The Dikteon Cave is one of the most important and famous cult places of Minoan Crete. It is located in the high mountains on the island of Crete in Greece and is associated with the birthplace of the Greek god Zeus.
For centuries it was considered a sacred place of cult worship where offerings were made and few were allowed to enter. The use of caves as cult places was one of the basic characteristics of the religion of the ancient Cretans, and Dikteon Cave was among the most important and sacred.
The Dikteon Cave, also known as Psychro Cave (due to its vicinity to the village of Psychro) or Andron Cave, is situated at an altitude of 1025 meters (3360 feet) on the northern slopes of Mount Dicte, which dominates the Lassithi Plateau and the whole of Eastern Crete. The Lassithi Plateau was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Period and is one of the few sites in the Mediterranean where settlements were at high altitude.
Dikteon Cave, as it stands today, consists of five chambers with an upper and lower section. The upper cave or Ano spileo, resembles a rocky cavern and is devoid of stalactites or stalagmites. A trek down a steep set of stairs 100 meters into the mountainside reveals the lower cave or Kato Spileo.
There is a larger hall on the right, which has small stone basins filled with water that legend says was a drinking spot for the god Zeus. The most impressive sight is a small lake which is surrounded by large stalactites and stalagmites along the stairwell. There is also what is known as the “Mantle of Zeus” which is a stalactite that hangs over the lake similar to that of a chandelier. At the back of the lake there is a small chamber, where it is said that Zeus was born.
To the ancient Greeks, Zeus was the all-knowing, all seeing deity associated with thunder, lightning, rain and the ruler of all other gods. He was also the ruler of the sky, the earth and was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the personification of the laws of nature.
He headed a family of twelve other major gods and goddesses called the Olympians and lived on the mythical Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Greece. In Greek Mythology, Zeus was said to have been born on the island of Crete.
Hesiod, the Greek epic poet who scholars believed lived during the 8th century BC, tells us that the birth of Zeus took place near the city of Lyktos in east-central Crete. However, he does not specify the precise location of Zeus’s birthplace therefore, two caves, namely the Dikteon and Ideon, both located in the Cretan mountains have been put forward as his place of birth.
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