The ancient Nemea (with Mount Apesas in the background) was important in ancient times because of the famous myth of Herakles and the Nemean Lion, but especially because of the Nemean Games that were held there every 2 years in the summer. These games, first held in 573 BC, were the fourth panhellenic festival after the games in Olympia, Delphi and on the Isthmos. The organization of the games was initially reserved for the town of Kleonai, but was later taken over by Argos, which took over the Games after Spartan troops destroyed the sanctuary and the archaic temple during the Peloponnesian war. Around 330 before Chr. Philippos of Macedonia had the current temple built and the Games of Argos moved back to the great Zeus sanctuary. In the Hellenistic era, the Nemean Games also had music competitions, in addition to the athletic components and the horse races. The antique stadium was the center of the games and was – together with the impressive remains of the Doric temple (330-320 BC) – converted into an archaeological park in 1994 with the support of the Americans.
Following the Parthenon, the Hellenistic temple is a textbook example of classical temple construction, in which several tricks have been applied to combat optical illusions. For example, columns in the middle appear thinner than below and above, reason to make the columns thicker in the middle (giving them the shape of a cigar). The farther away a column is from the center, the thicker it appears, while the distance between two columns in the middle seems smaller than on the sides. That is why the columns in the middle are a bit thicker and a little further apart. Finally, a straight architrave in the middle seems to sink slightly, reason for the builders to place the columns in the middle a little higher.
The foundations of houses and a hotel for the athletes are well recognizable; an antique bathhouse (reconstruction below) has also been reasonably preserved. The stadium of Nemea, 500 meters away, has been beautifully reconstructed, and the museum offers, in addition to a number of special finds, beautiful models of the entire site.
The site was especially after the destruction of Corinth by the Roman General Mummius in 146 BC. seriously neglected and used less and less. By the time of Pausanias, the stadium was already overgrown and used as pasture, while the roof of the temple had collapsed. A cult image was also no longer present. An early Christian basilica was built over the remains of antique houses and hotels in the fourth century, but after excavating much of its building material, it is difficult to recognize. The typical apse can be seen on an aerial photo.