Rhamnous Archaeological Site (Ραμνούς)


Location: Attica Map

Tel. 22940 63477

Open: daily

Closed: public holidays


Desription of Rhamnous Archaeological Site

Rhamnous Archaeological Site is an ancient Greek settlement situated in Attica region of Greece on a mountains overlooking the Euboean Strait. In the ancient times it was known for its sanctuary dedicated to Nemesis, goddess of vengeance. Thousands of very angry people came here to pray to an ancient deity in hopes she will take care of their enemies. The site of Rhamnous Archaeological Site was destroyed in 399 AD by a Byzantine Emperor Arcadius. Christian ruler issued a decree that closed this pagan religious complex and the settlement was eventually abandoned in the early medieval times. One of the most prominent structures on a Rhamnous site are two temples that stand side by side. The smaller and older temple dedicated to Themis was constructed in the 6th century. In the ancient times the city government used the sanctuary as the official treasury of the settlement. Another temple was dedicated to goddess Nemesis in the mid- 5th century. It contained the statue of the deity, but after the closure of this temple, it was destroyed. Archaeologists managed to rescue several pieces of the original and reconstruct it. The head of Nemesis is currently held in the British Museum in London, UK. Most of the walls of both temples were queried by the locals after Rhamnous was abandoned.


The name of the municipality comes from the plant "ramnos" (thorny shrub, common name: lemongrass, scientific name: Rhamnus, family: Ramnoides, Rhamnaceae), which grows to this day in the area of ​​the municipality.

Location of the ancient municipality
The municipality of Ramnounta was a municipality of Paralia. The archeological site of Rhamnous is located in the valley of Limikos, near the area of ​​Marathon and Grammatiko, a short distance from the sea.

The 19th century researchers Iakovos Rizos Ragavis and Dionysios Sourmelis also confirm the timeless existence of the municipality in this area.

Excavations in Rhamnous
The first exploratory excavation in Rhamnous was made by the Dilettanti in 1813, while in 1880 Dimitrios Filios carried out excavations. Between the years 1890-1892, a team of archaeologists led by Valerios Stai continued the excavation work, which discovered the sanctuary of Nemesis, the fortress and many burial precincts. In 1958 a brief excavation was carried out by Efthimios Mastrokostas, while from 1975 until today the archaeological site of Rhamnous is excavated and studied systematically with funding from the Athens Archaeological Society, headed by the archaeologist and academician Vassi Pedamikoi.

The archeological site of Rhamnous
The archeological site of Rhamnous occupies a hill 30 meters high which is located very close to the sea between two bays. Its walled part covers an area of ​​230 by 270 meters. Within the walls are preserved the high school, the theater, sanctuaries and the citadel of Rhamnous. The main gate of the fortress is still to the south of the fortress, but there are other, smaller gates. The construction of the walls is made of local marble, from the nearby bay of Agia Marina. Within the boundaries of the walls, the temples of Nemesis stand out, while outside the walled place of worship, traces of houses are preserved. There is also a temple of Amfiaraos (Amfiareion), but also several burial precincts, such as that of Menestidos. Rhamnous, although the most well-preserved ancient municipality of Attica, is one of the most isolated archaeological sites. In recent years, there have been phenomena of abandonment of the archaeological site.

The participation of the municipality in the ancient Parliament
The municipality, the existence of which is confirmed by various inscriptions, as a member of the Aiantida tribe, participated with 8 deputies in the ancient Parliament of 500, during the first period (508 - 307/306 BC). During the second period (307/306 - 224/223 BC) the municipality was also represented with 8 deputies while in the third period (224/223 - 201/200 BC) it was represented with 13 deputies in the House of 600. During the fourth (201/200 BC - 126/127) and the fifth period (126/127 - 3rd century) the number of deputies-representatives of the municipality is unknown.

The inhabitants of Rhamnous
The citizen of ancient Rhamnous was called Ramnousios. The ancient city of Ramnounta dominated two ports of strategic importance for ancient Athens, which correspond to the creeks in front of the present-day villages of Sesi and Agia Marina.

The understanding of Rhamnous's history had been greatly improved by the work of Jean Pouilloux, who studied the fortress and the inscriptions from the area.

Acropolis and fortress of Ramnountos
The center of the municipality was fortified from the fourth century BC. and the citadel dates back to around 413 BC. These fortifications were manned by teenagers, who were serving their term in the second year.

