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Mount Youchtas (Municipality of Archanes)

 

Mount Youchtas (or Youktas) is just 811m high and is situated near Archanes, about 11km south from the city of Heraklion. It features steep slopes and an extraordinary view to every direction.

It is known as the mountain of Zeus, because its shape resembles the head of a god laying down. According to tradition, the tomb of Zeus was located here. In antiquity, the mountain was known as Knossia Dikti or Dios Oris, which means "the mountain of Zeus".

The modern day name "Youchtas" derives from the Venetian period and is an alteration of the word Jupiter (Zeus), or, according to some other theories, the word refers to the ancient name Iyt(t)os  > Iyktos > Youchtas. During the Turkish period, the Turks refered to the mountain as the mount Karantag (Black Mountain), however this name was never officially established. 

The story of Youchtas and the tomb of Zeus is incorporated in various myths and traditions. In many ancient written sources, the inhabitants of Crete are accused of lying and their claims about the tomb of Zeus are discredited, because the god was immortal. According to the historian Diodoros Sikeliotis (1st century), the tomb of Zeus found in Dikti did not belong to the god Zeus but to the king of Crete who was also named Zeus and was the father of the ten kourites, who were the followers of goddess Cybele and protected the infant god Zeus. In the Byzantine years, the historiographer Michail Psellos (11th century) offers a written description of the tomb and specifically reports that there were the remains of a sanctuary surrounded by a "cyclopean" wall and a sacrifice and incense site.

The mount remained a site of worship even in the years of Christianity and the Byzantine era, as well as during the Turkish period. A temple dedicated to Jesus Christ is still preserved, as well as the church "the Metamorphosis of the Savior" (in Greek, Metamorphosis tou Sotiros).

During the Cretan revolution of 1897, when the army camp of the rebels was founded in Archanes, Youchtas became a refuge for the rebels. In the beginning of the 20th century, the first excavation works were conducted in the area under the supervision of the British archeologist Arthur Evans, uncovering one of the most significant summit sanctuaries of the Minoan period.