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DION (Ancient city) PIERIA

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Dion: Eth. Dieus (Steph. B.; Scyl. p. 26; Strab. vii.). A city which, though not large (polisma, Thuc. iv. 78), was considered as one of the leading towns of Macedonia, and the great bulwark of its maritime frontier to the S. Brasidas was conducted to this place, which is described as being in the territories of Perdiccas, by his Perrhaebian guides, over the pass of Mt. Olympus. It suffered considerably during the Social War from an incursion of the Aetolians, under their strategus Scopas, who razed the walls, and almost demolished the city itself (Polyb. iv. 28); an outrage which Philip and the Macedonians afterwards amply avenged by their attack on the Aetolian capital (Polyb. v. 9). In the war against Perseus Dium had, it appears, completely recovered from that disaster; for in B.C. 169 it was occupied by Perseus, who unaccountably abandoned his strong position on the approach of the consul. Q. Marcius Philippus, however, remained there only a short time; and Perseus returned to Dium, after having repaired the damage which the walls of the city had received from the Romans. (Liv. xliv. 7.) At a later period it became a Roman colony. (Plin. iv. 10; Ptol. iii. 13. § 15.) Leake has discovered the site near Malathria, in a position which agrees with the statements of the Itineraries (Itin. Anton.; Peut. Tab.), and Pausanias (ix. 30. § 8). In the space between the village and the sources of the Baphyrus he found some remains of a stadium and theatre; the stone-work which formed the seats and superstructure of these monuments no longer exists, except two or three squared masses outside the theatre. The original form and dimensions are sufficiently preserved to show that the stadium was equal in length to the other buildings of that kind in Greece, and that the theatre was about 250 feet in diameter. Below the theatre, on the edge of the water, are the foundations of a large building, and a detached stone which seems to have belonged to a flight of steps. Some foundations of the walls of the city can be just seen, and one sepulchral stele was found. Dium, though situated in a most unhealthy spot, was noted for its splendid buildings and the multitude of its statues. (Liv. l. c.) Without the town was the temple of Zeus Olympius from which Dium received its name, and here were celebrated the public games called Olympia instituted by Archelaus. (Diod. xvii. 16; Steph. B. s. v. Dion.) The theatre and stadium served doubtlessly for that celebration. Alexander placed here the group of 25 chieftains who fell at the battle of Granicus,--the work of Lysippus. (Arrian, Anab. i. 16.) Q. Metellus, after his victory over the Pseudo-Philip, transferred this chef d'oeuvre (turma statuarum equestrium, Vell. i. 11) to Rome. Coins of the Colonial of Dium are extant, usually with the type of a standing Pallas.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited May 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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Perseus Project

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  A town of Pieria at the S entrance into Macedonia, named for its proximity to a shrine of Olympian Zeus (Steph. Byz.); local tradition (Paus. 9.3) held that Orpheus died and was buried there. Town and shrine were brought into prominence by King Archelaos (Diod., 17.16.3; schol. Dem. 19.192), who instituted a dramatic festival in honor of Zeus and the Muses. Philip celebrated the destruction of Olynthos at Dion (Diod. 16.15). Alexander held a nine-day festival there (Diod. 17.16.3-4; Arr. Anab. 1.11.1) before the campaign into Persia, and later commissioned Lysippos' statues of the Macedonian Companions who fell at the Graniko (ibid. 1.16.4). Dion was fostered by the Antigonids, and prospered until the Aitolians sacked it in 219 B.C. (Polyb. 4.2). It had recovered by 169 B.C. (Livy 44.7), and Metellus Macedonicus found Lysippos statues still there in 147 (Vell. Pat. 1.1 1.3; Plin., HN 34.64). In Imperial times it was resettled as Colonia Julia Diensis, and flourished while its neighbor Pydna declined. It was sacked in the late 4th c. A.D., recovered briefly in the next century, but was soon abandoned altogether. The town lies on a gentle slope between the Aegean shore and the abrupt slopes of Mount Olympos. Until recently a dense forest and unhealthful swamps impeded serious investigation, but the site has now been cleared and drained. The first excavations concentrated on two lines of paved roadway, on a basilical church building NW of their intersection, and on several Macedonian chamber tombs in the vicinity.
   The city forms a rectangle, crossed by roads running roughly N-S and E-W (actually E-NE--W-SW). The more important axis, paved with large slabs and 5-5.6 m wide, runs straight from the N to the S wall, and may continue into the sanctuary area. To the W of this road the circuit wall stands out over a large moat, which may have protected the city from flooding more than from siege. The wall is difficult to trace E of the road. The foundation courses of the S wall date from the late 4th c. It is solidly built of large rectangular blocks with numerous rectangular towers at regular intervals. In the center of the W wall, a structure that may once have served for a gate was subsequently converted into a sort of Nymphaion.
   On the W side of the N-S road, towards the center of the city, there is an ornamental facade with a relief depicting shields and body armor on alternate panels. Farther S the W side is lined by shops and a bath, the latter near the passage through the S wall. The sanctuary area extends S of the city wall, apparently along the line of the N-S road. Well to the W, towards Mt. Olympos, is a theater built on an artificial embankment, an odeion, and a stadium. Between the theater and the line of the road, near a spring, inscriptional and other evidence suggests the existence of cults of Dionysos, Athena, and Kybele. On the E side of the road excavations have brought to light naiskoi of Demeter and Asklepios, along with evidence of the cults of Baubo, Artemis, Hermes, and the Muses; farther out along the line of the road inscriptions mentioning Olympian Zeus have been found.
   Finds are in a small museum in the adjacent village of Malathria (officially Dion): numerous funerary monuments, cult statues, and architectural fragments. A piece of Ionic molding dated to the 5th c. B.C. gives evidence of the embellishment of the city in the time of Archelaos.
   The most impressive of the Macedonian chamber tombs in the vicinity of the theater was dated to the 4th c. B.C. but is now thought to be later. Tombs have also been found at Karitsa, N of Malathria.

P.A.Mackay, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Sep 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 8 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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