According to ancient Greeks, Zeus, father of the gods, was born inside a mountain cave in Crete. However, as it was said he grew up on Naxos, the island’s highest mountain was named after him, and it is called Zas, a variation of his name. Zas Mountain is approximately 1,004 meters in altitude. At the top of this mountain, etched into stone, are the words, which say, “This is the mountain of the god Zeus, protector of ships.” The official name of the king of the gods is Zeus, although he is also called Zas; nowadays, the locals of Naxos refer to him as Δίας (Thee-as).

According to the myth of Theseus and Ariadne, Theseus was bringing Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete, back to Athens with him, after she had helped him slay the monster, Minotaur, on Crete. En route, they stopped on Naxos, called Δία (Thee-­‐a) at that time, to get supplies. As son of the king of Athens, Theseus decided he couldn’t bring Ariadne to Athens and marry her, as his father would only permit him to marry someone of his own origins. Therefore, he abandoned her on Naxos.

It was on Naxos that the Naxian god of wine, Dionysus - known also by his Roman name of Bacchus - found Ariadne sleeping, and fell madly in love with her. After making her his wife, one night they flew up from Zas Mountain, to Olympus, where Zeus made Ariadne immortal. The most important Naxian god is Dionysus, who represented the good power of nature. His marriage with Ariadne, her death, and her rebirth, were great celebrations on Naxos, because of their relevancy to the cycles of life and nature.

Writer of mythology, Omeeros, or Homer, well known for the Iliad and the Odyssey, called Naxos by the name Δία - which means heavenly or divine - as we said earlier, a variation of Zeus. That Naxos has had so much written about it over the centuries, illustrates its continued importance dating back to ancient times.

Another god of Naxos was Apollo, even though he wasn’t born here. He was adored by Naxians, who even dedicated their most famous temple to him, from which remains the world famous Portara, built on the islet, Palatia. On the northeast coast of the island there is a small gulf named Apollonas, dedicated to Apollo and bearing his name, since ancient times, which we know as it is etched into rock there.

Another myth associated with the island is that Ares, god of war, and general troublemaker among the gods, once hid on Naxos, in the emery mines in the village of Koronos.

Naxians also adored Demeter, goddess of fertility of the land, and her daughter Persephone - who was kidnapped by Pluto (or Hades) and brought to the Underworld as his queen. Together, they have come to symbolize the cycle of seasons, and a temple here was built in Demeter’s name, as protector of farmers and agriculture.

And that is a somewhat abbreviated outline of Naxos mythology.

A paradise on earth