Deucalion & Dion’s Altar to Zeus

On earth long generations passed – a Golden Age, free from disease, when the fields brought forth crops without the need for farming, and a Silver Age of bitter arguments. An Age of Bronze followed, when human beings were first created, but they were soon found to be degenerate. One of their number, Lycaeus, either sacrificed his son to Zeus on an Arcadian mountaintop or served him to the god in a barbaric banquet. Repelled, Zeus turned Lycaeus into a wolf, incinerated his fifty lawless sons and resolved to destroy the human race.

Deucalion & Dion’s Altar to Zeus Photo Gallery

So Zeus amassed the inky storm clouds and rain fell in torrents. The great plains of Greece were inundated and the rivers roared. Mankind was drowning, but the Titan Prometheus was not prepared to see his mortal son, Deucalion, die. He advised him to build a chest, fill it with food and embark with Pyrrha, his wife, Pandora’s daughter. The chest bobbed safely on the rising water until Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only mortals left alive. When Zeus saw them, his anger melted. Both were pious. Neither must be destroyed. So after nine days and nights the waters abated, and on the peak of Mount Parnassus the chest came to land. On Zeus’ advice, the two survivors picked stones from the mountainside and threw them over their shoulders. From Deucalion’s sprang men, from Pyrrha’s women, and so a nobler human race was born. In time Deucalion and Pyrrha had children. One of their daughters, Thyia, bore a son to Zeus: Macednos, from whom Macedonia was named.

In thanks for their salvation Deucalion erected an altar to Zeus at Dion in the shadow of Mount Olympus – the first altar of the new age. In Classical and Hellenistic times it marked out Dion as a site of special sanctity. Indeed, ‘Dios’ is the possessive case of ‘Zeus’. Dion quite literally belongs to Zeus.

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