Mount Olympus & the Pantheon of ancient Greek Gods

There were a lot of places I wanted to visit as a child… like Pella (birthplace of Alexander) and Stagira (birthplace of Aristotle), but none were more important to me than Mount Olympus. It probably started with my ancient Greek history lessons while still a student in Greece, but it always stayed with me. The entire myth of the pantheon of the gods, their battle with the Titans over the mountain and the reverence of the ancient Greek people for the site fascinated me. To this very day I can imagine the ancients looking up at the mountain seeking guidance and spiritual enrichment. While it seems illogical to us now… one always needs to keep “context” in mind when dealing with history, ancient or otherwise.

This mountain represented everything that was sacred, powerful and spiritual to ancient Greeks. Everything that occurred in their lives was a result of the actions and wishes of the occupants of this mountain top. 

 

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The village under the mountain is a regular and favourite stop for me on the way to Northern Greece when visiting family. It’s a picturesque village in summer and a gorgeous wonderland of snow in winter. Litohoro is the popular starting point for all climbers and hikers of the mountain and it has grown considerably in recent years. The views of the mountain above and the coast line below make it a unique “alpine” village. It offers the best of both worlds in a tiny, spectacular package.  

 

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On the day that Alessi and I drove up there were clear skies and bright sunshine…unlike other times during winter when the whole mountain was covered in snow. During our last visit, fog and low cloud completely covered the peaks, making photography next to impossible. On this day however, it seemed perfect for our adventure… almost inviting us to explore and be enchanted by its beauty.

 

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It wasn’t long before the summit peaks became visible and the dramatic slopes became clear. I felt strangely privileged somehow. I can’t imagine the ancients ever contemplating climbing this sacred mountain. Evoking the wrath of the Gods was not something they would’ve risked…. electing instead to conduct pilgrimages to the low foothill sacred village of Thion. Being up here felt very special…    

 

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Then suddenly there they were….Poppy and her sisters, dancing in the light breeze,

 

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and the lush mountain scenery was breathtaking. It’s almost the middle of summer but the air was crisp and visibility perfect. The mountain wanted us to see it in all its mythical majesty….

 

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The whole of Mount Olympus was declared a national park in 1938 and the summit was first climbed back in 1913. It is known the world over as the mountain of the Gods and it’s name has been quoted in ancient history infinite times. It may not be the highest peak in the world…. but it must surely be one of the most famous mountains on this planet.  

 

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The whole mountain is covered in many different types of trees and this gives it unique colour depending on the time of year and the weather on the day. The lush green changes from light to dark almost hour by hour…. almost inviting you to sit and watch it. Once again….(like all sacred historical sites the world over) its one of those places that makes you think, your mind drifts and you go silent…lost in your own thoughts. 

 

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Suddenly…. in between the mountain conifers, we saw the summit peaks…the home of the ancient Gods. The Pantheon. Still covered in snow, it looked every bit as majestic as I had always imagined.   

 

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The map provides some context as to our viewing location….at Prionia. That’s as far as you can drive… at least in a normal car. But its far enough…

 

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it is my personal belief that nobody should be allowed to climb the summits of Mount Olympus. This is not a high peak by any measure, so it surely presents no challenge to mountaineers. It is a mystical, spiritual place and in my humble opinion it should remain untouched by day-trippers. Some things deserve to remain in the imagination…to be seen and admired from a distance. Olympus is not just a mountain…. 

 

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When I saw these my first thoughts were that for all of us that live in cities the world over… a visit to a mountain is something that should be compulsory. 
If only to remind us that no man-made structure could ever hope to match the beauty of nature. 

 

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Speaking of nature…. this is not “just” running water. Once again…if you live in a big city…. chances are you have never tasted “pure water”. It is a sad fact that all of us are now used to thinking that water purified with chemicals is perfectly “normal”. But…alas, it is NOT. This natural spring is fed from the mountain top and let me assure you…. you can taste the difference.

 

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As we started to make our way down we took one last look at the majestic mountain peaks in the background. The light had already changed and so had the colour of the tree-covered slopes….

 

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This is by no means a detailed overview of what you will find if you visit this part of Greece. There are waterfalls and streams, ravines and ancient caves
( some were once inhabited by hermits who became saints), monasteries and churches, beautiful small lodges & wonderful restaurants and of course…. magnificent ancient ruins at Thion (Dion), the sacred city of the ancient Greek world.

There are many picturesque mountain villages and miles of coastline below…. and then of course there is the mountain.

Not just any mountain….but Mount Olympus, home of Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite and and and …..

Hope you enjoyed our adventure ;-)

 

PS: for more information on Mt Olympus and surrounding area you can drop me a line on oiadweller at yahoo dot com

 

 

 

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3 responses to “Mount Olympus & the Pantheon of ancient Greek Gods

  1. Thank you for this travel essay, I truly enjoyed reading it (had started yesterday already, but needed time to absorb it all!).

    My favorite book about Olympia has been written by the German archaeologist Hans-Volkmar Herrmann, “Olympia. Heiligtümer und Wettkampfstätte” – published in 1972 bei Hirmer publisher in Munich, Germany. I was not able to locate an English translation, which is a pity. I took it out of my shelves last night and it is tempting me to read it again as I write. If you are able to read German or can locate an English translation, I highly recommend a purchase. It is available for a few Euros nowadays – how sad, a life’s work reduced to a few Euros! – http://www.booklooker.de/B%FCcher/Hans-Volkmar-Herrmann+Olympia/isbn/9783777424804/g

  2. will look for it Merisi…ty

  3. I more than enjoyed your adventure – I was completely enthralled. You are an amazing guide. I agree with you that climbing should not be permitted. To sit and contemplate would offer even better benefits. Thank you again, M.
    And also thank you for your comment. Your insight and kind words are taken to heart.
    Catherine

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