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Dion

Just 12 km from Litochoro, in NW Greece, lies one of the most important but least-known archaeological parks in Greece.  This is an enormous site covering 1.5 sq km; only 18% has been excavated.  Uniquely, Dion came to prominence with the rising fame and power of the State of Macedonia in 500 BC and saw 1,000 years of continuous occupation until 500 AD.  The ancient city grew around the very important Macedonian sanctuary and altar dedicated to Zeus, god of the Sky and Thunder, and ruler of the Olympian gods.

The site is located in an area of dense vegetation with springs, running water, a navigable river and lakes. This was a sacred place for the Macedonians and both Alexander the Great and his father, Cronus, celebrated victories at Dion.  Alexander assembled his armies here before the start of his Asia campaign. During the Hellenistic period, Dion was known for its splendid monuments and fortifications.

The sanctuary and fortified city suffered from earthquakes and invaders and was conquered by the Romans, who admired Alexander the Great.  The city saw its revival under their rule in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD and then again in the 4th and 5th centuries AD.

Under the Macedonian Kings, the city of Dion established a nine-day festival of games which included both dramatic and athletic competitions in honour of Zeus and the Muses, plus the Egyptian goddess, Isis.

There is an excellent museum attached to the site where many of the wonderful finds from the excavations are displayed. One can also view a bronze hydraulic organ found inside a large metal and stone workshop dating from the 2nd century AD.

Quoting from Demetrios Pandermalis, the Professor of Classical Archaeological involved in the discovery: “The pipes of the hydraulis of Dion are all aligned, even though they form two arrays. One consists of 24 wide pipes and the other is 16 narrow pipes.  Along their length, silver rings were placed for decoration, to give the impression of cane.  The outer metal plaque is decorated with silver strips.  A very rare square polychrome glass ornament attached to the plaque has extraordinary importance.  It is worked in the ‘millefiori’ technique used in glass utensils, mainly in the 1st century BC.  The fine details of the construction of the pipes point to the same chronological period.  These two facts lead us to the conclusion that the instrument dates from the same period.

“The hydraulis of Dion is the first such instrument ever found in Greece and the oldest found in the world.  It is the forerunner of the church organ used in the West.  It is very similar to that invented by the engineer Ctesibius of Alexandria and the sound it produced would certainly be sweet and joyful if we could ever listen to it.” (Rachel I have a picture of the organ)

In a separate building, adjacent to the museum, is a most wonderful Roman mosaic of excellent quality and craftsmanship – it was moved from the Great Baths Complex for preservation, and shows the head of Medusa as centerpiece. At 100 square metres it is said to be the largest in Europe.

To book this itinerary, or discuss a tailor-made alternative, call one of our Sunvil experts on:

020 8758 4758

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