Mythology/HistoryIn Greek mythology, Nemea was ruled by king Lycurgus and queen Eurydice. Nemea was famous in Greek myth as the home of the Nemean Lion, which was killed by the hero Heracles, and as the place where the infant Opheltes, lying on a bed of parsley, was killed by a serpent while his nurse fetched water for the Seven on their way from Argos to Thebes. The Seven founded the Nemean Games in his memory, and the crown of victory was hence made of parsley and the judges wore black robes as a sign of mourning. The Nemean Games were held from 573 BC, or earlier, at the sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. Three columns of the temple of the 4th century BC have stood since their construction and two more were reconstructed in 2002. As of late 2007, four more are being re-erected. The site around the temple has been excavated, including the great altar, bath, and hotel. The temple stands on the site of an Archaic period temple, of which only a foundation wall is still visible. The stadion has recently been discovered. It is notable for its well-preserved vaulted entrance tunnel, dated to about 320 B.C., with ancient graffiti on the walls.
The material discovered in the excavations is on display in a museum constructed as a part of the University of California's excavations.
The Battle of the Nemea RiverIn 394 BC The Battle of Nemea River was fought between Sparta and her allies the Achaians, Eleians, Mantineians, and the Tegeates against a coalition of Boetians, Euboeans, Athenians, Corinthians, and Argives. This was to be the last of clear-cut victory that Sparta enjoyed. The tactics were similar to all other Greek hoplite battles. Except that when the armies were arranged, with the Spartans having the customary honor of being on the right, the army drifted right as it advanced. This was not good for the Spartan allies, as it exposed the soldiers to a flanking attack, but it gave the Spartans the opportunity to use their superior coordination and discipline to roll up the flank of the Athenians, who were stationed opposite. The result of the battle was a victory for Sparta, even though her allies on the left suffered significant losses. This willingness to accept losses on the left flank for flanking position on the right was a dramatic change from typical conservative hoplite military tactics.
Temple of Zeus Reconstruction Project
Built c. 330 BC over the remains of an earlier temple, the Temple of Zeus lies in the center of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. The 9,240 square foot Temple played a significant role in the Nemea Games, one of the original Pan-Hellenic Games of Ancient Greece. It was before this Temple that, prior to the Nemea Games, the athletes would pay homage to the father of their gods, Zeus. The Temple’s construction included three Greek architectural forms, the Doric, the Corinthian, and the Ionic. 32 limestone columns each standing 42 feet tall, and composed of 13 cylindrical stones, called “drums”, each weighing approximately, 2.5 tons, surrounded the Temple of Zeus. Of those 32 original columns, only three columns remain standing today, the rest gave way to nature, specifically, earthquakes and human intervention—the latter through looting and the removal of the Temple’s material to build other monuments.
Professor Stephen Miller, former Director of the Nemea Excavations, conceived the quest to reconstruct the Temple of Zeus as part of his ongoing efforts to preserve the Ancient Nemea site. Beginning work on the Temple’s reconstruction was aided by the previous work of Professor Frederick Cooper, Professor of Architecture, University of Minnesota, under whose leadership 1,100 stone blocks located on and around the Temple’s ground were catalogued. It would be in part these catalogued blocks that would be used to re-erect the columns. In 2002 with the Greek government’s permission, Professor Miller began the reconstruction of two columns on the north side, near to where the three original columns still stand. Just prior to his retirement in 2004, and after successfully reconstructing the two columns, Professor Miller, formally established the Temple of Zeus Reconstruction Project, with the Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) and the Nemea Center providing oversight and guidance for the project. Although the Nemea Center is primarily responsible for the conduct and work on the project, the responsibility for overseeing day-to-day reconstruction is held by architect and on-site supervisor Ms. Katerina Sklere, along with civil engineer and restoration consultant, Dr. Konstantinos Papantonopoulos.
From 2004 to 2009, Professor Nikos Makris directed the Project and by the end of 2009, four additional columns were successfully re-erected in the Northeast corner of the Temple. Significant work was completed on the foundations and krepidoma on the east end and in the pronaos, as well as the completion of the placement of all the drums, and the final carving of the exterior surfaces of three columns on the east side. All the columns have been re-erected by using as many of the available original stones, previously catalogued by Professor Cooper, and by the extraction of limestone from a nearby rock quarry, from which the additional blocks are made. Over the following year, infrastructure and reconstruction work not only improved the condition and maintenance of the site but helped to prepare and transport new building material to be placed in their final positions. In 2010, the scaffolding was removed from the previously re-erected columns, offering a more appreciable understanding of the architecture of the Temple to the general visitor. The reconstruction project is a costly venture with each column roughly costing a quarter–million euros. Although Professors Miller and Makris raised much of the funds, including donations from Mr. T. Papalexopoulos, the Opheltes Foundationand the Club Hotel Casino Loutraki, additional private donations are needed to complete the reconstruction of the Temple, including funds for the positioning of the epistyles that will provide the need stability and endurance to the newly re-erected columns.
