The famous archaeologist Stefanos (Steve) Miller, who died in Corinth on August 11, 2021, was one of the most important figures in ancient Greek archeology and the founder of the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games. His name rubs shoulders with some of the country’s best Greek archaeologists such as Manolis Andronikos (Vergina), Minos Kalokairinos (Knossos), Dimitrios Pandermalis (Dion) and Spyridon Marinatos (Thera).
The great archaeologist was passionate about his work. He excavated the site of ancient Nemea, including the stadium and temple of Nemea Zeus, and established the local museum; laying a lot of bricks there with his own hands.
The ancient games of Nemea, part of the Pan-Hellenic Games and similar to the old Olympics, were revived due to his great enthusiasm and energy. The ancient games began as funeral games for the local hero Opheltes. They are first recorded from 573 BC and continued until 271 BC. After this period, they moved to the mighty ancient city of Argos. The first modern Nemean Games were held in 1996 and every four years thereafter. This is an extremely inclusive game with participants aged 8 to 88 who participate and experience the spirit of the ancient Greek amilla (noble competition). The temple of Zeus Nemea was the focal point of the games and was used by athletes, pilgrims and priests. There was also a training track for the athletes so that they could warm up before the competitions. Miller strove to explain to students and lovers of antiquity how the Zeus of Nemea was entirely different from the Olympian Zeus, not the master of lightning but a protector and father of shepherds.
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Miller had hoped that the Nemean Racecourse, which he identified during his investigations, will also be excavated in the near future so that ancient Nemean horse racing can be added to the current running events and modern Games kickboxing. It would be a great tribute to his memory if that could be a priority. Miller has also conducted excavations in Sicily, Olympia and the Athenian Agora and has published widely.
Born Stephen G. Miller in Goshen, Indiana, United States. He studied ancient Greek at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana and classical archeology at Princeton. He was professor of classical archeology at the University of California at Berkeley and director of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (1982-87). His work underlined the central place of ancient sport in the life of Greek cities. He believed in sport as a great force of friendship between peoples and nations and a factor of peace. He has demonstrated his faith in the practice through the wonderful modern Nemean Games, which are a major draw in the city and usually end with a common meal in honor of all participants.
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The archaeologist had a deep love for Greece. He adopted the Greek version of his name, Stefanos, long before the President of Greece granted him Greek citizenship for services rendered to archeology in 2005. With his wife Effie, a Greek-American from Utah, Miller has created a beautiful house in Nemea which housed a scholar. 2000 book library. It is intended to serve as a study center for Nemean scholars. Since his retirement in 2005, they have divided their time between Nemea and California. Loved by the locals, he worked hard and lived like a local. Stefanos was called the “lion” and was truly the soul of Nemea. His ashes were returned to Nemea, where three days of public mourning were declared upon his death. A rue de Némée and a primary school bear his name. On the announcement of his death, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis congratulated him on “his dedication to the universal values of classical Greece” and added that the Greek people bade him farewell as one of their own.
Stefanos (Stephen G.) Miller, archaeologist, born June 22, 1942 and died August 11, 2021.