NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
3 Jun 2004
- Nemea Stadium
- 37.806278 22.714469
Split Track and Decoded MS Stereo
Show: Greece - Olympics
Log of DAT #: 4
Engineer: Josh Rogosin
Date: June 14, 2004
SM = Stephen Miller
CJ = Chris Joyce
JG = Jessica Goldstein
1:00 Description of Dat tape this is, MS stereo.
1:20 SM and the other side of the hill was a town, a good size town that was in ancient times called (Greek word) but in the mid evil period called St. George, or Ius yorgus (sp) (Greek word) and it was a prosperous town it produced wine, the local wine that make it, the grapes is called I erore get to go (sp Greek word) or the St. George grape because of the mid evil name of that town. But in the 1880¿s, just about the same time this valley was going to be drained the railroad came through and the mayor of Ius Vorgus, (Sp) of St, George said that name sucks. I want a really good name that is going to get a lot of attention. What do we know around here, well here was Nemean, here were the ancient games. I¿m going to re-christen my town Nemean, so that became Nemean. This little village came into existence and they couldn¿t call themselves Neamean, because the name was already taken. So they called themselves Herculean (sp) after Hercules¿Then in the 1950¿s the mayor of this town said ¿Hey the stole our name,¿ so he sued the mayor of the other town called Nemean trying to get his name back. The compromise was reached in courts that that town would officially be called Neanamea and this town would be called Archaenemaea, except for it still hasn¿t taken and it¿ll be another generation before this town is really known locally as Archaeanemea, I mean everyone else knows it as that way. But when you come into the area and you ask, I want to go to Nemean (ambi frogs and crickets?) people direct you to the other town. Not to here, and this has led to great frustrations for tourists who go to the other town and look around ¿I don¿t see a temple, I don¿t see a stadium, what¿s going on here? Where am I?¿ So we¿ve had to be very careful and get signs up, that specify this is ancient Nemean and that¿s Neanemea. They are politically now a unit. There was a consolidation a few years ago that all the little villages in the area are called Nemean, ancient Nemean of Nemean. As opposed to, for example, another town called Kuzamatae (sp) of Nemean, or Gimnotse (sp) of Nemean.
4:00 Chatter between Josh and others about levels and recording.
4:15 CJ so, we¿re standing in the stadium, at the starting block and there¿s this device that was invented to start the runners. Can you tell me a bit about how it works?
4:26 SM Well it¿s based on the principle of the catapult, and indeed once we understood that fact, that the catapult technology was involved with the invention of the starting mechanism then it was relatively easy to put it together because we have the cuttings in the stone base, which reflect the wooden elements, which originally went in them. And the wooden elements themselves form the frame of the catapult, within which are ropes, which are twisted, and antiquity we¿re told the hair of women of a certain village in Western Asia Minor was the preferred material, but we use hemp modern, hemp ropes and our reconstruction. They are twisted around to provide tension, to provide energy, which is going to drive downward, the arm, where as in a catapult you throw you arm upward to hurl the missile or whatever it is you¿re throwing. Here you want to throw the arm down to the ground and the barrier cords that are tied to the arms, that keep the runners from starting will go down onto the ground as well, but thrown down fast so that when the starter calls the signal and rips the release cable (CLAP) BAM it goes down, And you¿ll hear that noise. It¿s interesting that our written sources talk about the machine and talk about the characteristic noise as a word that they use for it that we never understood what that word was, but now that we hear the noise as it goes, and of course if we had both ends of the mechanism put together it would be twice as, it echoes throughout the stadium. You don¿t really notice it when you¿re out here on the ground, but if you¿re up there on the slopes of the stadium, in the spectators, you would just hear this crack, as it goes down.
6:15 CJ and you¿re saying that the sound was something that was memorialized in the writings? SM oh yes it was something very distinctive. CJ so it was actually recorded in the writings of the ancient, this sound?
6:30 SM Yes, it seems to have been so characteristic that everyone seems to know it. Just you know the crack of the whip, the flash of the gun, whatever those characteristics might be that¿s what the sound of the starting mechanism came to be.
6:49 CJ and to make it perfectly clear there is one of these devices that is a pole that¿s about four feet, maybe five feet long, set in a wooden base with this hemp rope at the bottom that provides a little spring, and there is one at each end of the starting block and between the two is stretched one line, SM Two lines actually one at about the level of the waste of the athlete and one at about the level of the knee of the athlete, so it¿s sort of a double barrier cord that¿s stretched across.
7:21 CJ Ok, you want to fire it up?
SM Sure. And the other thing that you¿ll hear, although it depends a little on the conditions, but I think you¿ll hear the strain of the rope. Because as the post lays down on the ground, we¿re going to have to pick it up and pull it up into the air ninety degrees and that¿s going to cock it, it¿s going to increase tortion and the twisting of the ropes and I think you¿ll probably hear that.
