MYTHMount Lykaion
In the 3rd century BC, the Greek poet Callimachus wrote a Hymn to Zeus asking the ancient and most powerful Greek god whether he was born in Arcadia on Mount Lykaion (in a region called Cretea) or in Crete on Mount Ida.

My soul is all in doubt, since debated is his birth.
O Zeus, some say that you were born on the hills of Ida;
Others, O Zeus, say in Arcadia;
Did these or those, O Father lie?
"Cretans are ever liars."

Clearly in antiquity, there were two traditions relating to the birthplace of Zeus. These have been transmitted to the modern day and, understandably, we favour the Arkadian birthplace. This ties in with another local legend that the Neda river, which flows through a sunless gorge below Ancient Phigaleia, took its name from one of three nymphs entrusted by Rhea to protect her son Zeus from his father Cronus. He was a jealous deity who, fearing his children might take his throne, had swallowed every other child Rhea had given birth to.
     It seems Rhea's plan worked because, as Cronus had feared, Zeus grew up to overthrow him and become the supreme ruler of the gods, as well as lord of the sky and rain. His weapon was a thunderbolt which he hurled at those who displeased or defied him, especially liars and oath breakers. He was married to Hera but often tested her patience, as he was infamous for his many affairs.
     As well as being venerated at Olympia (the birthplace of the Olympic Games), Zeus was worshipped at an Altar of Zeus on the southern summit of Mount Lykaion. This mound of ash is rumoured to contain the remains of human sacrifices, although only animal bones have been found. Nonetheless, stories abound ...
     According to the Bibliotheca, an Ancient Greek compendium of myths and heroic legends, Lykaion (the man who gave his name to Lykosura) sired 50 sons with many wives. These sons were the most nefarious and carefree of all people.
     To test them Zeus visited them in the form of a peasant. They mixed the entrails of a child into the god's meal, whereupon the enraged Zeus threw over the table with the meal (which explains the name of the ancient city of Trapezous - "trapeze" or 'table') - and killed Lykaion and his sons with lightning. Only the youngest son, Nyctimus, was saved due to the intervention of Gaia.
     According to Pausanias, Lykaion was instantly transformed into a wolf after sacrificing a child on the altar of Zeus and sprinkling the blood on the altar.
     Other versions have Zeus transforming all fifty of Lykaion's sons into wolves. Whatever the details, it would seem, that the first "lycanthrope" (synonymous with werewolf) may have come to be because of Lykaion's disrespect of the Greek gods. He was not the first to dishonour them and would not be the last. He may, however, have the been the one to pay the heaviest price.
     Over the years, the definition of a werewolf changed to that of someone who was human during the day and a wolf only at night when the moon was full. How and why this change came about remains a mystery.

"For Cecrops was the first to name Zeus the Supreme god, and refused to sacrifice anything that had life in it, but burnt instead on the altar the national cakes which the Athenians still call pelanoi. But Lycaon brought a human baby to the altar of Lycaean Zeus, and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend immediately after the sacrifice he was changed from a man to a wolf (Lycos)...
     It is said, for instance, that ever since the time of Lycaon a man has changed into a wolf at the sacrifice to Lycaean Zeus, but that the change is not for life; if, when he is a wolf, he abstains from human flesh, after nine years he becomes a man again, but if he tastes human flesh he remains a beast for ever."

Description of Greece
Column base Mount Lykaion

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