Olympus occupied a central place in the ancient Greek civilization, but no one can say for sure whether it was a specific location or a metaphorical name for the house of the twelve gods. Even the etymology remains unclear – the name “Olympus” could come from” round”,” luminous ” or from a few more words.
The most convincing evidence indicates that Olympus was called the mountains that include the highest point of modern Greece. The warriors dedicated their victories on the battlefield to the local gods, and the athletes dedicated their successes to the ancient stadiums.
However, the main sporting event of antiquity has little in common with the great peak. Despite the similarity in the name, the Olympic Games have never been held even near the abode of the gods.
The legendary poet Homer in the poem “Iliad” called Olympus “multi-hill”. This is really not a single mountain, but a whole range located in the north-east of Thessaly. The highest point of Olympus is the Mitikas peak (2918 meters). In the Balkans, it is surpassed only by the Bulgarian Musala (2925 meters).
The ancient tribes could not unanimously determine the habitat of the gods – everyone wanted Olympus to be located on its territory. That is why there are several mountains with this name – there is even an Olympus in Turkey and Cyprus. Over time, the Greeks came to a logical decision and settled on the highest candidate.
The cult of the Olympian gods was brought to Greece by the Dorian tribes who came from the north in the XIII century BC.The southern peoples explained natural phenomena by the will of the Titans – each corresponded to its element. After the invasion of the Dorians, the myth of Titanomachia arose – a war between the Titans and the Hellenic gods, which the latter won.
Homer really wrote that the gods live on Mount Olympus, but he did not specify where the peak is located. Later Greek and Roman authors (Sophocles, Aristotle, Virgil) “relocated” the gods and began to call the firmament Olympus. This is probably due to changes in the ideas of the ancient peoples about the structure of the surrounding world – for example, the ancient Greeks believed that the upper layer of the sky was filled with fire and was not suitable for the life of the gods.
According to myths, Zeus rules on Olympus, who sits on a luxurious golden throne – later his outline was seen on top of Stephanie, resembling the back of a chair. Eleven gods live next to Zeus-all except Poseidon (his palace is under water), Hades and Persephone (they rule in the underworld). The Olympian gods enjoy cloudless weather, eat ambrosia (a legendary food that gives youth and immortality) and decide the fate of people.
For the ancient Greeks, Olympus was the most important religious center. Sacrifices were made at the foot of the mountains, and on the lower tiers, archaeologists dug up the ruins of sacred buildings.
During the wars, the mountains were bypassed.
People were afraid to settle in the neighborhood of the gods, so there was only one relatively large city near Olympus-Dion. It was the cultural and religious center of Ancient Macedonia – it was from here that Alexander the Great, who considered himself a descendant of Zeus, advanced to the famous Eastern campaign.
From the V to the II century BC, a nine – day celebration of the Olympia of Zeus was held in Dion, where residents and guests of the city competed in various sports disciplines-a kind of Olympics at a minimum. During the excavations of Dion, archaeologists discovered ancient baths, the temple of Zeus, the sanctuaries of Demeter and Isis, the villa of Dionysus and even an ancient theater.
With the advent of Christianity, pagan religious places began to be rapidly destroyed, and many rituals were strictly prohibited. The followers of the new faith were extremely indelicate with the legacy of the old one – for example, during the excavations of Dion, archaeologists found an ancient statue of Hera used to repair the wall.
After the Civil War of 1949, Greek villages became impoverished, and people began to move en masse to large cities. The mountain settlements near Olympus quickly emptied, and since then the legendary ridge attracts only tourists and fans of extreme sports.
In 1913, the Swiss photographer Frederic Boissonnas and his compatriot, the writer Daniel Baud-Bovi, were the first to reach the highest point of Olympus. However, all the glory went to their guide Christos Kakalos – it was he who took the first step to the top. Kakalos was a mountain goat hunter, and after a significant ascent, he repeatedly conquered Olympus. The last time Christ ascended to the top point was in 1972, when he was 92 years old.
At first, the Olympic peak was called Venizelos – in honor of the then Prime Minister of Greece Eleftherios Venizelos. However, it was later renamed Mitikas, which means “nose” in Greek. Currently, almost anyone can climb it without special equipment – climbers attribute the ascent to Olympus to the easiest category.