Ancient Nemea and the Wine country
Nemea is situated about 30 km south of Corinth in the famous wine district of Greece. Nemea is only a small archaeological site compared to sites like Olympia but is a very pleasant and interesting place to visit, its name means 'pasture or meadow' and describes its wonderful location perfectly, much of the rolling hills and valleys around the site are covered in grape vines.
Ancient sanctuary of Nemea
Like Olympia, Nemea was a sanctuary and not a city and games were held here every 2 years in honour of Zeus, the Nemean games actually became one of the big four games in the Greek world, Olympia being another. It is also the place where Hercules killed the famous Nemean Lion as one of his twelve tasks, and has many myths surrounding the legend. Archaeological finds have proved the area was occupied during the Mycenaean period with many tombs being found at nearby Aidonia and Kleonai.
Although the sanctuary and games at Nemea was a local event organised by the city of Kleonai it soon became panhellenic by 573 BC. The games had similar events to all other panhellenic games; running events, horse races, wrestling, Pankration, sprinting in full armour, chariot racing, discus, javelin, musical contests and even drama.
Temple of Zeus of Nemea
The Temple of Zeus at Nemea was built in 330 BC on the site of a much older Temple from the 6th century BC, and is 43 by 23 metres (140ft by 72.5ft) originally made up of 36 Doric columns. Up until recently only three of the columns stood but due to restoration there are now seven standing columns. Under the cella in the temple, 6 feet below is an 'adyton' which is believed to be a very holy place where only priests could enter.
The Nemean Games
One of the most important parts of Nemea was the stadium, about 400 metres East of the Temple. The stadium of Nemea dates to the 4th century BC and is still in very good condition where visitors can actually walk where ancient athletes once competed as both the start and finish line have been unearthed. There is also a stone trough spanning the stadium perimeter which was once full of water from a water source which kept the spectators from being thirsty. One of the most interesting things at the stadium is a tunnel leading from the 'undressing' room to the stadium for the athletes to enter the stadium.
Other buildings at Nemea are the baths from the 4th century BC which were once full of water and must have been very popular during the games that were held in the summer. In the Temple there was also a huge altar where animal sacrifices to the Gods were made. Like many ancient sites in Greece there are the ruins of an early Christian basilica and cemetery from about 400 AD, it is believed to have been built on what was once a kind of ancient hotel for the Athletes.
Museum of Nemea
The museum at Nemea isn't the largest you will find in Greece, but one of the most interesting. The artefacts on display range from prehistoric to Roman times and are not all from Nemea but other sites nearby such as Kleonai, Philious and Aidonia. Some of the most impressive finds are from Aidonia which has 18 Mycenaean tombs dating back to the 15th century BC. The artefacts from Nemea are mostly about the games which are very interesting.
Nemea wine country
The area around ancient Nemea is very famous for its wine produce, especially red, which has been making wine since Mycenaean times. The native grape here is called the agiorgitiko grape named after the monastery of Agios Georgios who once owned all the lands around Nemea. There are plenty of wine shops selling all the local wine in the area, but along the roadsides you will find many stalls selling much cheaper home produced Nemean wine which is also usually good.
Ancient Nemea - Information
Nemea is about 35 km south of Corinth and is in some of the most beautiful countryside in the Peloponnese. As well as having plenty of ancient site near to Nemea such as Mycenae and Argos it is also in the center of Greece's largest and most famous wine making area.
Tips:Although ancient Nemea is very interesting, it won't take you very long to see the site, so make sure you see all the othjer sites and attractions in the area.