The Collection of Classical Antiquities contains Greek and Roman works including not only architectural remains, sculptures and vases, inscriptions and mosaics but also bronzes and jewellery. It is on display in two locations: the Pergamon Museum and the main floor of the Altes Museum.
With an annual figure of 850,000 visitors the Pergamon Museum ranks among the most popular buildings of the state museums. Its main attraction is the Pergamon Altar (2nd century BC). The frieze depicting the battle between the Gods and Giants is regarded as a masterpiece of Hellenistic art. The next room to the south contains the market Gate of Miletus, an outstanding example of Roman architecture.
Adjoining the great hall to the north, the hall of Hellenistic architecture presents examples of Greek architecture. The northern wing of the Pergamon Museum contains classical sculptures from the Archaic age to the Hellenistic period, ancient copies of Greek originals as well as Roman art.
The Altes Museum displays Greek and Roman art and sculptures. The main highlights, the art of the Etruscans, will go on show when major restoration work on the building has been completed. Until then, an exhibition of Greek works of art is open to the public on the newly designed main floor of the building. This thematically arranged exhibition includes stone sculptures, clay and bronze figures, friezes, vases, gold jewellery and silverware. Three information displays provide details on additional topics such as Greek myths, ancient city culture and the archaeological sites investigated by the Berlin museums.
Relatively few pieces such as portraits of Caesar and Cleopatra, sarcophagi, mosaics, frescos and Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits are representing Roman Art, offering a taste of the final presentation.
Plaster models of antique art are on display in the Replica Collection in Berlin-Charlottenburg near the Egyptian Museum. In the nearby Replica Workshop, replicas are available for purchase.
The Altes Museum, built between 1823 and 1830 and designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, is one of the most important works of Neoclassical architecture. With its clearly ordered exterior and an interior structure designed with exacting precision in the ancient Greek style, Schinkel pursued Humboldt's idea of opening the museum as an educational institution for the public.
The monumental order of the 18 fluted Ionic columns, the wide stretch of the atrium, the rotunda - an explicit reference to the Pantheon in Rome - and finally the grand staircase are all architectural elements which, up to this point, were reserved for stately buildings.
The Pergamonmuseum was built between 1910 and 1930 under the supervision of Ludwig Hoffmann, working according to designs by Alfred Messel. From 1901 to 1909, a smaller building had occupied the same spot. This building originally accommodated the important excavation finds of the Berlin Museums, such as the frieze of the Pergamon Altar which was recovered between 1878 and 1886. However, insufficient foundations soon led to damages in the building structure and the building had to be demolished even before the outbreak of the First World War.
The new, larger Pergamonmuseum was conceived as a "Dreiflügelanlage". Today, it accommodates three separate museums: the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities), occupying the architectural halls and the sculpture wing, the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East) and the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum of Islamic Art).
Following the schedule of the Masterplan Museum Island, the restoration of the Pergamonmuseum will begin in 2008 and will be carried out by stages under the auspices of the architectural office of Oswald Mathias Ungers. A total closure of the building will be avoided.