Athens – The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

Some legends have to be told, for they are the reasons places exist today. Sounion is legend.

Back in the Age of Heroes, the Athenians had to send a selected number of youths to Crete as a tribute, where King Minos in Knossos had them thrown into the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur.

Theseus, the hero of this legend, volunteered to go and kill the Minotaur, which he did. But no-one knew if he could, so a special signal was devised to give advance notice on the ship’s return: change the normal black sail for a white one to proclaim success. Such was the unbounded joy at successfully escaping Crete that the crew forgot to change the sail.

Looking out for the return of the ship sat Aegeus, Theseus’ father, at the very tip of Cape Sounion, the first land of Attica that you see when sailing in towards Athens. Seeing the black sail, not knowing of course that Theseus was alive and well, Aegeus threw himself from the steep rocks and perished in the sea below. That is how the Aegean Sea got its name, so there are two legends for you.

The Temple of Poseidon stands where Aegeus desperately awaited news of his son. For the ancients, it was a sacred place to make offering and thanks to the potent, quick-tempered God of the Sea.

The temple of Poseidon was constructed in approx. 440 B.C., over the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic Period. It is perched above the sea at a height of almost 60 m. The design of the temple is a typical hexastyle i.e. it had a front portico with 6 columns.

Only some columns of the Sounion temple stand today, but intact it would have closely resembled the contemporary and well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus beneath the Acropolis, which may have been designed by the same architect.

“Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep, Where nothing, save the waves and I, May hear our mutual murmurs sweep…”

Lord Byron

For us, what is unforgettably spectacular is the broken ruin, the luminous light and the most incredible view over Homer’s wine-dark sea. Especially at sunset.

All Photos & Video © Nicholas V.K. – All Rights Reserved.