Rhamnous (Greek: Ῥαμνοῦς), also Ramnous or Rhamnus, was an ancient Greek city in Attica situated on the coast, overlooking the Euboean Strait. Its impressive ruins lie northwest of the modern town of Agia Marina in the municipality of Marathon.

The site was best known in antiquity for its sanctuary of Nemesis, the implacable avenging goddess, her most important in ancient Greece.

Rhamnous is the best-preserved Attic deme site. It was strategically significant on the sea routes and was fortified with an Athenian garrison of ephebes (young men). A fortified acropolis dominates the two small harbours located on either side of it which have silted up extensively since antiquity, and into which grain was imported for Athens during the Peloponnesian War.



Understanding of the history of Rhamnous was greatly improved by the work of Jean Pouilloux, who studied the fortress and the inscriptions from the site.

The sanctuary of Nemesis

The sanctuary of Nemesis lies on the road between Rhamnous and Marathon, around 630m south of the later city.

Two temples to Nemesis and Themis can be seen at the site situated very close together.

In modern times, John Peter Gandy's admirable work to document the site was the first in 1813. As a pioneer in a discipline then in its infancy, Gandy recorded in his notes and drawings much information which would otherwise be lost, since the temples in the sanctuary were much better preserved then.

Small Temple

The earliest temple dates from the late 6th century BC, made of Poros stone and known from a few Laconian roof tiles, which was probably destroyed by the Persians in 480-479 BC.

In the early 5th BC the small temple (6.15 by 9.9m) of a 6 × 12 Doric order was built over the earlier remains to both the goddesses Themis and Nemesis, indicated by dedicatory inscriptions on two marble seats of the 4th century BC that were sited on the porch. The former was the personification of Right Order and the latter the avenger of Order's transgressors.

There are several cuttings on the steps of this temple for the insertion of stelai. The temple was built of local dark marble and roofed with terracotta tiles. The walls of the cella and the terrace of the sanctuary platform are built in the Lesbian polygonal style of masonry. This temple probably served later as a treasury of the large temple for its cult statues.

A statue of Themis and several other dedications, unearthed in the cella, are at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

This structure survived until the 4th century AD.

Large Temple

Construction of the larger temple to Nemesis began around 460-450 BC and continued until 430-420. It was built as a Doric peripteral temple during the reign of Pericles when the Parthenon was built in Athens, and on a platform with a massive polygonal terrace wall. It is believed that it was designed by the architect Callicrates who designed the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, the Poseidon Temple at Cape Sounion and the Ares temple in Acharnes.

The euthynteria and lowest level of the crepidoma were made from local dark marble, while the rest was constructed of white marble.

The Peloponnesian War must have interrupted the completion from 431 BC and carving of the column flutes was not done and the stylobate blocks were left unfinished, retaining the protective excess marble on their easily damaged corners and upper surfaces. There were no pedimental sculptures, nor were the metopes decorated with sculpture. The roof was decorated with sculptural acroteria, however.

At some point after the original construction, the Temple of Nemesis was severely damaged at its eastern end and the upper courses were subsequently repaired with new blocks. The damage to this and other temples in the region and the destruction of monuments in Athens is thought to be caused by the armies of Philip V of Macedon during his raids in 200 BC. The blocks which were used to repair the Temple of Nemesis are distinct from the original blocks and the tooling is quite different which suggests that the repairs were made in the Roman period, when interest in the old Classical temples was renewed. The central block of the architrave on the east end of the temple bears an inscription of rededication to the goddess Livia by the Demos, which may be associated with the repairs. This reconstruction must have been costly since it involved replacing the east end, which required making duplicate blocks for the frieze, geison, perhaps the tympanon, the raking geison, the akroteria, and perhaps part of the sima, rooftiles, and ceiling coffers. Unlike other temples in Attica which had fallen into disrepair, the Temple of Nemesis was not stripped of useful parts or removed whole to Athens. Instead, it was restored with pride as an important local monument.

Statue of Nemesis

The cella of the large temple housed the cult figure of Nemesis, sculpted by Agorakritos, a pupil of Phidias, from the block of Parian marble alleged to have been brought by the overconfident Persians for their triumphal stele. This famous statue of the goddess stood within the cella of the temple and was around 4m high. The Roman historian and connoisseur Varro rated it the finest example of Greek sculpture.

The badly damaged remains of an over life-size marble head from a cult statue of Nemesis, with perforations for attaching a gold crown, was discovered by the British architect John Gandy in the early nineteenth century and is now part of the British Museum's collection. This has a stylistic similarity to the pediment sculptures of the Parthenon of 440-432 BC.

Many parts of the original statue have been recovered and reconstructed from the hundreds of fragments found scattered about after the destruction of the cult image by early Christians, and this allowed the identification of a total of eleven Roman copies on a smaller scale. The base of the statue, approximately 90 cm high and 240 cm wide, has also been reconstructed; on three sides of the base, the nearly-in-the-round scene shows the presentation of Helen to her mother Nemesis by Leda.

Roman Period

In the Roman period c. 46 AD, dedications were made at the sanctuary to the deified Livia, the wife of Augustus, and to the emperor Claudius. In the 2nd century AD, Herodes Atticus made dedications of busts of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus as well as a statue of his pupil Polydeucion. The cult of Nemesis at Rhamnous came to a formal end with the decree of the Byzantine emperor Arcadius in 382 AD that ordered the destruction of any surviving polytheist temples in the countryside.

Rhamnous deme site

The fortified acropolis of Rhamnous occupying a c. 28m high hill of area approximately 230 by 270m. The fortification walls were constructed of the local marble from Agia Marina. There were also significant numbers of buildings outside the walls of the fortified area.

Many grave monuments have been recovered from burials along the road between Rhamnous and Marathon.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhamnous




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