The Archaeological Park of Dion is one of the most important archaeological sites at Mount Olympus in Greece. It was the most important sacred city of the ancient Macedonians. The history of the site spans from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD with sanctuaries from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Dion is situated on the northern foothills of Mount Olympus and is an important part of visiting Mount Olympus - the home of the Greek Olympian gods. While in Greece, discover the much older "Greek Pompeii" of Akrotiri - an ancient Minoan city buried in volcanic ash much like Pompeii.
History of The Sacred City of Dion
Dion's history stretches back to the end of the 5th century BC when Archelaos I first held the Olympic games - festivals and sacrifices to the Olympian god Zeus and the Pierian Muses. He established the theatrical and gymnastic competitions called "Olympia ta en Dion" that continued for hundreds of years up to around 100 BC.
- Ancient Olympics: During The Macedonian Period It Hosts Athletic and Theatrical Contests and Performances
- Location: At The Northeast Foot Of Mount Olympus and 5 Kilometers From The Sea (In Ancient Times It Was Only 1.5 Kilometers From The Sea)
The town of Dion was the sacred city of the ancient Macedonians as they started their rise to power. It was where the sanctuary of Zeus was established as the central place of worship for Macedonians.
- Sacred: It Was The Most Sacred City of the Macedonians
Because of the important sanctuary for Zeus here, the village of Dion gained some importance in Greece and gradually developed into a city.
Alexander the Great sacrificed to Zeus here before his history-changing invasion of the Persian Empire. Later on, he ordered 25 bronze statues of the cavaliers who had fallen in the Battle of Cranicos to be erected in the Zeus Olympios Shrine.
- Alexander the Great: Sought The Help of the Gods Before Invading Persia
Later on, the Romans started to colonize the site from around 43 BC and much more after Augustus's victory at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC over Mark Antony and Cleopatra. But the majority of inscriptions continued to be in Greek and not Latin - demonstrating that the Roman colonists were quickly Hellenized.
The city started to decline from the 3rd century AD suffering raids from the neighboring tribes as well as earthquakes and floods.
There was a revival in the 4th century with the Christian period. During the Christian period, two basilicas were built on the ruins of the city (with another built outside the walls). It was heavily damaged with the invasions of the Ostrogoths.
What To Expect In Dion
The site has two ancient theaters (one Greek and the other Roman). As it was later on a Roman settlement, there is naturally a Roman bath complex - but one that has a well-preserved example of how the water and heating of floors worked.
- Ancient Theaters: Two - One Greek and One Roman
Sanctuaries here include sanctuaries dedicated to Demeter, Zeus, Isis, and Asklepios. Isis is an ancient Egyptian goddess who became venerated by the Romans and likely even influenced the depiction of the Virgin Mary.
- Sanctuaries: See Sanctuaries Dedicated To Demeter, Zeus, Isis, and Asklepios
Over its time, Dion went from being the most sacred seat of Zeus and then served as a Roman colony, before finally ending up as a bishopric in the Christain era before it was eventually abandoned.
While it is now 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) from the sea today, it was once much closer being only about 1.5 kilometers (about 1 mile) from the sea and the River Baphyras by Dion was once navigable to the Thermaean Gulf.
Visiting The Archaeological Park of Dion
Today Dion is half swamp and half ancient city. Today it is lush with greenery and ponds. It's not all just ancient shrines, temples, and ruins one will find here. One will see birds, butterflies, dragonflies, fish, turtles, and weasels all through the ruins and the surrounding greenery and, according to Atlas Obscura, "frogs. Many frogs."
- Winter: November to May 8.30 am to 3.30 pm
- Summer: May to August, 8.00 am to 8.00 pm, Monday to Sunday
- Price: 8 Euro ($9)
For more information see the site's official website.
- The Archaeological Museum: This Museum was Built In 1983 and Exhibits Archaeological Finds From Ancient Dion
Today excavations are continuing and more and more is being discovered about the ancient site. The city monuments have been restored and the site feels like a truly forgotten city. This is one of the best places to explore and learn about the ancient Greek gods.