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One of the most beautiful neoclassical-style buildings in Athens house the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture. It was converted into a museum in order to shelter the collections of Antonis Benakis and now houses a unique exhibition of Greek culture arranged diachronically from prehistory to the 20th century. The museum includes three permanent unique collections that refer to Prehistoric, Ancient Greek and Roman Art, Byzantine Art and Historic Heirlooms.
The collection of Prehistoric, Ancient Greek and Roman antiquities includes several exhibits from the dawn of Prehistory to the end of the Roman era such as gold jewels, collection of vases and sculptures, unique coins, outstanding examples of miniature work in faience and ivory, examples of glasswork, marble portraits and funerary steles.
The exceptionally rich Byzantine collection links the ancient Greek world to that of modern Greece and is divided into two groups. The first group includes unique examples of bronze and silver household and ecclesiastical vessels, miniature sculptures and enamels, ceramics, manuscripts etc. The second group includes Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, a number of household vessels from the early Byzantine period, a collection of Byzantine jewellery as well as a large group of crosses, reliquaries, amulets and miniature steatite icons.
The collection of historical heirlooms recreates the history of modern Greece from the end of the 18th century onwards. Many of the objects are connected with the Philhellenic movement and others date to the reigns of King Otho and King George. It includes also authentic swords and other weapons which belonged to the heroes of 1821, personal belongings such as Ioannis Kapodistrias’s seal and Lord Byron's pistols, manuscripts written by the poets Dionysios Solomos, Constantine Cavafy, Kostis Palamas, and Yannis Ritsos, and the Nobel prize certificates and gold medals won by the poets George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis.
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