Sun, sea, wine, music, hospitality – even a little romance. Think of anything you’d like to find on an Olympic Holidays’ trip and the Greeks probably have a god to arrange it.
From Aphrodite, the goddess of love and pleasure, to Zeus, father of the gods, there’s a powerful force – and often more than one – behind just about every aspect of life.
Had a trouble-free journey? Thank busy, wing-heeled Hermes, god of travel, borders and luck, among many things (including, oddly, thieves, so hang on to your passport!).
Want a good night’s rest after your arrival? Try calling on Hypnos, god of sleep. Looking forward to some windsurfing or sailing? Here comes Zephyrus, god of the west wind and Boreas god of the North Wind – you’ll find many gods were personifications of natural events.
Need fine weather for your day out? That’s another job for Zeus.
Indeed, Zeus, in his role as Xenios, the god of travellers and hospitality, is ultimately responsible for the warmth of the welcome you can expect across Greece and its islands.
The Greek concept of filoxenia, kindness to strangers, is typified by the poet Ovid, writing of a poor couple who offered food to heavily-disguised Zeus and Hermes and they were rewarded when the gods revealed their identities; and if you’re thinking of a self-catering break in Rhodes, you’ll find the Filoxenia Apartments, near Theologos village, living up to their name.
Olympic Holidays is an award-winning company when it comes to weddings and honeymoons in Greece, the Greek islands and Cyprus, with the spirit of marriage goddess Hera supported by the ceremonies and feasts of Hymenaios, the passion of Eros and, above all, the love goddess Aphrodite.
Cyprus claims Aphrodite’s birth – the remains of a temple to Aphrodite can be found near Paphos; there is a rock named in her honour near Pissouri, and pools known as the Baths of Aphrodite are near Latchi, where she is said to have met one of her many lovers, Adonis, in a cave.
Two of the most popular archaeological sites in Greece are the temple of Apollo, at Delphi, dedicated to the god of the arts and knowledge, and base of the all-knowing Oracle, and the Parthenon overlooking Athens, dedicated to the wise goddess Athena.
Athena is said to have been born, fully grown and armoured, from the forehead of Zeus, and is often credited with the introduction of the olive tree to Greece. There is also a temple to her at Aegina – you can take a boat trip from Athens. Exploring more about the gods makes for a really immersive holiday in this ancient land.
The god of wine, Dionysus, is especially associated with Naxos, where he married Ariadne after she had been abandoned by ungrateful Theseus, whom she rescued from the labyrinth of the Minotaur on Crete.
Naxos, where Olympic Holidays’ hotels include the four-star Naxos Palace, also has a huge, marble doorway surviving from another temple of Apollo. It is the biggest of the Cyclades islands said to have been formed from the petrified bodies of nymphs who had angered the turbulent sea god Poseidon.
On Rhodes, the Palace of the Grand Master, which houses imposing statues and intricate mosaics, is thought to stand on the site of an ancient temple of the sun god Helios, and his statue the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Crete is home to the Dikteon Cave, where Zeus is said to have been born and a huge stalagmite, overhanging a lake, is known as the Mantle of Zeus and it’s easy to take a trip to see such important sites during your holiday.
The Greeks thought the gods lived high above Mount Olympus, in Athens, in a palace in the clouds. Now in the city’s National Archaeological Museum, is a vast heritage collection, including a huge bronze statue thought to represent either Zeus or Poseidon, and representations of Aphrodite and Athena, although tributes to the gods can be found across the country.
There’s an 11.5-metre figure of Achilles, and a statue of Dionysus, at the Achilleion Palace, Gastouri, Corfu, seven miles from the beautiful setting of Mayor Pelekas Monastery Hotel, while a mosaic from a temple of Poseidon and artefacts depicting Pan, the god of nature, are at the Archaeological Museum of Argostoli, Kefalonia.
Kos has a statue of Athena at Casa Romana, an adjoining temple to Dionysus, and the Sanctuary of Asklepios, honouring the god of healing, where the mortal ‘Father of Medicine’ Hippocrates taught in the 5BC.
Some of the gods have less favourable influences – the names of Mania and Nemesis are self-explanatory, while Chaos was the nothingness from which all existence emerged – but when you’re planning your holiday, it might be worth checking with Atlas, the Titan who carried the world on his shoulders.
The Greeks believed the gods and goddesses watched over them – and perhaps they still do, so whether you know your gods or want to learn more there’s no better way than to learn than to get yourself over to Greece and the Greek islands, just take your pick of places to stay.