The revival of the Nemean Ancient Games: Competition & photos

John KarkalatosJuly 29, 2022

Did you know that the Olympics aren't the only ancient games being revived? In 2022 the 7th revival of the Nemean Games one of the most important games in antiquity was held in the ancient stadium of Nemea.

Nemean Games

From the opening ceremony of the Games

The opening ceremony takes place in the temple of Zeus with a choir dressed like ancient Greeks reciting hymns accompanied by ancient musical instruments. The flame is lit in the temple with the Truce crowning Nemea, followed by a procession to the ancient stadium where the flame is lit on the altar.

The Games are held in the ancient stadium in exactly the same way as in ancient times.

Nemean Games

The procession to the ancient stadium

The athletes are get prepared in the "apodytirio", they put on the tunic and enter the stadium through the stoa while they are deified by the audience. They are lined up at the "valvida" where the start is given in the ancient way. Athletes compete barefoot. The winners wear a headband and receive a palm branch.

Nemean Games

The stoa from which the athletes enter the stadium

The sports that are held are two: the 100 meters run and the 7.5 kilometer Herakles road. The first race is held at the stadium while the second race starts at the ancient sanctuary of Herakles in Kleones and finishes at the stadium.

The Games promote the sporting ideals as they were in their archetypal form in Ancient Greece, their purpose is to give the average person the possibility of participation and to convey the concept of peace and unity. They are conducted without the assistance of technology, without sponsors, without performance recording, without advertising, without any commercialization. Participation is free for everyone, regardless of gender, age, religion and nationality. It goes without saying that the athletes have not done any kind of preparation or training before their participation. Now the Games have become international with participation of athletes from many countries of the world. Along with the Games there are demonstrations of hoplytodromos (an ancient soldier running with his armor and shield) and pancratium sport.

The prize of the Games is symbolic, it is a wreath of wild celery which symbolizes the ephemeral nature of the victory. The crowning takes place at the end of the Games for all athletes. A closing ceremony takes place which is impressive with Priests of Zeus, Judges and athletes.

Nemean Games

The games were funerary, they were held from 573 BC to the end of the 4th century AD in honor of the son of Lycurgus Opheltes who died in infancy from a snake bite. Most of the Games were held in Argos as a protective force and only a few in Nemea.

The modern Nemeada was revived in 1996 and is held every 4 years. It was revived thanks to the professor of the Berkeley School of Archeology and archaeologist Stephen Miller who, with personal effort and support from the local community, excavated the stadium from 1973 to 1991, restored the temple of Zeus and organized the modern Nemean Games. He essentially dedicated his life to Ancient Nemea. He passed away in 2021.