Olympus - Encyclopedia

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OLYMPUS, the name of many mountains in Greece and Asia Minor, and of the fabled home of the gods, and also a city name and a personal name.

I. Of the mountains bearing the name the most famous is the lofty ridge on the borders of Thessaly and Macedonia. The river Peneus, which drains Thessaly, finds its way to the sea through the great gorge of Tempe, which is close below the south-eastern end of Olympus and separates it from Mount Ossa. The highest peak of Olympus is nearly Io,000 ft. high; it is covered with snow for great part of the year. Olympus is a mountain of massive appearance, in many places rising in tremendous precipices broken by vast ravines, above which is the broad summit. The lower parts are densely wooded; the summit is naked rock. Homer calls the mountain a'yavvt os, µaxpbs, 7roXv& tpas: the epithets vcuoeis, ',roAb&vbpos, .frondosus and opacus are used by other poets. The modern name is "EAvwiro, a dialectic form of the ancient word.

The peak of Mount Lycaeus in the south-west of Arcadia was called Olympus. East of Olympia, on the north bank of the Alpheus, was a hill bearing this name; beside Sellasia in Laconia another. The name was even commoner in Asia xx. 4 Minor: a lofty chain in Mysia (Keshish Dagh), a ridge east of Smyrna (Nif Dagh), other mountains in Lycia, in Galatia, in Cilicia, in Cyprus, &c., were all called Olympus.

II. A lofty peak, rising high above the clouds of the lower atmosphere into the clear ether, seemed to be the chosen seat of the deity. In the Iliad the gods are described as dwelling on the top of the mountain; in the Odyssey Olympus is regarded as a more remote and less definite locality; and in later poets we find similar divergence of ideas, from a definite mountain to a vague conception of heaven. In the elaborate mythology of Greek literature Olympus was the common home of the multitude of gods. Each deity had his special haunts, but all had a residence at the court of Zeus on Olympus; here were held the assemblies and the common feasts of the gods.

III. There was a city in Lycia named Olympus; it was a bishopric in the Byzantine time.

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