Greece lies at the base of the Balkan Peninsula, a region rich in low-lying mountains. Many Greek peaks are nameless high hills, but others not only possess familiar names, but also abound in rich mythological associations and historical interest. Relatively low mountains not only cover a large percentage of the Greek mainland, but also occur in the nation’s island possessions; Mount Aenos in Cephallonia is an example.
Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, towers over the Aegean seacoast east of the plain of Thessaly in northern Greece. Homer calls Mount Olympus the abode of the gods. While both Greece and Turkey have other peaks named Olympus, a strong tradition associates Homer’s sacred mountain with this lofty Thessalian peak.
The Chalcidice is a peninsula in northern Greece that lies east of Mount Olympus on the other side of the broad Thermaic Gulf. At the south end of this peninsula, three fingerlike projections stick down into the Aegean Sea. Mount Athos lies at the tip of the easternmost of these three projections. The region near Mount Athos is the autonomous homeland of Greek Orthodox monks and hermits, including 20 organized monasteries.
Mount Parnassus lies on the tract of land south of the plain of Thessaly and north of the large southern peninsula called the Peloponnesus. The mountain, sacred to Apollo, was the site of his oracle of Delphi. Parnassus was also associated with other mythological figures, including the nine Muses, and has become a symbol of poetic inspiration.
Mount Helicon also lies in central Greece, southeast of Mount Parnassus. Helicon was the home of the Muses, who inspired verse and song, according to “Theogony” by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod. It was also the site of Hippocrene, the Horse’s Fountain, also mentioned by Hesiod. This spring supposedly started flowing when a flying horse named Pegasus made a footprint there.
Mount Cithaeron lies to the southeast of Mount Helicon, near a city named Plataea, near the border of Athenian territory. A decisive battle took place here in 479 BC, in which a coalition of Greek city states defeated the Persians, who were trying to conquer Greece.
Mountains near Athens
Athens lies on the Attic Peninsula between central Greece and the Peloponnesus. Mount Hymettus, Mount Pentelicus and Mount Aegaleo lie to the east, northeast and west of Athens, respectively. Mount Pentelicus was the site where the ancient Athenians got their white marble for construction and art. From the top of Mount Aegaleo, King Xerxes watched the Athenians defeat his Persian fleet in the battle of Salamis in 480 BC.
Taygetus and Ithome
Sparta, a city in the lower half of the eastern part of the Peloponnesus, also has mountains in its vicinity. Mount Taygetus lies to the west of Sparta. To the west of Taygetus is Mount Ithome, which served as a fortress for the Messenian people when they revolted against their Spartan overlords.
Greece shares some of its peaks with neighboring countries. For example, Greece, Macedonia and Bulgaria all contain a portion of Mount Belasitsa.