In 295 BC. the municipality was conquered by Demetrius I of Macedonia, but soon returned to the Athenians. Shortly afterwards, it became the base of Ptolemy's allied forces during the Chremonidean War (268 or 267-261 BC).

The fortified citadel of Rhamnous encloses a high hill in the area, about 28 meters high, while the walls of the fortress are about 2.30 to 2.70 meters wide. The walls were made of local marble from the area of ​​modern Agia Marina. The fortress of Rhamnous was mentioned, in various later times and with the names Tavrokastron or Ovriokastron or Linikon or Ellinikon. There was also a significant number of buildings outside the walls of the fortified area.


The sanctuaries of Nemesis

In Ramnountas there are two sanctuaries of Rhamnous Nemesis (the small and the big). According to a mythological version, the goddess Nemesis was the mother of the beautiful Helen, who was born from an egg left by the swan-transformed Zeus in the womb of Leda. The first evidence of the cult of Nemesis in this municipality dates back to 499 BC, although it is possible that the cult begins even earlier. Around 430 BC. The temple dedicated to the deity was built, which was one of the last examples of polygonal construction. Next to it was another temple of Nemesis and Themis.

The two temples of Nemesis are located very close to each other, in an area towards the road between Rhamnous and Marathon, about 630 meters south of the later city. In modern times, the remarkable work of John Peter Gandy's was the first attempt, in 1813, to document the area. As a pioneer with rudimentary discipline, he records in the notes and drawings a lot of information that would otherwise have been lost.

The sanctuary of Nemesis was created during the Archaic era in a walled area. During the first years it coexisted with the surrounding settlement but later the sanctuary was isolated and the houses and the rest of the infrastructure were scattered in the surrounding area. The sanctuary of Nemesis continued to flourish during the Roman period as it received tributes from Roman emperors.

Small temple of Nemesis and Themis
The first, the smallest, temple of Nemesis and Themis, dates from the end of the 6th century BC, and was built with stone from Poros and laconic tiles and was probably destroyed by the Persians between 480-479 BC. At the beginning of the 5th BC. century this small temple was rebuilt in Doric style (6X12: dimensions 6.15 X 9.9 meters) on the earlier ruins, where the goddesses Themis and Nemesis were previously worshiped, as indicated by votive inscriptions on two marble seats of the 4th BC century located on the atrium of the sanctuary. The first was the personification of the right series and the last, revenge for the offenders. The temple was built of local dark marble and was covered with terracotta tiles. The walls of the nave as well as the square of the atrium of the sanctuary are in a lesbian polygonal style of masonry. The small temple probably later served as the treasury of the large temple and to house various cult statues. This construction was maintained until the 4th century AD.

Statue of Themis
During the excavations of 1890, under Valerios Stai, in the nave of the small church was found the statue of Themis of Rhamnous (also known as: Themis (National Archaeological Museum no. 231) which is kept today in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The goddess Themida wears a high-waisted tunic, richly pleated robe and sandals. The head is inlaid and the right hand was added by a separate piece of marble. Themis, daughter of Heaven and Earth, was a goddess of justice and in Rhamnous she was worshiped in the same temple as Nemesis. On the front of the pedestal there is an inscription according to which the statue, which was made by Hairestratos from Ramnountas, was a tribute of Megacleus to Themis. This is a work, around 300 BC. and is located at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Great temple of Nemesis
The construction of the largest temple of Nemesis began between the years 460-450 BC. and continued until the years 430-420 BC. It was built as a Doric temple pavilion, during the reign of Pericles, when the Parthenon was built in Athens. It is believed that it was designed by the architect Kallikrates, who had also designed the temple of Hephaestus in Athens, the temple of Poseidon at the cape of Sounio and the temple of Mars in Acharnes.

The stereo's responsibility and the lower level of the platform were made of local black marble, while the rest was made of white marble.

The Peloponnesian War must have stopped the completion of the temple, from 431 BC. and the carvings of the columns were not carved, while parts of the pillar remained unfinished, causing damage to the protective marble which was more easily destroyed at the corners and upper surfaces. There were no sculptures on the pediments, nor were the metopes decorated with sculptural decoration. The roof, however, was decorated with sculpted capes.


