King Arthur statue at Tingagel (Deriv/ CC0)

Real World Locations, Where Myth Meets Reality


Mythology presented in books, arts, cartoons and movies have subliminally forged impressions of mythical castles, magical mountains and enchanted forests in people’s minds, but many of the places featured in children’s stories are not simply figments of the imagination but were directly inspired by real places. Visiting all these places will not be practical or financially achievable for most, so one needs a ‘virtual guide’ to take one to ancient event horizons, where myths merge with reality.

Mount Olympus, the home of the ancient Greek gods, from north at Petra, Pieria. (Cristo Vlahos/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

Mount Olympus, the home of the ancient Greek gods, from north at Petra, Pieria. ( Cristo Vlahos / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Home of the Gods: Mount Olympus, Greece.

Mount Olympus is a maze of 52 peaks cracked with high waterfalls and deep gorges and it ranges to almost 10,000 feet above sea level. As one of the most prominent peaks in Europe, in terms of topographically appearance, this mythological hulk is located on the modern-day border between Greece and Macedonia between the regional units of Pieria and Larissa, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest from Thessaloniki. According to an article on Greek, ancient Greek myths regard the top of the mountain as the dwelling place of the 12 Olympian gods and many famous mythological events occurred on its peaks.

The Council of Gods by Raphael (1517) Villa Farnesina (Public Domain)

The Council of Gods by Raphael (1517) Villa Farnesina ( Public Domain )

The semi-mythological mountain has dozens of different climbable peaks and while Olympus is challenging, it is accessible to mountaineers with its lower levels enjoyed by hikers who begin their expeditions at the town of Litochoro at the foot of Olympus. The highest and most atmospheric peak is ‘Mytikas’, covered in mist, which is associated with the high king of all Greek gods, Zeus. The whole region of Pieria's Olympus was declared an archaeological and historical site for the preservation of its monumental and historical character relating to this Zeus.

In June 2016 the  Olympus National Park Information Center , located at Litochoro, opened its gates to inform visitors about ‘geology, archaeological sites, mythology, monasteries, plants, animals’ and other subjects affecting Mount Olympus. Hikers are guided by professional rangers and guides offer groups tours into the mountain, while an interactive 3D-guide at the Information Centre offers a glimpse of the entire range.

House of Dionysos Mosaic is the largest preserved mosaic found in excavations in Dion, depicting the epiphany of the triumphant Dionysus. (Rjdeadly/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

House of Dionysos Mosaic is the largest preserved mosaic found in excavations in Dion, depicting the epiphany of the triumphant Dionysus. ( Rjdeadly/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

Five kilometers (3.10 miles) away from the sea is ‘Dion’, a sacred city of the ancient Macedonians which was dedicated to Zeus and the 12 Olympian gods.


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Ashley Cowie  is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history .

Top Image: King Arthur statue at Tingagel (Deriv/ CC0)

By Ashley Cowie

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