Lykaion

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Lykaion (1421 m, Greek: Λύκαιον ὄρος; Latin: Mons Lycaeus, French: Mont Lycée, Italian: Monte Liceo) is a mountain in Arcadia. Lykaion has two peaks, the northern one higher (1421 m) than the southern (1382 m), where the altar of Zeus is located. Mount Lykaion is sacred to Zeus Lykaios, who was said to have been born and brought up on it, and was the home of Pelasgus and his son Lycaon, who is said to have founded the ritual of Zeus practiced on its summit. This seems to have involved a human sacrifice, and a feast in which the man who received the portion of a human victim was changed to a wolf, as Lycaon had been after sacrificing a child. The altar of Zeus consists of a great mound of ashes with a retaining wall. It was said that no shadows fell within the precincts; and that any who entered it died within the year. The sanctuary of Zeus played host to athletic games held every four years, the Lykaia.

According to some, the modern name of the mountain is Diaforti (Gell gives "Dioforti" or "Dioforte"[1]), which is presumed to consist of two Greek words: "Dias", the name of Zeus in modern Greek , and "fero," a verb meaning "I bring," thus meaning that Mount Lykaion is a mountain that brings Zeus.[citation needed] According to Kourouniotes, however, the southern peak has never been called Diaforti, only "Ayios Ilias" after the chapel of St. Elijah below the summit.[2] Cook distinguishes three summits, the highest Stephani, the next Ae Lias (=Ayios Elias), and Diaphorti.[3]

Archaeological excavations were first carried out in 1897 by K. Kontopoulos for the Greek Archaeological Service,[4] followed by K. Kourouniotes between 1902 and 1909.[5][6][7]

The Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project began work at the site in 2004.[8] Excavation in 2007 revealed pottery fragments and signs of activity in the ash altar believed to have been used as early as 3000 BCE.[9] Nearby Olympia (only 22 miles away) has a similar ash altar, and both settlements held ancient athletic games. The extremely early date of activity at Lykaion could suggest that these customs originated there.[9]

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