museum to the Cretan Polity, and an archaeological law was passed immediately by which two archaeological districts were designated under ephors Ioseph Hadzidaikis and Stephanos Xanthoudidis.


Depiction of Herakleion (Candia) in a drawing by Captain J.Spratt (1852).
The splendid Venetian church of Aghios Frankiskos (St. Francis) is a major landmark. Many years later, the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion was built on the same site, near the ruins of this church.

ln 1900 with the proclamation of the autonomy of Crete, the Museum’s significant acquisitions were housed in part of a barracks building, which today accommodates the Prefecture of Iraklion. At the same time intense excavation activity had been undertaken by the Greek ephors and by foreign scholars and archaeological schools who showed a lively interest in Cretan antiquities. The growing number of splendid finds required the construction of a special building to accommodate them. Thus between 1904 and 1907 a large open - plan museum was built and one year later, a rear porch (opisthodomos) was added. In conformity with the general plan of a Classicist order drawn up by Panagiotis Kavvadias and the famous architect - archaeologist Wilhelm Dorpfeld, the west wing and the Classical - style facade were added in 1912. Nevertheless this building, from the point of view of space, functionality and quality of construction was, from the outset, totally inadequate to provide secure housing and exhibition space for the Museum's unique archaeological treasure, which kept growing with the addition of important finds from excavations. Immediately after construction of the Museum and especially after 1913 - 1914 when Crete became part of Greece, the demand was put forward to construct a more suitable, modern Museum. After Hadzidakis' retirement in 1923 and Xanthoudidis untimely death in 1928 the issue was raised again by the next active ephor Spyros Marinatos. In the meantime, the building had suffered further serious fatigue after successive earthquakes. In I934, work began on the new building in which the Museum is housed to this day. Between 1937 and the outbreak of World War II, it was virtually completed.

It was built on the same prominent site as the previous building, which was demolished, at a central location in the city of Herakleion, on the inner side of the eastern Venetian wall near the ruins of the famous Venetian church of Aghios Frankiskos. The anti - seismic building, with a total area of 8.800 sq.m, built to a design drawn up in 1933 by architect Patroklos Karantinos (1903 - 1976), is one of the most significant products of the modem architectural movement in Greece during the interwar period. It is an avant-garde building in terms of both style and functionality, with applications that were innovative for their time on a global scale, such as the special lighting system with the use of light wells. It is regarded as one of the most important international works of the "new architecture". A characteristic fact is that, in a significant early post - war catalogue, it was assessed as being one of the eight most representative European "exhibition and recreation buildings" among museums in Italy, Finland, Spain and Austria. Even though it is not particularly well known and despite the fact that the 1933 design was not applied in full, the Herakleion Museum building constitutes a top-ranking example of 20th – century Greek architecture and a point of reference for significant works by other important architects, such as the National Gallery in Athens, the Museum in loannina, etc.


The re - exhibition of the ancient artefacts began in 1951, overseen by the then ephor Nikolaos Platon at the same time new storage facilities were built. In 1952 the main exhibition had already been presented. In I964, the next ephor, Stylianos Alexiou designed a new wing that included four additional halls.

The Museum today comprises twenty halls that are open to the public, the Scholarly Collection that is open to researchers and scholars alone and also contains significant finds, storage areas and conservation workshops. Exhibits from the Neolithic, Minoan. Geometric and Archaic periods and sculptures from the Hellenic and Roman periods can be found on the ground floor. On the upper floor are the Minoan wall paintings and, since 2002, the exhibition entitled "The King Minos" featuring gold Minoan signet and other rings.

The Archaic. Hellenistic and Roman small artefacts and the Giamalakis Collection, which were once displayed in two halls on the upper floor, have been withdrawn, owing to the many travelling exhibitions.

Despite the extreme importance of its works from the Hellenic period, the singularity of the Museum lies in the wealth of Minoan masterpieces that constitute its primary exhibition material.

The more than 10.000 artefacts found in Minoan palaces, villas, settlements, shrines and cemeteries illustrate the panorama of the Minoan world and demonstrate its amazing diversity. Among them, emblematic and celebrated works can be singled out, such as the snake goddesses, the bull's head rhyton, the Prince with the Lilies, the bull-leaping fresco, the gold bees, the "Parisienne", the Harvesters' Vase and many others.

It is obvious that, as almost fifty years have elapsed since the last reorganisation, the Museum was urgently in need of radical renovation, as regards both the building and the exhibition. The remodelling of the building includes extensions, additions and modern infrastructure works and is already taking place on the basis of plans drawn up by architect Alexandros Tombazis. This will be followed by the re-exhibition of old collections and new finds, structured into chronological and thematic units in accordance with modern museological specifications, so that the significance, development and continuity of the ancient Cretan civilisation over a period of seven millennia, from the 7th millennium BC to the 4th century AD, can be displayed with emphasis on the singularity of the Minoan collection.


Watch the video: Heraklion Archaeological Museum Part 1 The oldest civilization in Europe (January 2022).