The Revived Nemean Games
What. The New Nemean Games are an attempt to bring back to life the ancient festivals that were based, like the Olympics, on athletic competitions. There will be foot races for competitors from around the world who are at least 8 years of age. Younger children (over 5 years old) may also participate, but ALWAYS with their parents' responsibility. There is no upper age limit. The races will be 90 m. in length, and the runners will be grouped by age and by gender. These will be the basic events of a day-long assembly of thousands of spectators, likewise from around the world. Interspersed with the races will be music and dance by local groups. At the end of the day there will be a 7.5 km. race -- "The Footsteps of Herakles" -- from the ancient Temple of Herakles in Kleonai to the ancient stadium of Nemea. The goal is for an international festival in the spirit of brotherhood for everyone set on the ancient earth where first occurred the notion of substituting athletic competition for war.
Where. Nemea, Greece, is located about 25 kilometers southwest of Corinth in the northeastern part of the Peloponnesos in the foothills of the Arkadian Mountains at an elevation of about 340 meters above sea level. Average temperatures are relatively cooler than much of Greece, and we can anticipate warm, but not overwhelmingly hot, weather during the daytime on June 11. The nights can be chilly.
The festival will take place in the ancient stadium (constructed about 330 B.C.) at the eastern edge of the modern village of Ancient Nemea. Participants will run barefoot, and wear white tunics (the ancient chiton - in place of ancient nudity) in the first locker-room known in the history of mankind. They will proceed through the ancient tunnel, being careful not to damage the graffiti scratched on its walls by athletes 2,300 years ago - and not to add their own graffiti to the ancient monument. At the far end of the tunnel, each participant will wait for her or his name to be announced by the herald, and then will run out onto the track.
The participants will gather at the closed end of the track with the judges dressed in black robes just as they were in antiquity, and draw lots from a helmet for their lane assignments. They will proceed to the ancient stone starting line and curl their toes into the same stone grooves where the ancients placed their toes. At the signal, the barrier will be hurled to the ground, and the race will begin. Those who start too soon will be flogged publicly by the judges just as they were in antiquity.
The winner of each race will have a ribbon tied around the head and a branch of palm - again as in antiquity. At the end of the day, each winner will receive a crown of wild celery just as happened at Nemea more than 2300 years ago.
Meanwhile spectators, including those who have already run or who will run later, will be scattered around the stadium. Some will sit on the few stone seats that exist, others on modern chairs, but most will sit on rugs or blankets strewn on the sloping sides of the stadium just as was the ancient custom.
When. The races will take place on June 11, 2016. Participants must have registered no later than May 1, 2016.
How. Participants must pre-register by May 1, 2016 by one of the methods given above.
There are no registration fees, but participants must pre-register by May 1, and must be outside the ancient locker room by 8 a.m. on June 11, 2016, to receive their assigned running time, unless they have already received their time by email.
Participants under the age of 18 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian must have a letter from a parent giving consent to their participation. They will be under the supervision of local school teachers during the day of June 11.
Medical facilities. There are several doctors in the immediate Nemea area and the Health Center of Nemea is located about 4 kilometers from the ancient stadium. In addition, first aid facilities will be at the site on June 11.
Transportation. Travel to and from Greece, and within Greece is the responsibility of the participant. The Society will arrange shuttle buses to Nemea from Nauplion via Argos and Mycenae, and from Loutraki via Corinth on June 11. More details will be provided in May, 2016, to pre-registered participants.
From Athens, Nemea can be approached by private car, taxi, public bus, or the suburban train ("proastiakos"). Public buses leave five times each day for Nemea from the Kefissou station on the western outskirts of Athens. The trip takes about two hours and costs €12.40. Be sure to specify Ancient Nemea the stop for which is about 5.5 kilometers before that for (Nea) Nemea. (Local mentions of "Nemea" always refer to the larger town of Nea Nemea and not to the small village of Ancient Nemea where the stadium lies.) Private car - or taxi (cost about €160) - takes about 1 1/2 hours from the center of Athens and follows the National Highway to Corinth (toll €2.10+1.80). Just past Corinth the highway splits: the left fork goes toward Tripolis (toll €2.50). The second interchange after the toll boοth is for Ancient Nemea, and there are signs thereafter for the archaeological site and museum.
