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Information about the place (3)
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Rhamnous. 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.
C. W. J. Eliot, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Sep 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains 9 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Rhamnus, Pamnous,- ountos: Eth. Rhamnousios, fem. Ramnousia. A
demus of Attica, belonging to the tribe Aeantis (Steph. B., Harpocr., Suid., s.
v.), which derived its name from a thick prickly shrub, which still grows upon
the site. (Rhamnous, contr. of pamnoeis from pamnos.) The town stood upon the
eastern coast of Attica, at the distance of 60 stadia from Marathon, and upon
the road leading from the latter town to Oropus. (Paus. i. 33. § 2.) It is described
by Scylax as a fortified place; and it appears from a decree in Demosthenes (pro
Cor. p. 238, Reiske) to have been regarded as one of the chief fortresses in Attica.
It was still in existence in the time of Pliny ( Rhamnus pagus, locus Marathon,
iv. 7.s. 11). Rhamnus was the birthplace of the orator Antipho; but it was chiefly
celebrated in antiquity on account of its worship of Nemesis, who was hence called
by the Latin poets Rhamnsusia virgo and Rhamnsssia dea. (Catull. lxvi. 71; Claud.
B. Get. 631; Ov. diet. iii. 406, Trist. v. 8. 9; Stat. Silv. iii. 5. § 5.) The
temple of the goddess was at a short distance from the town. (Paus. l. c.; comp.
Strab. ix. p. 399.) It contained a celebrated statue of Nemesis, which, according
to Pausanias, was the work of Pheidias, and was made by him out of a block of
Parian marble, which the Persians had brought with them for the construction of
a trophy. The statue was of colossal size, 10 cubits in height (Hesych. s. v.;
Zenob. Prov. v. 82), and on its basis were several figures in relief. Other writers
say that the statue was the work of Agoracritus of Paros, a disciple of Pheidias.
(Strab. ix. p. 396; Plin. xxxvi. 5. s. 4. § 17, Sillig.) It was however a common
opinion that Pheidias was the real author of the statue, but that he gave up the
honour of the work to his favourite disciple. (Suid. s. v.; Zenob. l. c.; Tzetz.
Child. vii. 960.) Rhamnus stood in a small plain, 3 miles in length, which, like
that of Marathon, was shut out from the rest of Attica by surrounding mountains.
The town itself was situated upon a rocky peninsula, surrounded by the sea for
two-thirds of its circumference, and connected by a narrow ridge with the mountains,
which closely approach it on the land side. It is now called Ovrio-Kastro. (Obrio-Kastro,
a corruption of Hebraion-Kastron, Jews'-Castle, a name frequently applied in Greece
to the ruins of Hellenic fortresses.) It was about half a mile in circuit, and
its remains are considerable. The principal gate was situated upon the narrow
ridge already mentioned, and is still preserved; and adjoining it is the southern
wall, about 20 feet in height. At the head of a narrow glen, which leads to the
principal gate, stand the ruins of the temple of Nemesis upon a large artificial
platform, supported by a wall of pure white marble. But we find upon this platform,
which formed the temenos or sacred enclosure, the remains of two temples, which
are almost contiguous, and nearly though not quite parallel to each other. The
larger building was a peripteral hexastyle, 71 feet long and 33 broad, with 12
columns on the side, and with a pronaus, cella, and posticum in the usual manner.
The smaller temple was 31 feet long by 21 feet broad, and consisted only of a
cella, with a portico containing two Doric columns in antis. Among the ruins of
the larger temple are some fragments of a colossal statue, corresponding in size
with that of the Rhamnusian Nemesis; but these fragments were made of Attic marble,
and not of Parian stone as stated by Pausanias. It is, however, not improbable,
as Leake has remarked, that the story of the block of stone brought by the Persians
was a vulgar fable, or an invention of the priests of Nemesis by which Pausanias
was deceived. Among the ruins of the smaller temple was found a fragment, wanting
the head and shoulders, of a statue of the human size in the archaic style of
the Aeginetan school. This statue is now in the British Museum. Judging from this
statue, as well as from the diminutive size and ruder architecture of the smaller
temple, the latter appears to have been the more ancient of the two. Hence it
has been inferred that the smaller temple was anterior to the Persian War, and
was destroyed by the Persians just before the battle of Marathon; and that the
larger temple was erected in honour of the goddess, who had taken vengeance upon
the insolence of the barbarians for outraging her worship. In front of the smaller
temple are two chairs (thronoi) of white marble, upon one of which is the inscription
Nemesei Sostratos anetheken, and upon the other Themidi Sostratos anetheken, which
has led some to suppose that the smaller temple was dedicated to Themis. But it
is more probable that both temples were dedicated to Nemesis, and that the smaller
temple was in ruins before the larger was erected. A difficulty, however, arises
about the time of the destruction of the smaller temple, from the fact that the
forms of the letters and the long vowels in the inscriptions upon the chairs clearly
show that those inscriptions belong to an era long subsequent to the battle of
Marathon. Wordsworth considers it ridiculous to suppose that these chairs were
dedicated in this temple after its destruction, and hence conjectures that the
temple was destroyed towards the close of the Peloponnesian War by the Persian
allies of Sparta.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
Rhamnous. Now Obrio Kastro; a demus in Attica, belonging to the tribe
Aeantis, which derived its name from the rhamnos, a kind of prickly shrub. Rhamnus
was situated on a small rocky peninsula on the east coast of Attica, sixty stadia
from Marathon. It possessed a celebrated temple of Nemesis, who is hence called
by the Latin poets Rhamnusia dea or virgo. A colossal statue of the goddess
in this temple was the work of Agoracritus, the pupil of Phidias, or possibly
by Phidias himself. Remains of the temple still exist.
This text is cited Sep 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)