At some point, after the initial construction, the temple of Nemesis was severely damaged at its eastern end and its upper parts and then repaired. This damage, as in other temples in the area and the destruction of various monuments in Athens is believed to have been caused by armies of Philip V of Macedonia, during raids in 200 BC. The marble sections used to repair the temple of Nemesis are different from the originals and the equipment is quite different, suggesting that the repairs were made during the Roman period, when interest in the old classical temples was renewed. The central part of the entablature, at the eastern end of the temple, bears the inscription of the municipality of Rhamnous towards the deified Libya, which may be connected with the repairs. This reconstruction must have been costly, as significant replacement work was carried out at the eastern end of the temple, in parts concerning the frieze, the cornice, perhaps the drum, the cornice collector, the capes, and perhaps part of the sign, the tiles and the roof. Unlike other temples in Attica that had been destroyed, the temple of Nemesis had not been stripped of useful parts or had been removed in its entirety for transport to Athens. Instead, it was proudly restored as an important local monument.

Statue of Nemesis
The nave of the great temple housed the dominant cult object, the statue of Nemesis, which was a sculpture of Agoracritus, a student of Pheidias, made of a piece of Parian marble and which was about 4 meters high. The Roman historian and connoisseur of Varron rates it as the best example of Greek sculpture. He estimated that it may have been the work of Agoracritus, although according to Pausanias, others attributed it to his own teacher Pheidias. It is said that it was originally a statue of the goddess Aphrodite which was rejected by the main builder of the work and had been turned into a statue of Nemesis in order to be sold for the temple in Rhamnous, provided, however, that it was never returned to Athens.

Later, in the early 19th century, on the ruins of the ruined great temple, a marble head was discovered by the British architect John Peter Gandy (1787–1850) from a cult statue of Nemesis of the same size as the one mentioned, which had perforations for fixing gold , which is now an exhibit in the Collection of the British Museum. This head seems to have stylistic similarities with the sculptures of the gable of the Parthenon of the years 440-432 BC. Many members of the original statue have been recovered and reconstructed from the hundreds of fragments found scattered after the destruction of the image of worship by the early Christians, and this allowed the identification of a total of eleven Roman copies, on a smaller scale, of the original statue. The base of the statue, about 90 points in height and 240 points in width, has also been rebuilt. On the three sides of the base, the scene unfolds with a representation that shows the presentation of the beautiful Eleni to her mother Nemesis, by Leda.

Other worship traditions
In Rhamnous there were also sanctuaries of Aphrodite the Hegemon, Dionysus, Zeus the Savior, Athena Sotira and the heroes Arigetis and Aristomachos. Comedies and other theatrical events were held in honor of Dionysus, while as part of the sacred ceremonies to Nemesis, torchlight races were also held.

Burial monuments
Many burial monuments have been recovered from various burials along the road between Rhamnous and Marathon.

Tomb relief of Hieron and Lysippus
A characteristic find is the tomb relief in Pentelic marble, approximately between the years 325-300 BC, which was found in Rhamnous. It depicts a mature, bearded man based on bacteria and a young woman who silently shake hands, united and after death. The special beauty of the woman with her slender features, her slender figure and the elegance of her posture refer to statues of Praxitelos. It belongs to a tomb temple from the burial precinct of Hierocles. The pediment with the names of the dead, Hieros, son of Hierocles, from Rhamnous and Lysippus, is located in Rhamnous. There is also the base of the temple with an epigram, which refers to Jerome and his four brothers who died before him. The tomb relief is located at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.


Roman period
During the Roman period, around the year 46, tributes were made to the sanctuary which included the worship of the deified Libya, wife of the Roman emperor Augustus and to the also deified emperor Claudius. During the 2nd century, Herod the Atticus offered as dedications the busts of the emperors Mark Aurelius and Leucius Verus, as well as a statue of the student of Polydecion. The cult of Nemesis in Ramnounta officially ended with the decree of the Byzantine emperor Arkadi in 382, ​​who ordered the destruction of any surviving polytheistic temples in the countryside.

Celebrities from Rhamnous
There were various well-known citizens from the municipality of Rhamnous, such as Demetrios Ramnousios, Dimeas Ramnousios, Dikaidis Ramnousios, Diodoros Ramnousios, Diognitos Rhamnous and others. Among the best known, who had some kind of relationship with the municipality or its area were also:

Ifikratis, was born in 418 BC (he had joined the municipality).
Antifon Rhamnous, was born in 480 BC (he had joined the municipality).