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Ancient Greece - In the British Museum

Art and artefacts from before the Classical period to Roman copies of Greek sculpture made centuries after the originals, viewed in four sequential sessions

Lunch and refreshments at the Great Court restaurant

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03 Dec 2020 £205 Book this tour

  • Detail from the Parthenon Frieze, engraving 1883.
    Detail from the Parthenon Frieze, engraving 1883.
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A product of the Renaissance and of the Enlightenment, it is appropriate that the British Museum should be housed in a building modelled on Ancient Greek architecture – indeed, it is the grandest example of the Greek Revival in the country. It is equally appropriate that it houses one of the greatest collections of Greek art and artefacts outside Greece, given that the Classical world was the first and for long the primary object of antiquarian study and literary exegesis in Europe. It is the case that Britain had a special if controversial role in the creation of modern Greece.

The exceptionally wide range of its holdings enables the day to begin two millennia before the Classical period and to finish with Roman copies of Greek sculpture made hundreds of years after the originals. The day consists of four sessions in the galleries of approximately an hour each, with relatively leisurely refreshment breaks.

The first session looks at Minoan and Mycenaean Greece, and at the Geometric and Archaic periods which saw Greek civilisation emerge to greatness again after the mysterious extinction of the earlier civilisations. The second session is largely devoted to the peerless sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, the so-called Elgin Marbles, famously – infamously – the highlight of the collection, and among the most fascinating and beautiful creations in western art.

Lunch is at the Great Court restaurant, after which there is a little back-tracking to look at the development of pottery from the Archaic to the Classical periods, almost the only evidence of the glories of Greek painting that remains. Finally comes the Hellenistic period, Alexander the Great and after, especially the remarkable monuments from Lycia, the Nereid Monument and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

Image of Antony Spawforth

Professor Antony Spawforth

Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at Newcastle University. A historian and broadcaster specialising in Greek and Roman antiquity and in rulers’ courts. In 2018, he published The Story of Greece and Rome, (Yale University Press, paperback February 2020). Other books include The Complete Greek Temples, Greece: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (with C. Mee), and Versailles: A Biography of a Palace.

View excerpt from Professor Antony Spawforth’s lecture – ‘The Greeks and why they are harder to explain than the Romans!’ (London Lecture Afternoon, October 2017).


10.20am, British Museum.



by 5.15pm.

Price, per person

£205. This includes lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments at the Great Court Restaurant.

More information about London Days gift vouchers.

Group size

Maximum 14 participants.


How strenuous?

Are you fit enough to join the tour?



We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.

Map: London Days.

'For me, it was a perfect day’s course in all aspects and it cannot be faulted.'

'I cannot fault the itinerary. We were steered along a pathway from earliest Greece to the Romans using carefully selected exhibits to illustrate each historical period.'

'Excellent – a wonderful overview of the Greek collection. It was great to go back and review slowly.'

'The lecturer had a very pleasant manner and was a most convivial companion for the day. Plainly learned in his subject but without being dogmatic.’

'We both thought the lecturer was excellent. Not over academic, related well to the group and took questions/discussion in a very easy manner.’