At the beginning of the Muses festivities in 1972, the Olympus Festival was transformed through its course in time into a modern cultural institution that counts thousands of friends and appreciates the aesthetics and completeness of the cultural proposals it presents every summer. In its many years of presence in the artistic events of Northern Greece, the Festival has to remember moments of great and prestigious, Greek and international artists, brilliant and unforgettable. Unprecedented creators, great theater protagonists and important artistic figures have honored the Olympus Festival and have brought it to a culture cradle for the whole region.
So, with a fantasy, the Olympus Festival continues its journey with an ally of the timeless coordinates that has been set and invites everyone to small getaways from everyday life to the beautiful Pieria. With sap and liveliness, the Olympus Festival climbs for one more summer at the Castle of Platamonas to look at the endless blue of Thermaikos and tours the archaeological sites of Dion, Leivithra and Pydna where human works – unique musical and theatrical performances – invite visitors to magical and dreamy nights, under the starry sky of Pieria. The Festival has been for many years the top cultural event of Pieria and more of Macedonia and Thessaly with pan-Hellenic reach and international perspective. Its events take place in a large historical and archaeological site, such as the Ancient Theater of Dion, the Platamonas Castle, the Byzantine Church of Panagia at Kontariotissa and many others.
The Olympus Festival contributes to the development of the cultural and economic life of the Prefecture of Pieria, since its audience is made up of inhabitants of all Macedonia and especially of the neighboring prefectures of Larissa, Thessaloniki, Imathia and Kozani. During the long and continuous operation of the Festival, many internationally renowned artists (eg Milva, Nana Mouskouri, Goran Bregovic, Sezaria Evora, Luht Kassal), as well as other panhellenic artists (eg Alexiou, Dalaras, Marinella , Fragoulis, Hatzigiannis, Farantouri), various visual events (paintings, theatrical costumes, mosaics), as well as well-known theatrical figures (eg National Theater, Karolos Koun Art Theater, National Theater of Northern Greece).
Since 2010, it has established the institution of the Honored Country and has collaborated with the major cultural centers and museums of these countries (the Louvre Museum, the Salvador Dali Foundation, the Cervantes Institute and the Russian Cultural Center). The organization responsible for the implementation of the events is the “Olympus Festival Organization”, a non-profit organization, whose members are people of letters, art and representatives of all the institutions of Pieria and the local government. Below you can see the most important places that the Olympus festival is organised:
Ancient Theater of Dion
To the south of the city of Dion, outside the boundaries and to the west of the temple of Dimitra, is the ancient theater. Its construction dates back to the Hellenistic period, probably during the reign of Philip II (221-179 BC). The theater is built on the slope of a low natural hill and has a north-eastern orientation, the most suitable for the good airing of the area, as was later pointed out by Vitruvius. The architect of the monument, taking advantage of the morphology of the soil, appropriately shaped the area with a partial demolition and artificial overhang, resulting in his work being an achievement of personal intervention and of the most successful of its kind. The orchestra, with a diameter of about 26 m, is defined by an uncovered stone drainage duct and has a floor of pressed soil. On the axis of the theater and within the orchestra, an underground corridor with two chambers, one at each end, is certainly identified with the “joystick scale” of the ancient ones, the point, that is, where the actors depicting the faces of the Lower World appeared.
The hollow, without a retaining wall at its ends, formed on cobblestone slopes that faded smoothly on the lanes, had clay pots, a peculiarity not found in any other ancient theater. It should be noted that King Archelaos invited Euripides, who spent the last years of his life in Macedonia, where he wrote the drama ARCHELAOS, as well as the BACHES. It is almost certain that these performances went to the theater of Dion. Excavatory observations lead to the conclusion that the theater was abandoned after 168 BC, it operated impressively until the early imperial years and was probably totally obsolete with the erection of Roman theaters in the area. In the last years in the ancient theater were placed wooden stands, with a capacity of about 4000 spectators, and the events of the Olympus Festival are held every summer.
Castle of Platamonas
Platamonas Castle is one of the most beautiful and best preserved castles in Greece. It is located on the southeast foothills of Mount Olympus, on a hill above the sea, from where the shortest road connecting Macedonia and Thessaly. The castle is built in the place of ancient Iraclia (or Heraklion). It was built by Lombard Crusaders in 1204 and served to control the passage from Macedonia to Thessaly. After being captured by the Byzantines, the Turks occupied it in the 14th century. In 1770 it was occupied for a short time by the Greeks, as in 1825 and 1878. The Castle of Platamonas is today under the responsibility of the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and with its consent there are held events of the Olympus Festival.
The ancient Leivithra, known in the ancient tradition, mainly from the Orphic myth, are at the foot of Upper Olympous, today’s Kanalia, where the Upper and Lower Olympus converge with successive aspects. The Acropolis of Leivithra is surrounded by three torrents that form the common bed of Ziliana, ancient Sys. The risky choice of location seems to be the cause of the destruction of the acropolis, but it is also the cause of the unique beauty of the natural environment. An environment that could have fed the myths about ancient elves and Orpheus. The ancient Leivithra were destroyed by an earthquake and were abandoned because floods followed the torrents of Mount Olympus, which undermined the acropolis, much of which collapsed in the ditches. Earlier signs of life at the Citadel of Leivithra are from the 8th century BC, but the surrounding cemeteries are at least the Mycenaean era. The Olympus Festivals in recent years have set up events in the natural light of day.
At Louloudies Kitros you can find the ruins of a fortified episcopal complex of the 5th-6th c. AD, east of the new railway line Katerini-Thessaloniki. Today, visitors can tour the fortification with three of its towers, the Episcopal Megaron, the mosaics of the 4th-century mansion, the tombs, the ceramic furnace and the glass ovens. At Louloudies and Pydna in recent years, events have been organized by the Olympus Festival in collaboration with the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, the Department of Classical Antiquities and the Archaeological Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with the subject “Archaeological speeches in Northern Pieria”.
About 2 km south of Makrygialos settlement, in the location “Paliokitros”, there is the ancient Pydna, “Hellenic City”, inhabited from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine times. The city continued to be inhabited during the Roman era and was the most important center in northern Pieria. Pydna from the beginning of the 5th century BC belonged to the Macedonian kingdom. It was the most important urban center of the kingdom and its main port. In 357 BC. Philip II captured Pydna and its settlement marked significant acne, while its harbor became the base of the Macedonian fleet. Its name is associated with the famous battle of Pydna, which was held there in 168 BC and marked the abolition of the Macedonian kingdom by the Romans.
Byzantine church of Kontariotissa
The Byzantine church of Panagia Kontariotissa is the oldest Byzantine monument in Pieria. Its rare architectural style and its limited decoration date back to the early 11th century. It is a transitional temple with a dome and a pergola. It saves a rare iconographic program with Christ the Almighty in the dome and the Assumption of the Virgin above the tribolo (5th or 6th century). Interestingly, he is making his building material transported from neighboring Dion. In the same area there is also a cemetery of the Early Iron Age. In the courtyard of the Temple, the Olympus Festival, with the permission of the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, performs events of Byzantine and ecclesiastical mainly music.