Tag Archives: Nemea

Running the Race

In seven  passages the apostle Paul compares the Christian life to running a race.  The athletic games, that were initiated by the Greeks consisted of running, discus, jumping, javelin, boxing and fighting events.  Not to mention musical, oratory, and drama contests.

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The Stadium at Nemea in the Peloponnese of Greece — One of the four pan Hellenic Games was held here, the other places being Olympia, Isthmia (near Corinth) and Delphi — The stadium at Nemea was 161 yards long — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

A variety of foot races were held but the basic one was the length of the stadium—close to 200 yards.  The length of the stadia varied from place to place.  The stadium at Nemea above is well–preserved.  Notice the starting area in the foreground and the embankments on both sides where the male spectators sat.

Paul wrote (also in other places):

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith

It is interesting that Jesus, in his Judean/Galilean context never uses the image of running the race—but Paul, in a Greco-Roman context does.

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Two bronze runners from the villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum (near Pompeii) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The races took place in the nude.  The above are first century A.D. copies of third century B.C. statues.

And the writer of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

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A “krater” (jar used for wine) — Found at Olympia — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The above is a representation of a runner prepared for the start of the race.  the pole in front of him may represent a turning pole or a finish line at the far end of the stadium.  Between the runner and the turning pole is a strigil—a scraper that was used to remove olive oil, sand, dirt, and sweat.

To view more images of Nemea Click Here.

Nemea — A Marvelous “PanHellenic” Site to be Closed

NemeaMap030708One of my favorite sites in the Peloponnese area of Greece is the site of Nemea.  Nemea is located only  11.6 mi. southwest of Corinth.  There, one of the four PanHellenic festivals was held every two years in the stadium of Nemea.  The other locations of these festivals were Delphi, Isthmia, and Olympia.

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The Temple of Zeus at Nemea
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Nemea has been well-excavated and presented to the public.  Its museum is outstanding for the extraordinary finds, and their presentation, contain therein.  It is a shame that this place is slated for closing (!#$%@!)  as the Greek government tries to balance its budget.

However (personal confession), on my typical trip to the Peloponnese, within the context of a 17 or 21 day trip, we typically do a day excursion from Athens where we visit the Diolkos, Corinth, Mycenae, and Cenchrea.  Because of time (the Greeks close their archaeological sites at 3:00 PM —Ugh [more !#$@!]) and traffic constraints we have not visited Nemea in several years (sigh!!).

[Aside—how in the world can a tourist/academic group get to Corinth or Mycenae by the 8:00 AM opening time — what in the world are the guards/ticket takers doing at that time???  At sites like Corinth, Mycenae, and Nemea, why in the world don’t they open later and close later—hello??]

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Heracles and the Nemean Lion — From Perga (Turkey)
Note on his left side the “skin” of the lion — its head and claws
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Nemea is also well known in Greek mythology as the site of the first of the twelve labors of Heracles (Herakles).  Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and a mortal Alcmene.  Although originally a mortal, he eventually attained divine status and was widely worshiped throughout Greece.  As punishment for killing six of his children he had to perform 12 “labors” (= very difficult tasks).  The first of which was to kill the Nemean Lion.  He wrestled with the lion, strangled it, and subsequently used its pelt as a cloak.