7:45 demonstration begins cracking of the
7:55 SM Now the starter will now call out, (Greek words) get your feet together, Etime (Greek), get ready and then he¿ll shout out, Opitae (Greek) and when he shouts out Opitae he pulls the release cord and the arm goes slamming down on the ground taking the barrier cords with it. So, here we go¿demonstration goes on with the commands and the sound of the cord.
8:26 CJ and they¿re off
8:30 SM sometimes noise is more prominent than it is right now. (SM speaking Greek and ambi noise in the background of a horn)
8:40 SM you know it¿s a sound you¿ll hear on the rating of ships, the ropes creaking.
8:44 CJ and clearly it¿s got to come down quite fast because the athletes want to get sprinting as soon as they can. SM exactly, exactly. It has to come down fast, but the purpose of it seems to have been to give an absolutely even start to everybody. One of the hallmarks of Greek athletic competitions was that there was as little subjectivity as possible that entered into them. So that most of the winners were clear to everybody in the stadium. There were no point systems, there were no panels of judges, there were no figure skaters. You threw your javelin the furthest and you won. You got to the end of the track first you won. And the same, (cell phone rings and conversation)
11:08 SM to do the starter without any talking.
11:42 performs with out talking. Chatter between Jessica and Josh about sound. One more try of the starter with out talking.
13:20 Ambi sound of the scrapping starts. Sounds like wood and rocks with metal tools.
15:15 Ambi continues.
16:01 Ambi walking begins, chatter between Jessica and Josh.
17:25 chatter between Jessica, Steven Miller and reporters.
18:11 CJ this is a special spot, clearly. I mean down below we¿ve been at the temple where people would presumably worship or and the baths where they would prepare and this is the beginning of where the action takes place. So, let¿s go back 2500 years and what is this spot and what would we be doing here if we were athletes?
18:33 SM this is the ancient equivalent of the locker room. It is nestled in between two ridges that come out of the hill of the stadium. It blocks access to the entrance tunnel of the stadium so that only the people who come through this building are going to be able to go through the tunnel, and we know that those people are the athlete and the judges. Here the athletes will come in, they will enter the building, which is a rectangle. Nearly a square actually measuring 14x16 meters, it has columns around three sides on the interior and an open courtyard in the middle. The three sides will be the roof over the top will be the place where they take off their clothes, oil their bodies and begin to prepare themselves physically, by the rubbing of the oil on their bodies, and psychologically (car pulls up in the background) for the competitions that are very shortly hereafter to take place.
19:36 CJ and these were the competitions that take place in the so-called Stadion, or stadium as we call it. These were the running races?
19:45 SM actually all of the competitions that we would call the athletic competitions took place in the stadium, not the horse races, but everything else took place. The word stadion (sp) from which our word stadium is derived is originally a unit of measurement. Six hundred feet long and it comes to be applied to the track that is 600 feet long and then to the race that is 600 feet long, and then finally to the place where the races occur and so the stadion, word, evolves into what we recognize as a stadium. In addition to the races, the long jump, the discus, the javelin all took place here and in some area of the track it¿s a frustration that we haven¿t been able to locate it more precisely, was something called to Scama (sp), the dug-up area. Which is the equivalent of the boxing ring or the wrestling ring of antiquity. An area that was dug up so there would be soft landing for people who were thrown and this is out in the middle of the track where everybody can see it. But since the track itself was dug up before the races, and then smoothed over, it¿s impossible, it¿s been impossible for us and other places to distinguish between the area that was dug up for the running surface and the area that was dug up for the boxers and the wrestlers.
21:13 CJ There were quite a lot of different activities in the ancient games, not just running games, there was wrestling, there was boxing there was even two or three different kinds of wrestling.
21:26 SM Well what we might call a different kind of wrestling, that has a technical name of Proncrodiun (sp) and wrestling is probably a two kind of word for it because it combined wrestling and boxing and anything else that you can think of. There were people who specialized in breaking fingers, and strangle holds in breaking legs. The purpose was to get your opponent into a situation where he could not physically or would not psychologically continue on with the battle at which point he threw up his fingers and said I¿ve had enough, or he was knocked out on the ground and that was it for him as well. You could not bite and you could not gouge and if you did you were punished by flogging, but those were the only two prohibitions in this otherwise, obviously pretty rough and tumble competition, which not surprisingly frequently saw death.
22:20 CJ and you mention flogging. When you look at the drawings that have preserved some of the images of what went on, on the sides of Enphoria and Faze (sp) is they show I guess the judges with whips.
22:37 SM they¿re actually more like switches, they seem to be more like the sort of switch my mother used to take off the tree in the backyard whenever I was a bad boy. And it smarts when you get whipped with the end of a switch like that. So raising welts on the backs of athletes was a common occurrence for the judges.
