Nemean Games

The Nemean Games (Greek: Νέμεα or Νέμεια) were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were held at Nemea every two years (or every third).

With the Isthmian Games, the Nemean Games were held both the year before and the year after the Ancient Olympic Games and the Pythian Games in the third year of the Olympiad cycle. Like the Olympic Games, they were held in honour of Zeus. They were said to have been founded by Heracles after he defeated the Nemean Lion; another myth said that they originated as the funeral games of a child named Opheltes. However, they are known to have existed only since the 6th century BC (from 573 BC, or earlier). The winners received a wreath of wild celery leaves from the city of Argos.

Stadion of Nemea
The stadion of Nemea.


The various legends concerning its origin are related in the argumenta of the Scholiasts to the Nemea of Pindar, with which may be compared Pausanias,[1] and Apollodorus.[2] All these legends, however, agree in stating that the Nemean Games were originally instituted by the Seven against Thebes in commemoration of the death of Opheltes, later called Archemorus. When the Seven arrived at Nemea, and were very thirsty, they met Hypsipile, who was carrying Opheltes (Greek: Ὀφέλτης), the child of the priest of Zeus and of Eurydice. While she showed the heroes the way to the nearest well, she left the child behind lying in a meadow, which during her absence was killed by a dragon. When the Seven on their return saw the accident, they slew the dragon and instituted funeral games to be held every third year. Other legends attribute the institution of the Nemean Games to Heracles, after he had slain the Nemean Lion. The alternative tradition was that he had either revived the ancient games, or at least introduced the alteration by which they were from this time celebrated in honor of Zeus.

Pindar stated that the games were afterward celebrated in honor of Zeus.[3] Initially the games were warlike in character, and only warriors and their sons were allowed to take part in them. Later on, however, they were thrown open to all the Greeks. The games took place in a grove between Cleonae and Phlius.[4] The various events, according to Apollodorus,[5] were horse-racing, running in armour in the stadium,[6] wrestling, chariot racing and discus, boxing, spear-throwing and archery, as well as musical contests.[7] The prize given to the victors was originally a wreath of olive branches, but afterwards a wreath of green celery. The location of the Nemean Games varied at different times among Cleonae, Corinth, and Argos. They were sometimes called the Cleonaean Games after the first location. The judges who awarded the prizes were dressed in black robes, and an instance of their justice, when the Argives presided, is recorded by Pausanias.[8]

Regarding the time of year the Nemean Games were celebrated, the Scholiast on Pindar[9] merely states that they were held on the 12th of the month of Panemos, though in another passage he makes a statement which contradicts this assertion. Pausanias[10] speaks of winter Nemean Games, and distinguishes them from others which were held in summer. It seems that for a time the celebration of the Nemean Games was neglected, and that they were revived in Olympiad 51.4 (573 BC), from which time Eusebius dates the first Nemead. Henceforth they were for a long time celebrated regularly twice in every Olympiad, both at the start of every second Olympic year in the winter, and soon after the start of every fourth Olympic year in the summer. About the time of the Battle of Marathon it became customary in Argolis to reckon according to Nemeads.

The Hellenistic Stadion (with a vaulted entrance tunnel dated to about 320 BC, according to Stephen G. Miller, 2001, pp. 90–93) has recently been discovered. The Games, under Macedonian control, returned to Nemea at the end of the 4th century BC. In 208 BC Philip of Macedonia was honored by the Argives with the presidency at the Nemean games,[11] and Quintius Flamininus proclaimed at the Nemean Games the freedom of the Argives.[12] The emperor Hadrian restored the horse-racing of boys at the Nemean Games, which had fallen into disuse. But after his time they do not seem to have been much longer celebrated, as they are no longer mentioned by any of the writers of the subsequent period.

The program of the Nemean Games

The gymnic part

The participants to these parts competed in the nude.

