This story has to do with justice, in a way… And it is quite old. it dates since the Battle of Marathon, in Ancient Greece. It is a story about a right punishment and Rhamnus, a little-known ancient city of eastern Attica.
That day I went there not to visit a site. It was not a touristic trip. We were looking with my friend for a deserted beach to dive. The strong south wind in the Saronic gulf did not let us take the inflatable boat and we insisted to jump into the water that day. Eastern Attica was relatively quiet: the sea remained calm and a little pale spring sunshine warmed the hills with pines.
We crossed the wilds of Marathon area and followed a dirt road on the opposite side of the city. Wild olive trees and holly descended like rivers over the streams and, to the south, Evoikos Gulf stretched as tight blue snake. The coasts of Evia shone black and scattered smokes at the villages of Styra were ascending the ash grey sky. It was a sweet, slightly melancholic Saturday …
The shore we were looking for was nice (but unsuitable for a dive), had a small charm with a white chapel and a small stream with osiers and reeds beside the pebbles. We drove back up and stopped to gaze at the view and eat a couple of cookies. We stopped at the best part: a stone bulge opposite the ancient city of Rhamnus! Great views!
In antiquity Ramnous was an important city because the Athenians could check from here the navigation of Evoikos Gulf. The city, however, was famous for another reason. The great sanctuary of Themis and Nemesis was built there. It was indeed the largest known temple of Nemesis in ancient Greece …
Themis, as known, was the goddess of justice and Nemesis was the goddess of revenge, of “fair punishment”. The holy site was so rich though that in 440 BC it used to work as a local bank.
Munching a cookie I thought of this Temple, built here on these olive trees covered hills, facing the landlocked sea of Central Greece. A temple of revenge … I saw its ruins…
Here, in this temple, there was a large shiny statue of Nemesis. Pausanias indeed rescued its story. When the Persians landed at Marathon, before the battle known to everyone, they were absolutely sure of their victory. They were so sure that they carried a monstrous volume of Parian marble (the finest known marble…) with them, planning to built a marble monument after their victory. What arrogants gosh … And in ancient times arrogants always pocketed punishment. And the Punisher was Nemesis of course, hitting them mercilessly as fishermen do the octopuses… This happened of course at the neighboring Marathon and the known outcome of the battle, where the Persians were devastated by the Athenian troops. The arrogant invaders left anyhow and among other things they left the huge volume of marble on the sand of Eastern Attica.
With this very marble the residents of Rhamnus and their allies, the Athenians, built the statue of Nemesis that adorned the famous temple of Rhamnus. Pausanias wrote that the statue was created by famous sculptor Phidias. But his Guide, when he visited the Rhamnus, told him wrong. The statue of Nemesis at Rhamnus was made by the sculptor Agorakritos, who was one of the lesser known students of the great Phidias.
I remembered the story that morning: it was indeed this story what I only remembered by Rhamnus. The city walls gleamed among the oaks and fragrant bushes and the cornerstones stood silent, habitats for lizards and beetles now and not mighty defense of the Ancient Athenian Democracy.
We got in the car talking about arrogants and justice, shaking mud and oregano from our dusty boots.
Pity that Nemesis is not worshiped now … She could have a myriad of followers I guess …
Where am I;
The ancient Ramnous is located just east of Marathon in eastern Attica. You can get here by car following the road through Rafina – Nea Makri towns. Just before the village of Marathon, follow the road to Aghia Marina and later turn left (north). There are many signs that lead you easily to the entrance of the archaeological site.