The most complete information guide about Athens, Greece

The Temple of Poseidon


Temples in the sunset


The Athenians built sanctuaries to their two most important deities, Poseidon and Athena, on the rocky peninsula that projects into the sea at the south-east tip of Attica. The Temple of Poseidon, god of the sea, was built on the summit of the rock, which rises 60 meters above the sea. It is surrounded by fortification walls. Two temples to Athena Sounias were erected at a lower level.

The peninsula of Sounio (old name: Sounion) was inhabited from the prehistoric period. There seems to have been some form of cult in Mycenaean times since Homer is the first to describe Sounio as “sacred”. He relates that on the journey back from Troy, Menelaus buried his steersman Phrontis here.The sanctuary of Sounio

The excavations at the beginning of the 19th century revealed that there was an organized sanctuary here in de Geometric period (tenth to seventh century BC) and some of the earliest kouroi (boy statues) of Greek art were erected in the open-air sanctuary of Poseidon in the early 6th century BC. These kouroi are now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The sanctuary of Sounio, with its strong fortress, was directly connected with the metal-bearing region of Lavreotiki. In the mountain at Lavrion, many ancient mining installations are preserved and there are marble quarries in the area of Agrileza which supplied the material for the Temple of Poseidon.

The Temple of Posseidon as it used to beTemple of Poseidon

The construction of the Temple of Poseidon and the propylon (entrance) leading to it, began in the early 5th century BC. It was of poros, a very majestic structure befitting the great god of the sea whose cult was becoming increasingly important with the growth of Athenian naval power.

This temple was destroyed during the Persian invasion however before it could be completed. Another was erected on its site, a marble Doric peripteral temple with 6 times 13 columns. There was a frieze above the cella (main inner room) as well as on the interior of the pteron with scenes from a centauromachy (battle with the centaurs) and a gigantomachy (battle with the giants). Parts of this frieze are in the Lavrion Museum.

On the north side of the enclosure wall built around the temple, was an entrance with a monumental propylon and there were stoas on the west and south sides to cater for visitors. The entire sanctuary was encircled by a strong defense wall which prevented access from the north and from the west.

In 412 BC, during the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians strengthened the fortress, which occupied a strategic position, from which it commanded the entrance to the Saronic and South Euboea gulfs and protected the whole of southern Attica. In 332 BC it was captured by the Macedonians who were expelled by Demetrios Poliorketes in 307 BC. Despite Athenian resistance, it fell into the hands of the Macedonians once more in 263 BC to be retaken by the Athenians in 229 BC.

In the years 104-100 BC, a thousand revolted slaves from the silver mines at Lavrion established themselves at Sounio. The traveler Pausanias, who visited Sounio in the second century AD, mentions only the temple of Athena in his “Attika”. In the centuries that followed, the sanctuary was abandoned. Top

Sanctuary of Athena Sounias

The sanctuary of Athena Sounias is on a lower hill, about 400 meters to the north-west of the headland. Two temples to Athena are preserved within a polygonal enclosure. The earlier small temple (600-550 BC), consists of a rectangular cella with two Doric columns on the front. The base of the cult statue of Athena is preserved at the rear of the cella. There was a small altar in front of the temple. After this was destroyed by the Persians, a new larger temple was built, similar to the earlier one but with two Ionic colonnades added to the east and the south sides.

Sunset in SounioAn irregular circular enclosure near the temples is probably to be identified with the sanctuary of Phrontis. At the west end of the headland, two ship sheds, protected by the fortification wall, are preserved. They consist of two slipways (deep long cuttings in the rock) on which a wooden structure rested that protected the bottom of the ships when they were dragged out of the sea. The ships were kept here for use in case of emergency.

Sounio not only is famous for it sanctuaries but also for its fantastic sunsets. At dusk, hundreds of tourists gather at the temple of Poseidon to watch the sun go down in always changing colors of yellow, red and orange.

Info and booking this tour Info and booking an excursion to Sounio
Opening hours Opening hours and admission
See our Greek gloassary for explanation of typical words.
Photo gallery Photos of Sounio Top



Bookmark Buttons
Bookmark with  Facebook Bookmark with  Oneview Bookmark with  Linkarena Bookmark with  Seekxl Bookmark with  Mr. Wong Bookmark with  Folkd Bookmark with  Digg Bookmark with Bookmark with  StumbleUpon Bookmark with  Blinklist Bookmark with  Technorati Bookmark with  Ma.Gnolia

































    © 2004-2009 - Athens Info Guide - All rights reserved - Disclaimer