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RHAMNOUS Attica, Greece.

One of the most remote of the Athenian demes, Rhamnous was situated more than 50 km from the city, at the N limit of Attica's E coast, on the sea overlooking the strait separating the mainland from Euboia. Because of this strategic location Rhamnous became something of a garrison town in the 5th c. B.C., with a detachment of ephebes on permanent duty in Hellenistic times. The chief sanctuary, that of Nemesis, is rightly described by Pausanias (1.33.2) as “a small distance back from the coast.” The path linking the sanctuary with the town/fort was lined on both sides with graves. So varied a set of remains, together with the many inscriptions, makes it possible to visualize the lineaments of a miniature city-state with unusual clarity.

The Sanctuary of Nemesis contained two temples set on a flat terrace, in part supported by walls. The earlier, and smaller, is to the S, its plan a cella with Doric porch distyle in antis, built in the 480s B.C. Two thrones, originally placed in the porch, show that Themis was here worshiped together with Nemesis. A statue of the former and several other dedications were unearthed in the cella. They are now in the National Museum in Athens.

Fifty years later a larger temple, dedicated to Nemesis alone, was built to the N of the earlier. It was of local marble with a peristyle of Doric columns, 6 x 12, surrounding a cella with normal pronaos and opisthodomos. Although only a few blocks remain in place above the platform, enough parts of the colonnade and superstructure lie around to permit a detailed reconstruction. The temple was unfinished at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, and completion was delayed until ca. 420 B.C. Even then, some final finishes, such as the fluting, were permanently abandoned. But at least the temple was fit to receive Agorakritos' famous cult statue, which, according to Pliny (HN 36.17), M. Varro preferred above all other statues. From Pausanias' description (1.33.3-8) and from the many fragments preserved both of the large figure of Nemesis and of the small figures on the base, some idea of the group's appearance can be gained.

The fortress has not been fully explored. The most prominent remains are those of the heavy outer fortification, best preserved to the S, with a gate flanked by two towers. The summit of the hill is enclosed by a second, lighter circuit, also best preserved to the S, with an entrance at the SE corner guarded by a single tower. The higher circuit is dated to the 5th c. B.C., perhaps as late as 412 (cf. Thuc. 7.28.1), the lower to the 4th or early 3d.

Between these two circuits, some excavation has taken place, sufficient to reveal a variety of structures and monuments, but not to explain their purposes or position within the town's plan. The one exception is a theater located directly S and W of the opening in the inner fortification. Here a rectangular open area was divided into auditorium and orchestra by a base for stelai and a foundation for prohedriai, three of which still exist and are dated ca. 350 B.C. These simple arrangements will have served for assemblies of the demesmen and ephebes as well as for the attested performances of comedies.

On the hillside overlooking the fortress' main gate, on an artificial terrace, a small sanctuary was established to Aristomachos, a local hero physician said to have been buried at Marathon. But in Hellenistic times, perhaps through the broadening influence of the ephebes, his place was taken by the neighboring healing god from Oropos, Amphiaraos.


The Unedited Antiquities of Attica . . . (1817)P; W. H. Plummer, “Three Attic Temples,” BSA 45 (1950) 94-112P; J. Pouilloux, La Forteresse de Rhamnonte (1954)MPI; G. I. Despines, Συμβολὴ στὴ μελέτη τοῦ ἔργου τοῦ Ἀγορακρίτου (1971)PI; A. N. Dinsmoor, Rhamnous (1972)MPI.


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.33.2
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.28.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.17
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