2012 is an Olympic year and like many people around the world, I’ll be tuning in to view the games in
. I’m not an avid
television sports viewer but when it comes to the Olympics, every event is
interesting to me. One of the reasons I find the games so compelling is that it
is a time when people from all over the world are coming together, in peace, to
compete, to achieve the ultimate in feats of physical and mental prowess. London
The other reason I love the games is, of course, for the history. When I watch the summer Olympics, I am coming into touch with history itself, watching people make history but also re-enact it. The games no longer involve pankration, the hoplite race or the chariot race, but you can still see boxing and wrestling, the marathon, the javelin, various footraces, the discuss, long jump, equestrian events and other sports that began long ago in 776 B.C. with the first Olympiad.
But, what many people might not know is that the Olympics were not the only sacred games in ancient
were also the Pythian Games at Delphi that honoured Apollo, the Isthmian Games
at Isthmia (near Greece Corinth) in honour of Poseidon,
and the Nemean Games at ancient Nemea (between Argos
which, as the Olympics did, honoured Zeus. Corinth
|Temple of Zeus, Nemea|
People may also not know that the Nemean games are still being held every four years, since 1996 that is, by The Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games. Back in 2004 I was able to visit the archaeological site of ancient Nemea and was totally blown away by the beauty and preservation of the place, from the
and the inordinately long altar where athletes made their offerings, to the
well-preserved change rooms and barrel-vaulted tunnel leading into the ancient
stadium itself. If you are ever able to visit this archaeological site, it is a
real delight. Temple of Zeus
The revived Nemean games are aimed at educating people about the ancient games, about enjoying and participating in ancient traditions. Two footraces of these modern games are open to runners from age 10 to age 80, men and women, and in 2008 the modern Nemean Games saw some six hundred participants clad in white tunics. The stadium itself is in great shape with remnants of the starting line and mechanism for a sort of starting ‘gate’ called a hysplex. There is also a channel running around the stadium that (fed by a spring 500 meters away) held water so that participants and spectators could stay hydrated in this very hot place.
|Herakles and the Nemean Lion|
Like the other Peloponnesian sanctuaries such as
is one of those special places where history and legend meet and, for this
writer, come to life. While walking through the site, careful not to surprise
any large snakes, I could not help hearing the cheering of the crowd or, going
farther back, the sound of battle between Herakles and the Nemean lion. This
was the spot where the hero is said to have defeated the lion and taken the
pelt that he would be known for in all his representations. If you are a wine
lover, try some of the Nemean varietals, sometimes named "the Blood of
Herakles" for the blood the hero shed in his battle and which seeped into
the soil of Nemea. If you get there and want
to take something with you, stop at one of the many roadside stands in Nemean
wine country around the archaeological site and pick up a few bottles of red
agiorgitiko. You won't be disappointed.
|Nemea Wine Country|
If you would like to read more about
Nemea or the revived Nemean Games, visit the new website
at: http://nemeangames.org/ Who knows,
some day, we may meet at the starting line and if not, there is likely a good
taverna down the way.
Cheers and may winged Victory crown the winners at the Olympic and Nemean Games in 2012!