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Mount Olympus Home of the Greek Gods

Having traveled through Italy, Greece, and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Mount Olympus is one of the world’s most famous mountains. Located in Greece, on the border between the Greek regions of Thessaly and Macedonia, Mount Olympus’ highest peak, Mitikas, is 2,919m high, making it the highest mountain in Greece. However, Mount Olympus is not famous because of its height, but because, in Greek mythology, it was home to the Twelve Olympian gods.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus with Stefani (Crown) Peak (2009m) and Mytikas peak behind it - view from Olympic Beach Edal - CC-BY-SA-3.0

Mount Olympus with Stefani (Crown) Peak (2009m) and Mytikas peak behind it - view from Olympic Beach Edal - CC-BY-SA-3.0

Mount Olympus in Greek Mythology

Mount Olympus became home to Zeus during the Titanomachy when the mountain became the main base for him and his allies; the Titans were to be found upon Mount Othrys in central Greece. Subsequently the resident gods of Mount Olympus would be known as Olympians.

After success in the Titanomachy, Mount Olympus became the permanent home of Zeus, and it was turned into a thriving community. Zeus had Hephaestus and the Cyclopes create everything needed for a settlement for the gods. Palaces were built for the main residents, whilst houses and mansions housed other residents, and exquisite furniture was crafted.

Stables were also built to house all of the animals used to pull the chariots of the gods, and one of Hephaestus’ workshops was also to be found on Mount Olympus.

To help defend Mount Olympus walls were built and a magical gate was constructed. The original Horae were put in charge of the gate, and the Seasons also brought together the clouds and mists that would protect Mount Olympus from the prying eyes of mortals.

The Good Life on Mount Olympus

From Mount Olympus Zeus could observe all that occurred on earth, and could judge, as well as play with the mortals as he saw fit. In Zeus’ palace was also a massive assembly hall where not just the Olympians would gather, but it was also a hall where all of the other deities could be summoned.

It was not all work on Mount Olympus though, and it was a place where the gods could indulge. Ambrosia and Nectar flowed freely for all of the immortals, and entertainment would also freely flow, with Apollo playing upon his lyre and other musical instruments, whilst the Muses and Graces would recount stories about the greatness of the gods.

Mount Olympus South Peaks on a wide view

Mount Olympus South Peaks on a wide view stg_gr1 - CC-BY-2.0

Mount Olympus South Peaks on a wide view stg_gr1 - CC-BY-2.0

Main Residents

The palaces constructed by Hephaestus and the Cyclopes were lived in by the 12 Olympians, the central gods of Ancient Greek religion.

These 12 Olympians were Zeus, Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Hermes, Hephaestus and Aphrodite.

Residents of Mount Olympus

"The Olympian gods; work by Monsiau (1754 - 1837) PD-art-100

"The Olympian gods; work by Monsiau (1754 - 1837) PD-art-100

Other Residents

There were more than 12 residents on Mount Olympus though; after all 12 doesn’t make for a thriving settlement.

The immortal children of a number of gods were also said to live on Mount Olympus, and Persephone, daughter of Demeter, would spend eight months of the year there. Hebe, the daughter of Zeus, was also said to live there, for she would later marry Heracles, who would join her in her home. Their two children, Alexiares and Anicetus, along with Heracles, would become the physical protectors of Mount Olympus.

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Hebe, was originally the cupbearer of the gods, but Ganymede, the Trojan prince, was abducted by Zeus, and took over this role. Iris, the daughter of Electra, would also act as one of the messengers of Zeus.

Also on Mount Olympus were the Graces, the Muses, the Horae, and many nymphs who acted as attendants to the female deities.

Attempts to Storm Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus came to prominence in the Titanomachy, and would continue to be a feature of Greek mythology subsequently.

The Titans of course never managed to take Mount Olympus, but this did not stop others from trying it. The Gigantes, the Giants, attempted it, but did not really get close, Heracles and the Olympian gods thwarting them.

The closest that Mount Olympus came to falling was when Typhon and Echidna went to war with the gods. Typhon was the most monstrous of all monsters and father to many others, the deaths of his children though at the hands of heroes and gods lead him to attempt to pull down Mount Olympus. So fearsome was Typhon that all of the gods fled from him, all that was bar Zeus and Athena. Ultimately Zeus would descend from Mount Olympus, and after an epic fight, would imprison Typhon beneath Mount Etna, but Typhon’s attempt was the closest that Olympus came to falling.

Other Attempts to Access Mount Olympus

Initially it was common for Zeus to invite demi-god kings, like Ixion and Tantalus to feast at his table on Mount Olympus, but for most on earth the wonder of Mount Olympus was hidden away.

Some would subsequently try to access these wonders, with the most famous example being that of Bellerophon. Having proven himself as a worthy hero, Bellerophon believed he deserved to get into Mount Olympus, and so climbing aboard Pegasus sought to fly there. Zeus though sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus, causing Bellerophon to fall to earth, and there to live out his life as a cripple. Pegasus though did end up in the stables of Mount Olympus.

Zeus would also exile gods from Mount Olympus for a period of time if they angered him, a fate which befell both Poseidon and Apollo.

Mount Olympus Today

Today Mount Olympus exists as a physical place, and is a popular tourist destination within Greece. Situated only 80km from Thessalonica, the area around Mount Olympus abounds with hotels and guest houses.

The area is a national park, and the open areas are a stark contrast to the congested urban areas of many of Greece’s towns and cities, and so Mount Olympus attracts large numbers of climbers, hikers and casual walkers.

Mount Olympus is well known for its range of flora and fauna, and also its spectacular views, when on a clear day the Aegean can be clearly seen. Clear days though are a relative rarity, as the local microclimate sees the highest peaks of Mount Olympus shrouded in mist and clouds. It was this microclimate that helped to add a sense of mysticism to the mountain in antiquity.

Statue of Zeus Olympia

Maarten van Heemskerck PD-art-100

Maarten van Heemskerck PD-art-100

Mount Olympus not Olympia

Mount Olympus and Olympia are often confused, but whilst Mount Olympus is found in eastern Greece, Olympia is hundreds of miles away on the Peloponnesus peninsula. Olympia was the home of the ancient Olympic Games, games that were competed for over 1100 years. Olympia was also home to a gigantic statue of Zeus, a statue which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Further Reading


Carolyn Emerick on June 14, 2014:

Great article! I love mythology but I know more about the Norse pantheon than the Greek, so I enjoy learning more about it. Upvoted and gave it a share with my followers here on Hubpages :-)

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