Dion (former name Malathria) is a large settlement in the prefecture of Pieria and belongs to the municipality of Dion – Olympus.
Dion was an ancient city of strategic importance and one of the most famous Macedonian states. The geographical location of ancient Dion is placed at the eastern foothills of Mount Olympus, where today the homonymous town of Dion is located. As Strabo and Livy testify, Dion ‘is not a city on the seashore of the Thermaic Gulf in the foothills of Mount Olympus, but seven stadia away’. The first written reference to Dion is in Thucydides, who mentions it as the first city through which the Sparta general Brasidas passed in 424 BC.
The city seems to have been founded by the Perraevans of Thessaly, in honour of Zeus (according to the historian Demitsas). The name of the city is attributed to Zeus. Every year there were “Zeus” festivals, centered on the temple of the father of the gods. In Dion, the Olympic Games were held, as well as epinician celebrations and sacrifices… The inhabitants of the place were also called Dioi, Dies and Dias. The first month of the Macedonian year was called Dios. The city was also associated with Orpheus, as a tradition states that the latter was killed by Dion’s women and a stone hydria with his bones was placed in that place.
The English colonel and traveller William Martin Leake, who stopped at Dion on 21 December 1806, was the first to positively identify the site of ancient Dion and make it known to science.