What was Mount Olympus? Was Mount Olympus real and did it really exist? A very high mountain, called Mount Olympus, is the highest point in Greece and nearly 10,000 feet high. Mount Olympus is located in the northern part of Greece as can be seen on the map of Greece:
location of Mount Olympus shown on the Map of Greece
Ancient Greeks and Mount Olympus - Beliefs
The Ancient Greeks believed that there were many gods and goddesses who lived above specially protected golden clouds on top of Mount Olympus. During most of the year the mountain top was covered with snow and often shrouded in clouds. The sides of Mount Olympus were very steep, and covered with thick forests of oak and beech trees. The mountain was so high that mere mortals would not attempt to climb it. The Greeks thought that the palaces of their gods were above the top of Mount Olympus, far out of the reach of men, and hidden from their sight by the protection of the clouds. The Ancient Greeks could easily believe that the gods lived in the secluded domain of Mount Olympus.
Greek Gods on Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus and the Olympian gods and goddesses
A gate of clouds were guarded by the minor goddesses and ministers of Zeus named the Seasons. They would open the gates to permit the passage of the deities to earth, and receive them on their return. There were twelve major gods and goddesses who resided in the magnificent palaces on Mount Olympus, referred to as the Olympian gods or Olympians. They used to meet together in their grand council hall which was presided over by Zeus, the king of the gods. His wife, Hera, was the queen of the gods. The Ancient Greeks believed that the gods met together in a grand council hall on Mount Olympus, and held great feasts, at which they talked over the affairs of the world. The names of the Greek Olympian gods were Zeus, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Hestia or Dionysus, Apollo, Ares, Poseidon, Demeter, Artemis, Hephaestus and Hermes. The Greeks believed that the Olympians were a family, and just like mortal families there jealousies, quarrels and arguments. The relationships between the Olympian gods and goddess can be seen from their genealogy, or Family Tree.
Life of the Mount Olympus Gods
In Greek Mythology the principle Greek gods, were referred to as the Twelve Olympians. They inhabited the area far above the clouds that were visible to men. The home of the gods was described by ancient Greek authors such as Homer who wrote:
"No wind ever shakes the untroubled peace of Olympus; no rain ever falls there or snow; but the cloudless firmament stretches around it on all sides and the white glory of sunshine is diffused upon its walls."
The entrance to the home of the gods, was a great gate of clouds, which was guarded by minor deities called 'the Seasons' or 'Horae', the goddesses of time. Their role was to open the gates to allow the Olympians to visit earth and to receive them on their safe return.
Mount Olympus - The Food of the Gods
The 12 Olympians attended sumptuous banquets in the council-chamber of the gods and feasted on ambrosia (the food of the gods) and nectar (the drink of the gods).
- What was nectar? Nectar was a sweet drink made from fermented honey
- What was ambrosia? Ambrosia was said to be an uncooked mixture of honey, water, fruit, cheese, olive oil and barley
The feasts on Mount Olympus were accompanied by music of the lyre which was played by Apollo who was accompanied by the beautiful Muses and Graces. The Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. The Muses all had wonderful gifts that allowed them to entertain the gods: music, song, poetry, tragedy and comedy. The three Graces were goddesses who presided over the banquet, the dance, and all social enjoyments.
Gods on Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus - The Hall of the Gods
The home of the gods on Mount Olympus was described as a beautiful, heavenly abode, untouched by cold, wind, rains or snow. The beautiful golden palaces of the gods, built by Hephaestus, were luxurious. Myth and legend tell of the mighty Hall of the Gods where Zeus and Hera held court. The magnificent thrones of Zeus and Hera faced down the Council Hall towards the door leading into the open courtyard. There were seven steps leading up to the throne of Zeus that were enamelled with each of the colors of the rainbow. Three crystal steps led to the throne of Hera. Along the sides of the hall stood ten other golden thrones, five on each side, each one belonging to the other ten Olympians.
Mount Olympus - The Thrones of the Gods
Zeus has an enormous throne of shiny black marble that was adorned with gold with a bright blue canopy symbolizing that the whole sky belonged to Zeus alone. A ruby-eyed golden eagle perched on the right arm of his throne and a purple ram's fleece covered the cold seat. Zeus used this fleece for magical rain-making in times of drought. The throne of Hera was made of ivory, the back of which was decorated with willow leaves and golden cuckoos. A full moon hung above it, as a canopy. The seat cushion of her throne was a white cow skin, which she used to make rain to end droughts.