The Zeus Tour



    When researching Zeus, my wife and I were fortunate to be able to spend three weeks traveling through Greece in early April what follows are the details of this most rewarding tour for anyone who (a) wants more specific information than is offered in the book and/or might one day also wish to follow in the god's footsteps.

Below are:

  • A link to my Google Maps site (Tom Stone’s Zeus Tour) that offers many more details about the sites we visited.
  • A general map of the sites we visited. 
  • A listing with some photographs of the exact itinerary we followed.
  • A chronology of the "life" of Zeus.

    One final note: three weeks is really not enough.  We had no other choice, but inasmuch most travelers usually have even less time, it might be best to break up the tour into three segments for three different visits to Greece:


1.   Athens—Santoríni—Crete

2.   Athens—Mycénae—Olympía—Delphí—Athens

3.   Athens—Delphí—Mt. Ólympus or Thessaloníki—Mt. Ólympus—Delphí—Athens

    All of these leave out Dodóna, of course, but a trip there, with an evening or two spent in the enchanting lakeside city of Ioánnina, and a thrilling drive over the Pindos mountains either to or from spectacular Metéora, can be left for another day.

Link to Tom Stone’s Zeus Tour at Google Maps:

The Itinerary

1. Athens. This is the central hub for most planes, buses, and trains elsewhere, while the nearby port of Piraeus has ships for almost all the islands. Photo: The Temple of Zeus.  The figure in the foreground is Farzaneh.


2. Santorini.  7 hrs. from Athens by ship; 45 minutes by plane.  Site of the massive volcanic explosion which heralded the coming of Zeus.  Photo: Above the Volcano.  The author at the left, the budding volcano in the caldera below.


3. Crete.  We took a 2 1/2 hr. voyage by ship from Santorini.  From Athens, it is 6 hrs. by hydrofoil , 7-10 hrs. by ship, 50-60 mins. by plane. We stayed three days in Iraklion, the main port.  From there it is a short visit to the sites of Knossos, Mt. Juktas, Mt. Ida (Zeus's birth cave), and GortynPhoto: Zeus's Cave.  Farzaneh can be seen in the center of the snow pack in front of the entrance.


4. Athens.  The Acropolis and the Archeological Museum must be seen.  Photo. Farzaneh & Tom.  In the background, the Acropolis...


5. Nafplion-Tiryns-Mycenae.  About 2 hrs. drive from Athens. We stayed overnight in the wonderfully picturesque port of Nauplion and made a day-trip to Tiryns and MycenaePhoto: Mycenae's Lions Gate.  Taken in the 1880s.  Heinrich Schliemann's wife, Sophia, may be the woman seated in the right foreground.


6. Olympia.  A 3 1/2 hr. drive over the E65-E55 national super highway from Argos to Olympia.  (Don't take route 55 unless you want breathtaking hazards along with the beauty.)  Olympia is a charming little village next to an overwhelmingly charming site.  Many good hotels.  We stayed overnight.  Photo: Olympia in April.  The pink blossoms are from Judas trees.


7. Dodona-Ioannina.  About a 5-hr. journey from Olympia when crossing the Gulf of Corinth by ferry, directly north.  You can either visit the oracle of Dodona first (which we did) or get a hotel in Ioannina and then drive south to the site, about 24 miles.  Dodona is impressive, lakeside Ioannina delightful.  Take a boat to the lake's island and dine on fish freshly scooped from the restaurant tanks.  Photo.  On the lakeside (the last photo before our battery ran out...)


8. Metsovo (the Pindos Mts.)   A beautiful rustic-styled village about 3,800 ft. up the mountains.  Famous for its cheeses, particularly of the smoked variety.  The last stop before tackling the heights of the Katara Pass, at 5,800 ft.  Photo: In the village square.


9. The Pindos Mts.  An exhausting but often exhilarating journey.  Great views, steep drops, with the road often snow-bound until early Spring.  Many hairpin turns, much traffic.  A 70-mile drive that takes about 4 hours.  Photo: Driving through the clouds atop the mountain.


10. Kalambaka-Meteora.  Kalambaka is the first town you reach on the eastern side of the mountains.  It's great attraction is that it is nestled around the spectacular pinnacles of Meteora, with their impossibly perched monasteries on top.  Good place to stop for lunch and a trip to one of the monasteries.  Photo: The Meteora Pinnacles.  Kalambaka is in the background below.


