In 1995 a local group of people formed the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games. They wanted to experience the connection with the past that we had felt in 1994, when we held footraces at the Nemean stadium. The society now has some 1,900 members from around the world, and revived the Nemean Games in 1996 and 2000. Authenticity has been one fundamental aspect of the revival; another has been the idea of participation. Anyone should be able to walk into the apodyterion, remove his or her clothes, oil their bodies and proceed barefoot through the tunnel and into the fourth century B.C.

The athletes are summoned to swear the oath, modeled on that used at Olympia: “Do you swear to abide by the rules of the Nemean Games and to do nothing that would bring shame to you, your family or the spirit of the ancient Games?” The athletes respond, orkizomai, meaning “I swear.”

Initially, we were concerned about potential damage to the ancient site, but the absence of shoes dramatically reduces wear and tear, and most of what is touched is earth. The columns of the locker room are protected by scaffolding and a tent. Life-sized photographs of the walls of the tunnel provide a place for modern graffiti—a “guest-book” of the new games.

In the two previous Nemeads, more than 1,300 people from 45 countries, ranging in age from 10 to 93, have walked through the stadium’s tunnel. This year, the third Nemead will be held, as in antiquity, beginning with the second full moon after the summer solstice: July 31—S.G.M.