22:58 CJ so there was a complex that ruled, what you were allowed to do and what you weren¿t allowed to do and if you broke them then you got switched. Since this is a nice quiet spot it¿s probably better to do it here than in there, and it¿s shady. Let¿s talk a little bit about the role of athletics in ancient Greece. About the ideal of Irantay (sp) and what the athlete meant by coming to the games. What it meant to the city-state that he came from, and what a victory meant.
23:41 SM the place of athletics in ancient Greek society cannot be overestimated. There were games every place we think of the games at Olympia, and of course the other three sites, the crown games sites of Delphia and Ismia (sp) and Nemean. But that¿s only a part of the story because there were also the money games. The games sponsored by individual city states to promote their own name at which there were prizes of cash or something of cash value and these went on all year round virtually. And athletes were going to them every place and people were going to these athletic competitions. They were a great cultural melting pot. They were a place where people, at least for the moment forgot their differences. I¿m not certain that an Athean ever ran up and embraced a Spartan, but it certainly could have happened at Olympia. And, indeed we¿re told a very nice story about Plato who went to Olympia one time as he would want to do to go to the games and he didn¿t have a group, he was by himself and he ran into some people he didn¿t know, and one thing led to another and they invited him to share their tent and their mess. And they had a very good time and the games went off very well and afterwards they said good-bye. Sometime later these fellows, who were not from Athens, came to Athens and came to see their buddy Plato from the Olympic games. And they went in, ¿how are you,¿ and so and so forth and got reacquainted and then one of them said Plato we¿d like you to do us a special favor, would you take us to see your namesake? That Plato who was the student of Socrates? And Plato said, ¿That¿s me.¿ So you have these other things going on at the games. CJ Poetry SM Poetry yes. When Hiratee (sp) is finished, his history of the Persian wars. He went to Olympia. I mean there weren¿t talk shows, he couldn¿t go on David Letterman and advertise his history of the Persian wars, or Ofra (sp). So he went to Olympia and starting reading out the histories and the judges went up, to get him to shut up and tried to flog him and the crowd said no, no, no this is good stuff, lets hear this and so Herates (sp) name became a household word. Everyone went back to their hometown and said, ¿hey over at Olympia last week, there was this guy Herates (sp) reading us his histories, it¿s great stuff. Buy a copy.¿ All of those sorts of things going on... Sculptors who were waiting around for a commission. Myron one of the greatest athletic sculptors of Antiquity (sp), middle of the century would be waiting here and if you won a victory he would be glad to take your money in exchange for making a statue of you to be set up at Olympia, because you had the right as an Olympic victor to set up a statue of yourself dedicated to Zeus.
26:42 CJ what else did you win, if you won?
26:44 SM well nominally at he crown games you got right on the spot a ribbon tied around your head and a branches of palm, which were your immediate tokens of victory. The palm branch of course has survived till our day and we still hear palms of victory. And indeed palm Sunday. And the Christian tradition derives directly from the Greek athletic tradition of celebrating victory, it¿s a victorious entry into Jerusalem and the palm branches are symbolic of that victory, and they come right out of the ethnography of Greek athletics. And so too does the passion the following week because the crown that is put on Christ¿s¿ head is not a parody of the crown of the king of the Jews; it¿s a parody of the crown of victory, that is really going on in that story. The crown of victory itself at Olympia was evolved here at Nemean was of wild celery, and that sounds really wonderful as if you were competing for glory and for a crown of fremeral value that would wilt and fade away the next day. But in point and fact, when you went home there was an equivalent of a ticker tape parade, there was a breech knocked in the city walls, the equivalent of giving you a key to the city and you were marched through in a chariot, and then you were taken to the town hall where you got a free meal at city expense for the rest of your life. CJ One meal a day? SM One meal a day for each victory. If you won at Olympia, you got one meal a day. If you won here at Nemean you got another meal a day. And you know, they start to stack up and pretty soon; you turn them into food stamps, which can be cashed in for other things. CJ you get so out of shape you cant compete again (laughs). SM yeah, well that happens too.
Chatter between SM and bystander. Pause for cars to go by. Chatter about roses and cold weather.
30:47 CJ tell me there is this term that was used to describe an athlete that doesn¿t really have a direct, clear translation in English. Aratay¿(sp) what is that?
30:58 SM Aratay (sp) is a combination of virtue, excellence, and skill. It¿s something that every one of us has to some degree. We don¿t always live up to it, we don¿t always show it off as well as we might, and the Greeks were very conscious of it, and they could best see it and identify in the form of the athlete. The successful athlete, the athlete you had done more than you might have expected of him. He had shown his Aratay, (sp) his excellence. It usually applied of winners, obviously, but not exclusively. If somebody, even though he had been beaten, had exceeded all expectations and given the winner a real tussle, he might well have been said to have shown Aratay and even in defeat.
31:50 CJ But unlike our modern Olympics there was no second place and there were no team sports.
