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Mount Athos (; el, Ἄθως, ) is a mountain and
peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body A planet is an astronomical body Astronomy (from el ...

peninsula
in northeastern
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...

Greece
and an important centre of
Eastern Orthodox The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a communion Communion may refer to: Religion * The Eucharist (also cal ...
monasticism Monasticism (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). An ...
. It is governed as an autonomous polity within the Hellenic Republic, namely the Monastic State of the Holy Mountain and the Athonite under the direct jurisdiction of the
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople The ecumenical patriarch ( el, Οἰκουμενικός Πατριάρχης, translit=Oikoumenikós Patriárchis; tr, Kostantiniyye ekümenik patriği) is the archbishop of Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , ...
. Mount Athos is commonly referred to in Greek as the (, 'Holy Mountain'), and the entity as the " Athonite State" (, ). Other languages of Orthodox tradition also use names translating to 'Holy Mountain'. This includes
Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgaria, see Demographics of Bulgaria * Bulg ...

Bulgarian
,
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
and
Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * Serbian language * Serbian names See also

* * * Serbian Uprising (disamb ...
(''Света Гора, Sveta Gora''; ); and
Georgian Georgian may refer to: Common meanings * Anything related to, or originating from Georgia (country) **Georgians, an indigenous Caucasian ethnic group **Georgian language, a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians **Georgian scripts, three scripts ...
(, ). However, not all languages spoken in the region use this name; it is simply called "Athos" in
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, (); and "Mount Athos" in
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Euro ...
, or . In the
classical era Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, ...
, while the mountain was called ''Athos'', the peninsula was known as or (). Mount Athos has been inhabited since ancient times and is known for its long Christian presence and historical monastic traditions, which date back to at least AD 800 and the
Byzantine era The Byzantine calendar, also called "Creation Era of Constantinople" or "Era of the World" ( grc, Ἔτη Γενέσεως Κόσμου κατὰ Ῥωμαίους, also or , abbreviated as ε.Κ.; literal translation of ancient Greek "Roman yea ...

Byzantine era
. Today, over 2,000 monks from Greece and many other countries, including Eastern Orthodox countries such as
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
,
Moldova Moldova (, ; ), officially the Republic of Moldova ( ro, Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to ...

Moldova
,
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia (, ; ) is a country located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by ...
,
Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia ...

Bulgaria
,
Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may ref ...

Serbia
and
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
, live an
ascetic Asceticism (; from the el, ἄσκησις ''áskesis'', "exercise, training") is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their ...

ascetic
life in Athos, isolated from the rest of the world. The Athonite monasteries feature a rich collection of well-preserved artifacts, rare books, ancient documents, and
artworks A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the ph ...
of immense historical value, and Mount Athos has been listed as a
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for h ...
since 1988. Although Mount Athos is legally part of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
like the rest of Greece, the Monastic State institutions have a special jurisdiction which was reaffirmed during the admission of Greece to the European Community (precursor to the EU). This empowers the Monastic State's authorities to regulate the free movement of people and
goods In economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant ...

goods
in its territory; in particular, only males are allowed to enter.


Geography

The peninsula, the easternmost "leg" of the larger
Chalkidiki Chalkidiki (; el, Χαλκιδική, Halkidhikí, ) also spelled ''Chalkidike'', ''Chalcidice'', ''Khalkidhiki'', or ''Halkidiki'', is a peninsula and regional units of Greece, regional unit of Greece, part of the region of Central Macedonia, in ...
peninsula in central
Macedonia Macedonia most commonly refers to: * North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq, Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia,, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained independence in ...
, protrudes Robert Draper
"Mount Athos"
, ''National Geographic'' magazine, December 2009
into the
Aegean Sea The Aegean Sea ; tr, Ege Denizi is an elongated Bay, embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between Europe's Geography of Europe, Balkan peninsula and Asia's Anatolia peninsula. The sea has an area of some 215,000 square kilometres. In ...

