The Archaeological Museum of Tegea
was built in 1907-1908 and it was among the first regional museums to be established at the beginning of the 20th century, with the initiative
of the Athens Archaeological Society. One of the most distinguished
members of the Society and archaeologists of his time, Prof. Konstantinos Romaios was the leading figure in the foundation of the museum
and its first curator. In the introductory note of the first exhibits inventory he declares that the primary aim of the museum is to protect and
display the significant archaeological finds from the adjacent sanctuary of Athena Alea
and from the wider region of Tegea. The first recording of the
museum collections included 1283 antiquities (sculptures, inscriptions, clay and metal artifacts, architectural parts), to which was later added
the Archaeological Collection of Tripolis.
It is noteworthy that in the first visitors’ books, one may find the names of the most eminent archaeologists in Europe and the United States.
The evolution of the museum reflects the increasing systematic efforts of the Greek State to rescue and enhance the cultural heritage at a
regional level. Through time the historic land of Tegea yielded a growing archaeological record formed by surveys and excavations but also
by accidental findings, all of which ended up in the Museum of Tegea. Thus, in the first postwar decades, the small local museum possessed
an extensive collection that comprised antiquities from all over the prefecture of Arcadia,
covering a time span from 3000 BC until the Early Byzantine period. Besides, until the erection of the
Museum of Tripolis in the mid-1980’s, it was the only museum in the region.
THE EXHIBITS FROM THE SANCTUARY OF ATHENA ALEA
The first hall of the museum hosts one of the most important collections of the ancient Greek sculpture, namely the sculptural
decoration of the temple of Athena Alea, attributed to the workshop of Skopas from Paros, one of the most important sculptors of the 4th
century BC. In the museum are exhibited the preserved pedimental sculptures and architectural elements from the upper part of the temple,
which bore rich relief ornaments. The pedimental compositions depict scenes from local myths. The east pediment represents the Calydonian
Boar Hunt, while the west pediment the battle of Telephos against the Greeks, who invaded his kingdom, while they were heading towards
Troy. Telephos was an Arcadian hero, son of Herakles, who was
exiled from his home land and ended up king of Mysia in Minor Asia.
In the museum are exhibited:
- The head of the bearded Herakles
(the beard is an indication of mature age), clad in lion’s skin and the head of Telephos.
- Two marble female statues. Only the bodies are preserved
which are depicted in move. These probably were the central antefixes (acroteria) of the temple.
- Lion’s head water spout from the sima (rain gutter) and other parts from the entablature
of the temple, carved with elaborate floral ornaments.
- Inscribed stele,
recording the regulations related to the exploitation of the land that belonged to the sanctuary.
- Important evidence for the early history of the sanctuary provide the ensemble of votive offerings to the sanctuary, dated to the Geometric and Archaic periods.
They are mainly bronze artifacts, e.g. seals, and clay animal figurines, a common category of findings in the ancient Greek sanctuaries.
THE COLLECTION OF SCULPTURES
In the museum halls are displayed various sculptures which derived either from excavations in the Tegea region during the 19th century
or from private collections and accidental findings handed over by civilians. Among the most important exhibits are:
- Two marble thrones from the Late Classical theatre in the
Episkopi of Tegea.
In the ancient Greek theatres, the first row of seats, normally distinguished by their elaborate construction, was reserved for the officials and people of high status.
- Votive relief representing Artemis and a young hunter. Dated to the Early Hellenistic period.
- Head of colossal size of bearded Asklepios, dated to the Hellenistic period.
- Three female statues with amply folded, heavy garments,
typical examples of the roman imperial times sculpture. They were found by the end of the 19th century, during the excavations of the French Archaeological School in
the area of the St John Provantinos chapel.
- Marble statue of the Arcadian god Panas dated to the Roman period.
- Sarcophagus with relief decoration on its long sides, depicting the scene from Iliad, where Achilles abuses Hector’s body around the walls of Troy.
- Hermai, marble votive stelae of the so-called Arcadian type, with a pyramidoid-shaped
upper part. Some bear depiction of various deities while others are aniconic.
- Clay female figurines from the excavated sanctuary at Agios Sostis of Tegea.