Plan of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea
(from http://shelton.dreamhosters.com/nemeaexcav/nemeanews/nemeanews.html)

 

Full moon through the pillars of the Temple of Zeus—24 July 2002
(from Stephen G. Miller, Nemea: A Guide to the Site and Museum, Athens 2004, p. 173)

Aerial view of the Temple of Zeus—1977
(from Stephen G. Miller, Nemea: A Guide to the Site and Museum, Athens 2004, p. 29)

 

  • as his first labor, Herakles killed a lion that was wreaking havoc in the area of Nemea
    • hence this labor is called the ‘Nemean Lion’

  • when the Seven Against Thebes travelled to the attack, they stopped at Nemea, where the infant Opheltes, lying on a bed of parsely, was killed by a serpent while his nurse fetched water
    • the Seven instituted the Nemean Games as an ongoing memorial to the infant
      • the judges wore black robes
      • the victor’s crown was made of celery (= wild parsley)

 

  • started in 573 B. C.

  • took place biennially

  • one of the four Panhellenic, ‘crown’ games
    • so called because victors won only a crown of vegetation
    • at Nemea, the crown was made of wild celery

  • games were dedicated to Zeus


  • the French began digging in 1884

  • only sporadic excavations took place until 1973

  • then the University of California at Berkeley took up the site
    • under the direction of Professor Stephen G. Miller
    • Miller is now retired and lives in the area of Nemea
    • he has re-established the festival of the Nemean Games


The 2012 group had a chance meeting with Dr. Miller and his dog, Opheltes, in the stadium.

    

  • a hotel for athletes and their trainers

  • built in the 4th century B. C.

  • about one-third of the Xenon was later covered by a Christian basilica


    

  • built in the last third of the 3rd century B. C.

  • the earliest known example of such a building in Greece

  • the ancient name for such a building is not known

  • contained tub rooms and changing areas
    • some of the original plumbing is still visible


    

  • shrine to the hero Opheltes
    • probably contained a cenotaph (no actual burial has been found)

  • mentioned by Pausanias

  • discovered in 1979

  • underwent two building phases
    • the remains visible today (foundations of a wall) are from the Hellenistic shrine
      • dated to the end of the 4th or beginning of the 3rd century B. C.
    • the Archaic shrine, built over by the Hellenistic shrine, consisted of a mound of earth; a small, rectangular, stone structure; and at least two altars
      • it was constructed in the early 6th century, probably at the same time the Nemean Games were instituted
      • many votive ceramic drinking vessels were placed in the mound
      • two statuettes of an infant, presumably Opheltes, were found in the Heroön and are now in the museum


    

  • east of the Heroön of Opheltes traces of wheel tracks have been found

  • this is the only place in the Nemea valley where a hippodrome could have been located


    

  • remains are from the temple built ca. 330 B. C.
    • which replaced a temple of the 6th century
    • the earlier temple had been destroyed by fire

  • at the rear of the temple is a ‘crypt,’ descending some six and one-half feet below the level of the floor
    • oracles may have been given here, as happened in similar crypts in the temples at Delphi and Didyma
      • but those temples are known as oracular sites, and no such attestation exists for Nemea

  • made of limestone quarried from the nearby ridge between Nemea and Kleonai

  • combined Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles
    • exterior peristyle was Doric
    • interior colonnade was Corinthian
    • a second story, atop the interior colonnade, was Ionic


    

  • in front of the Temple of Zeus are the foundations of an exceptionally long altar—the Altar of Zeus

  • sacrifices would have been made on this altar


    

  • constructed ca. 330 - 320 B. C.

  • used for only about 60 years
    • Nemean Games were moved to Argos in 271 B. C.

  • an apodyterion (locker room) stood in front of the entrance to the stadium
    • this building has been completely dismantled over the centuries

  • an arched tunnel lined with stones runs through an intervening ridge to connect the apodyterion with the stadium
    • built ca. 320 B. C. this is one of the earliest Greek arches
    • various graffiti are visible on the stones, as are holes made by a shepherd for tying his animals
    • the tunnel was discovered in 1978; in it were the bones and personal effects of a man who had hidden there in the late 6th century A. D.
      • his bones are displayed and his grisly end described in the on-site museum

  • some of the north end of the stadium has eroded away
    • the length of the track was originally about 194 yards long

  • stone channels line both sides of the track
    • these tracks carried water both for drinking and for watering the track

  • at the south end of the stadium is the balbis, or starting line, with grooves for the runners’ toes