31:55 SM There absolutely was no second place, you were a winner or you were a loser. Pindar (sp) talks about the losers slinking home through the back alleyways to their mothers ashamed to show their faces. It¿s a very different atmosphere; it¿s all or nothing. And team sports were just the opposite of what one had at the ancient games. Aratay is an individual characteristic, not a team characteristic. Team sports existed at the local games, but the team sports that were used in the context of developing teamwork for military activities. And that¿s a distinction that has to be made that the Olympic games, the games here at Nemean and the games at the Crowning were not preparation for war. They were the antithesis of that. Indeed there eight many sources that talk about the fact that athletes make crummy soldiers because they wont work with anybody else. Soldiers don¿t make good athletes because they¿re too much used to working in concert with others.
33:10 JG yeah on that note, we read in your book how athletes would stop wars. People would stop everything they were doing to compete in these games.
33:19 the four crown games had truces that were associated with them that gave safe conduct to people who were going to or coming from the games and frequently wars would be stopped, battles would be stopped and the significance of this were not talking about a truce that¿s saying well we¿re tired of fighting, so Saturday we won¿t fight. We¿re talking about something that happened every year on a regular basis, there is a time of year, when (whoop) throw down your weapons, we¿re going to Olympia.
33:48 CJ it¿s every year because they are four games and they happen on off years, so that every year there is a game going on somewhere.
33:54 SM I wish it were that simple. The Greeks never do anything simply. The games at Olympia and at Delphi (sp) were quadrennial. But the games at Ismenia (sp) and Nemean were biennial games. So that in a four year cycle you had one celebration at Olympia, one celebration at Delphi, two at Ismenia and two at Nemean. And that¿s one of the reasons why as time went on the significance, the prominence of Olympia grew at the expense of Ismenia and Nemean because the loss of supply and demand. You had twice as many tries to get a victory at Nemean as you did at Olympia, so the victory was half as important in it¿s own way. But they still shared this element of truth so; it¿s actually six times in a four-year cycle that we¿re going to stop wars for one month while we go off to the games.
34:50 CJ it hardly leaves you anytime to fight. SM yeah it makes you wonder about all this fighting. The other part of this we should remember is it was very closely tied to the agricultural cycle. The period between the first and the second full moon, after the summer solstice is the period when there is the least amount of agricultural activity, fields have been cultivated, crops have been pruned, the wheat is already in. The grain crops have already been harvested and you¿re sitting around waiting for your grapes to ripen, and I think the Greeks were very practical about this, it was just too hot to fight, lets go off and have games. And even today the festival time in Greece is of that time of July to early August. And then mid-August, we start harvesting our grapes.
CJ decides to walk in because of noise from traffic.
36:03 CJ ok so from the locker room, where would the athletes go?
SM they would go into the entrance tunnel, well first of all into a corridor, between the locker room and the tunnel and then into the tunnel itself.
CJ so let¿s go do that. SM ok.
36:30 AMBI of walking into the stadium¿gravel crunching
36:48 CJ so now we¿d be leaving the locker room and turning this corner to what is a tunnel in a hillside and built of stone. SM Yes, it¿s a true vault. About 130 feet in length that went through the ridge that divided the locker room from the stadium proper. It forms a ceremonial entrance for the athletes, a separate entrance for the athletes that really shows that by this period the athlete and the spectator are really separated and are two very distinct units. And in a way at the very end when the athlete comes out into the track after his name has been called, there is a very dramatic entrance. I think when I go to football game and the team has entered the field there is a point of very dramatic entrance.
37:42 CJ and walking through this tunnel would be sort of their last 30 seconds of contemplation before they compete.
37:49 SM yes, it might have extended a little more than that. Because when they get to the other end their names will be called out in succession. (ambi of birds chirping in the back) So the guy at the front of the line, this is in the last thirty seconds, the guy at the back of the line might have to wait a minute or so. And I¿ll show you when we get inside what he did with that minute. CJ well let¿s go see
Group walks into the stadium¿. chatter about self guided tour.
38:54 SM and the walls have many graffiti, many, many ancient graffiti¿Sm continues to describe the graffiti and (ambi, voices echoing).
