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NE´MEA ( Νεμέα, Ion. Νεμέη: Adj. Νέμειος, Νεμεαῖος, Nemeaeus), the name of a valley in the territory of Cleonae, where Hercules slew the Nemean lion, and where the Nemean games were celebrated every other year. It is described by Strabo as situated between Cleonae and Phlius (viii. p. 377). The valley lies in a direction nearly north and south, and is about two or three miles long, and from half to three quarters of a mile in breadth. It is shut in on every side by mountains, and is hence called by Pindar a deep vale (βαθύπεδος, Nem. 3.18.) There is a remarkable mountain on the NE., called in ancient times APESAS (Ἀπέσας), now Fuka, nearly 3000 feet high, with a flat summit, which is visible from Argos and Corinth. On this mountain Perseus is said to have first sacrificed to Zeus Apesantius. (Paus. 2.15.3; Steph. B. sub voce Ἀπέσας; Stat. Theb. 3.460, seq.) Theocritus gives Nemea the epithet of “well-watered” (εὐΰδρου Νεμέης χῶρος,, Theocr. 25.182). Several rivulets descend from th<*>surrounding mountains, which collect in the plain, and form a river, which flows northward through the ridges of Apesas, and falls into the Corinthian gulf, forming in the lower part of its source the boundary between the territories of Sicyon and Corinth. This river also bore the name of Nemea (Strab. viii. p.382; Diod. 14.83; Liv. 33.15); but as it was dependent for its supply of water upon the season of the year, it was sometimes called the Nemean Charadra. (Aesch. de Fals. Leg. § 168, ed. Bekker; Χαράδρα, Xen. Hell. 4.2. 15) The mountains, which enclose the valley, have several natural caverns, one of which, at the distance of 15 stadia from the sacred grove of Nemea, and on the road named Tretus, from the latter place to Mycenae, was pointed out as the cave of the Nemean lion. (Paus. 2.15.2.)

The name of Nemea was strictly applied to the sacred grove in which the games were celebrated. Like Olympia and the sanctuary at the Corinthian [p. 2.417]Isthmus, it was not a town. The sacred grove contained only the temple, theatre, stadium, and other monuments. There was a village in the neighbourhood called BEMBINA (Βέμβινα), of which, however, the exact site is unknown. (Strab. viii. p.377; Steph. B. sub voce The haunts of the Nemean lion are said to have been near Bembina. (Theocr. 25.202.)

The chief building in the sacred grove was the temple of Zeus Nemeius. the patron god of the place. When visited by Pausanias the roof had fallen, and the statue no longer remained (2.15.2). Three columns of the temple are still standing, amidst a vast heap of ruins. “Two of these columns belonged to the pronaos, and were placed as usual between antae; they are 4 feet 7 inches in diameter at the base, and still support their architrave. The third column, which belonged to the outer range, is 5 feet 3 inches in diameter at the base, and about 34 feet high, including a capital of 2 feet. Its distance from the corresponding column of the pronaos is 18 feet. The total height of the three members of the entablature was 8 feet 2 inches. The general intercolumination of the peristyle was 7 feet; at the angles, 5 feet 10 inches. From the front of the pronaos to the extremity of the cell within, the length was 95 feet; the breadth of the cell within, 31 feet; the thickness of the walls, 3 feet. The temple was a hexastyle, of about 65 feet in breadth on the upper step of the stylobate, which consisted of three steps: the number of columns on the sides, and consequently the length of the temple, I could not ascertain.” (Leake.) Though of the Doric order, the columns are as slender as some of the specimens of the Ionic, and are so different from the older Doric examples, that we ought probably to ascribe to the temple a date subsequent to the Persian wars.

Among the other monuments in the sacred grove were the tombs of Opheltes, and of his father Lycurgus. The former was surrounded with a stone enclosure, and contained certain altars; the latter was a mound of earth. (Paus. 2.15.3.) Pausanias also mentions a fountain called Adrasteia. The latter is, doubtless, the source of water near the Turkish fountain, which is now without water. At the foot of the mountain, to the left of this spot, are the remains of the stadium. Between the stadium and the temple of Zeus, on the left of the path, are some Hellenic foundations, and two. fragments of Doric columns. Near the temple are the ruins of a small church, which contains some Doric fragments. (Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 327, seq.; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 505, seq.)

For an account of the Nemean festival, see Dict. of Antiq. s. v.

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.83
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.15.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.15.3
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 4.2.15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 15
    • Statius, Thebias, 3
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