The sacred town of the Macedonians

Ancient Dion

Ancient Dion is located at the foot of mount Olympus, 15km south of Katerini (capital city of Pieria prefecture). Stretched in a plain area, Ancient Dion is one of the largest and best organized archaeological sites in Greece.

Dion was the sacred town of the Macedonians and flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman times. It was also the sacred site of Zeus. The city is mentioned by Thucydides. Its development began at the end of the 5th century BC, during the kingdom of King Archaelaus of Macedonia, who, for honoring Zeus and Muses, was the first that organized sports and theater events, that lasted nine days.

Dion was the place where Philip II and Alexander the Great celebrated their victories. Later, the army of the Aetolian League led by General Scopas, ruined much of the city and the sanctuary. In 169 BC the city was conquered by the Romans and started to decline. The Roman Emperor Augustus, after his victory at Actium in 31 BC, established a colony that underwent great development.

During τhe early Christian times the city was destroyed by the Ostrogoths and at the 5th century AD the city was desolated. The first excavations took place from 1928 until 1931, period when the first museum was built. The second archaeological research started in the decade of 1960. The 1970s began the third period of excavations in order to reveal the entire ancient city and its sanctuaries.

The archaeological site covers an area of 1,500 acres and it is very well organized.
The city covers an area of 350 acres and the walls have a perimeter of 2,550 meters. It is crossed from north to south by a main road with a length of 670 m and has an excellent layout built using the Hippodameian system. Archaeologists have unearthed remains of buildings, houses, shops and workshops. Most are from the Roman era.

On the east side stands the House of Dionysus that took its name from a large mosaic composition of God Dionysus. On the south side are the public baths named Melages Thermes and a complex of buildings dating back to 200 BC.

The archaeological site spreads outside the city walls, having sanctuaries, theaters and a gymnasium. South, just outside the walls and near the main gate, is the Sanctuary of Goddess Dimitra. It is the oldest Macedonian sanctuary. Nearby, at the east, is the Sanctuary of Isis, having temples dedicated to Egyptian Gods Isis, Serapis and Anubis. There is also a small temple dedicated to Venus.

The site has also two theaters. West of the Sanctuary of Demeter, at the slope of a low hill, is the Hellenistic Theater, built during the rule of King Philip V of Macedonia (221-179 BC). Nearby is the Roman Theater, smaller than the Hellenistic, built in the 2nd century AD. Near this theater, according to two inscriptions that have been discovered, was the Sanctuary of Zeus and the Sanctuary of Asclepius.

Finally, the Archaeological Museum is located In the village of Dion, less than 1km from the archaeological site. Inside the museum are exhibits from Dion and the broader region.

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