  • The Stadion A foot race which was about 178 meters at Nemea.
  • The Diaulos Twice the Stadion foot race, about 355 meters at Nemea.
  • The Hippios Twice the Diaulos foot race, about 710 meters at Nemea.[13]
  • The Dolichos A long distance running race. The exact length of this race is uncertain; it could have been 7, 10, 20 or 24 times round the stadium.[14]
  • The Hoplitodromos A Diaulos foot race with the competitors wearing helmets, a bronze covered hoplon and initially metal greaves.
  • The Pyx A boxing-like game. In order to protect themselves and to do more damage the opponents bound their hands and wrists with long leather strips. The first to get knocked out or acknowledge defeat would lose.
  • The Pankration A blend of boxing and wrestling with very few rules. Again the first to go knock-out or acknowledge defeat would lose.
  • The Pale Wrestling from an upright position. The goal was to throw the opponent on the ground three times.
  • The Pentathlon This pentathlon consisted of the stadion, a game of wrestling or pale, javelin-throwing, discus-throwing and long-jump.

The equestrian part

Taking place in a hippodrome, these were the only games where women could take part,[15] not because they were allowed to ride, but because it was the owner of a horse or chariot - rather than the rider or charioteer - who was considered the victor. This even allowed cities to participate by funding equestrian teams.

So far no ancient hippodrome has been recovered, so the given lengths are assumptions.

  • The Tethrippon chariots, with four horses racing a distance of 8400 meters or 5.25 miles.
  • The Synoris chariots, with two horses racing a distance of 5600 meters or 3.5 miles.
  • The Kélēs, a horseback race over a distance of 4200 meters or 2.5 miles.

The modern Nemean Games

The Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games was founded in 1994, after more than 20 years of archaeological excavation at Nemea. The contemporary games, held every four years since 1996, are a form of popular education in history, as well as a counter to the commercialism of the modern Olympics. Races are organized according to age and gender, open to international participation. No medals are awarded, only crowns of palm branches and wild celery.

In 2008, some 600 people clad in tunics raced barefoot in the ruins of the ancient stadium on June 21. Two races were staged for the runners aged from 10 to 80, one of 100 metres (110 yards) and the other of 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi). The most striking feature of this attempt was the revival of the Hoplitodromos race.

The last Nemead was held on 11th and 12 June 2016.

See also


  1. ^ Pausanias, ii. 15. §2, etc.
  2. ^ Apollodorus, iii. 6. §4
  3. ^ Pindar, Nem. iii. 114, etc.
  4. ^ Strabo, viii.
  5. ^ Apollodorus, iii. 6
  6. ^ Pausanias, ii. 15. §2
  7. ^ Pausanias, viii. 50. §3; Plutarch, Philop. 11.
  8. ^ Pausanias, viii. 40. §3
  9. ^ Scholiast on Pindar, Argum. ad Nem.
  10. ^ Pausanias, ii. 15. §2
  11. ^ Livy, xxvii. 30, etc.; Polybius, x. 26
  12. ^ Livy, xxxiv. 41; Polybius, x. 26.
  13. ^ Evidence suggests this race wasn't held always.
  14. ^ See J. Jüthner, Die athletische Leibesübungen der Griechen (1968) for a discussion of the classical sources.
  15. ^ After the Romans conquered Greece, women could no longer participate.


  • William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, (1870)
  • Stephen G. Miller, Nemea: A Guide to the Site and the Museum, Berkeley, 1989 (2nd ed.: Athens, 2004).
  • Stephen G. Miller (with contributions by Robert C. Knapp and David Chamberlain), Excavations at Nemea II: The Early Hellenistic Stadium, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.

