Village of Dion, on the mountain’s flanks, was a Macedonian holy city where King Archelaus (r. 414-399 B.C.) held nine days of games to honor Zeus. The oldest reference to Dion is found in Thucydides, who notes the existence of a small settlement in 424 BC.
Philip II and Alexander the Great celebrate their victories with splendid sacrifices at the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus. King Cassander took a great interest in the city itself, raising strong walls and erecting public buildings.
Dion was destroyed in 219 BC. when Aetolian invaders sacked the city and the sanctuary of Zeus, but was immediately rebuilt by Philip V.
In 169 BC. it fell to the Romans. The city was given a new lease of life in 32/31 BC, when Octavian founded a Roman colony there, the Colonia Julia Augusta Diensis. Further period of prosperity is in 4th century, when it became the seat of a bishopric. After the middle of the 5th century ,however, a combination of natural disasters and Gothic raiders forced the town’s inhabitants to move up into the mountains. The last reference to Dion occurs in the 10th century account of the provinces of the Byzantine Empire by Constantine VII Porphyrogennetus,De Thematibus.
Today Dion houses a remarkable archaeological site, where work is ongoing, and an archaeological museum in which much of the region’s rich Classical history is on display. In the summer the Olympus Festival includes performances at the ancient theater.
The Dion archaeological site covers roughly 150 hectares. The excavation finds from this area are primarily Roman and Early Christian. Outside the walls, archaeologists have unearthed the sanctuaries of a number of gods, a Hellenistic and a Roman theater, a stadium and extensive burial grounds. Here at Dion the ancient monuments are cleared, restored and presented in their natural setting. The archaeological site constitutes the hub of a spacious and well-organized archaeological park, with paved pathways information panels, refreshment facilities and other visitor services.
Dion is the site of a large temple dedicated to Zeus, as well as a series of temples to Demeter and to Isis (the Egyptian goddess was a favorite of Alexander). Alexander assembled his armies in Dion before beginning his westward wars of conquest.
In 2006, a statue of Hera was found built into the walls of the city. The statue, 2200 years old, had been used by the early Christians of Dion as filling for the city’s defensive wall.
Excavations not far from the village unearthed a fortified city that had been inhabited continuously from the sixth century BC to the fifth century ad.
The city had luxurious private houses decorated with mosaics and works of art, shops, public baths and workshops. Outside its walls there were theaters, a stadium and sanctuaries. For instance, sanctuaries of Zeus and the Muses, Demeter, Dionysos, and Isis, as well as two theaters — one Hellenistic, one Roman — have been located and are being excavated. Dion’s cemeteries were situated north and west of the city and contained burials from the mid-5th century BC to the beginning of the 5th century AD. Immediately after 31 BC, by order of Augustus, a Roman colony was founded at Dion. Despite the settlement of Roman colonists there, the city preserved its Greek character, as manifested by the numerous Greek inscriptions that have been found. Basilicas were built in the city in the early Byzantine years
The museum of Dion opened in 1983. The display includes statues, votive and grave monuments, architectural members, coins, and a variety of other objects that were discovered in the sanctuaries, the baths, and the necropolis, as also objects used in the everyday life of the ancient city of Dion. The finds are grouped according to the area and the specific places where they were found.