Baths between the Hellenistic Theater and Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios. Dium.
Baths between the Hellenistic Theater and Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios.

Continued From Dium Part I

Continuing on and retracing back from Hellenistic Theater to the main path and then south for about 115 meters, to a point where the path curves, are a set of remains identified as part of a Roman-era bathing complex with two phases of construction. The large room in the northeast part of the excavated area is believed to be a reception area. To the south of the reception hall was the frigidarium. The series of three rooms jutting off to the west of the reception area are the heated rooms of the baths, fairly identifiable by brick-faced channels running between the three rooms for the distribution of heated air between them. The middle of the three was the tepidarium while the two flanking rooms were caldaria.

Adjacent to the baths to the southeast is perhaps one of the most important areas of Dium, the Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios. It was here that Deucalion was said to have first erected an altar and made sacrifices to Zeus and where Alexander the Great made his sacrifices before campaigning in Asia. The earliest form of the sanctuary was likely just a sacred grove and an altar. During the Hellenistic period the sanctuary was walled and a stoa was built to the west of the altar. The altar itself was also enlarged over time, developing into a 22 meter long altar by the 4th century BCE. The sanctuary was burned down in the sack of 219 BCE, but it was rebuilt, with some of the destroyed elements ritually buried in pits. It is material recovered in these pits that has helped with the identification of the sanctuary, as two royal inscriptions found here state specifically that they were to be displayed in the Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios. Pedestal statue bases for the kings Cassander and Perseus were also found here.

Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios and Mount Olympus. Dium.
Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios and Mount Olympus.

The area was in a rather poor state when I visited, mostly overgrown and with very few elements of the sanctuary actually visible. This contrasts with some pictures I’ve seen where a lot more seems to be present; it may be that some has been covered over. There’s also quite a bit of overgrowth that may have been contributing and seems to hide a good deal of the sanctuary, which is quite large at over 150 meters east to west and over 100 meters north and south. Near the path that runs along the east side of the sanctuary, a pretty significant and robust course of stonework is visible. This is another one of the areas that doesn’t have much in the way of interpretation of what is visible, and I’ve had a little trouble figuring out exactly what it is, as there is not much in the way of detailed plans of this area that I could find, but it looks as though these are the remains of the altar based on the size and location. Other remains of the sanctuary are pretty well hidden among the brush in the south part of the sanctuary.


Just to the south of the Sanctuary of Zeus, and actually abutting and cutting into the temnos wall of the sanctuary, is the so-called Roman Theater or Odeon. This theater, consisting of 24 rows of seating, was constructed in the 2nd century CE, probably during the reign of Hadrian. Unlike the Hellenistic Theater, which is significantly larger than this one, the Roman Theater does not use earthen support for the seating, but rather this was a freestanding structure and the stone supports of the cavea are present and visible; a more typical of Roman style as opposed to Greek style theaters. Much of the pedestal running between the seating and the orchestra area is conserved or reconstructed. This height barrier between the lowest level of seating and the floor of the orchestra is reminiscent of theaters that were converted or built to host spectacle. The foundations of the scenae are also pretty readily visible. The area has become somewhat marshy, particularly the closest portions to the river, which runs about 80 meters to the east, and wooden planks over the scenae area allow access over the sometimes wet environs to the interior of the theater.

Interior space of the Odeon, from the cavea.
Interior space of the Odeon, from the cavea.

The Odeon is the farthest south of the monuments of Dium uncovered inside the archaeological park, so it’s necessary to double back to the north to see the rest of the site. There’s a nice path that heads back north along the river, including a little nature trail at the start that talks about some of the flora and fauna of the area, which splits off from the main path right in front of the Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios. This runs for about 500 meters before coming to a fork. To the west is the Sanctuary of Demeter another 50 meters on, and to the east the Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos. Because the Sanctuary of Demeter is more likely to come up first, we can start with that. Alternatively, the main path leads back to the original intersection near the large spring, and the Sanctuary of Demeter is located just to the east of this intersection.