39:10 a-k-r-o-t-a-t-o-s sigma the Greek letters Akrotatos, Akrotatos. Now the name AK is extremely rare. We know it only twice from antiquity, a grand father and a grandson in the royal house of Sparta The grandfather died before his father, so he never became king and we don¿t know very much about him, but the younger AK we do know a bit about. And the fact that the name was so rare, you wonder if this could be one of the Spartan people. The younger AK who did become king in 265 BC and ruled in Sparta until his death in 252, about that younger AK we know a number of things, first of all, he was extremely good looking, He¿s what the Greeks called (Calouse sp?) beautiful, really good to look at. In fact he was so good looking he got into trouble. He seduced his uncle¿s wife, his uncle less than happy hired a merssionary army led by Purists of epeuris (sp) this was in the 270¿s, when AK was in the flower of his youth. The army of his Uncle and his purists invade Sparta and lay siege to the city and AK leads a group of his buddies on a counter attack. They win a nice little battle and AK comes back into Sparta covered in blood and gore, his knife dripping and appearing not (calouse) in the Greek, but Caleona (sp) the comparative even more, beautiful than before. At which point some old Spartan shouted out ¿Ok, AK take your Aunt to bed, but make good Spartans!¿ AK was good looking he also had enough physical presence to lead a military counter attack, does that make him an athlete competing here at Nemean, obviously not necessarily, but it could be. But what is wonderful is if we turn and look on the other side, look on the other side of the tunnel and we go back just a few feet away and we see another graffiti (sp) written in another hand, with another tool, but the same letters¿a-k-r-o-t-a-t-o-s followed in another there is a tip of a letter broken here, but you can see it, it has to be a part of a k a l o s. AK is cute. Someone is looking down a ten ft. tunnel where AK is scratching his name and saying oooh, la, la wow this guy is really something and so he writes his admiration on the wall. So our AK was Kalos, the Spartan AK was Kalos, The lines converge that make it ever more likely that this is the same guy, But the story doesn¿t end there, the Spartan prince was the figure of some controversy, he was obviously charismatic, good looking and all of that, but when he became king we were told that when he introduced into Sparta Persian luxuries. CJ what would that be? SM Rich deserts. Soft mattresses, perfumed oil. All of these things the Spartans aborted and all of these things, which they got rid of as soon as he passed through the scene. So there were mixed feelings about the Spartan AK, and there were mixed feelings about our AK too. After the word Kalos, written in another handwriting, very scratchy is tou of grapsantous (sp) the word means of the writer. He was beautiful; he was cute to the writer. There has been a lot of argument on the grammatic nature of this but I think that¿s a misplaced argument. We¿re in a locker room situation and people are scribbling on the wall, the way we would transcribe this in the men¿s room at my building at Berkley is AK is cute, says who!
43:40 CJ oh I see, so we have a dialogue going on here.
SM yes, exactly there is a dialogue going on. Exactly
43:45 CJ there is other graffiti going on as well. SM yes, about 50 pieces. CJ Fifty pieces of graffiti. SM AK is one of the two really rare examples of where we can really identify it. Just the opposite here is someone who has written their name, Politeness (sp), it¿s a fairly common name, we don¿t know who he was and we don¿t know the names of many losers in the games. We don¿t even know all the names of the winners in the games. And defacing public property did not have the prerequisite of winning the games, so these are anonymous athletes who are coming in here and making a bid for immortality. CJ a successful bid? SM yes, here they are. Polixenos whoever he was is still remembered today.
44:33 CJ did they write anything other than there names?
44:36 SM rarely, the Kalos is one example and there is another one down here. On the first stone actually, inside of the entrance on the mouth of the tunnel, there is a name that clearly is broken away, but it is clear that the name is Telles Tas (sp) and that is probably the same TT who was a victor in the Olympic games in 340 BC in the boxing for the boys category. Above that is another graffiti in another handwriting, using a different tool used ¿ N (or new) I (yota) k- (kappa) o(omega) niko (sp) this is the verb I win! Did this guy win, whoever wrote it? We don¿t know who wrote it. Did he actually win, was he psyching himself up? Was he congratulating himself after he came back into the tunnel? We don¿t know. But it is sediment that is appropriate to an athletic setting.
45:35 CJ It¿s amazing to see 2500-year-old graffiti written by people who are not scholars necessarily. Were not the great writers who we think of from Antiquity, but just jocks?
45:49 SM this is Joe Blow writing he name on the wall. This is a tunnel made for humans, by humans, used by humans and one of the most human impulses that we know is urge for immortality that comes urge for scratching on the walls.
46:07 CJ so here at the very end of the tunnel¿sound goes blank
46:21 Josh We¿re back on track!
46:26 CJ we just talking about the graffiti and this is the end of the tunnel and it opens up into the sunshine into what do we see here? When the athlete comes out what does he see.
46:40 SM Well as he comes out, he¿s coming out of the tunnel into a passage way, that¿s about eight feet wide and extends to about another 40 feet out to the track. So he is seeing in the middle distance the actual track that he is going to be running on. On that track he¿s probably seeing the herald and the trumpeter, who have called his name out, or who will be calling his name out. And across the track he is seeing people seated on the embankment, packed probably seeing hundreds maybe thousands of people at this point. He is not visible nor can he see the rest of the crowd, the other perhaps 30,000 people around him. CJ thirty thousand in this one spot? SM well, we can estimate the capacity at 40,000 I don¿t believe that there ever were 40,000 people here, but I¿ve seen at Olympia at the ancient stadium from modern ceremonies, I¿ve seen 25-30,000 people so I can believe that it got up into the tens of thousands. But as he is called he is going to run up into this passage way and as he comes out he is going to become increasingly visible to the crowd and you can expect that they are going to be he partisans who are going to cheer and the partisans of his opponents who are going to be booing and hissing is very much a crowd reaction. And I think that part of the reason for the construction of a tunnel like this is, is to create that sense of drama at that moment of appearance.