External links

  • The Nemean Games, official site of The Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games.
  • [1], Opheltis e-book.
Amphiaraus (play)

Amphiaraus (Ancient Greek: Ἀμφιάραος, Amphiaraos) is a lost Greek play by the Athenian poet Sophocles. It is believed to have been a satyr play, although it is not clear which incident pertaining to the title character was the subject of the play, nor even which incident would lend itself to satyr play treatment.One fragment of the play is known to be extant, and was translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones as "The sentinel crab of this prophetic chorus..." A one-sentence fragment of Sophocles (fragment 958) telling of the death of Amphiaraus – that the ground of Thebes opened up to receive him and his arms and his horses and chariot – is possibly from Amphiaraus also, but may belong to one of several other plays Sophocles wrote about Amphiaraus and his son Alcmaeon. In addition, second century Greek rhetorician Athenaeus noted that within "the satyr play Amphiaraus," Sophocles had a character who "dances the letters." This comment by Athenaeus came after he had noted a number of instances within other plays in which an illiterate character described the letters of a word that he could not read himself, and that the dance by the Sophocles character was "similar."Within Greek mythology, the title character Amphiaraus had not wanted to take part in an attack against the city of Thebes, led by his wife's brother Adrastus and by Polynices, since Amphiaraus knew the attack was doomed. This attack was dramatized by Aeschylus in his play Seven Against Thebes, and the aftermath was dramatized by Sophocles himself in Antigone. Polynices bribed Amphiaraus' wife Eriphyle, who was also Adrastus' sister, to coerce Amphiaraus to take part in the attack. Amphiaraus had charged their son Alcmaeon to avenge him on Eriphyle, and after Alcmaeon killed Eriphyle, he was pursued by the Erinyes, similar to the fate of Orestes after killing Clytemnestra.One episode from the myth of Amphiaraus that scholars believe may have lent itself to the plot of this satyr play is the time when Amphiaraus went into hiding to avoid taking part in the attack against Thebes. Another episode that has been postulated as the basis for this play is Amphiaraus role in founding the Nemean Games. Since Sophocles wrote several play involving the myth of Amphiaraus and Alcmaeon, it is possible that Amphiaraus was the satyr play following a connected trilogy related to this myth. If so, the tragedies in the trilogy may have included Eriphyle, Epigoni, in which Alcmaeon kills Eriphyle, and Alcmaeon, which may have involved the sequel to the killing, including the pursuit of Alcmaeon by the Erinyes, his eventual purification, and subsequent death.

Antiochus of Arcadia

Antiochus (Ancient Greek: Ἀντίοχος) of Arcadia was a man of ancient Greece who was the envoy sent by his state to the Persian court in 367 BCE, when embassies went to Susa from most of the Grecian states. The Arcadians, probably through the influence of Pelopidas, the Theban ambassador, were treated as of less importance than the Eleans—an affront which Antiochus resented by refusing the presents of the king.The ancient writer Xenophon wrote that this Antiochus had conquered the ancient fighting competition called the pancration; and the historian Pausanias informs us that Antiochus, the pancratiast, was a native of Lepreum, and that he won in this contest once in the Olympic games, twice in the Nemean Games, and twice in the Isthmian Games. His statue was made by Nicodamus. Lepreum was claimed by the Arcadians as one of their towns, whence Xenophon calls Antiochus an Arcadian; but it is more usually reckoned as belonging to Elis.

Argos Theater

The Argos Theater was built in 320 BC. and is located in Argos, Greece against Larissa Hill. Nearby from this site is Agora, Roman Odeon, and the Baths of Argos. The theater is one of the largest architectural developments in Greece and was renovated in ca 120 AD.

Chrysippus of Elis

In Greek mythology, Chrysippus (; Greek: Χρύσιππος) was a divine hero of Elis in the Peloponnesus.

