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Ancients' feasts, games and rituals (7)
Nemea or Nemeia
Nemea. According to the tradition, the Nemean games began in 573 BC and were conducted every two years, during the second full moon after the summer solstice, in honor of Opheltes, son of King Lycurgus, who died horribly after he was bitten by a snake. Even though in later years, Zeus became the protector of the games, they continued to bear their funerary character shown by the black attire of the Hellanodikai (judges) and the pine groove that surrounded the Temple of Zeus. As in the Olympic games, no musical competitions were included in the agonistic programme. Originally the games were controlled by the city-state of Cleonae, but they were later taken over by Argos. The victors in the Nemean games were given a wreath of wild celery.
This text is cited June 2005 from the Foundation of the Hellenic World URL below, which contains images.
- A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin)
Nemea, (ta Nemea or Nemeia). The Nemean Games; one of the four Greek
national festivals, which was celebrated in the valley of Nemea in the territory
of the Argive town Cleonae. In historic times the festival was held in honour
of Zeus, who had here a temple with a sacred grove. Originally it is said to have
consisted of funeral games, instituted by the Seven during their expedition against
Thebes, in memory of the boy Archemorus as an agon epitaphios. Heracles afterwards
changed it into a festival in honour of Zeus. From about B.C. 575 on wards, athletic
competitions were added to the festival, after the model of those at Olympia;
and, like the latter, it was only gradually that it developed into a general Hellenic
celebration. It was held twice in a period of four years--once in August, every
fourth year; once in winter, every second or first Olympic year. It is more probable,
however, that the so-called "Winter Nemea" were only local games held
in Argos, and that the Panhellenic Nemea were celebrated in alternate years at
the end of every first and third Olympic year, at a time corresponding to our
July. The question is discussed by Unger in the Philologus, but Droysen, in Hermes,
considers it still unsettled. The management of the festival was originally possessed
by the Cleonaeans, but soon passed, together with the possession of the sanctuary,
into the hands of the Argives. The games, which lasted more than one day, consisted
of gymnastic, equestrian, and musical contests; the prize was a palm-branch and
a garland of fresh selinon, often rendered "parsley," but more probably
identical with the "wild celery."
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
- Nemean-games: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
- Nemean-games: Perseus Encyclopedia
Revival of Ancient Nemean Games
City of Argolis,
in northeastern Peloponnese,
southwest of Corinth.
In this city were held every two years (in July the second and fourth
year of each Olympiad) the Nemean games, in honor of Zeus. These games were fourth
in fame among the panhellenic games after the Olympic (also to Zeus), the Pythian
(to Apollo) and the Isthmian (to Poseidon).
Nemea was the site of the first of Heracles' 12 labors, his fight
against the lion, and some ascribed to him the creation of the games. But the
more “official” origin was ascribed to Adrastus, the king of Argos
who led the ill-fated expedition of the Seven against Thebes
to try and help Polynices, one of Oedipus's sons, regain the kingship his brother
Eteocles refused to hand him over when time came. Reaching Nemea on their way
toward Thebes, Adrastus and
his companions asked water to Hypsipyle, the exiled queen of the island of Lemnos,
who had once been the wife of Jason but was now a slave at the service of Lycurgus,
the king of the place, serving as a nurse to Opheltes, his baby son. To help them,
the nurse, forgetting an oracle stating that the baby should not be put on the
ground until he could walk, laid the baby for a minute on the grass near a fountain,
where he was killed by the snake guarding it. The games were then instituted by
Adrastus as part of Opheltes' funerals and as a propitiatory ceremony to the his
memory and the seven princes took part in their first occurrence.
Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This text is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.