Aegean Sea
at a width of between and covers an area of . The actual Mount Athos has steep, densely forested slopes reaching up to . The surrounding seas, especially at the end of the peninsula, can be dangerous. In ancient Greek history two fleet disasters in the area are recorded: In 492 BC
Darius Darius may refer to: Persian kings ;Kings of the Achaemenid Empire * Darius I (the Great, 550 to 487 BC) * Darius II (423 to 404 BC) * Darius III (Codomannus, 380 to 330 BC) ;Crown Prince * Darius (son of Xerxes I), Crown Prince of Persia, may ha ...

Darius
, the king of
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...

Persia
, lost 300 ships under general Mardonius. In 411 BC the
Sparta Sparta (Doric Greek Doric or Dorian ( grc, Δωρισμός, Dōrismós) was an . Its variants were spoken in the southern and eastern as well as in , , , , , some islands in the southern and some cities on the south east coast of ...

Sparta
ns lost a fleet of 50 ships under admiral Epicleas. Though land-linked, Mount Athos is practically accessible only by boat. The ''Agios Panteleimon'' and ''Axion Estin'' ferries travel daily (weather permitting) between
Ouranoupolis Ouranoupoli ( el, Ουρανούπολη, formerly ''Ouranopolis'', en. "Sky City") is an ancient city and a modern village in Chalcidice. It was founded by Cassander's brother Alexarchus of Macedon, Alexarchus in the late 4th century BC.Tarn, p. 1 ...

Ouranoupolis
and Dafni, with stops at some monasteries on the western coast. There is also a smaller speed boat, the ''Agia Anna'', which travels the same route, but with no intermediate stops. It is possible to travel by ferry to and from
Ierissos Ierissos ( el, Ιερισσός) is a small town on the east coast of the Akti peninsula in Chalkidiki, Greece. It is located 160 km from Thessaloniki, and 10 km from the border of the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, or Mou ...

Ierissos
for direct access to monasteries along the eastern coast.


Access

Daily visitors to Mount Athos are restricted to 100 lay Orthodox and 10 non-Orthodox pilgrims, and all are required to obtain a special entrance permit from the Mount Athos Pilgrims' Bureau, valid for three days unless a monastery requests permission to extend it; Orthodox clergy are required to obtain a special entrance permit from the patriarchate of Constantinople. Only men are permitted to visit the territory, which is called the "Garden of
Virgin Mary According to the gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message, but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out; in this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrat ...

Virgin Mary
" by the monks, Residents on the peninsula must be men aged 18 and over who are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church and also either monks or workers. Females are forbidden including domestic animals, the only exception being cats for their mousing abilities. The main goal being to ensure celibacy, but also because the Virgin Mary alone represents her sex on Mount Athos, which is dedicated to her glory. As part of measures to fight the
COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic A pandemic (from , , "all" and , , "local people" the 'crowd') is an of an that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple or worldwide, affecting a substantial numbe ...
, visits to Mount Athos were suspended from 19 March 2020 until 11 May 2021.


History


Antiquity

In
Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psyc ...
, Athos is the name of one of the
Gigantes In Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 m ...

Gigantes
that challenged the
Greek gods The following is a list of gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel ...
during the Gigantomachia. Athos threw a massive rock at
Poseidon Poseidon (; grc-gre, Ποσειδῶν, ) was one of the Twelve Olympians upright=1.8, Fragment of a relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The ...

Poseidon
which fell in the
Aegean Sea The Aegean Sea ; tr, Ege Denizi is an elongated Bay, embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between Europe's Geography of Europe, Balkan peninsula and Asia's Anatolia peninsula. The sea has an area of some 215,000 square kilometres. In ...

Aegean Sea
and became Mount Athos. According to another version of the story, Poseidon used the mountain to bury the defeated giant.
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
mentions the mountain Athos in the
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Moder ...

Iliad
.
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
writes that, during the Persian invasion of
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
in 492 BC, the fleet of the Persian commander Mardonius was wrecked with losses of 300 ships and 20,000 men, by a strong North wind while attempting to round the coast near Mount Athos.
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
mentions the peninsula, then called ''Akte,'' telling us that
Pelasgians The name Pelasgians ( grc, Πελασγοί, ''Pelasgoí'', singular: Πελασγός, ''Pelasgós'') was used by classical Greek writers to refer either to the ancestors of the Greeks, or to all the inhabitants of Greece before the emergence or ...