48:13 CJ well let¿s walk out to the track and you can show us¿now you excavated this track. What did it look like when you first arrived here?
48:23 SM First of all the earth was very hard; we would have been buried under tons of earth where we¿re walking. There was a horseshoe shaped con cavity that clearly was not natural and designated the spot of the stadium so we knew where the stadium was. But you can see if you look to the south there is an area, where there is a bench and a path. That is where the earth was, at a height above us about 30 ft. And it came down where we¿re standing right now; it was less than that about 18-20 feet. CJ so this track was buried under, 20-30 feet under dirt? SM oh yes, yes, we has to remove over 4,000 dump truck loads of earth. That means something like 42,000 cubic meters of earth had to be removed in order to get down to the floor we are standing on.
49:21 CJ well maybe it¿s kind of a stupid question, but how did you know it was here?
49:25 SM well, first of all from that horse shoe shaped con cavity, just is not natural it had to be a man made thing. And we know that there is a stadium here and at the other end of the track, whereas this stadium was created by digging back into the hillside at the other end, the stadium was continued by building up and artificial terrace and as you stand across at the other end of the valley you can see that very, very clearly. And you could walk through the vineyards; all of this was a vineyard at the original level. You could walk through the vineyards and measure the distance and you knew you were in the ballpark of the 600-foot length track that had to be there. What we didn¿t know is how deep we¿d have to dig. And that first year was extremely frustrating in initial parts. We started a trench up where the horseshoe shaped con cavity started and began digging down; the trench was¿(cell starts to ring) conversation on the phone.
51:51 SM continues¿we didn¿t know how much earth. And we started with a crew of 20 people digging a trench of that was ten meters wide and 20 meters long, and we dug, and we dug, and we dug and we dug¿and we didn¿t find anything. No pottery, no coins, no trace of human activity and people started to get very frustrated and I was getting very worried. This was my first year of directing an excavation; I dug before, but not as director. I had succeeded in getting private donors to give me money so I could come here and dig and I was faced with the prospect of going back to Berkley and saying you gave me money, I dug a big empty hole and now give me some more money so I can go back and dig. And I didn¿t want to have to sell that, and so as luck would have it, on the very last day of excavation, on Friday the 19th of July, 1974 almost precisely 30 years ago. We started early in the morning to find a little bit of the water channel that came into the stadium and carried fresh water around the sides of track which is very characteristic of the staid, and about early afternoon we had found a little stretch about six feet long of the starting line. So we knew exactly where we were and we knew exactly what we had to do to dig. And of course there was a huge celebration that night the point of which began the next morning when we learned of the invasion of Cyprus and the fact that all of our workmen were mobilized. Our emotions were just turned around 180 degrees.
53:25 CJ well at least we got rid of Nixon that year. CJ SM laughter¿small conversation about war.
54:45 CJ well back to, let¿s go back 2500 years again. So the athlete comes out here to run, the starting line is down there. Describe the race for me, a typical race.
55:08 SM well, the athlete will go down there the starting line has 12 positions, 12 lanes. So there would be 12 runners, a maximum of 12 runners that would go down, they would draw lots for there lane assignments, again a sign of the impartiality, again, this is all a sign of the chance, everybody is equal in front of the law. They¿ll draw lots, they¿ll have their lane assignments, they¿ll put their toes in the grooves, and at the sign they will take off. Now, there are three kinds of races that go on. One is the Stadian (sp) race, which is 600 ft, in length which would start at the far end, which we haven¿t discovered the starting line because that end has been eroded away that was the artificial terrace that built up and that end has eroded away. But they would have started there and ended at this end. Note, that there is a slope in the surface of the track. The south end is about eight ft. higher than the north end so that you¿re literally running up hill. The reason for the slope is so the water in the channel, along the side of the track will run downhill and work on gravity feed. So that race they¿re running uphill. This is another feature of Greek athletics we don¿t care about setting time records; in fact we don¿t set time records. The issue is to win, on the given track at the given point and time. And indeed, the stadium track varies from place to place, our total length here is about 178 meters. At Olympia it was 192, 14 meters longer. It didn¿t matter it was the same for everybody. Ok the Stadian race (sp) a sprint from one end of the track to the other, an equivalent of our 200-meter. The double stadian race (sp), which would start at the S, end go down to the N. end and back and finish where they would finish. The 400-meter race in our terminology. And the long distance race, the so called diskeekos(sp) which was probably 20 laps, or perhaps 24 the sources are not in agreement, but, one went down and back and down and back and there were single turning posts at each end, so everybody went around a single turning post in that race.