Cleonae (Argolis)

Cleonae or Kleonai (Ancient Greek: Κλεωναί) was a city in ancient Peloponnesus, described by writers of the Roman period as a city of Argolis, but never included in the Argeia or territory of Argos, in the flourishing period of Greek history. Cleonae was situated on the road from Argos to Corinth, at the distance of 120 stadia from the former city, and 80 stadia from the latter. There was a narrow pass through the mountains, called Tretus, leading from Argos to Cleonae. Cleonae stood in a small plain upon a river flowing into the Corinthian Gulf a little westward of Lechaeum. In its territory was Mount Apesas, now Mount Phoukas, connected with the Acrocorinthus by a rugged range of hills. Both Strabo and Pausanias describe Cleonae as a small place; and the former writer, who saw it from the Acrocorinthus, says that it is situated upon a hill surrounded on all sides by buildings, and well walled, so as to deserve the epithet given to it by Homer in the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad – ἐϋκτιμένας Κλεωνάς ('well-built Cleonae'). Statius also speaks of "ingenti turritae mole Cleonae."Cleonae possessed only a small territory. It derived its chief importance from the Nemean Games being celebrated in its territory, in the grove of Nemea, between Cleonae and Phlius. Hence the festival is called by Pindar ἀγὼν Κλεωναῖος ('the Cleonaean games') Heracles is said to have slain Eurytus and Cteatus, the sons of Actor, near Cleonae; and Diodorus mentions a temple of Heracles erected in the neighbourhood of the city in memory of that event.Cleonae is said to have derived its name either from Cleones, the son of Pelops, or from Cleone, the daughter of the river-god Asopus. It was conquered by the Dorians, whereupon some of its inhabitants, together with those of the neighbouring town of Phlius, are said to have founded Clazomenae in Asia Minor. In the Dorian conquest, Cleonae formed part of the lot of Temenus, and in early times was one of the confederated allies or subordinates of Argos. Indeed in the historical period, Cleonae was for the most part closely connected with Argos. After the Greco-Persian Wars, the Cleonaeans assisted the Argives in subduing Mycenae; and they fought as the allies of Argos at the Battle of Mantinea (418 BCE). Of their subsequent history little is known, though their city is occasionally mentioned down to the time of Ptolemy.The site of ancient Cleonae is located near modern Ag. Vasileios, near Archaies Kleones.

Hermesianax of Tralles

Hermesianax of Tralles (Ancient Greek: Ἑρμησιάναξ) was a citizen of Tralles and of Corinth in 1st century AD. His father was named Dionysios (Ancient Greek: Διονύσιος). His three daughters Thryphosa (Ancient Greek: Τρυφῶσα), Hedea (Ancient Greek: Ἡδεα) and Dionysia (Ancient Greek: Διονυσία) were young athletes and champions.

Thryphosa won the stadion of the Pythian games and of the Isthmian games.

Hedea won the race for war chariots of the Isthmian games, the stadion of the Nemean games and of the Sicyon and the kithara-contest for children in Athens.

Dionysia won the stadion at Asklepian games at Epidaurus and in another game, but due to damage at the inscription researchers could not find out in which.

He erected a monument at Delphi for his daughters dedicated to the Pythian Apollo.The inscription provides the earliest known names of females victors in non equestrian sports.

Heroon at Nemea

The Heroon at Nemea is a part of the larger Panhellenic sanctuary of Zeus in the North-West Argolid. A small feature of the sanctuary as a whole, the heroon is a large mound of earth situated on the west side of the Nemea river. This site is dedicated to the mythological hero Opheltes, an infant whose death was foretold by the seer Amphiaraus. Though little remains of the activities of the heroon, it is suspected that the athletic games which took place there were the predecessor of the Nemean games, though this does contrast with the idea that Herakles created the games. Evidence of cult activities and the practicing of magic at the heroon have also been found.


Hysmon (Greek: Ὕσμων) was an Ancient Greek pentathlete from Elis.

As a boy, he began to practise the pentathlon as a cure for rheumatism. He won this contest once in the Olympic games and once in the Nemean games, but was excluded from the Isthmian games as an Eleian. He also competed in the pankration, and won an Olympic victory in this event. His statue in the Altis at Olympia, representing him as holding old-fashioned halteres, was the work of Cleon.

