On the border between the ancient lands of Macedonia and Thessaly, about 50 miles southwest of Thessalonica, is the highest mountain in Greece, famous in antiquity as the home of the 12 Olympian gods. Mount Olympus is 9,570 feet in elevation, and the prominence of the peak in comparison to the surrounding land, and the sea only 11 miles away, makes it one of the most noticeable mountains on the entire continent. In ancient times, sacrifices were made to the gods at the mountain and at the nearby sacred town of Dion. Originally the mountain may have been called Mount Belus (Homer, Iliad). The two major peaks of the mountain included the Pantheon (modern Mykitas), where meetings took place, and the throne of Zeus. The beliefs of the ancients, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, and the Hittities, often associated high mountains with the realm of the gods, since the tops of these mountains seemed to protrude into the heavens. Normally, these highest peaks were considered inaccessible for humans. Hades and Tartarus, far below, was contrasted with heaven where the gods resided. In the Bible, God and the angels resided in heaven, while Sheol was the realm of the dead and Tartarus was a prison for rebelling angels (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:33; Isaiah 7:11, 63:15; 1 Kings 22:19; Peter 2:4).
The Olympian gods, and Zeus in particular, gained supremacy over the cosmos after a long war in heaven with the previous ruling gods, the Titans, led by Cronus. However, the Titans had actually won an earlier rebellion against a primordial god, Uranus (sky/heaven). These primordial gods seem to have been personifications and concepts, such as heaven, earth, sea, light, darkness, time, etc. According to Greek mythology, Cronus wanted the power of his father, Uranus. Uranus had angered Gaia (earth, mother goddess) after placing some of their children (Titans) in the darkness of Tartarus (the abyss) because he was angry at them (cf. Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Gaia then created a gigantic stone sickle and organized Cronus and others of the lesser gods to defeat Uranus (Hesiod, Theogany). Cronus then ambushed Uranus and attacked him with the sickle, castrating him. In an alternative version, Cronus defeated a serpent god named Ophion (Orpheus). This Cronus may have been connected to the primordial god Chronos (time), who could be understood as the original creator god according to some Greek traditions (Plutarch; Cicero). The victory resulted in a period in which Cronus and the Titans ruled, and was called the Golden Age (Hesiod, Days and Times). This was a period of peace and no work, when everyone did right and sin was not in existence, perhaps similar to the Garden of Eden. After this though, Zeus led a rebellion of the Olympians, defeated Cronus and imprisoned him for eternity, and became the ruler of the gods. While the many stories of the gods passed down through Greek mythology vary and can be somewhat convoluted, the common themes throughout include a ruling “father” god and a successful rebellion of the “children” gods. Eventually, this resulted in a new “king of the gods” who the Greeks called Zeus. This same war in heaven concept in which the original god or gods suffered defeat after a rebellion of some of the created lesser gods is found in the even more ancient literature of the Near East.
In the Bible, similar events are alluded to, but from a different perspective and with the opposite outcome. Beginning with the one, infinite, true God, the universe was created, then angels were created. Some of these angels, led by Satan, rebelled against God and started a war in heaven, but they were unsuccessful in defeating God (Ezekiel 28:11-17; 2 Peter 2:4; Isaiah 14:12-15; 1 Tim 3:6; Rev 12:3-9; Luke 10:18?). Many of the pagan myths, including Greek mythology, appear to have modified the story and claimed that the rebelling lesser gods or angels won the war in heaven, defeating the original creator God. The truth was twisted in such a way that the rebelling angels (lesser gods), led by Satan (perhaps Zeus, Baal, etc.), became the victors and the recipients of worship by many of the ancient people, who had been deceived (Ephesians 2:2, 6:12).