Pelasgians
from the island of
Lemnos Lemnos or Limnos ( el, Λήμνος; grc, Λῆμνος) is a Greece, Greek island in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Lemnos (regional unit), Lemnos regional unit, whic ...

Lemnos
populated it and naming five cities thereon, Sane, Kleonai (Cleonae), Thyssos (Thyssus), Olophyxos (Olophyxus), and Akrothoon (Acrothoum).
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
also mentions the cities of Dion (Dium) and Akrothoon.
Eretria Eretria (; el, Ερέτρια, ''Eretria'', literally "city of the rowers" grc, Ἐρέτρια) is a town in Euboea, Greece, facing the coast of Attica across the narrow South Euboean Gulf. It was an important Greek polis in the 6th/5th cent ...
also established colonies on Akte. At least one other city was established in the Classical period: Akanthos (Acanthus). Some of these cities minted their own coins. The peninsula was on the invasion route of
Xerxes I Xerxes I ( peo, wiktionary:𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠, 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠 ; grc-gre, Ξέρξης; – August 465 BC), commonly known as Xerxes the Great, was the fourth King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, ruling from 486 to 465 ...

Xerxes I
, who spent three years excavating the
Xerxes Canal The Xerxes Canal ( el, Διώρυγα του Ξέρξη) was purported to be a navigable canal Canals are waterways Channel (geography), channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles. They m ...
across the isthmus to allow the passage of his invasion fleet in 483 BC. After the death of
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (''basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title ...

Alexander the Great
, the architect
Dinocrates upright=1.13, Modern engraving of Dinocrates' proposal for Mount Athos. Dinocrates of Rhodes (also Deinocrates, Dimocrates, Cheirocrates and Stasicrates; grc-gre, Δεινοκράτης ὁ Ῥόδιος, fl. last quarter of the 4th century BC) wa ...
(Deinokrates) proposed carving the entire mountain into a statue of Alexander.
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
stated in 77AD that the inhabitants of Mount Athos could "live to their four hundredth year" due to the fact that they eat the skin of vipers. The history of the peninsula during latter ages is shrouded by the lack of historical accounts. Archaeologists have not been able to determine the exact location of the cities reported by Strabo. It is believed that they must have been deserted when Athos' new inhabitants, the monks, started arriving some time before the ninth century AD.


Early Christianity

According to the Athonite tradition, the
Blessed Virgin Mary According to the gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message ("the gospel"), but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out. In this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, ...

Blessed Virgin Mary
was sailing accompanied by St
John the Evangelist John the Evangelist ( grc-gre, Ἰωάννης, Iōánnēs; : ܝܘܚܢܢ; ar, يوحنا الإنجيلي, he, יוחנן האוונגליסט cop, ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ or ⲓⲱ̅ⲁ) is the name traditionally given to the author of the . ...

John the Evangelist
from
Joppa
Joppa
to
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or poli ...

Cyprus
to visit Lazarus. When the ship was blown off course to then-pagan Athos, it was forced to anchor near the port of Klement, close to the present monastery of Iviron. The Virgin walked ashore and, overwhelmed by the wonderful and wild natural beauty of the mountain, she blessed it and asked her Son for it to be her garden. A voice was heard saying, "" (Translation: "Let this place be your inheritance and your garden, a paradise and a haven of salvation for those seeking to be saved"). From that moment the mountain was consecrated as the garden of the Mother of God and was out of bounds to all other women.St Gregory Palamas included this tradition in his book ''Life of Petros the Athonite'', p. 150, 1005 AD. Historical documents on ancient Mount Athos history are very few. It is certain that monks have been there since the fourth century, and possibly since the third. During
Constantine I Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). Th ...

