Athos –tā [key], easternmost of the three peninsulas of Khalkidhikí, c.130 sq mi (340 sq km), NE Greece, in Macedonia. The narrow, northern base of the peninsula was once cut by canal dug by the Persians during Xerxes' invasion of Greece (see Persian Wars). At the southern tip of the peninsula is the theocratic community of the monks of Mount Athos, also called Hagion Oros or Ayion Oros [Gr.,=Holy Mt.], which rises to c.6,670 ft (2,030 m). Mount Athos is a community of about 20 monasteries of the Order of St. Basil of the Orthodox Eastern Church and includes c.30 sq mi (80 sq km) of territory. The first monastery was founded c.963. The community of monks (see monasticism) enjoyed administrative independence under the Byzantine and Ottoman empires and under the modern Greek government. In 1927 it was made an autonomous monastic state under Greek suzerainty, ruled by the patriarch of Constantinople. Karyai, the chief town of Athos, is the seat of the Holy Community, a committee made up of one representative from each monastery, which governs the monks of Mount Athos. Women and most female animals are not allowed in the religious community. The icons from Mount Athos are celebrated; the libraries contain a great wealth of Byzantine manuscripts.

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