Argive Heraion

The Argive Heraion was the main sanctuary of Argos and is one of the best-preserved and most scenic sites in the Argolid. Its ruins are situated 8 km northeast of Argos on the slopes of Mount Euboea. The goddess Hera, patron of the polis of Argos, was worshipped there. Her Argive sanctuary was the most famed centre of her worship.

Coordinates: 37° 41′ 31″ N, 22° 46′ 29″ E

heraion

The Argive Heraion was built over the remains of a Mycenaean settlement and archaeological evidence suggests that cultic activity at the Heraion may date back to as early as the 10th century BC. The sanctuary occupied three artificial terraces on a site above the Argive plain. The upper terrace was built using huge Cyclopean blocks of possible late Geometric date (760–700 BC) and shortly thereafter a temple of mud brick and wood with a colonnade was added. The Old Temple of Hera was one of the earliest colonnaded temples in Greece. It was destroyed by fire in 423 BC and has almost completely disappeared.

heraion_of_argos_reconstruction_on_a_1902_painting

The middle terrace was dominated by the New Temple of Hera which was built by the architect Eupolemos of Argos c. 420-410 BC following the fire. The famous chryselephantine statue of Hera (made of gold and ivory over wood core) by Polykleitos was housed in the temple’s cella. The traveller Pausanias, who visited the temple in the 2nd century AD, provided a brief description of the sculptures that decorated the pediment and the metopes of the temple: “over the columns some sculptures represented the birth of Zeus and the battle of the gods and giants, other the Trojan wars and the capture of Troy”. Some of the sculptures can be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Other structures located on the middle terrace included one of the earliest examples of a building with a peristyle court that seems to have served as a dining hall. Stoas were constructed to the south and below the temple terrace. On the lowest terrace was a stoa dating to the 5th century BC and an Archaic retaining wall with a flight of steps which ran the length of the middle terrace. Further west stood the Roman bath-house and the palaestra.

The sanctuary remained important during the Roman period. According to Pausanias, Hadrian dedicated a peacock in gold and precious stones at the Argive Temple of Hera in 124 AD (peacocks were regarded as birds sacred to Hera). Before him, Nero dedicated a purple cloak in 67 AD.

The Heraion was rediscovered in 1831 by the General Thomas Gordon who dug there five years later. Between 1892 and 1895 it was excavated by the Anglo-American archaeologist Charles Waldstein in the first archaeological campaign undertaken by the newly founded American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

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Overall view of New Temple of Hera from the North Stoa.
Overall view of New Temple of Hera from the North Stoa.
Northeast corner of the New Temple of Hera on the middle terrace.
Northeast corner of the New Temple of Hera on the middle terrace.
Central section of New Temple foundations.
Central section of New Temple foundations.
Overview of the North Stoa on the middle terrace,
Overview of the North Stoa on the middle terrace,
Overall view of North Stoa.
The North Stoa on the middle terrace.
Overall view of the West Peristyle Building.
Overall view of the West Peristyle Building.
East colonnade of West Peristyle Building.
East colonnade of West Peristyle Building.
The South Stoa.
The South Stoa on the lower terrace.
The foundations of the Old Temple of Hera on the upper terrace.
The foundations of the Old Temple of Hera on the upper terrace.
Overall view of New Temple of Hera from the upper terrace.
Overall view of New Temple of Hera from the upper terrace.
Overall view of New Temple of Hera and the middle terrace from the upper terrace.
Overall view of New Temple of Hera and the middle terrace from the upper terrace.

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Nemea

Ancient Nemea was an important site in antiquity because of the well-known myth of Heracles and the Nemean lion. In the first of its twelve labours, Heracles fought and killed the Nemean lion. In one version of the legend, Heracles established athletic games in honour of his father Zeus. Another legend has it that the games were instituted by Adrastos of Argos in honour of the infant Opheltes who was bitten by a snake and died at Nemea.

Coordinates: 37° 48′ 32″ N, 22° 42′ 37″ E

Nemea was not a city but, like Olympia, both a sanctuary to Zeus and a panhellenic games venue where the Nemean Games were held every two years. The first of the panhellenic festivals was established at Olympia in 776 BC. Delphi followed in 582 BC, then Isthmia in 580 BC and finally Nemea from 573 BC until 271 BC. The athletes competed over various distances in the stadium, and there were also competitions in boxing and wrestling. The horse and chariot races took place in the hippodrome which has not been discovered. Following the definitive movement of the Games to Argos, the site was largely abandoned.

According to Pausanias, Hadrian restored the Winter Games at Nemea in AD 124 and presided over the horse-racing of boys. Later on, during the 5th and 6th centuries AD, early Christians gathered within the area of Nemea and established an agricultural settlement. The foundations of an early Christian Basilica are still visible today approximately 100 meters south of the Temple of Zeus.

The ancient stadion was the centre of the games and forms, with the impressive remains of the Temple of Zeus, the heart of the archaeological park. The museum covers the archaeology of the site in depth and houses, apart from interesting finds, a beautiful model of the site.

PORTFOLIO

The Ancient Stadium of Nemea with the starting line in the foreground. It was built ca. 330 - 300 BC.
The Ancient Stadium of Nemea with the starting line in the foreground. It was constructed circa 330 BC when the games returned from Argos. The length of the track was 600 ancient feet, approximately 178 m.
The Ancient Stadium of Nemea could accommodate 30,000-40,000 spectators. There were no seats but a stand was provided for the judges.
The Ancient Stadium of Nemea could accommodate 30,000-40,000 spectators. There were no proper seats (only rough ledges were carved into the soft bedrock of the hillside) but the judges, called Hellenodikai, had a special platform on the east side of the stadium.
Vaulted entrance tunnel of the Ancient Stadium of Nemea measuring over 36 m in length and nearly 2.5 m in height.
The vaulted entrance tunnel of the Ancient Stadium of Nemea measuring over 36m in length.
The Apodyterium ("undressing room"), where the athletes got undressed, oiled their skin and prepared for the games.
The Apodyterium (“undressing room”), where the athletes got undressed, oiled their skin and prepared for the games.
The Apodyterium ("undressing room") was a small building to the west of the stadium where the athletes undressed and prepared for competition.
The Apodyterium (“undressing room”) was a small building to the west of the stadium where the athletes undressed and prepared for competition.
The Temple of Zeus, constructed during the last third of the 4th century BC (ca . 330 BC).
The Temple of Zeus was built ca. 330 BC over the remains of an earlier temple. It was before this Temple that, prior to the Games, the athletes would pay homage to the father of their gods, Zeus.
The Temple of Zeus was constructed of limestone. It had a peristyle of 6 by 12 columns.
The Temple of Zeus was prostyle, periptal with 6 x 12 columns and uses the three architectural types, the Doric, the Corinthian, and the Ionic.
The Temple of Zeus was used for a period of less than 70 years. When the games were moved to Argos, the area was abandoned. Pausanias, who visited Nemea in the 2nd century AD, found the temple roof in collapse and the cult statue missing.
32 limestone columns each standing 42 feet tall, and composed of 13 cylindrical stones, called “drums”, each weighing approximately, 2.5 tons, surrounded the Temple of Zeus.
The bath house with a large central pool flanked by two tub rooms, each with four stone wash basins still in situ.
The bath house with a large central pool flanked by two tub rooms, each with four stone wash basins still in situ.
The Baths dating from the last third of the 4th century BC, used by athletes for washing and bathing during the games, a large central pool is flanked by two tub rooms with wash basins.
The bath house dates from the end of the 4th century BC and was used by athletes for washing and bathing during the games.
Nemea.
Nemea.

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