Constantine I
's reign (324–337) both Christians and followers of traditional Greek religion were living there. During the reign of Julian (361–363), the churches of Mount Athos were destroyed, and Christians hid in the woods and inaccessible places. Later, during
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
's reign (379–395), the temples of the traditional Greek religion were destroyed. The lexicographer
Hesychius of Alexandria Hesychius of Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern Egypt but also in Sudan and Libya * Coptic la ...
states that in the fifth century there was still a temple and a statue of "
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
Athonite". After the
Islamic conquest of Egypt The Muslim conquest of Egypt by the Arabs took place between 639 and 646 AD and was overseen by the Rashidun Caliphate The Rashidun Caliphate ( ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلرَّاشِدَةُ, ') was the first of the four major ca ...
in the seventh century, many Orthodox monks from the Egyptian desert tried to find another calm place; some of them came to the Athos peninsula. An ancient document states that monks "built huts of wood with roofs of straw ..and by collecting fruit from the wild trees were providing themselves improvised meals."


Byzantine era: the first monasteries

The chroniclers
Theophanes the Confessor Theophanes the Confessor ( el, Θεοφάνης Ὁμολογητής; c. 758/760 – March 12, 817/818) was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy who became a monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Lati ...
(end of 8th century) and
Georgios KedrenosGeorge Kedrenos, Cedrenus or Cedrinos ( el, Γεώργιος Κεδρηνός, fl. 11th century) was a Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its ...
(11th century) wrote that the 726 eruption of the
Thera volcano
Thera volcano
was visible from Mount Athos, indicating that it was inhabited at the time. The historian
GenesiosGenesius ( el, Γενέσιος, ''Genesios'') is the conventional name given to the anonymous Byzantine author of Armenians, Armenian origin of the tenth century chronicle, ''On the reign of the emperors''. His first name is sometimes given as Josep ...
recorded that monks from Athos participated at the seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea of 787. Following the Battle of Thasos in 829, Athos was deserted for some time due to the destructive raids of the Cretan Saracens. Around 860, the famous monk Efthymios the Younger came to Athos and a number of monk-huts ("
skete A skete ( ) is a monastic community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities ma ...

skete
of Saint Basil") were created around his habitation, possibly near Krya Nera. During the reign of emperor
Basil I Basil I, called the Macedonian ( el, Βασίλειος ὁ Μακεδών, ''Basíleios ō Makedṓn''; 811 – August 29, 886), was a Byzantine Emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, ...

Basil I
the Macedonian, the former Archbishop of
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology ...

Crete
(and later of
Thessaloniki Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, ), also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki or Salonica () is the second-largest city in Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in So ...

Thessaloniki
)
Basil the Confessor Basil the Confessor (died 750) was an Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox saint who lived in the 8th century and was tortured by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V. Life Basil was a monk who has elected Bishop of Parium. In February 754 E ...
built a small monastery at the place of the modern harbour (''arsanás'') of Hilandariou Monastery. Soon after this, a document of 883 states that a certain Ioannis Kolovos built a monastery at Megali Vigla. On a
chrysobull A golden bull or chrysobull was a decree A decree is a rule of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, ...
of emperor Basil I, dated 885, the Holy Mountain is proclaimed a place of monks, and no laymen or farmers or cattle-breeders are allowed to be settled there. The next year, in an imperial edict of emperor
Leo VI the Wise Leo VI, called the Wise ( gr, Λέων ὁ Σοφός, Leōn ho Sophos, 19 September 866 – 11 May 912), was Byzantine Emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قس ...
we read about the "so-called ancient seat of the council of gerondes (council of elders)", meaning that there was already a kind of monks' administration and that it was already "ancient". In 887, some monks expostulate to the emperor Leo the Wise that as the monastery of Kolovos is growing more and more, they are losing their peace. In 908 the existence of a ''
Protos Protos means "first," derived from the ancient Greek . Protos may also refer to: * Protos (monastic office), a monastic office at the Eastern Orthodox monastic state of Mount Athos * Protos (constructor), a former racing car constructor * Protos o ...
'' ("First monk"), the "head" of the monastic community, is documented. In 943 the borders of the monastic state were precisely mapped; we know that Karyes was already the capital and seat of the administration, named "Megali Mesi Lavra" (Great Central Assembly). In 956, a decree offered land of about to the Xeropotamou monastery, which means that this monastery was already quite big. In 958, the monk Athanasios the Athonite () arrived on Mount Athos. In 962 he built the big central church of the "Protaton" in Karies. In the next year, with the support of his friend Emperor Nicephorus Phocas, the monastery of
Great Lavra The Monastery of Great Lavra ( el, Μονή Μεγίστης Λαύρας) is the first monastery built on Mount Athos. It is located on the southeastern foot of the Mount at an elevation of . The founding of the monastery in AD 963 by Athanasius ...
was founded, still the largest and most prominent of the twenty monasteries existing today. It enjoyed the protection of the
Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survi ...

