What is Mount Olympus?
Mount Olympus was the legendary home of the Olympian gods within the mythology of the Ancient Greeks. It is normally matched up to the mountain of the same name still found in modern-day Greece.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in modern-day Greece, standing at nearly 3000 meters in height and looking out over the Aegean Sea in the east of the country. The peak has been formed by millions of years of rain and wind, creating a solitary tower at the highest peak. Adventurers and explorers regularly attempt to climb this mountain peak. But, unfortunately, no climber has yet found the golden palaces of the Greek Gods.
Ancient Greek storytellers and people had a deep, complex mythology; Mount Olympus was a very special place within that mythology. It was the home of the Olympus Greek Gods and was known to be an incredibly beautiful place where the weather was always perfect. Although, no human could ever visit the gods’ home at the mountain’s peak.
Some references and historians say Mount Olympus was an acropolis (Greek temple) in the sky, found far above Mount Olympus and held up by the clouds. Others say that the homes of the gods were found at the peaks of the physical mountain, and the clouds were used to conceal the height from the humans below.
Who lived in Olympus?
The Ancient Greeks believed the tall mountain was home to the beloved Greek gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, a vast pantheon of immortal beings who controlled many aspects of the world, from weather to agriculture and love. These gods split their time between living on the surface and life in their mountain homes.
Who were the Olympus Greek Gods?
The Ancient Greeks believed that 12 gods lived permanently within Mount Olympus, known to us as the Olympus Greek Gods. However, Greek mythology has hundreds of different gods in total.
The 12 Olympian gods were:
- Zeus: The God of Lightning and King of the Olympian Gods.
- Poseidon: God of the Seas and brother of Zeus. He often lived in the sea.
- Hera: Queen of Olympus and wife of Zeus, goddess of marriage.
- Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and the favorite child of Zeus.
- Apollo: God of music and healing, he was the brother of Artemis, and they hunted together.
- Demeter: The god of agriculture and fertility.
- Hestia: The goddess of home and family, she is the sister of Zeus.
- Artemis: The goddess of the moon and hunting.
- Hephaestus: The god of fire and artisans. He created the weapons of the gods.
- Aphrodite: The goddess of beauty and love, her symbol was the rose.
- Ares: The god of war, depicted with a spear and shield.
- Hermes: The god of travel and commerce, was the messenger for the gods.
What happened in Olympus?
The architecture of Olympus
In mythology, the home of the Olympus Greek Gods was designed around a gigantic acropolis (or citadel) surrounded by palaces for each of the gods. These palaces were made of marble, bronze, and gold and were designed by Hephaestus.
Two places, in particular, appear regularly in the myths of the Ancient Greek people:
- The Palace of Zeus: The vast Palace of Zeus in the central acropolis. Made up of a huge courtyard surrounded by pillars, walkways, and different rooms. It was paved with gold and was regularly used for feasts and council meetings for the gods. It was so large that the entire pantheon of gods (thousands of different gods) could all fit within the courtyard.
- The Thrones of the Gods: The throne room was at the end of the courtyard. Lined with thrones for each of the 12 major Olympus Greek Gods. At the end of the chamber were two thrones at the top of several steps. These thrones were for Zeus and his queen, Hera. They were lined with gold and made of marble. Along the sides of the chamber were ten thrones, five on each side, which belonged to the other gods.
Feasting on Olympus
The Greek Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus did not just use their mountain palace for business. It was also used to celebrate their successes and the successes of the humans below. The weather was sunny in Olympus, and the gods feasted each day on Ambrosia and nectar (the special food of the gods, which mortal humans could not eat). These feasts took place in the different palaces of the gods or the vast courtyard of The Palace of Zeus.
The gods were served this food by the gods Hebe and Ganymede, without end. They also played music constantly by the muses and were entertained by the creations of Hephaestus.
Who wrote about Mount Olympus?
Mount Olympus was the home of the gods as far back as Homer and his famous stories, The Iliad and The Odyssey. He references the lavish life of the gods and their mountain home hidden behind a wall of clouds.
For example, he writes that the gods must have gathered together to talk about the vicious Trojan War which had gripped Ancient Greece in the years before Homer was born:
Now the gods, seated by the side of Zeus, were holding an assembly on the golden floor, and in their midst, the queenly Hebe poured them nectar
Homer also regularly wrote about how the gods interacted with the mortal world. Noting that, the Olympus Greek Gods would periodically meet in the courtyard at the center of the Palace of Zeus and decide which events they would affect and which they would ignore in the mortal world. So, for example, Athena would regularly help the hero known as Odysseus while he tried to return home after the Trojan War.
How to access Mount Olympus in Greek Myth
According to the stories of Homer and other Greek writers, it was only possible to enter Olympus through a series of huge golden gates on the path up the mountain. These gates were guarded by The Seasons, who decided if the person was worthy of entering the home of the gods.
Ancient Greek storytellers commonly said that no mortal or living person had ever seen Olympus; from the ground, it was hidden by thick white clouds made by Zeus and his command of the sky. Any attempt to climb to Olympus would be punished terribly by the natural elements that the gods controlled.
Despite this, there is a reference to a few humans who were allowed to enter the home of the gods. Hercules was the descendant of Zeus, and when he died, he was allowed to join the gods in Olympus for the amazing deeds he did in life. Bellerophon and Ixion were famous kings during the Trojan War and were allowed to enter the gods for feasts and banquets regularly.
Fun facts about the Olympus Greek Gods
Greek mythology was a fascinating and complex world of gods, demigods, heroes, and battles. Their stories often had morals that helped people live their lives better.
- Zeus and Poseidon had another brother, Hades, who lived in the underworld and rarely appeared in Olympus.
- Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades drew straws to decide who would rule the sky, seas, and underworld.
- Many minor gods (often Zeus’ children) lived on Olympus part-time but did not have thrones or palaces.
- In Greek mythology, the 12 Greek Gods won their thrones from their parents, The Titans, in a war that rocked the world before humans were made.
- The Greek Gods share many similarities with Roman Gods because the Romans used Greek mythology as a basis for their faith.