11. The Vale of Tempe.  A narrow river gorge that marks the entrance to the northern province of Greek Macedonia, site of the home of the gods, Mt. Olympus.  Much favored by Greek tourists because of the miraculous powers of the waters of the little church of Ayia Paraskevi, across the river over a small suspension bridge.  Photo: Tempe souvenir stands.


12.  Mount Olympus.  A full day's leisurely journey (about 8 hrs.) from Ioannina.  A stay at the mountain's base village of Litohoro is recommended, but get reservations in advance.  A climb to the summit's "Throne of Zeus" (9,571 ft.) requires an overnight stay in a lodge a two-hour climb below the peak.  Photo: Olympus from Litohoro.


13. Dion.  The religious center of Philip and Alexander's Macedonia.  At the base of Mt. Olympus, it is one of the most important archeological sites in Greece.  Wonderful but tiny museum in its village featuring the newly discovered headless statues of Zeus and Hera.  Photo: The Ancient Theater.  Built on the site of the theater where Euripides first produced his Bacchae.


14.  Delphi.  We saved this most beautiful site for last.  About a 6-hr. drive south of Olympus, it necessitates another of those serpentine routes through the mountains (this time up into the Parnassus range) that seems to be required when approaching the gods.  The village of Delphi is charmingly alpine and full of tourists.  Hotel reservations are therefore  imperative. Great museum and an archeological site that is unparalleled in its breathtaking beauty.  Photos: (Above) The Temple of Apollo.  (Below) The View to the Southwest.





c. 7000 B.C.  Indo-European speakers in the Balkans and Russian steppes and south of the Caucasus begin worshipping an amorphous Sky God, giving him names similar to what would become “Zeus”.

c. 6500 B.C.  Goddess-worshipping Neolithic farmers from Mesopotamia inhabit Greek mainland, islands, and Crete.

c. 2500 B.C.  Beginnings of Minoan civilization on Crete and Santorini.


c. 2000 B.C.  First Minoan palaces on Crete. Minoan ships control eastern Mediterranean.

c. 2100-1700 B.C.  Proto-Greek speakers from the Balkans and north and south of the Caucasus migrate to or invade mainland Greece, establishing strongholds at Tíryns, Mycenae, Pylos, and elsewhere.

Beginnings of Mycenaean civilization.

c. 1640 B.C.  Massive explosion of "Holy Volcano" on Santorini severely weakens Minoan hegemony.

c. 1640-1480 B.C.  Minoans and Mycenaeans establish extensive trade relations.

c. 1480 B.C.  Mycenaeans invade and occupy Crete, dominating all Greece.

Zeus is "born" in anthropomorphic form in a cave atop Mt. Ida, Crete's highest mountain. Spends childhood on Crete. Travels to mainland to overthrow his father, Kronos, and other Titans. Establishes rule on Mt. Olympus. Fathers numerous deities as well as the royal lines and heroes of Crete, Mycenae, Argos, Thebes, Macedonia, and Troy.

Prométheus steals fire for mankind. Zeus imprisons him in the Caucasus, punishes mankind with Pandora and Great Flood, promises further retribution.

Followers of Zeus and the Great Goddess coexist, often tempestuously, on the mainland and the islands.

c. 1225 B.C.  The Trojan War between the united Greek forces and Troy and its allies. Zeus, said to have started the war to punish the sinful and disrespectful Greeks, sides with the Trojans. The Greeks win but are badly weakened.

c. 1200 B.C.  Greek-speaking tribes from north and northeast, collectively known as Dórians, invade Greece, reducing mainland Mycenaean hegemony to rubble.


c. 1200-776 B.C.  An unsettled period of migration and political realignment as all knowledge of writing, of the past, and of the building of fortified citadels is lost. Gradual replacement of former kingships with rule of áristi (best men) in agriculture-based city-states.

Zeus and his fellow Olympians are given nearly absolute rule at all major Great Goddess-worshipping sites throughout Greece, particularly at Dodóna, Delphí, and Olympía.

c. 900 B.C.  Writing resumes as the Phoenician-based alphabet is adapted to spoken Greek.

c. 800 B.C.  Building of the first temples to house all gods and goddesses but Zeus.

c. 776 B.C.  Recorded history is said to begin with the first inscribed date of the Games at Olympía, honoring Zeus.

c. 750 B.C.  Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are written down.

c. 700 B.C.  Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days.

End of Greece's Dark Age.


c. 800-500 B.C.  Gradual evolution of the city-states. Increasing territorial disputes. Tyrants replace aristocratic rule in some states, including Athens. Zeus assumes dominant role as protector of all aspects of Greek life, public and private.