Byzantine
emperors during the following centuries, and its wealth and possessions grew considerably. From the 10th to the 13th centuries, there was a
Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a Christian monasticism, monastic Religious order (Catholic), religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Be ...
monastery A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical l ...

monastery
on Mount Athos (between Magisti Lavra and Philotheou Karakallou) known as ''Amalfion'' after the people of
Amalfi Amalfi (, , ) is a town and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public servic ...

Amalfi
who founded it. During the 11th century, Mount Athos offered a meeting place for Serbian and Rus' monk
Scribe A scribe is a person who serves as a professional copyist A copyist is a person who makes copies. The term is sometimes used for artists who make copies of other artists' paintings. However, the modern use of the term is almost entirely con ...

Scribe
s. Rus' monks first settled there in the 1070s, in ''Xylourgou Monastery'' (now Skiti Bogoroditsa); in 1089 they moved to the
St. Panteleimon Monastery
St. Panteleimon Monastery
, while the Serbs took over the Xylourgou. From 1100 to 1169 the St. Panteleimon Monastery was in a state of decay and such Russian monks as remained in Mount Athos lived at Xylourgou among the Serbs. In 1169 the Serbs received St. Panteleimon, which they shared with the Rus' until 1198, when the Serbs moved to the
Hilandar The Hilandar Monastery ( sr-cyr, Манастир Хиландар, Manastir Hilandar, , el, Μονή Χιλανδαρίου) is one of the twenty Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Mount Athos in Greece and the only Serbia ...
monastery, which became the main centre of Serbian
monasticism Monasticism (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period (), and the period (). An ...
; the Rus' then remained in possession of St. Panteleimon, known since as ''
Rossikon Saint Panteleimon Monastery (russian: Монастырь Святого Пантелеймона; el, Μονή Αγίου Παντελεήμονος, ''Moní Agíou Panteleímonos''), known as Rossikon (russian: Россикон, ''Rossikon''; el, ...
''. The
Fourth Crusade The Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) was a Roman Catholic Church, Latin Christian armed expedition called by Pope Innocent III. The stated intent of the expedition was to recapture the Islam, Muslim-controlled city of Jerusalem, by first defeating th ...
in the 13th century brought new Roman Catholic overlords, which forced the monks to complain and ask for the intervention of
Pope Innocent III Pope Innocent III ( la, Innocentius III; 1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216), born Lotario dei Conti di Segni (anglicized as Lothar of Segni Segni (, ) is an Italy, Italian town and ''comune'' located in Lazio. The city is situated on a hilltop i ...

Pope Innocent III
until the restoration of the Byzantine Empire. The peninsula was raided by Catalan mercenaries in the 14th century in the so-called Catalan vengeance due to which the entry of people of Catalans, Catalan origin was prohibited until 2005. The 14th century also saw the theological conflict over the hesychasm practised on Mount Athos and defended by Gregory Palamas (Άγιος Γρηγόριος ο Παλαμάς). In late 1371 or early 1372 the Byzantines defeated an Ottoman attack on Athos.


Serbian era and influences

Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may ref ...