57:24 CJ and the turning post is right in the middle of the track, and so I can imagine well I don¿t know how many people would know it but sailboats do the same thing. When you go up the length of the track and then you all have to turn around that central post, they¿ve got to all be fighting for that inside position.
57:42 SM well yes, but except that in the longer distances, presumably the field will spread out fairly soon, but the potential of that happening is there. Note that you said in the middle of the track, not quite in the middle, the post you can see the base of it right there is off centered to the right, so as you approach it you are going to run as close to as possible then you¿re automatically centrical force is going to throw you out so the center, the center of the turn is on the center of the track, but the post is actually a little bit off center. Again, the one at the north is unfortunately no longer with us.
58:26 CJ and this is the same spot where the javelin throwers would throw the javelin, the discuss throwers would throw the discus and all the other events would take place, the wrestling, the boxing. SM right, right all in this space. Now, on the far side of the track there are a row of stone blocks, set next to the water channel and behind the water channel parallel to those stone blocks we found the traces of mud bricks and between the mud bricks wall and the stone wall we found we found a number of bronze and iron nails. That means wood, so we restore a platform of wood based in part upon the stone blocks, based in part upon the parallel mud bricks and that¿s where we have our judges sitting the same situation that occurred at Olympia, that¿s the judges stand. So that we should imagine it is probably out in front of the judges stand where the pit was dug up for the boxers and the wrestlers, that¿s the business end. Another thing we should mention is what the coins we have dug up in the stadium have told us, some years ago my colleague at Berkley, Robert Knapp, who¿s publishing the coins, came to me and said, ¿I want to know what was wrong with you guys digging in the stadium?¿ and I said what do you mean, and he said ¿well didn¿t you guys collect your coins the first year you dug?¿ I said why, and he said at the closed end of the stadium there are virtually no coins. There are plenty of coins down on the sides of the track, but where you dug the first year, you didn¿t find anything, did you have your eyes closed and I said no. Then when we had our first modern Nemeanina games I realized the answer, people go down to the closed end, they look down at the length of the track, it¿s a lovely view of the track, but it¿s a lousy view of the races. And so they come around on the sides, it¿s the end zone down there and no one wants to sit on the end zone and that¿s why we found virtually no coins down there. At the same time, the coins have told us something else that¿s not surprising, but it¿s wonderful to have the evidence. The judges stand would have been populated by ten judges, from the city of Argos (sp), Argos ran the games here. Almost all of the coins of Argos have been found around the embankment behind the judge¿s stand, it¿s a hometown rooting section. On the opposite side of the track in the embankment area is again a cluster of coins from corrents. All the Corintheans come together, they sit together, there¿s a fan club of Corinthians. Further down on the side are the coins of Sicion (sp), opposite them on the other side are the coins of the city called Kleone (sp), so on and so forth, they¿re sitting in groups. I teach at the UCB very few Cal. Alums are going to sit with the Stanford Alums
1:01;25 CJ there were thousands and thousands of spectators here and they were here for days on end cause these games went on for a while. What did they do for a place to stay, what about sanitation facilities, what did they do to eat?
1:01:40 SM what they did as a place to stay is they brought tents, or they slept out in the open under the opens skies. And you should imagine the valley dotted with tents and after dark with campfires as people are eating and drinking and having a good time. So far as sanitation facilities are concerned, I¿ve often wondered about that. We don¿t find the kind of facilities we would in the Roman period, the Romans were very good at building latrines and that sort of thing. All I can say is the valley has a lot of healthy bushes.
1:02:18 CJ there is something in your book I want to ask to read which touches on that I think it¿s very amusing. Chatter among group
1:03:30 CJ obviously this was a time when there were people here and like any big sporting event, at the end of the games it must have been a mess¿and if you can just read this stuff in quotes,
1:03:47 SM This was written by a Greek author of Roman time named Lucian, who was a sports fan, quite obviously cause he had went to many of the games, and in AD 165 he says the following¿¿the end of the Olympic games came soon, the best Olympics which I have seen incidentally of the four which I have attended. It was not easy to get a carriage, since so many were leaving at the same time. And therefore I stayed on for another day against my will. Traffic jams everyplace.¿
CJ page 119¿SM there¿s an author named Dio Christian no (sp), talks about the Istemean games on one particular occasion. Probably in 359 BC He¿s talking about the cynic philosopher Dyaganees (sp) who went to the games at that time and he describes the situation, ¿ that was the time to hear crowds of wretched softus (sp) around the temple of Pulsidian (sp) as they shouted and heaped abuse on each other and their so called students as they fought with one another and many historians reading out their stupid writings and many poets reciting their poetry to the applause of other poets. And many magicians showing their tricks, many fortune tellers showing fortunes, countless lawyers perverting justice, and not a few peddlers, pedaling whatever came to hand.¿
CJ they didn¿t call him a cynic for nothing. CJ Yes, you¿re right.
