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By Chloë Abley on

Ancient Greeks at the Science Museum

Chloë Abley describes the launch of the Science Museum’s latest exhibition, Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom.

Today the Science Museum opened a free exhibition which explores the ancient Greeks’ pursuit of knowledge. Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom highlights how curiosity was cultivated and championed in all aspects of their investigation into the natural world.

Part of the 21 in 21 initiative marking the bicentenary of Greek Independence, this vibrant exhibition integrates ancient objects and modern technologies to take visitors on an odyssey through time.

Opening of Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom at the Science Museum, London.

Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, explained that his hope is for visitors to ‘feel that the gods, muses and scientists of the ancient Greek world are very much alive.’ He shared that the team have, ‘used modern science and storytelling to bring the ancient ideas, sounds and words into the world of 2021.’

Travelling through the millennia come the once-lost sounds of the Aulos wind instrument as well as the principles that formed the basis of experiment in science which have never left us. Interactive displays and short films from ground-breaking contemporary science projects demonstrate that this history continues to reverberate through the ages and inform modern approaches to research.

Aristotle once said, “Αρχή της Σοφίας είναι η αμφιβολία” which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece translated for guests as: “Wisdom begins with doubt.” He went on to say that the exhibition ‘offers a unique window on the wisdom that shaped the science of Ancient Greece, and a fresh insight into some of the innovation that is today driving greater understanding of that past.’

Opening of Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom at the Science Museum. Prime Minister of Greece HE Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis on a tour of the exhibition.

Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom allows visitors to go behind the scenes with researchers from the Black Sea Map project as they test a model of the oldest known intact ancient Greek shipwreck. Visitors will also encounter the work of Dr Magdalini Anastasiou, whose analysis of the world-famous Antikythera mechanism has transformed our understanding of its complexity and capabilities.

An impressive distillation of vast areas of discovery, the exhibition ranges from the hidden depths of the sea to the distant starry cosmos. Art, religion and science were inseparable for the ancient Greeks and so it was to the gods and muses that they turned for intellectual inspiration.

On display is the 2,000 year-old statue of Hermes, protector of travellers and merchants, that was discovered on a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera. His face was preserved by the silt of the seabed while his body fell prey to the harsh salt water and creeping sealife. This eerily beautiful statue highlights the shifting nature of trade in ancient Greece. As their merchant ships travelled further, faster, the ancient Greeks traded not only goods and products, but also carried their philosophies and religions to neighbouring regions.

Visitors with marble statue of the god Hermes - Lent by Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports – National Archaeological Museum, Athens
Visitors with marble statue of the god Hermes – Lent by Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports – National Archaeological Museum, Athens

The exhibition has been designed to bring a small portion of the magnificent landscapes of Greece to a chilly winter in London. With walls painted in rich blue or filled with frescoes of stunning natural beauty, the eye is inevitably drawn to the gleaming gold and stark marble of the displays. These rare and remarkable treasures are given their due individual attention in this capsule exhibition.

A visitor peers at the gold headdress and earrings decorated with imagery of Athena and the Muses
A visitor to Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom peers at the gold headdress and earrings decorated with imagery of Athena and the Muses

As Anastasios P. Leventis from the A. G. Leventis Foundation highlighted, so much of what is still taught in schools stems from the scholars of ancient Greece: Pythagoras, Archimedes, Aglaonice of Thessaly, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and more. An examination of how they interrogated and contemplated the natural world should be an inspiration to the next generation of thinkers.


Ancient Greeks: Science and Wisdom is free and ticketed until June 2022. It is supported by A.G. Leventis Foundation (Major Funder), the Avra Foundation, Andonis and Filippos Lemos, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (Associate Funders), with additional support from the John S Cohen Foundation and J.F. Costopoulos Foundation (Supporters).