Serbia
n lords of the Nemanjić dynasty offered financial support to the monasteries of Mount Athos, while some of them also made pilgrimages and became monks there. Stefan Nemanja helped build the
Hilandar The Hilandar Monastery ( sr-cyr, Манастир Хиландар, Manastir Hilandar, , el, Μονή Χιλανδαρίου) is one of the twenty Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Mount Athos in Greece and the only Serbia ...
monastery on Mount Athos together with his son Archbishop Saint Sava in 1198. From 1342 until 1372 Mount Athos was under Serbian administration. Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan helped Mount Athos with many large donations to all monasteries. In The charter of emperor Stefan Dušan to the Monastery of Hilandar the Emperor gave to the monastery
Hilandar The Hilandar Monastery ( sr-cyr, Манастир Хиландар, Manastir Hilandar, , el, Μονή Χιλανδαρίου) is one of the twenty Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Mount Athos in Greece and the only Serbia ...
direct rule over many villages and churches, including the church of ''Svetog Nikole u Dobrušti'' in Prizren, the church of ''Svetih Arhanđela'' in Štip, the Church of Svetog Nikole in Vranje and surrounding lands and possessions. He also gave large possessions and donations to the Karyes Hermitage of St. Sabas and the Holy Archangels in Jerusalem and to many other monasteries. Dušan was the only medieval lord who spent a lot of his time in Mount Athos and at the same time from there ruled the Empire, spending 9 months there together with his wife around 1347. Helena of Bulgaria, Empress of Serbia, Empress Helena, wife of the Emperor Stefan Dušan, was among the very few women allowed to visit and stay in Mount Athos. Thanks to the donations by Dušan, the List of Serbian Orthodox monasteries, Serbian monastery of
Hilandar The Hilandar Monastery ( sr-cyr, Манастир Хиландар, Manastir Hilandar, , el, Μονή Χιλανδαρίου) is one of the twenty Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Mount Athos in Greece and the only Serbia ...
was enlarged to more than 10,000 hectares, thus having the largest possessions on Mount Athos among other monasteries, and occupying 1/3 of the area. Serbian nobleman Antonije Bagaš, together with Nikola Radonja, bought and restored the ruined Agiou Pavlou monastery between 1355 and 1365, becoming its abbot. The time of the Serbian Empire was a prosperous period for Hilandar and of other monasteries in Mount Athos and many of them were restored and rebuilt and significantly enlarged. Donations continued after the fall of the Serbian empire and Lazar of Serbia and the later Branković dynasty continued to support the monastic community. Serbian magnate Radič (veliki čelnik) restored the Konstamonitou Monastery after the 1420 fire and then took monastic vows and received the name Roman (after 1433). Serbian princess Mara Branković was the second Serbian woman that was granted permissions to visit the area. As a wife of Murad II, Mara Branković used her influence on the Ottoman court to secure the special status of Mount Athos inside the Ottoman Empire. At the end of the 15th century five monasteries on Mount Athos had Serbian monks and were under the Serbian Prior: Docheiariou, Grigoriou, Ayiou Pavlou, Ayiou Dionysiou and Hilandar Under Ottoman rule many Serbian nobles including ones who were under direct Ottoman rule or had accepted the Muslim faith continued their support for Mount Athos. In modern times after the end of Ottoman rule new List_of_Serbian_monarchs#Kingdom_of_Serbia_(1882–1918), Serbian kings from the Obrenović dynasty and Karađorđević dynasty and the new bourgeois class continued their support of Mount Athos. After the dissolution of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Yugoslav Communist regime and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Socialist Yugoslavia many List of presidents of Serbia, presidents and Prime minister of Serbia, prime ministers of Serbia visited Mount Athos.


Ottoman era

The Byzantine Empire ceased to exist in the 15th century and the Ottoman Empire took its place. The Athonite monks tried to maintain good relations with the Ottoman Sultans, and therefore when Murad II conquered
Thessaloniki Thessaloniki (; el, Θεσσαλονίκη, ), also known as Thessalonica (), Saloniki or Salonica () is the second-largest city in Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in So ...

