One of the loftiest mountains in Greece, of which the southern side forms the boundary of Thessaly, while its northern base encloses the plains of Macedonia. Hence it is sometimes called a mountain of Macedonia (Strab. vii. p.329
; Ptol. 3.13.19
), and sometimes a mountain of Thessaly. (Hdt. 7.128
; Plin. Nat. 4.8. s. 15
It forms the eastern extremity of the Cambunian range, and extends to the sea as far as the mouth of the Peneius, being separated by the vale of Tempe from the heights of Ossa. Xenagoras, who measured the perpendicular height of Olympus from the town of Pythium, ascertained its elevation to be ten stadia and nearly one plethrum (Plut. Aemil.
15); which Holland, Dodwell, Leake, and others regard as not far from the truth, since they estimate its height to be between six and seven thousand feet.
But these writers have considerably undercalculated its elevation, which is now ascertained to be 9754 feet. Herodotus relates that Mt. Olympus was seen by Xerxes from Therma (7.128); and we know from modern travellers that in clear weather it is visible from Mt. Athos, which is 90 miles distant. (Journ. Geogr. Soc.
vol. vii. p. 69.) All travellers, who have visited Mt. Olympus, dwell with admiration upon its imposing grandeur. One of the most striking descriptions of its appearance is given by Dr. Holland, who beheld it from Litókhoro
at its base:--“We had not before been aware of the extreme vicinity of the town to the base of Olympus; but when leaving it, and accidentally looking back, we saw through an opening in the fog, a faint outline of vast precipices, seeming almost to overhang the place; and so aërial in their aspect, that for a few minutes we doubted whether it might not be a delusion to the eye.
The fog, however, dispersed yet more on this side, and partial openings were made, through which, as through arches, we saw the sunbeams resting on the snowy summits of Olympus, which rose into a dark blue sky far above the belt of clouds and mist that hung upon the sides of the mountain.
The transient view we had of the mountain from this point showed us a line of precipices of vast height, forming its eastern front toward the sea; and broken at intervals by deep hollows or ravines, which were richly clothed with forest trees.
The oak, chestnut, beech, planetree, &c., are seen in great abundance along the base and skirts of the mountain; and towards the summit of the first ridge, large forests of pine spread themselves along the acclivities. Behind this first ridge, others rise up and recede towards the loftier central heights of Olympus. Almost opposite the town of Litókhoro,
a vast ravine penetrates into the interior of the mountain, through the opening of which we saw, though only for a few minutes, what I conceive to be the summit,--from this point of view, with a somewhat concave ascending line on each side.” (Holland, Travels,
vol. ii. p. 27.) Though the lower sides of Olympus are well wooded, the summit presents a wide extent of a bare light-coloured rock. (Leake, Northern Greece,
vol. i. p. 434.)
The broad summit of Olympus is alluded to by Homer, who gives to it the epithet of μακρός
more frequently than any other. Next to that, is ἀγάννιφος
), from its being covered with snow during the greater part of the year. Hesiod (Hes. Th. 118
) also gives it the epithet of νιφόεις.
Below the summit its rugged outline is broken into many ridges and precipices, whence Homer describes it as πολυδειράς.
The forests, which covered the lower sides of Olympus, are frequently alluded to by the ancient poets. (πολύδενδρος, Eur. Ba. 560
; Ossae frondosums
involvere Olympum, Verg. G. 281
Olympus, Hor. Carm. 3.4.52
The mountain is now called Élymbo,
i. e. Ἔλυμπος,
by the surrounding inhabitants, which name Leake observes is probably not a modern corruption, but the ancient dialectic form, for the Aeolic tribes of Greece often substituted the epsilon for the omicron, as in the instance of Ὀρχομενός
which the Boeotians called Ἐρχομενός.
(Dodwell, Tour through Greece,
vol. ii. p. 105;. Leake, Northern Greece,
vol. iii. pp. 341, 407.) Olympus was believed to be the residence of Zeus and the other gods; and as its summit rose above the clouds into [p. 2.480]
the calm ether, it was believed that here was an opening into the vault of heaven, closed by a thick cloud, as a door. (Il. 5.751
.) [See Dict. of Biogr.
Vol. III. p. 25; Liddell and Scott, Greek Lex. s. v.
A mountain in Laconia, near Sellasia. [SELLASIA
A mountain above Olympia in Elis. [OLYMPIA