Isthmian Games

Isthmian Games or Isthmia (Ancient Greek: Ἴσθμια) were one of the Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were named after the Isthmus of Corinth, where they were held. As with the Nemean Games, the Isthmian Games were held both the year before and the year after the Olympic Games (the second and fourth years of an Olympiad), while the Pythian Games were held in the third year of the Olympiad cycle.


In Greek mythology, King Laius (pronounced ), or Laios (Greek: Λάϊος) of Thebes was a key personage in the Theban founding myth.

Multi-sport event

A multi-sport event is an organized sporting event, often held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports among organized teams of athletes from (mostly) nation-states. The first major, modern, multi-sport event of international significance is the modern Olympic Games.

Many regional multi-sport events have since been founded on and modeled after the Olympics. Most have the same basic structure. Games are held over the course of several days in and around a "host city", which changes for each competition. Countries send national teams to each competition, consisting of individual athletes and teams that compete in a wide variety of sports. Athletes or teams are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals for first, second and third place respectively. The games are generally held every four years, though some are annual competitions.


Nemea (; Ancient Greek: Νεμέα; Ionic Greek: Νεμέη) is an ancient site in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese, in Greece. Formerly part of the territory of Cleonae in ancient Argolis, it is today situated in the regional unit of Corinthia. The small village of Archaia Nemea (formerly known as "Koutsoumadi" and then "Iraklion") is immediately southwest of the archaeological site, while the new town of Nemea lies to the west.

Here in Greek mythology Heracles overcame the Nemean Lion of the Lady Hera, and here during Antiquity the Nemean Games were played, in three sequence, ending about 235 BCE, celebrated in the eleven Nemean odes of Pindar.

Olympic winners of the Archaic period

Just how far back in history organized athletic contests were held remains a matter of debate, but it is reasonably certain that they occurred in Greece almost 3,000 years ago. However ancient in origin, by the end of the 6th century BC at least four Greek sporting festivals, sometimes called "classical games," had achieved major importance: the Olympic Games, held at Olympia; the Pythian Games at Delphi; the Nemean Games at Nemea; and the Isthmian Games, held near Corinth. The Olympic Games was perhaps the greatest of all sporting event held every four years and all Olympian winners, were highly appreciated among the Greeks.

Philinus of Cos (athlete)

Philinus of Cos (Greek: Φιλῖνος ὁ Κῷος; 3rd century BC), son of Hegepolis, was an ancient Greek athlete and five times Olympic winner.

Promachus of Pellene

Promachus (Greek: Πρόμαχος - Promachos) was a pankration athlete of the Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece. Son of Dryon, he was from Pellene in Achaea. He was a winner of the 94th Olympiad in 404 BC. He also won three times at the Isthmian and the Nemean Games. There was also a statue of him in ancient Olympia.


In Greek mythology, Pronax (; Ancient Greek: Πρώναξ) is the son of Talaus and Lysimache, and brother of Adrastus. The Nemean Games are supposed to have been instituted in his honour.Pronax' children were Lycurgus, who was believed to have been raised from the dead by Asclepius, and Amphithea, who married either Adrastus or Dion.

Sostratus of Sicyon

Sostratus of Sicyon (Greek: Σώστρατος, Sostratos) was an Olympic athlete and pankratiast from Sicyon in Ancient Greece, known for his style of fighting, bending or breaking his opponents fingers. He won the pankration crown at three successive Olympiads in 364, 360 and 356 BC. Further, he won 12 such victories at the Isthmian and Nemean Games combined, and two more at the Pythian Games in Delphi. According to the extant records, his feat of three Olympic victories in the pankration was equaled by only three others and surpassed by no-one in the over 1000-year history of the ancient Olympic Games.


In Greek mythology, Tydeus (; Ancient Greek: Τυδεύς Tūdeus) was an Aeolian hero of the generation before the Trojan War. He was one of the Seven Against Thebes, and the father of Diomedes, who is frequently known by the patronymic Tydides.

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