Thessaloniki
in 1430 they immediately pledged allegiance to him. In return, Murad recognized the monasteries' properties, something which Mehmed II formally ratified after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In this way Athonite independence was preserved. From the account of the Rus' pilgrim Isaiah, by the end of the 15th century monasteries in Mount Athos represented monastic communities from large and diverse parts of the Balkans (Slavic, Albanian, Greek). Other monasteries listed by him bear no such designations. In particular, Docheiariou monastery, Docheiariou, Osiou Gregoriou monastery, Grigoriou, Agiou Pavlou monastery, Ayiou Pavlou, Dionysiou monastery, Ayiou Dionysiou, and Hilandar, Chilandariou were Serbian; Karakalou monastery, Karakalou and Philotheou monastery, Philotheou were Albanian; Agiou Panteleimonos monastery, Panteleïmon was Russian; Simonopetra monastery, Simonopetra was Bulgarian; Great Lavra, Vatopedi monastery, Vatopedi, Pantokratoros monastery, Pantokratoros and Stavronikita monastery, Stavronikita were Greek; and Zograf monastery, Zographou, Kastamonitou, Xeropotamou, Koutloumousiou, Xenophontos, Iviron and Protaton did not bear any designation. The 15th and 16th centuries were particularly peaceful for the Athonite community. This led to relative prosperity for the monasteries. An example of this is the foundation of Stavronikita monastery which completed the current number of Athonite monasteries. Following the conquest of the Serbian Despotate by the Ottomans many Serbian monks came to Athos. The extensive presence of Serbian monks is depicted in the numerous elections of Serbian monks to the office of the
Protos Protos means "first," derived from the ancient Greek . Protos may also refer to: * Protos (monastic office), a monastic office at the Eastern Orthodox monastic state of Mount Athos * Protos (constructor), a former racing car constructor * Protos o ...
during the era. Selim I, Sultan Selim I was a substantial benefactor of the Xeropotamou monastery. In 1517, he issued a Fatwā, fatwa and a ''Hatt-i Sharif'' ("noble edict") that "the place, where the Holy Gospel is preached, whenever it is burned or even damaged, shall be erected again." He also endowed privileges to the Abbey and financed the construction of the dining area and underground of the Abbey as well as the renovation of the wall paintings in the central church that were completed between the years 1533–1541. Although most time the monasteries were left on their own, the Ottomans heavily taxed them and sometimes they seized important land parcels from them. This eventually culminated in an economic crisis in Athos during the 17th century. This led to the adoption of the so-called "idiorrhythmic" lifestyle (a Hermit#Semi-eremitic variants, semi-eremitic variant of Christian monasticism) by a few monasteries at first and later, during the first half of the 18th century, by all. This new way of monastic organization was an emergency measure taken by the monastic communities to counter their harsh economic environment. Contrary to the cenobitic system, monks in idiorrhythmic communities have private property, work for themselves, they are solely responsible for acquiring food and other necessities and they dine separately in their cells, only meeting with other monks at church. At the same time, the monasteries' abbots were replaced by committees and at Karyes the Protos was replaced by a four-member committee. In 1749, with the establishment of the Athonite Academy near Vatopedi monastery, the local monasticism, monastic community took a leading role in the modern Greek Enlightenment movement of the 18th century. This institution offered high level education, especially under Eugenios Voulgaris, where ancient philosophy and modern physical science were taught.
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
n tsars, and princes from Moldavia, Wallachia and
Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may ref ...

Serbia
(until the end of the 15th century), helped the monasteries survive with large donations. The population of monks and their wealth declined over the next centuries, but were revitalized during the 19th century, particularly by the patronage of the Russian government. As a result, the monastic population grew steadily throughout the century, reaching a high point of over 7,000 monks in 1902.


