The Holy Mountain is the eastern of the three peninsulas of Halkidiki. It is approximately 60 km in length, 8 to 12 km in width, while its highest peak is Mount Athos, which reaches 2000 meters.
There are many legends and traditions concerning the origin of the name and the earlier history of the mountain. The ancient documents referred to the peninsula as the Coast and tell the tale of the Athos peninsula being created when a mythical Thracian giant flung a great rock during the Titanomachy (War of the Titans) and landed where the peninsula is today.
Historic sources give evidence about the existence of seven cities: Sani, Thyssos, Kleonai, Dion, Holophyxos, Akrothoon and Apollonia. An important date in ancient history was the opening of the canal in the narrowest part of the peninsula by Xerxes in 481 BC. It was local people who renamed the Athos peninsula as the Holy Mount and this new name was formalized with a special imperial decree by the Emperor Constantine I X the Monomachos in the middle of the 11th century. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary with John the Evangelist, sailed by Athos, met rough seas and had to land near the Monastery of Iviron. The Virgin Mary admiring the view asked her Son to grant her the Mount as a gift. Thus the Holy Mountain is also called holding and garden of Virgin Mary.