Temple of Poseidon at Sounio | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Temple of Poseidon at Sounio

Kato Sounio, Attica, Greece

Tristan Hughes

21 Feb 2021

About Temple of Poseidon at Sounio

The Temple of Poseidon of Sounio is a picturesque ruin of a 5th century BC Greek temple dedicated to the deity of the sea.

History of The Temple of Poseidon

The Temple itself was constructed in the mid 5th century BC, at roughly the same time as the Parthenon and the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. Made of marble mined from nearby Agrileza and dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the Temple of Poseidon of Sounio is now made up of a rectangle of restored large Doric columns. Hexastyle in its original design (6 columns in width x 13 columns in length), only 16 of the original 38 columns remain.

Activity had been occurring on the site long before the construction of this major monument, with the site also having some mythological links. Aegeus, the legendary father of Theseus, was said to have thrown himself from the cliffs above Cape Sounio when he saw his son’s ship returning from Crete hoisting black sails. Theseus and Aegeus had agreed that the former would hoist white sails on his return if he had been successful, but that his men would hoist black sails if Theseus had failed and died during his famous Minotaur mission.
Theseus forgot to change the sails’ colour, leading Aegeus to wrongly believe that his son had been killed during his quest. He consequently threw himself from the cliffs into the sea. It was Aegeus’ suicide that supposedly gave the sea its name: the Aegean Sea.

Away from mythology, the site at Sounio appears to have had religious significance since the Bronze Age. During the Archaic Period, another Temple of Poseidon had been present on top of this cliff. Built of tufa, it may well have been destroyed by the Persian King Xerxes in 480 BC, following his sacking of the Acropolis at Athens. This destruction ultimately paved the way for the building of the monumental marble temple, the remains of which you can see today.

The Temple of Poseidon

Today, only part of the Temple remains intact, but these ruins are still a must see site for anyone touring the eastern part of mainland Greece. For truly spectacular views this partially-ruined Greek temple is hard to beat. If you can catch it at sunset, then the scene will be complete.

The Temple was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, as part of Ancient Lavrion.

Getting to Temple of Poseidon at Sounio

The Temple is roughly an hour out from Athens (a 70km drive), heading southwest, and there are several tour operators offering half-day trips.

Parking is available near the entrance to the Temple, but be wary that it can fill up very quickly at sunset as visitors arrive to see the Temple at its best. Between the parking and the Temple itself is a small hill that you will have to climb to reach the spectacular remains.

The Temple is roughly 300 metres from the entrance to the archaeological site.

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