Ancient Olynthos was the richest historic city in Halkidiki, built in a beautiful and fertile area, almost 4 km from the shore.
The myth has it that Olynthos was the son of Heracles and nymph Volvi or son of the river god Strymon. Olynthos was killed at a young age during a lion hunting expedition. Vraggas, mourning his brother’s loss, built the homonymous city to honour him. Linguists have another theory that puts the myth to question; they believe that the name Olynthos came from the wild fig tree that grows in the fields of the region. Characteristic tombs and important archaeological finds testify to the existence of an important prehistoric settlement from Neolithic times in the position of historic Olynthos. The prehistoric cemetery is the most ancient one in Helladic space dating to the Early Copper Age (2,500 BC). Around 650 BC, the Bottiaeans settled there and everything ran smoothly in the rich city until 479 BC when the Persians destroyed the city and killed all the inhabitants. Then, the city was given over to the Chalkidaeans, the Persians’ allies. Later, the Olynthians came to an agreement with the Macedonian king Perdikas and formed an alliance with the remaining 32 colonies in Halkidiki called “Chalkidaeans Alliance”. During this period, Olynthos flourished even further and cut its own coins. Such a powerful and rich city inevitably attracted the interest of Macedonian King Philippos II who tried to take them on his side, offering them Potidaea and the Anthemounda valley. In 352 BC, the Olynthians terminated their alliance with Philippos II, after realizing his selfish motives. The King of the Macedonians, aiming to unite all Greeks, launched an expedition against the Chalkidaeans Alliance and destroyed Olynthos (348 BC). The fields were distributed to Macedonians, while the Olynthians who escaped slaughter were sold as slaves. That was the end for Olynthos.
The American archaeologist D. Robinson started his excavations during the mid-war years (1928-31) and brought to light the entire ancient Olynthos. Apart from broken tiles and arrow heads bearing the name “Philippos”, Robinson also discovered the settlement and urban system of ancient Olynthos. Each regular building block (87x36m) included 10 big two-storey wisely orientated houses, with many rooms, spacious courtyards and auxiliary spaces. The houses of Olynthos, divided by narrow and wide streets, testify to the tidiness of the city, whose functionality had been guaranteed by the intelligent urban plan, based on the renowned Hippodameian system. The city was perhaps the best sample of urban planning in Classical Greece. The water supply and sewage system of the houses and the entire city was indeed remarkable. This excavation was related by Robinson in 14 volumes.
M. Andronikos referring to the excavations in Classical Olynthos commented that it brought to light the best preserved, in its entirety, Greek city of Classical times, with baths, wash-basins and toilets that have modern shapes thus testifying to the high living standards of its ancient inhabitants.
The Olynthian houses amaze the visitor with their arrangement, size, architecture, equipment, wealth; so do the mansions of the suburbs with their wonderful mosaic floors, which are the oldest known Greek mosaics composed with colourful river pebbles in amazing shapes inspired by nature, mythology, etc. One mosaic depicts Achilles who is given his shield, helmet and spear by his mother Thetis and the Nereids (Sea-Nymphs). Another presents Vellerefontis on his horse, Pegasus, killing Chimera, in a wonderful frame with a floral décor and meanders.