Present era

In November 1912, during the First Balkan War, the Ottomans were forced out by the Greek Navy. Greece claimed the peninsula as part of the peace Treaty of London (1913), treaty of London signed on 30 May 1913. As a result of the shortcomings of the Treaty of London, the Second Balkan War broke out between the combatants in June 1913. A final peace was agreed at the Treaty of Bucharest (1913), Treaty of Bucharest on 10 August 1913. In June 1913, a small Russian fleet, consisting of the gunboat ''Donets'' and the transport ships ''Tsar'' and ''Kherson'', delivered the archbishop of Vologda, and a number of troops to Mount Athos to intervene in the theological controversy over ''imiaslavie'' (a Russian Orthodox movement). The archbishop held talks with the ''imiaslavtsy'' and tried to make them change their beliefs voluntarily, but was unsuccessful. On 31 July 1913, the troops stormed the St. Panteleimon Monastery. Although the monks were not armed and did not actively resist, the troops showed very heavy-handed tactics. After the storming of St. Panteleimon Monastery, the monks from the Andreevsky Skete (Skiti Agiou Andrea) surrendered voluntarily. The military transport ''Kherson'' was converted into a prison ship and more than a thousand ''imiaslavtsy'' monks were sent to Odessa where they were excommunicated and dispersed throughout Russia. After a brief diplomatic conflict between Greece and Russia over sovereignty, the peninsula formally came under Greek sovereignty after World War I. In January 2008 about a dozen Greek women violated the 1,000-year ban on females during a protest over disputed land. The demonstrators, totalling some 1,000, were opposing claims by five of the community’s monasteries to some of land on the nearby Chalkidiki peninsula.


See also

* Byzantine Empire * Eastern Orthodox Church * Hesychasm * History of the Byzantine Empire * List of historic Greek countries and regions * New Athos * Postage stamps and postal history of Mount Athos * Sacred mountains


Notes


References


Bibliography

* ''Holy Mountain. Stone Arched Bridges and Aqueducts'' () by Frangiscos Martinos. Edited by Dimitri Michalopoulos (Athens, 2019). * ''Mount Athos'' by Sotiris Kadas. An illustrated guide to the monasteries and their history (Athens 1998). With many illustrations of the Byzantine art treasures on Mount Athos. * ''Athos The Holy Mountain'' by Sydney Loch. Published 1957 & 1971 (Librairie Molho, Thessaloniki). Loch spent most of his life in the Byzantine tower at Ouranopolis, close to Athos, and describes his numerous visits to the Holy Mountain. * ''The Station: Athos: Treasures and Men'' by Robert Byron. First published 1931, reprinted with an introduction by John Julius Norwich, 1984. * ''Dare to be Free'' by Walter Babington Thomas. Offers insights into the lives of the monks of Mt Athos during World War II, from the point of view of an escaped POW who spent a year on the peninsula evading capture. * ''Blue Guide: Greece'' , pp. 600–03. Offers history and tourist information. * ''Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise'' , by Graham Speake. Published by Yale University Press in 2002. An extensive book about Athos in the past, the present and the future. Includes valuable tourist information. Features numerous full-colour photographs of the peninsula and daily life in the monasteries. 2nd edition published by Denise Harvey in 2014, which includes revisions, updates, and a new chapter documenting the changes that have occurred in the twelve years since its first publication. * ''From the Holy Mountain'' by William Dalrymple (historian), William Dalrymple. . Published 1997. * Ульянов, Олег Германович, Ульянов О. Г. The influence of the monasticism of Holy Mount Athos on the liturgical reform movement in the Late Byzantine // Church, Society and Monasticism. The second international monastic symposium at Sant’Anselmo. Roma, 2006. * Ivanov, Emil: ''Das Bildprogramm des Narthex im Rila-Kloster in Bulgarien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Wasserweihezyklen auf dem Athos'', Diss., Erlangen, 2002. * Ivanov, Emil: Apokallypsedarstellungen in der nachbyzantinischen Kunst, in: Das Münster, 3, 2002, 208–217. * ''Encounters on the Holy Mountain: Stories from Mount Athos'' , P. Howorth, C. Thomas (eds). Published by Brepols in 2020. * Leigh Fermor, Patrick: The Broken Road. The final volume of his original trilogy, edited by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper, has an excellent descriptive tour around each of the main Monasteries, from his visit in January-February 1935. * * *


External links


A website about Athos

Treasures of Mount Athos

Friends of Mount Athos (FoMA) website

360° virtual panoramas from Athos

Information and services for visitors

Hilandar Monastery

Mount Athos, HD video
{{Authority control Mount Athos, Car-free zones in Europe Christian holy places Eastern Orthodoxy in Greece Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople Landforms of Chalkidiki Locations in the Iliad Mountains of Central Macedonia, Athos Subdivisions of Greece Tourist attractions in Central Macedonia World Heritage Sites in Greece