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20180518_Greece_4949 crop Mount Athos sRGB | by Dan Lundberg
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20180518_Greece_4949 crop Mount Athos sRGB

The peak of Mt. Athos (2,033m/6,670ft) which is named after one of the Giants (Gigantes) that fought the gods in Greek mythology: Athos threw a massive rock at Poseidon which missed and created the mountain. In a later tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary arrives here after being blown off course on her way to Cyprus to visit Lazarus, is overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the mountain, and asks her son Jesus for it to be her garden. He consents and as the consecrated garden of the Mother of God, it becomes out of bounds for all other women.


The road leads into Karyes, the small town in the middle of Mount Athos that is the central meeting point for governance and commerce.


Most of Athos Peninsula, with Mt. Athos at its southern tip, is a male-only monastic enclave known as Mount Athos. Ascetics are believed to have started coming to the peninsula possibly as early as the 3rd century CE. In 885 CE, Byzantine emperor Basil I the Macedonian proclaimed Mount Athos a place of monks where laymen were prohibited from settling. The first monastery was established in 963 CE. Over the centuries, Mount Athos has managed to maintain a relative autonomy and its Orthodox Christian identity, even during the rule of the Ottoman Turks (1430-1912 CE), not to mention Nazi occupation.


By the 11th century CE Mount Athos had 180 monasteries. Today 20 remain with 2,300 monks from Greece, Russia, Romania, and Serbia.


The ban on women—officially proclaimed by Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus in 1046 CE, among others—is meant to make it easier for men living in celibacy. Female animals other than cats, insects, and songbirds are also barred. The ban is controversial in the European Union where Greece is a member.


Male visitors must obtain a permit and pay a fee. Each day nominally 100 Orthodox and 10 non-Orthodox males are granted permits good for a stay of up to four days/three nights.


Mount Athos was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.


On Google Earth:

Mt. Athos 40° 9'32.27"N, 24°19'42.68"E

Karyes 40°15'25.84"N, 24°14'43.02"E

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Taken on May 18, 2018