Leivithra or Leibethra was an ancient Macedonian city at the foot of Mount Olympus, near the present settlement of Skotina. Archaeologists have discovered tombs there from the late Bronze Age (13th-12th century BC) containing rich burial objects.
According to Greek mythology, depending on the source consulted, Orpheus is said to have been born in Leivithra, to have been buried there, or to have lived in the city only temporarily.
Leivithra is located at the eastern foot of Mount Olympus in the Pieria Prefecture, Central Macedonia, Greece. It is about four kilometers from the coast and two kilometers north of the village of Skotina. The city comprises the acropolis, which reaches an altitude of 130 meters, and the plain below it stretching towards the sea. The excavation site covers an area of 150 hectares, 1.5 of which belong to the fortified acropolis. The acropolis is bordered by the Griva and Kavourolaka rivers, which flow into the Ziliana river.
Leivithra means canals in Greek as does the equivalent Roman toponym, Canalia. The excavations so far confirm that the acropolis was inhabited from the 8th century BC to the 1st century BC. The surrounding area was inhabited at least since the Bronze Age. In approximately 169 BC, the Romans erected their army camp in the plain between Herakleion (now Platamonas) and Leivithra, during the Third Macedonian War.
In the 19th century, the Frenchman Léon Heuzey defined the location of ancient Leivithra. In 1914 the location was confirmed by his countryman André Plassart.
Findings from the time of the last settlement date from the year 100 BC. What ultimately caused the destruction of the settlement is still unclear. According to the latest findings, it is thought to have been an earthquake, possibly in connection with subsequent flooding.
The acropolis has been excavated only randomly, and the vast majority remains untouched. Excavated silver coins were predominantly of Macedonian origin, but coins from other parts of Greece have been unearthed. Also found were small clay vessels, large clay storage containers, fragments of metal work and arrow and spear tips. A weight of lead was found bearing the inscription ΛΕΙΒΗ (LEIVI).
The acropolis was fortified by a wall. The north side wall was constuctcted of small stones, whereas the south side wall consists of large, stacked stone blocks. On the west side, the foundation of a tower was uncovered. The shape of other buildings vary and are irregularly built at narrow streets. The foundations have a remarkable depth and indicate a multi-story structure. The upper walls were made of bricks and the roofs were covered with tiles. Large clay storage pots (Pithoi) where excavated from within the floor of the dwellings.
The parts of the acropolis that had been unearthed so far are temporarily covered for their protection. Through a construction of metal baskets filled with stones, the hill was partially secured against further slipping.
In the neighborhood (Voulkani, Vakoufika, Palaia Leptokarya and Skotina) graves were discovered from the Mycenaean period and from the Iron Age. They housed weapons, tools and clay vessels as burial objects. The finds are stored in the Archaeological Museum of Dion.
The foundation of a former vineyard were cleared in the east-facing plain. Built in the middle of the 4th century BC, it was destroyed by a fire approximately at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Fragments of a nearly 2,000-liter clay storage container are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
The area forms part of the Archaeological Park of Leivithra. Since the park is dedicated to Mount Olympus as well as to Orpheus, the park’s paths are shaped like his associated musical instrument, the lyre.The park is divided into three areas:
- Educational and recreation area
- Plants and myths
- Forest and environment
The circular route starts at the ground plan of a house that dates back to the Mycenaean era. It was discovered in the course of road construction near Platamon.
Further along is an oval-shaped house, which was built in the 8th century BC. The dimensions of the ground plan were modeled on a house excavated in Krania, at the foot of the Platamon Castle. The foundation consist of stone and the basic framework of wood. The walls were made of a mixture of clay and straw, in which goat hair was incorporated. The roof was covered with reed.
The main building of the park was modeled on the ancient winery the foundation of which was excavated in the plain of Leivithra (Komboloi). Within the building, the development of the region from the Neolithic age to the destruction of the place is represented.
On the west side of the park, four pavilions inform about the life and work of Orpheus and the Muses. In the immediate neighborhood a small theater is located, where classical tragedies and comedies are occasionally performed. Behind the theater, a stairway leads to the acropolis.
Along the ways are plants that play a role in Greek mythology and whose importance is explained on information boards. On the southwestern edge of the park is a small forest trail.
In addition to the poet and musician Orpheus, the place is also associated with the Muses.
The Muses lived near sources and were devoted to literature, science, and fine arts. According to Hesiod, they delighted Zeus with their singing. They looked into the past, into the present, and into the future.
Orpheus, the son of Muse Calliope and the Thracian king of Oiagros, was born in a cave between Pimpleia (near Litochoro) and Leivithra. He was killed by women who had been enraged and was buried in Leivithra. According to the legend Pausanias, the city was to be destroyed by a wild boar, as soon as Orpheus’ bones saw the sun. A careless shepherd moved the top of Orpheus’ grave and the sunlight touched Orpheus’ remnants. Thereupon, the river Sys (ancient Greek name for wild boar, biological name: Sus Scrofa) swelled strongly and a flood destroyed the place.