The suburban train (proastiakos) goes from Athens (the airport and the city) to Corinth and on to Kiato. The web site (http://www.trainose.gr/en) gives schedules and fares. From the Corinth station there are taxis to Nemea (€25-30).
Lodging. Lodging is the responsibility of the participant. The Society will undertake to lodge any unaccompanied participants of less than 18 years with a local family for the night of June 11, upon written request from the participant by May 1, 2016.
See below “accommodations” for a list hotels in the region.
Dining. Food is the responsibility of the participant except for the evening of June 11 when, after the closing ceremonies, a feast will be held by the local villagers of Ancient Nemea in honor of all who ran.
Other attractions. In addition to the ancient stadium, the archaeological site with the Temple of Zeus, ancient baths, and museum are about 400 meters from the stadium. Video tapes about ancient athletics will be shown at the office of the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games about 500 meters from the stadium.
About 5 kilometers from the stadium to the west, on the road to Nea Nemea, is the picturesque medieval church of the "Virgin of the Bedrock" (Panaghia tou Vrachou) which clings to the side of a sheer cliff. North of Nea Nemea and 9 kilometers distant from the stadium is the ancient site of Phlious, a city-state which is largely unexcavated but the theater of which can be seen. Further to the west is the modern town of Aidonia where a Bronze Age cemetery has produced rich material on display at the museum of Ancient Nemea.
In the other direction, to the east in the next valley are the largely unexcavated remains of the ancient city of Kleonai. The Temple of Herakles with a large fragment from the torso of the cult statue is visible, and is the starting point for the 7.5 km. race back to Nemea.
To the southeast of Nemea and above the Nemea train station is the site of Dervenaki (6.8 kilometers from the stadium) where the Greek hero Kolotrones won perhaps the most significant land battle of the Greek War of Independence on July 26-28, 1822. His white marble statue is a conspicuous landmark.
Finally, the distinctive flat-top Mt. Phoukas (ancient Mt. Apesas, elev. 873 m.) about 6 kilometers north of the stadium beckons the sturdy hiker to a excellent view of the entire northeastern Peloponnesos.
Several important archaeological sites are within a few minutes' drive of Nemea, They are listed here in alphabetical order.
ARGOS (south, 20 km.) Parts of the ancient town and its theater have been excavated, and the archaeological museum off the central square of Argos contains important material especially of the prehistoric and geometric periods.
ANCIENT CORINTH (northeast, 20 km.) The center of the ancient city visited by St. Paul has been uncovered, and the museum on the site reflects the wealth of Corinth in its two periods of particular importance: the Archaic and the Roman.
EPIDAUROS (southeast, 45 km.) The sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios is best known for its marvelous ancient theater, but its architectural monuments and their details are also beautiful, and its stadium important as being nearly contemporary with that at Nemea.
ISTHMIA (northeast, 30 km) The sanctuary of Poseidon hosted games which were, like the Nemean Games, a part of the panhellenic cycle. The small museum has several pieces of athletic gear, and the site shows the remains of an early, apparently unsuccessful, attempt to construct a starting mechanism.
LERNA (south, 30 km) A very important site for the architecture of the early Bronze Age.
MYCENAE (south, 10 km) The site of the palace of Agamemnon which has given its name to a golden prehistoric civilization. The massive Lion Gate and the incredible tholos tombs are the highlights.
NAUPLION (south-southeast, 30 km) The medieval fortifications above the city are its most impressive remains, but the archaeological museum on the main square of the town contains important prehistoric material.
TIRYNS (south-southeast, 25 km) A prehistoric site contemporary with but apparently subservient to Mycenae with impressive Cyclopean defensive walls.
WINE In addition to its antiquities, Nemea is well known for its indigenous Agiorgitiko (St. George) grape. The award-winning red wine produced from this grape is characteristically spicy with underlying plum notes. Its acidity is low, but it has excellent fruitiness and coloring. In recent years, a number of good white and rosé wines have been added to the local repertoire. There are many wineries, mostly family owned and operated, in the region, and many are open daily to the public for tasting and purchase.