“Zeus and Thetis” Painting by John Duncan, 1811.

Dikteon Cave: The Legendary Birthplace of Zeus

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The Dikteon Cave is one of the most important and famous cult places of Minoan Crete.  It is located in the high mountains on the island of Crete in Greece and is associated with the birthplace of the Greek god Zeus.  For centuries it was considered a sacred place of cult worship where offerings were made and few were allowed to enter.  The use of caves as cult places was one of the basic characteristics of the religion of the ancient Cretans, and Dikteon Cave was among the most important and sacred. 

The Dikteon Cave, also known as Psychro Cave (due to its vicinity to the village of Psychro) or Andron Cave, is situated at an altitude of 1025 meters (3360 feet) on the northern slopes of Mount Dicte, which dominates the Lassithi Plateau and the whole of Eastern Crete.  The Lassithi Plateau was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Period and is one of the few sites in the Mediterranean where settlements were at high altitude. 

Dikteon Cave, as it stands today, consists of five chambers with an upper and lower section.  The upper cave or Ano spileo, resembles a rocky cavern and is devoid of stalactites or stalagmites.  A trek down a steep set of stairs 100 meters into the mountainside reveals the lower cave or Kato Spileo.  There is a larger hall on the right, which has small stone basins filled with water that legend says was a drinking spot for the god Zeus.  The most impressive sight is a small lake which is surrounded by large stalactites and stalagmites along the stairwell.  There is also what is known as the “Mantle of Zeus” which is a stalactite that hangs over the lake similar to that of a chandelier.  At the back of the lake there is a small chamber, where it is said that Zeus was born.

The cave of Dikteon (Psychro cave), Crete, 2009.

The cave of Dikteon (Psychro cave), Crete, 2009. Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki ( Wikimedia Commons )

To the ancient Greeks, Zeus was the all-knowing, all seeing deity associated with thunder, lightning, rain and the ruler of all other gods.  He was also the ruler of the sky, the earth and was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the personification of the laws of nature.  He headed a family of twelve other major gods and goddesses called the Olympians and lived on the mythical Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Greece.  In Greek Mythology, Zeus was said to have been born on the island of Crete.  Hesiod, the Greek epic poet who scholars believed lived during the 8 th century BC, tells us that the birth of Zeus took place near the city of Lyktos in east-central Crete.  However, he does not specify the precise location of Zeus’s birthplace therefore, two caves, namely the Dikteon and Ideon, both located in the Cretan mountains have been put forward as his place of birth.

The cave of Dikteon (Psychro cave), Crete, 2009.

The cave of Dikteon (Psychro cave), Crete, 2009. Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki ( Wikimedia Commons )

According to the ancient tradition as described by Hesoid in Theogony, Cronus, the Titan god of time and ages, and Rhea, the Titan goddess of fertility and motherhood, had five children before Zeus, all of which ended up in the stomach of Cronus.  He ate his offspring out of fear they would take his throne.  When Rhea became pregnant with Zeus, she did not want him to share the same fate and asked her parents Uranus and Gaia for help.  In order to deceive her husband Cronus, Rhea gave him a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes instead of the baby.  He swallowed the supposed infant at once and relaxed certain that his throne was not at risk from his children.  Meanwhile, Zeus grew up in the cave where he remained hidden away in the mountains of Crete from his cannibalistic father. 

Saturn (Cronos) eating one of his children, painting by Rubens 1636-1638.

Saturn (Cronos) eating one of his children, painting by Rubens 1636-1638. ( Wikimedia Commons )

As soon as Rhea gave birth to Zeus she gave him to the Curetes (gods of the wild mountainside) to look after.  So Cronus would not hear the cries of the infant Zeus, the Curetes drowned out his sounds with a frenzied dance of clashing spears and shields.  The goat nurse Amalthea and nymph Melissa also played an important role in his upbringing.  Amalthea, suckled the holy infant from her horn while Melissa nursed Zeus and looked after him, feeding him honey.  Several other myths surround the Dikteon cave, demonstrating its significance to both Crete and ancient Greece.  A lesser known story, speaks of the Harpies or mythical winged maidens that once lived there.

Comments

I would love to visit this place.

Zeus is the modified by time name of the Ancient Bulgarians' God SebAzi. SebAzi was the God of the Great Self or the Human Soul of Ancient Bulgarians. He was believed to be the God Son of God Allfather of Ancient Bulgarians Ra. SebAzi was also named Bal meaning the God (Ba) of Light (La). From Bal the name of BalGarians came. Minoan culture is an Ancient Bulgarian culture and spirituality. The story of Cronos narrates the story of Bible as well as the Epique of Gilgamush (BalGamush) of the creation of man from earth and within a cave of special geomagnetic forces. The first human traces have been found in a cave in North West Bulgaria called The Cave of Life (Zhivena dupka). They date 1million and 600 000 years.

Bulgarians didn't exist in this area in those days. Bulgarians came from the Turkic people and mixed with Slavs. The Thracians existed in those days and they assimilated into the Greek culture and the Roman since they existed on the borders between the Hellenic influence of the Balkans and the Roman influence.

Bulgarians didn't exist in this area in those days. Bulgarians came from the Turkic people and mixed with Slavs. The Thracians existed in those days and they assimilated into the Greek culture and the Roman since they existed on the borders between the Hellenic influence of the Balkans and the Roman influence.

very informative

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