594 B.C.  Athenian leader Solon introduces radical social and political changes, foreshadowing democracy.

582 B.C.  Thales establishes first school of philosophy at Miletus, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, mainly concerned with the knowable (i.e., "scientific") causes and workings of the cosmos.

509 B.C.  Athenian leader Cleisthenes begins reform of constitution, grants equal political rights to all citizens, and abolishes aristocratic tribal classifications. Beginnings of the world's first democracy.


490 B.C.  Persians invade Greece, are defeated by Athenian-led Greeks at the Battle of Marathon.

480 B.C.  Persians reinvade. United Greek city-states again repel invasions, destroying Persian fleet at Battle of Salamis.

Zeus is given much credit for the Greeks' near-miraculous victory, as several storms, earthquakes, and pronouncements of Delphí's oracle (revealing the will of the god) prove pivotal in victory.

466 B.C.  Gigantic Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is begun at Olympía.

460 B.C.  Provoked by Athens's imperial ambitions, Sparta and its Peloponnesian League allies declare war.

456 B.C.  Temple of Zeus is completed.

445 B.C.  Athens and Sparta agree on thirty-year peace.

432 B.C.  Sparta resumes war after blatant breaches of treaty by Athens.

c. 425 B.C.  Colossal gold and ivory statue of Zeus is installed in temple at Olympía.

404 B.C.  Athens capitulates unconditionally to Spartans.

399 B.C.  Socrates, convicted of corrupting the young with his talk of being guided by a "voice," or daimon, in his head, is condemned to death. Rather than flee, he follows his daimon’s advice and poisons himself with hemlock.


404-371 B.C.  Sparta is dominant in Greece.

373 B.C.  Temple of Apollon, housing Delphí's oracle, is destroyed by earthquakes, fire, and floods.

360-346 B.C.  Third Sacred War to guard Delphí's autonomy allows Macedonian king Philip II to join the once-exclusive league protecting the sanctuary.

338 B.C.  Battle of Chaeronea. Philip and son, the eighteen-year-old Alexander, defeat Athens and Thebes to control all Greece; install gold and ivory statues of royal Macedonian line opposite Zeus's temple at Olympía.

336 B.C.  Philip is assassinated; Alexander the Great becomes king.

334-323 B.C.  Alexander conquers most of Asia Minor and Egypt; proclaims himself a son of Zeus after visiting the oracle of Zeus Ammon in the Libyan desert.

323 B.C.  Alexander dies.


323-280 B.C.  Wars of Alexander's successors over control of his empire.

279 B.C.  Gauls invade Greece. Zeus, in defense of Delphí, destroys their army with earthquakes and a blizzard. It is the god's last stand.


197-146 B.C.  Roman conquest of Greece, taking Delphí in 191 B.C. and Olympía in 146 B.C.

c. 180 B.C.  Great Altar of Zeus is built at Pergamon in Asia Minor. Described in Revelations as the site of "Satan's seat" (Rev. 2:12-13). Later used as a model for one of Hitler's rostrums.

165 B.C.  Revolt of the Maccabees after Alexander's successor, Antiochus TV, installs an altar to Zeus in the Temple of Jerusalem. Today, the Maccabees' rededication of the temple is celebrated as Hanukkah.

27 B.C.  Julius Caesar's adopted son, Octavian, becomes emperor and is given the name Augustus. Beginning of the Pax Romana (Roman Peace).

14 A.D.  Death of Augustus. Shortly afterward, he becomes deified. At Olympía, a statue of Augustus as Zeus, holding a thunderbolt in his right hand, is installed in the former temple of the Great Mother, now dedicated to the Roman emperors.

37-41  Reign of Caligula. Tries to have Zeus's statue at Olympía transported to Rome, but the statue utters such a roar of laughter that the workmen run off.

117-138  Hadrian is emperor. Finishes great Temple of Zeus, the Olympieum, in Athens in 131.

313  Emperors Constantine and Licinius legitimize Christianity.

361-363  Julian is emperor. Attempts to restore primacy of "pagan" faiths, is visited by Zeus, but is subsequently killed in battle with Persians.

380 Theodósius I is crowned emperor, has himself baptized as a Christian, and begins persecution of pagans.

391  The cult of Zeus is banned.

c. 394  Zeus's colossal gold and ivory statue is dismantled and carried to Constantinople, where it is put on display in the city center.

c. 500-600  Zeus’s statue destroyed in one of series of fires that ravage Constantinople.


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