Temples

The main sanctuary to Nemesis is at Rhamnous inAttica, which is said to have been built between 438 and 431 B.C. The architect was the so-called Theseum architect.

Rhamnous is in a remote part of Attica about 39 kilometres north east ofAthensand 12.4 kilometres north-north-east of Marathon overlooking theEuboeanStrait.  Rhamnous was strategically significant enough to be fortified and receive an Athenian garrison of ephedes (young men). The site was known in antiquity for its sanctuary of Nemesis, whose temple here was the most important one dedicated to her in ancientGreece.

The sanctuary of Nemesis was built on a platform with a terrace wall.  The temple was built in hexistyle with twelve columns on its flanks.  From the centres of the opposite collonnades it measured 9.186 x 20.610 metres.

The cult of Nemesis at Rhamnous came to a formal end with the decree of the Byzantine emperor Arcadius in 382 that instructed any surviving polytheist temples in the countryside be destroyed.

Pausanias’s ‘Description of Greece’, a 2nd century Greek travelogue describes the sanctuary at Rhamnos and a myth associated with it as follows:

A little way inland [from Rhamnos,Attica] is a sanctuary of Nemesis, the most implacable deity to men of violence.  It is thought that the wrath of this goddess fell also upon the foreigners [the Persian army] who landed atMarathon.  For thinking in their pride that nothing stood in the way of their takingAthens, they were bringing a piece of Parian marble to make a trophy, convinced that their task was already finished.  Of this marble Pheidia made a statue of Nemesis…

There was a temple to Nemesis at Adrasteia in Anatolia, now in Turkey.  Strabo, a Greek geographer of 1st century described the foundation of this sanctuary in the following way,

This country was called Adrasteia and Plain of Adrasteia…according to Kallisthenes, among others, Adrasteia was named after King Adrastos, who was the first to found atempleofNemesis.  Now thecity is situated between Priapos and Parion….Here, however, there is [now] notempleofAdrasteia, nor yet of Nemesis, to be seen, although there is atempleofAdrasteianear Kyzikos.  Antimakhos [Greek poet 5th-4th century B.C.] says as follows: ‘There is a great goddess Nemesis, who has obtained as her portion all these things from the Blessed. Adrestos was the first to build an altar to her beside the stream of theAlseposRiver, where she is worshipped under the name of Adresteia.’

Another one of the sites of the cult of Goddess Nemesis was said to be located inSmyrna.  Pausanias also described how a sanctuary to the cult of Nemesis inSmyrnainAnatoliacame to be established in the following way,

Alexandros [the Great] was hunting onMountPagos[nearSmyrna], and that after the hunt was over he came to a sanctuary of the Nemesis, and found there a spring and a plane-tree in front of the sanctuary, growing over the water.  While he slept under the plane-tree it is said that the Nemesis appeared and bade him found a city there and remove into it the Smyranians from the old city…

There is also a temple to Goddess Nemesis at Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa in Rumania.  This was the capital of the Roman district of Dacia in the south-western part of the Hateg region of Rumania.  The settlement was probably established in the 2nd century.  Inside the walls of the city there was a temple dedicated to the Goddess Nemesis.

Goddess Nemesis was adored by the gladiators and this shrine to her is near the east gate of the amphitheatre. The temple was discovered between 1891 and1893, when the amphitheatre was partially uncovered. At the northern side the temple is connected to the gladiator school.

There is also a shrine to Goddess Nemesis just outside the main entrance of the amphitheatre at the Roman site at Carleon inWales.

There is a curious curse associated with an object found near this shrine.  During excavations of Carleon’s amphitheatre in 1926, a strange lead tablet was discovered in the debris of the northern half of the arena.  It bore the inscription,

Lady Nemesis, I give thee a cloak and a pair of boots stolen from me and you can obtain them by seeing that the thief is killed in the arena, or let him redeem them by getting well wounded

This curious inscription must mean that he is invoking the aid of Goddess Nemesis to arrange for the death or injury of the theft of his possessions.  There is nothing known of the writer of this curious inscription, but he was presumably a gladiator or soldier.

Altar Dedications

There are two altars with dedications in Greek to the Goddess Nemesis at the archaeological site of Tauric Chersonesos atSevastopol.

A small white marble altar was discovered in 1964 in the area of the ancient theatre and is dated to the 2nd half of the 2nd century.  It bears the inscription:

“Good fortune! Basileides son of Kalos (dedicated) to the Goddess Nemesis”

A second altar of local limestone with a Latin inscription found in 1957 during the excavation of the ancient theatre is dated 2nd or 3rd century and bears the inscription:

“To Goddess Nemesis the Protector.  Titus Flavius Celsinus, beneficiarius of consularis of the Eleventh Claudian legion, set up this vow for the salvation of himself and children.”

A beneficarius was not an ordinary soldier but was the name given to a privileged caste of soldiers who were commanders of military posts.

The proximity of both these dedications to the theatre suggests the strong link between Goddess Nemesis and gladiators.

There was a small altar found at the amphitheatre inChesterdedicated to Goddess Nemesis.  This altar bears the dedication,

Dedicated to the Goddess Nemesis by Sextus Marcianus, after a dream

There is a dedication altar to Nemesis at the amphitheatre at Leptis Magnaat an ancient Roman city in Libyaoff the north African coast dating from around the 2nd century B.C.

Festivals

Sophocles in ‘Electra’ refers to a festival called Nemeseia or the Festival of Nemesis that was held inAthenson 23rd August.  Because of this celebration, Goddess Nemesis is associated with the August full moon, which is commonly called ‘The Corn Moon’.  Its object was to avert the nemesis of the dead, who were supposed to have the power of punishing the living, if their cult had in any way been neglected.

 

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