Greece has officially nominated Mount Olympus, the mythical residence of the Greek gods, as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, the Ministry of Culture and Sports said on Friday.
The preliminary dossier for the nomination was submitted in collaboration with the Greek Environment Ministry and the Natural Environment and Climate Change Organization.
“A symbol name, one of the most recognizable internationally, Olympus, is connected to the mythology of the Greek Dodecatheon, while it stands out for its valuable biodiversity,” commented the Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni. “It is the ideal combination of nature, mythology and history.”
Olympus could be third Greek UNESCO Natural Heritage Site
UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage catalogue includes 1,155 sites, only two of which are in Greece.
The two Greek locations listed as Natural World Heritage Sites are Agion Oros and Meteora.
In order to be included, an area must meet a series of criteria related to intangible cultural heritage elements, geological-morphological features, rich biodiversity, and the existence of important ecological-biological processes for the evolution of life.
According to UNESCO data, 3.5 million square kilometers in over 250 terrestrial and marine sites across more than one hundred countries have been added to the catalog thus far.
Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, situated near the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia about eighty kilometers southwest of Thessaloniki, has fifty-two peaks and deep gorges and counts twenty-three local endemic plants.
Its highest peak, Mytikas, where the ancient Greeks believed that the twelve Olympian gods lived, rises to 2,917 meters and is one of the highest peaks in Europe.
Although the lions and bears mentioned in the writings of Pausanias and Saint Dionysus the Later became extinct centuries ago, rare and endangered species of animals still live on the great mountain today.
Therefore, Mount Olympus became the first National Park in Greece in 1938, and it is currently also recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve.
The nomination process for the Natural World Heritage recognition mandates that UNESCO should send its feedback on the preliminary dossier for Mount Olympus back to the Greek ministries within the next several months so that an amended final dossier can be submitted in early 2023.
The results of the nomination are expected in the summer.
Residence of the Olympian gods
A popular climbing site today thanks to its unique natural beauty, Mount Olympus was seen as the residence of the twelve Olympian gods in ancient Greek religion and mythology.
The fact that numerous mountain peaks across Greece were called Olympus in antiquity leads scholars to believe that the highest local elevation tended to be so named in all regions settled by Greek tribes.
As the Thessalian Olympus was the highest peak in any territory with Greek settlement, it came to be seen as the Pan-Hellenic representative of the mythological “seat of the gods” by at least the 5th century BC, as ancient Greek historian Herodotus identifies Olympus as the peak in Thessaly, Wikipedia explains.
Archaeological evidence such as coins, pottery, and sacrificial remains, suggest that Mount Olympus was regularly visited in religious pilgrimages through antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.
Ancient city at the roots of Mount Olympus
Besides fascinating hiking trips on Mount Olympus, travelers visiting the area can also walk among the ruins of the ancient city of Dion, known for its great sanctuary of Zeus, leader of the mythological Greek gods.
Located at the foot of the mountain, seventeen kilometers from the city of Katerini, the small modern village is home to an Archaeological Park and an Archaeological Museum.
Although an altar to Zeus and his daughters, the Muses, had existed at Dion, it was the ancient Macedonians who made the city and its sanctuary significant when they became a dominant power among Greek cities at the end of the 5th century BC.
According to ancient historian Diodorus Siculus, Alexander the Great assembled his armies and performed sacrifices at Dion before embarking on his conquering campaign to Asia in 334 BC.
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