Nemea has lost one of its faithful guardians


[pbs_component_photo title=”Professor Stephen G. Miller (center) at the 2016 Nemean Games.” image_id=”2040″ /]

ἅρμα δ᾽ ὀτρύνει Χρομίου Νεμέα θ᾽ ἔργμασιν

νικαφόροις ἐγκώμιον ζεῦξαι μέλος

The chariot of Chromius and Nemea urge me to harness a song of praise for deeds of victory

(Pindar, Nemean 1.10-11)

The Department of Classics at the University of California, Berkeley and the Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology were deeply saddened this morning to learn about the death of Professor Emeritus Stephen G. Miller on August 11th, 2021 at the age of 79. Professor Miller served our department for more than thirty years as a dedicated educator and researcher. Chief among his many, many achievements can be counted the excavation of the ancient sanctuary of Nemea (including the operation of a successful field school that trained generations of students and archaeologists), the foundation of the Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology at U.C. Berkeley, the foundation of The Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games, the directorship of the American School of Classical Studies, the partial reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus at Nemea, and the continuous stream of research and scholarship produced throughout his career. Below we share a little more information about some of these accomplishments and we hope that you will leave us your comments and memories about Professor Miller in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

Dr. Miller was named Director of Excavations at Ancient Nemea in 1971 and began work just two years later in 1973. Miller excavated the Temple of Zeus and its surrounding buildings as well as the ancient stadium at the Ancient Sanctuary of Nemea. In addition to his yearly publication of results from his excavations, he wrote an incredible guide to the site, Nemea: A Guide to the Site and Museum, that highlights the major results from his work and guides visitors through the site itself as well as the on-site archaeological museum with handy plans and explanations. Professor Miller has left a lasting impression on the landscape of the ancient sanctuary in many ways – the most conspicuous being the partial reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus itself. In 2002 with the Greek government’s permission, Professor Miller began the reconstruction of two columns on the north side of the temple. Just prior to his retirement in 2004, and after successfully reconstructing the two columns, Professor Miller formally established the Temple of Zeus Reconstruction Project, with the Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) and the Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology providing oversight and guidance for the multi-million-dollar project. To date a total of six columns have been reconstructed (for a total of nine columns since three have been standing since antiquity). There are also several monuments to Professor Miller himself throughout the modern village of Ancient Nemea including a street and plateia!

Miller’s work at Nemea led him to explore the world of ancient athletics to great depth. Beginning with the site of Nemea itself, he published his excavation of the ancient stadium (Nemea II: The Early Hellenistic Stadium) – how and when it was built and utilized, how particular mechanisms involved in the games were put to use by judges and referees, how graffiti carved into the entrance tunnel’s walls offers insight into the athletes’ state of mind on game day, the set-up of the athletes’ ‘locker room’ and artifacts used in preparation for the contests, even how coins and stadium seating revealed demographic information about devoted fans. Miller also looked to the ancient literary sources for inspiration and information, in his book Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources, he explores how these sources enrich our understanding of athletics stretching back to the games in Homer’s epics all the way to the highly organized contests of the Roman world. Perhaps one of Professor Miller’s longest-lasting legacies regarding ancient athletics will be the founding of The Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games. Miller created the organization in 1994 and the first contemporary games were held only two years later in 1996. The games continue to this day and welcome participants from all over the world who (literally) follow the footsteps of their ancient predecessors.


In 2004, upon his retirement, Professor Miller and the Department of Classics at U.C. Berkeley founded The Nemea Center for Classical Archaeology, a research unit within the Department of Classics which promotes teaching, research, and public service centered on the University of California excavations at Nemea, Greece and its surrounding region. The Center is composed of the Nemea Excavation Archives, housed in 7125 Dwinelle Hall, University of California, Berkeley, and the Nemea Archaeological Center in Nemea, Greece, which is composed of the Bowker House complex (residences, common room/kitchen, storage areas and garden), the Thomas J. Long Study Room in the Nemea Archaeological Museum (office/drafting space, research library and archive of original excavation materials), and the Nemean land to which Berkeley holds scientific rights.

From 1982 until 1987, Professor Miller served as the Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, a premiere research institution located in the heart of Athens – headquarters for generations of archaeologists, researchers, students, artists, and other specialists.

Professor Miller achieved many other things during his career and has been honored by both Greek and American institutions. Below we provide some useful links to explore his legacy further. We extend our deepest condolences with his family, friends, students, and colleagues.

καματωδέων δὲ πλαγᾶν ἄκος ὑγιηρὸν ἐν βαθυπεδίῳ Νεμέᾳ τὸ καλλίνικον φέρει.
But in the deep plain of Nemea, his triumph-song brings a healing cure for wearying blows (Pindar, Nemean 3.29-30).

A selection of announcements of his passing: 
Links to some publications about Nemea

Comments to “Nemea has lost one of its faithful guardians

  1. I’ve met Stephen Miller-I use to call him Stefano, over thirty years ago in the bay area, an amalgam of an American-Greek. I use to leave in the states at the time and from the first moment we developed a chemistry based on friendship, honesty and knowledge. After I moved to Greece at the end of 90’s, I tried to support him as much as I could through the red tape of paperwork. Every time I visited Stefano in Nemea, I was visiting family. We would spent hours discussing potentials of the site zipping on red wine. He never gave up regarding hurdles and set back. He achieved in a life time what would take tree lifetimes someone else. Always smiling, kind, knowledgeable ready to help or accommodate in every way possible. He might be gone but the essence of Stefano lives in all of us for the rest of our life’s. His imprint is in Nemea, every time someone will visit Nemea will be visiting Stefano. Farewell until me meet again…..

  2. I first meet Stephen during January 1982, after he had seen my model of the Forum Romanum 179 A.D. on display at the Montalvo, Center for the Arts, in Saratoga, CA. He invited me to consider making some model displays for his proposed Nemea Center, in Greece. From there our friendship grew as we worked together for the opening day of the center in Nemea. I am grateful to him for having given me that opportunity to make the first model displays of the Temple of Zeus, the stadium, plus several other buildings that were known at the time.

  3. I ran in the 2004 Nemean Games, which were a high point of my life. I also knew Professor Miller through my research on ancient athletics for a novel I was writing about Helen of Troy; he was gracious and helpful, and his book on the subject was treasure trove of information. I also used that background for a later novel on the emperor Nero, who actually competed in Nemea in AD 66.

    Professor Miller will be greatly missed by so many scholars, friends, and students.

  4. I first met Stephen in January 1982 after Stephen exhibited the Roman Forum’s AD179 model at the Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, California. He invited me to a model exhibition at the Nemea Center, which is planned for Greece. Our friendship grew from there when we worked together on the first day of the Nemea Center. Thanks to him for giving me the opportunity to create the first model exhibition of the Temple of Zeus, the stadium and several other buildings known at the time.

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