When completed, the reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus will provide the visitor with a clearer sense of the magnitude and magnificence of the original Greek temple, and most importantly the site will be preserved for generations to come.
For more detail account on the progress of the reconstruction project, please refer to the following five Progress Reports which are attached below:
2008 - Progress Report (pending)
2007 - Progress Report
2006 - Progress Report
2005 - Progress Report (unavailable at this time)
2004 - Progress Report
HistoryNemea was not an organized town or even a settlement but a venue where festivities where held during the Games, under the surervision of the nearby town Kleonai, attracting visitors from afar. Nemea was innapropriate for habitation in the winter because the area was turned into a swamp. By the end of the 5th century B.C Argos had taken control of Nemea and Kleonai. Therefore after 271 B.C the Games were held at Argos while the Sanctuary of Zeus had already been ruined.
From 330 B.C to 300 B.C a new construction project had begun under Macedonian initiative thus signaling the return of the Games at Nemea. Phillip II and his successors were strongly involved in this project. The Sanctuary of Zeus,the Stadium, the Baths, the Xenon, the Reservoirs and other buildings were the result of the new constructing project. A large number of unearthed coins depicting Macedonian kings point to the direction of the macedonian influence and involvement.
Another attempt was made by Aratos of Sikyon to re establish the Games at their birthplace but it failed as Aratos himself made a pact with Argos. The Games therefore continued to take place at Argos.
Later on, during the 5th and 6th centuries A.D early Christians gathered whithin the area of Nemea and established an agricultural settlement. As a common practice, they used blocks from the Sanctuary of Zeus in order to construct their own christian temple, the Basilica. The Slavs invaded the area in 585 A.D putting an end to the life of this early christian settlement.
The Sanctuary of ZeusPrior to the temple that the modern visitor sees, another earlier construction had been erected in the first quarter of the 6th century B.C. Archaeologist S.Miller discoverd arrowheads justifying his theory of destruction after a battle before the end of the 5th century B.C.
The sanctuary was built in 330 B.C, centered within the sacred space demonstating thus its significance. Its importance lies in the fact that all ancient greek architecture orders were combined in different parts of the temple. Doric columns were used for the exterior colonnade, Corintian for the ground floor columns and finally small ionic columns in the interior, at the cella and upper level. At the short ends 6 columns were erected while 12 instead of the classical 13 were erected at the long ends. An access ramp, typical feature of the period, was constructed at the eastern facade. A crypt accessible by stone steps was discovered in the back of the cella, probably a place where the oracle could be isolated.
The exterior Doric colonnade suffered extensive damage caused by the early Christians. All 36 columns but three were knocked down. Nowadays thanks to S.Miller 9 columns have been reconstructed.
How to get there:
If you find yourself in Athens by your own or a rented car, you will have to take the Attiki Odos from the exit located nearest to you, direction Elefsina. This newly constructed highway will lead you to the National Road to Korinth. You will pass the Isthmous, and enter the National Road to Tripoli and after 20km you will see on your right,at a car parking the Ancient quarry of Kleonai. Exit to Nemea, after 2 more kms.Follow the sings to Archaia Nemea.There are brown sings indicating the exact location of both sites.
FROM PATRAIf you are coming in Greece using your own car you will be probably using the port of Patra, located in the western part of Peloponese. If your destination is Athens or the ports of Pireus and Lavrio, it is a good idea to make a small detour and visit both those sites. Take the National Road to Corinth-Athens and 129km after exit this road and enter the one to Tripoli and after 20km you will see on your right,at a car parking the Ancient quarry of Kleonai. Exit to Nemea, after 2 more kms.Follow the sings to Archaia Nemea.There are brown sings indicating the exact location of both sites.
GPS info:Nemea Archealogical site: 37°48'31.88"N, 22°42'38.25"E
Nemea Ancient Stadium: 37°48'24.28"N, 22°42'52.14"E
Kleonai Ancient Quarry: 37°48'13.13"N, 22°45'27.13"E