The area Sanctuary of Demeter is believed to be one of the most ancient areas of occupation at Dion. The oldest find from the site, a 15th century BCE Mycenaean seal ring, was uncovered here. The sanctuary originally consisted of two temples constructed in the 6th century BCE, which are believed to be the earliest Macedonian temples to have been found so far. In the late 4th century BCE, southern of the original temples was destroyed in a fire and both were rebuilt. From then on, there were several periods of construction in the sanctuary adding new buildings and new temples to the area around the two replacement temples. The sanctuary then seems to have remained in use until the 4th century CE.

Northern of the two main 4th century BCE temples in the Sanctuary of Demeter. Dium.
Northern of the two main 4th century BCE temples in the Sanctuary of Demeter.

The archeological remains of the sanctuary are not directly accessible; while there aren’t any barriers in place, they are at a lower level and the presence of a walkway bisecting the excavations is a pretty clear indication that they don’t want anyone down the slope into the area of the excavations. The walkway cuts across the site about a third of the way up from the southern part of the excavations. The walkway actually crosses directly between the two primary temples; so the most robust structure immediately on either side of the walkway is one of the two 4th century BCE temples. Off the west end of either of these two temples, the less robust western ends of the 6th century BCE temples can be seen, differentiated with a construction of smaller stones compared to the larger ashlar blocks of the 4th century BCE temples. The altars of the later temples are each located about 5 meters to the east of the temples, with the temple of the north altar dating to the 4th century reconstructions, but the altar of the south temple dating to the original temple construction. Though evidence clearly suggest the connection to the Demeter cult, the exact nature of which specific deities are connected to each of the temples is unclear, but one theory suggests the northern temple is dedicated to Baubo, the goddess of mirth who tried to cheer Demeter up by telling her dirty jokes, and the south to Demeter herself. Two copies of statues found in the northern temple are displayed on site.

Altar, southern temple, and oikos structures in the southern part of the Sanctuary of Demeter. Dium.
Altar, southern temple, and oikos structures in the southern part of the Sanctuary of Demeter.

The robust wall running along the west side of the sanctuary, which actually intersects with the remains of the southern 6th century BCE temple, belonged to the sanctuary wall. Just to the south of the southern temple is a building that housed a well. This Hellenistic building replaced an earlier space that was used for offerings. The well may have been an attempt to recreate the Kallichoron from Eleusis. To the east is an oikos, built in the 3rd century BCE, which contains a table that was used to place offerings. A small altar associated with this building is just a bit farther to the east. A stoa, much of which was overgrown and not very visible when I visited, which is also dated to the Hellenistic period, ran just to the south of these buildings.

Roman buildings in the northern part of the Sanctuary of Demeter.
Roman buildings in the northern part of the Sanctuary of Demeter.

A series of three connected temples were built to the north of the northern Hellenistic temple during the Roman period. The middle of these three temples has a relatively large altar visible to the east, aligning with altars of the Hellenistic temples. An altar dedicated to Aphrodite was found inside the middle temple, indicated this temple may have been dedicated to that goddess, possibly in her role as Kourotrophos, though Kourotrophos may have been entirely separate. The other two temples have no clear identifications, though it is suspected Persephone Praxidika and Cybele may have had cult presence in this area. Just to the east of the southernmost of the three Roman temples are the scant remains of a Hellenistic oikos. At the north end of the sanctuary is a temple contained within the limits of a larger structure. The dedication of this temple has also not been identified. An altar and an eschara pit are located a few meters east, but interestingly do not line up on the same axis as all the other altars.

Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos.
Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos.

Doubling back (or continuing a little bit to the south if you came via the main path) is the fork in the path that leads east to the Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos, Zeus the highest or Zeus almighty. One of the more recently excavated areas at Dium (started in 2003), I couldn’t find much in the way of dating for this sanctuary, though the finds here date to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Like the Sanctuary of Demeter, this sanctuary lies at a bit of a lower level. But, the main obstacle here that prevents closer access is the marshy ground, which forms a sort of moat around the sanctuary. The remains of the small temple, which display copies of cult statues and altars found here (originals in the museum), are surrounded by the foundations of stoas, which surrounded the temple. Eagle-topped columns made up a colonnade leading to the sanctuary, some of which are now in the museum.

Continued In Dium Part III




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