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Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnous

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

In the municipality of Marathon, between Grammatiko and Kato Souli, is the ancient settlement of Ramnous. Although only 60 kilometers from Athens, about an hour by car, it is one of the lesser known archaeological sites, although it is an extremely important find according to archaeologists.

So, on a cloudy March morning, I decided to take my sister, an archeology student, and visit the ancient municipality of Ramnounta.


The name Ramnous comes from the plant Ramnos (thorny shrub)

At the northeastern end of Attica, with the Evian coast opposite,in a strategic point like no other in ancient times and in a natural environment unchanged to this day, the ruins of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta are preserved. The area has been continuously inhabited since the Neolithic period.


Ramnous belonged to the Eantida tribe, and is the best preserved of the ancient municipalities of Attica. The ancient settlement was walled and inside contained public buildings, sanctuaries and houses.


The path to the archaeological site


Entering the archeological site, a booklet with all the necessary information is available and a helpful staff will inform you of the best route to take..The place initially seems vast, even if only a small part of it can be visited today, but soon we are reassured, as Ramnuda's honorary guide dog, Murphy, rushes to our aid!

Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta
Ramnountos Holy Street leading to the Acropolis. Murphy leading the way.| Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki

The route starts smoothly with our guide happy frolicking around us, indicating the way, never forgetting to check on us like his faithful flock. Walking along the sacred road of the settlement, our first stop are the sanctuaries of Nemesis and Themis.


This goddess, Nemesis, probably represented a local form of the goddess Artemis. Legend has it that Zeus chased Nemesis for a long time, but she transformed into a goose to escape, but in order to deceive her, he joined her in the form of a swan, and from their union was born the beautiful Eleni and the Dioscuri. The name Nemesis comes from the ancient Greek "nemin", which is the one that provides gifts to their worshipers, but also it means the divine wrath directed at any mortal who violates the order of nature and commit sinsults. When Themis (the cosmic order) is despised, then comes Nemesis (the punishment of the arrogant).



The ancient sanctuaries of Nemesis and Themis


The sanctuary of Nemesis of Ramnounta, is the most important sanctuary of the deity in Greece and had even incited the Athenian army to fight in Marathon. The first temple was built in the archaic era, but was destroyed by the Persians in 480B.C., so, in the 6th century A.D. a new, larger Doric temple was founded next to the original one. Its acme is placed in the 4th and 5th century A.D. and today the ruins of both temples remain visible.


Restored columns of the Temple of Nemes is in the hall with the triangular of the Temple which can be visited after consultation with the EFA. | WLM archive
Restored columns of the Temple of Nemes is in the hall with the triangular of the Temple which can be visited after consultation with the EFA. | WLM archive

Inside the temple the famous statue of the goddess, work of Agoracritus, a student of Phidias was kept. As Pausanias, the traveler of the 2nd centuryA.D. said, the Persians, before the Battle of Marathon, brought a piece of marble to make a trophy, sure of their victory. But Nemesis, the Divine Judgment, punished them for their arrogance, and in the battle of 490BC, the Greeks won. From the marble the Persians took, the student of Phidias, Agorakritos, carved the statue of the goddess Nemesis, almost four meters high.

Representation of the eastern side of the great temple of Nemesis. (From the two-volume work of Vassilios Petrakos, "The Municipality of Ramnountos"–publish" the Archaeological Society in Athens", Athens, 1999) | HUFFPOST GR
Representation of the eastern side of the great temple of Nemesis. (From the two-volume work of Vassilios Petrakos, "The Municipality of Ramnountos"–publish" the Archaeological Society in Athens", Athens, 1999) | HUFFPOST GR

Unfortunately, the statue of Nemesis no longer exists today, at the end of the 4th century A.D. it was permanently destroyed alongside the sanctuary by the first Christians. However, many fragments of it, were found scattered.



Larger life-size statue of Themis made of Pentelic marble, preserved along with its base. It was found in 1890 in Ramnounta, inside the small temple of Nemesis, the so-called temple of Themis~300BC (height 2.22m)
Larger life-size statue of Themis made of Pentelic marble, preserved along with its base. It was found in 1890 in Ramnounta, inside the small temple of Nemesis, the so-called temple of Themis~300BC (height 2.22m)

Next to a smaller temple of the 5th century AD, the chthonic deity Themis was worshiped. Votive inscriptions show the simultaneous worship of the two gods. Remarkable statues were found inside the temple, among which the statue of the goddess, 2.22m high, carved by the ancient sculptor Hairestrato (National Archaeological Museum).