1:06:45 CJ the games did have their critics; you¿ve talked about synofenese (sp)? And what was his complaint, you can either read it, or summarize it.
1:07:00 SM Synofense was a philosopher and his complaint was that of many men of letters, academic types, who thought that athletes got too much attention, that the games drew to many people, that he was worth more than some stupid athlete. And what athlete ever defended a city by throwing a discus at an enemy. Athletes and athletics are worthless for the good of the city. Say where as I am going to teach you the right way to live.
1:07:34 CJ So it was a kind of event that drew all kinds of people that were looking for an audience. Here was a ready-made audience for them.
1:07:44 CJ the athletes themselves, focused on what they had to do, probably not paying too much attention on the philosophers. This was a serious affair, they had to take an oath, and what was that oath.
1:07:57 SM the oath that they took at Olympia was that they had done nothing and would do nothing to bring shame upon themselves, their fathers or the Olympic games.
1:09:05 SM reading the Oath, the Zeus of the oath. Because he strikes terror into anybody who swears the faults of the oath. He holds a thunderbolt in each hand apparently to zap it down to anybody who strikes and beside this statue it is established for the athletes, their fathers, their brothers and trainers to swear in oath on slices of the flesh of wild boars that they will do nothing evil against the Olympic games.
SM don¿t ask me why the flesh of wild boars, no one has ever explained that and apparently the raw flesh, we should understand. And the pig, which has a bad reputation in many contexts it¿s interesting that before the judges and the athletes entered Olympia, even when they got to Olympia, they got to Olympia, they went through a ritual purification. Where pig¿s blood was splattered on them and then washed off at a particular spring, which apparently has great cleansing powers.
1:10:18 CJ I mean winning was a big deal, we¿ve talked about that but sometimes there were dynasties, or at least there was one good dynasty. That was the family of Diagerus (sp) tell me about D.
1:10:13 SM D himself was an Olympic victor in 468 BC and we know a fair amount about him for several reasons. But he commissioned Pindar (sp) to write a victory oad in his honor, and Pindar tells a great deal about the house of D and about D¿s successful athletic career. But D¿s own career was nothing in comparison with that of his proginany. He had three sons and two of them were actually victorious at the same Olympic games in 444bc. And as each of them received the victory ribbon and the palm branch of victory and went on their victory lap, cause you always went on a victory lap waving your palm branch. As they ran their victory lap they ran up into the crowd to get their father D on their shoulders and carried him around the rest of the victory lap. So here you had father and two sons, all Olympic victors, at which point some ol Spartan jumps up and yells, D die now! You will never be happier. But the story goes on because his third son was a three time Olympic victor. He had two daughters, his eldest daughters son who was in generation an Olympic victor and the next daughter had a son who was going off to compete at the Olympic games. And she couldn¿t stand it, she wanted to see the Olympic games, she wanted to see her son compete, so she disguised herself as her son¿s trainer. Went off to Olympia. Her son in due course was victorious, she got so excited that she jumped over the stadium fence and ran onto the floor and as she jumped over the stadium fence all was bared. And the problem was exposed and the judges grabbed her and they didn¿t know quite what to do, because by law they should take her to some cliffs near Olympia and throw her to her death to her death. But here she was the daughter of an Olympic victor, a sister to three Olympic victors and aunt of an OV and the mother of a newly crowned OV. So they waffled at the decree that all trainers would also have to be naked at the games.
1:13:02 JG we need him to place where we are. Why Nemean and where is this place.
1:13:13 Nemean is one of the four Pan? Festival centers in the cycle with Olympia. It¿s located in the NE part of the Polianponethis. About 30 miles SW of Corenth in the foothills of the Arcadian Mountains. The floor of the body of Nemean is about 1200 ft above sea level, so we have really a cooler climate than associated with Greece. The valley itself is a natural basin and it doesn¿t want to drain. Left to it¿s own devices, nature creates a swamp in the middle of the valley. It¿s only when man digs a drainage channel out to the gulf of Corneth that the valley becomes arable and inhabitable. This seems to explain why this valley was selected as a site of games. That is to say, you couldn¿t use it to grow crops; you couldn¿t live in it, but in the summertime when the valley dries up you could have your festival. Its present location was sort of an international situation that is immediately to the east, the next valley to the east we come to the territory of Corneth. To the SE and S we are in the territory of Argols. To the W. we are in the territory of Arcadia, and to the NW the territory of Sician (sp) that is of Acai (sp). So we have four ethnical nationalities that are somewhat scattered immediately around it.
1:15:00 this is MS ambi for the interview in the stadium.
AMBI ¿ wind is blowing, bugs or birds are chirping.
1:16:29 Birds chirping (faintly)
1:17:00 ambi stops.