Olynthos is built on two hills between the Kassandra and Sithonia peninsula of Halkidiki. Olynthos was, according to mythology, the son of Strymonas, King of Thrace, who was killed during a lion hunting. The town of Olynthos is said to have been constructed by Vraggas, Olynthos’ brother, in his memory and honor. Another explanation is that Olynthos was one of the sons of Hercules in the Greek mythology.
History of ancient Olynthos
Dating back to the 7th century BC, Olynthos was originally inhabited by the Bottiaeans, a people who had been expelled by the Macedonians into Chalcidice. Little is known about the history of the town before the Persian wars. Olynthos, together with the other towns in the area, supplied troops and ships to the Persian king Xerxes in 480 BC. But during the Persian retreat from Greece in 479 BC, Xerxes’ general Artabazus, who suspected they would revolt against the king, besieged and captured the city.The habitants he arrested were slaughtered in the swamps, located between Olynthos and Potidaia. The city was given over to the charge of Torone and the Chalcidian people, and so the population became a mix of Chalcidians and Bottiaeans.
Olynthos – at the height of its power and its downfall
In 432 BC, in the face of Athenian aggression, King Perdiccas II of Macedon persuaded the Halkidian cities on the peninsula to band together and move to Olynthos to form a single, larger and more defensible community.
In 423 Olynthos became the capital of a formal Chalkidian League and one of the great military powers of northern Greece. The league grew rapidly and ended up including 32 cities. 393 BC it concluded an important treaty with Amyntas III of Macedon (the father of Philip and the grandfather of Alexander the Great) in which it got control of some more cities. By 382 BC it even had gotten possession of Pella, the chief city of Macedon. But Amyntas of Macedon and the cities of Acanthus and Apollonia appealed to Sparta for help. This led to 3 years of fighting, which ended with the Chalkidian League being dissolved in 379 BC.
357 BC, when the War of the Allies broke out with Athens, King Phillip II of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great) used the war to strengthen the position of his Macedonian kingdom, and Olynthos was in alliance with him. Philip continued to profess friendship with Olynthos until its neighboring cities were in his hands, some captured, others capitulated without a fight. Olynthos became afraid of the growth of Phillip’s power and turned to Athens for help. In 348 BC, Philip started the siege of Olynthos, which, apart from its strategic position, housed his two half-brothers Arrhidaeus and Menelaus, pretenders to the Macedonian throne. After having bribed the chief officials of Olynthos, Euthycrates and Lasthenes, the Macedonian king finally took Olynthos in 348 BC, killed his half-brothers, and razed the city to the ground.
Olynthos never recovered from this disaster and remained quite forgotten for the remaining period of history. But thanks to the sudden destruction the houses and the contents are unusually well preserved and this makes Olynthos of great archaeological value.
Most of the artifacts retrieved from this site are displayed at the local museum in Olynthos village and the collection results very interesting. The Olynthos museum even has an audio-video display, giving a complete tour of the archaeological site of Ancient Olynthos. Located only 5 kilometers from the highway, the site is only accessible with private transport as there are no buses going to this site. The site lies to the north east of Olynthos village and will not disappoint history enthusiasts.