The Acropolis of Ramnounta


Continuing along side the sacred road, on a relatively steep path which is relatively untouched, we reach a small hill, 30m high above the sea, where the acropolis of Ramnounta is located.

Murphy on the sacred road of Ramnountos. | Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki
Murphy on the sacred road of Ramnountos. | Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki

The hill is surrounded by a strong wall, 800m long, with towers and at least three entrances. At the top of the hill, inside the inner fortified enclosure, were the military installations.


Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta
Photo:WLM archive

The fortress of Ramnounta, like that of Sounio, is believed to have been established during the Peloponnesian War to control ships carrying grain to Athens, ensuring its delivery. The two small ports on the beach below the fortress, east and west, in the small bays of today's Agia Marina and Sesi, were useful for the ships that controlled the passage of the Evoikos. For this reason the defense of the municipality was systematically strengthened with a guard of the Athenian Teenagers, who served there in the second year of their term.

Detail of the tomb stone of the Menestidis family. Three women are depicted: the two sisters and their mother, Nausiptolemi, sitting. The exhibit is located in the hall with the temple, which can be visited after consultation with the EFA. |WLM archive
Detail of the tomb stone of the Menestidis family. Three women are depicted: the two sisters and their mother, Nausiptolemi, sitting. The exhibit is located in the hall with the temple, which can be visited after consultation with the EFA. |WLM archive

First you are greeted by the stone sanctuary of Ramnountos that leads to the Acropolis, a "megalithic" stone wall with the main entrance, located to the south and protected by rectangular towers on either side of the Gate, which exude Mycenaean beauty.

Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta
Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki

At the top of the hill, almost at the end of our course, under the shade of an old cedar, the guide and companion Murphy is waiting for us. Although he had lost his patience with our delay towards the end of the route, he gathered enough strength to accompany us back.

Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta
Murphy on the sacred road of Ramnountos. | Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki

Inside, a smaller enclosure is preserved around the Acropolis. Roads have also been found on either side of which there were houses and public buildings, such as the rectangular theater (350BC), a gymnasium, the sanctuary of Aphrodite, the sanctuary of Dionysus, the sanctuary of Amphiaraus and other sanctuaries as well as an extensive sewer system.


Going on the inner road that leads to the acropolis of Ramnounta, on the left are the public buildings and on the right the private houses - alongside, extended in a row, marble bases of columns exist, where the laws and resolutions of the municipality were written.

Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta
Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki

Inside the settlement, the floor plans of the houses and the masonry up to 1.20m, their patios and their stone stairs are clearly visible. Life within the walls must have been more urban. The houses of the settlement are exactly similar to those of Athens in layout and operation.

Touring of the ancient municipality of Ramnounta
Photo: writer Katerina Zygouraki

In Hellenistic times, after the death of Alexander the Great and the civil wars that followed, the decline of the municipality began, as it was successively occupied by the adversary.


Ramnountas today


From 1975 until today, the archaeological site of Ramnounta has been excavated and studied systematically with funding from the Archaeological Society under the direction of V.Petrakou.

The upgrade of the archeological site is planned by the Ephorate of Antiquities and includes, among other things, a tour route, accessible to the disabled, spaces for digital applications, and a space for a sample presentation of the findings with supervisory material.



Daily from 8:30-15:30, exceptTuesday.

Tickets: Full:€4, Reduced:€2

Access only by car.

Telephone: 22940 63477

Wear a sports shoe,as the area is large and rocky in several places. Have a water bottle and a hat with you.


Katherine Zygouraki


Translated by: Mike Vlastakis

Τranslation editing by: Valerie Koussoulis

 

Sources: Φυλλάδιο αρχαιολογικού Ραμνούντος , Μ. Σκλαβος | lifo.gr | huffingtonpost.gr | mononews.gr | memorylifegr.blogspot.com | kathimerini.gr | odysseus.culture.gr


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