music by Lucas Thanos
photos by various artists
location: Archaia Nemea, Corinthia, Greece
Nemea (/ˈniːmiə/; Greek: Νεμέα) is an ancient site in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese, in Greece.
Myth, legend and history
In 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, according to its aition, or founding myth, accounting for the crown of victory being made of parsley or the wild form of celery and for the black robes of the judges, interpreted as a sign of mourning. The Nemean Games were documented from 573 BC, or earlier, at the sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea.
At the temenos, the grave of Opheltes was surrounded by open-air altars and enclosed within a stone wall. The sanctuary's necessary spring was named Adrasteia: Pausanias wondered whether it had the name because an "Adrastus" had "discovered" it, but Adrasteia, the "inescapable one", was a nurse of the infant Zeus in Crete. The tumulus nearby was credited as the burial mound of his father, and the men of Argos had the privilege of naming the priest of Nemean Zeus, Pausanias was informed when he visited in the late 2nd century CE. In his time the temple, which he noted was "worth seeing", stood in a grove of cypresses; its roof had fallen in and there was no cult image within the temple. Three limestone columns of the Temple of Nemean Zeus of about 330 BC have stood since their construction, and two more were reconstructed in 2002. As of late 2007, four more are being re-erected. Three orders of architecture were employed at this temple, which stands at the end of the Classic period and presages this and other developments of Hellenistic architecture, such as the slenderness (a height of 6.34 column diameters) of the Doric columns of the exterior. The site around the temple has been excavated in annual campaigns since 1973: the great open-air altar, baths, and ancient accommodations for visitors have been unearthed. 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 BC, with ancient graffiti on the walls.
The material discovered in the excavations is on display in an on-site museum constructed as a part of the University of California's excavations.
The Sanctuary of Zeus
Prior 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.