Livithra — the ancient city of Orpheus

The excavations of Livithra are located at the foot of Mount Olympus round about 7 km away from the village Leptokaria at the Olympic Riviera.
Following the road from Leptokaria towards Karia you will find the small control point of the Olympus National Park, here you turn left following the signs to Ancient Livithra, to the right the road will take you to Palaio (Old) Leptokaria. The signs lead you to the entrance of the excavation area. There are steps down to the bottom of the gorge, the huge plane trees and a rest area invite you to relax here. The excavation area is situated opposite on a little height, where you come through the small gorge.
This very old town was build during the 10th centrury B.C. and it is bound with the myths about Orpheus.There are parts of a very old cemetery not far from the excavations.

 


The ancient city Livithra

Libethra or Leibethra (Ancient Greek: τὰ Λίβηθρα or Λείβηθρα) was a city close to Olympus where Orpheus was buried by the Muses. His tomb was later destroyed by a flood of the river Sys. It was a place where the Libethrian Nymphs were worshiped. Remains of Libethra have been found and there exists an archeological site close to Olympus.
The location of Libethra was held to be a favourite place of the Muses, hence their epithet Libethrides (Ancient Greek: Λιβεθρίδες).

 

 

 

 

The 2nd-century geographer Pausanias writes:
«In Larisa I heard another story, how that on Olympus is a city Libethra, where the mountain faces, Macedonia, not far from which city is the tomb of Orpheus. The Libethrians, it is said, received out of Thrace an oracle from Dionysus, stating that when the sun should see the bones of Orpheus, then the city of Libethra would be destroyed by a boar. The citizens paid little regard to the oracle, thinking that no other beast was big or mighty enough to take their city, while a boar was bold rather than powerful.»

 

The Muses also gathered up the fragments of his body and buried them at Leibethra below Mount Olympus, where the nightingales sang over his grave. Cults of the Muses were also located in Leibethra. Well-known springs and memorials dedicated to Orpheus were there in great number.

 

The mythology of Orpheus

Orpheus (Greek: Ὀρφεύς) is an important figure from Greek mythology, the inspiration for subsequent Orphic cults, much of the literature, poetry and drama of ancient Greece and Rome and, due to his association with singing and the lyre, much dramatic Western classical music.

 

The historicity of Orpheus was generally accepted by the ancients, though Aristotle believed that he never actually existed. He is not mentioned in Homer or Hesiod. The earliest surviving reference is a two-word fragment of the sixth-century B.C. lyric poet Ibycus: onomaklyton Orphēn («Orpheus famous of name»).

 

 


Orpheus was called by Pindar «the father of songs» and asserted to be a son of the Thracian river god Oeagrus. The Muse Calliope was his mother, but as Karl Kerenyi observes, «in the popular mind he was more closely linked to the community of his disciples and adherents than with any particular race or family».

 

The Greeks of the Classical age venerated the legendary figure of Orpheus as chief among poets and musicians, and the perfecter of the lyre invented by Hermes. Poets like Simonides of Ceos said that, with his music and singing, he could charm birds, fish and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, and even divert the course of rivers. He was one of the handful of Greek heroes to visit the Underworld and return; even to Hades his song and lyre did not lose their power.

 

 

 


As one of the pioneers of civilization, he is said at various times to have taught humanity the arts of medicine, writing (in one unusual instance, where he substitutes for the usual candidate, Cadmus) and agriculture, where he assumes the Eleusinian role of Triptolemus. More consistently and more closely connected with religious life, Orpheus was an augur and seer; practiced magical arts, especially astrology; founded or rendered accessible many important cults, such as those of Apollo and the Greek god Dionysus; instituted mystic rites both public and private; and prescribed initiatory and purificatory rituals, which his community of followers treasured in Orphic texts. In addition, Pindar and Apollonius of Rhodes place Orpheus as the harpist and companion of Jason and the Argonauts. Orpheus had a brother named Linus that went to Thebes and became a Theban.

 

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