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F - 44 : Why Did Zeus Live on the Olympus?

Always wondered why Zeus and his family lived on Mount Olympus in Thessaly in northern Greece. The world’s religions know many sacred mountains – Wikipedia counts 65 – but none other is the seat of an entire family. Homer confirmed that they are living up there. So they must!

The Olympus seen from the West - it has a Snow Cap for almost Half of the Year


My research did not produce any conclusive result. Guess I have to fall back on intuition. In all Indo-European religions, there was a sky-father who ruled together with his wife, mother earth. Sky-father was the God of all Gods and called *Dyēus Ph₂tḗr.[1] in all Indo-European languages. In Greek that morphed into “Zeu’ Pater”, in Latin to “Jupiter”. He was the personification of bright daylight and the clouds and represented the heavens, the seat of all Gods. He was all-seeing or the “being with a wide vision”. The sun, Helios, was his eye. Sky Father was often depicted as eagle and called the “cloud-gatherer”.

Zeus is said to live with 11 Family Members in the Gorges of the Olympus


How this heavenly perception was transferred to the Olympus is kind of a puzzle. The only explanation I can come up with is the sun light reflected by the snowy mountain top. When you look over the Thermaic Gulf to the Olympus on a sunny spring day, you are almost blinded. So much white! Maybe Greek people thought that the bright light was a piece of sky touching earth?

The Olympus seen from a Distance of about 50 Miles from the East


We were told many myths about the Olympus in school. The most incorrect was that Greek people were not allowed to climb it. Apparently, Gods did not want to be disturbed. Modern archeology and careful analysis of ancient text prove the contrary. The mountain was always visited and was actually a religious site. People went up there for praying, sacrificing or leaving the ash of a loved one. The evidence dates back to the 5th century BC. However, the site was far away and only a few made the trip.

There are still a few People who worship the Ancient Greek Gods


The Olympus is 2’917 meters high, has 52 peaks and many deep gorges. It is located a good 100 km south-west of Thessaloniki. It attracts every year around ten thousand climbers. The hike is classified as non-technical hike.

Hikers on the Olympus. With good Shoes, a Stick and some Rope you will be fine


With good shoes and some climbing equipment you will get from the base in Litochoro up to the top in just 7 hours. Getting back takes 6 hours, a bit less. Most people book a mountain refuge though and do the hike over two days.

The Village of Litochoro from there the Hikes usually start - the Olympus at the Back


The mountain is made from sedimentary rocks laid down 200 million years ago in the Tethys Sea. It started rising around 10 million years before our time and was covered by huge glaciers only 1 mio years ago. The alluvial fans that spread out at the mountain’s base result from the melting of the glaciers. In 1938, the Olympus Mountain Range was converted into a Natural Park with a size of 240 square kilometers.

The Olympus is an almost 3'000 m high Limestone Rock and Greece's highest Mountain


We won’t see the Olympus from our sailing route this summer. The weather is too hazy. But Zeus and his family will be watching over our route from their high mountain.

Each of the 12 Gods had his or her own Gorge where

they lived in a hidden Palace

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