One of the first sites often visited by those on a Greece tour is the famed Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, which is found along the coastal road along the southeastern tip of the Attica prefecture. Cape Sounion is a popular destination, not only because of the remnants of the once great temple, but also because a number of great Greece beaches can be accessed along the route from Athens, and sunsets on the Saronic Gulf can be quite breathtaking. If you have rented a car in Greece, or have found a company offering tours to Cape Sounion, then by all means make a break for the Temple of Poseidon for an unforgettable trip that mixes history with sightseeing. You’ll appreciate the positioning of the temple on a section of headland surrounded almost entirely by the Aegean Sea.
The Temple of Poseidon was built atop the ruins of a previous temple in the year 440 BC. The original temple was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. It is rumored that the architect who designed the Temple of Hephaistos at the ancient agora in Athens is the same that designed the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion Greece. While the Temple of Hephaistos is better preserved, the Temple of Poseidon still retains several standing columns and it is easily understood how impressive it must once have been. During its heyday, the Temple of Poseidon in ancient Greece would have had 42 Doric columns, of which 16 remain today. The temple was made of marble found nearby and once housed a large statue of Poseidon in its main hall.
Poseidon was the Greek Mythology god of the seas, and it only seems fitting that a temple built to honor him should be found at water’s edge. In ancient Greece, religion was based around the belief that different gods controlled various aspects of the natural world. To ensure good fortune, one would either pray, bear gifts or make sacrifices to the various gods in order to appease them. Although the Greek gods were immortal and had special powers, they were prone to experiencing the same emotions as humans. It was thus deemed necessary that they be kept happy.
Greece’s history has
always been closely tied to the waters that surround much
of its coastline. Ancient cultures in Greece
relied heavily on the sea for commercial and spiritual
purposes. It would only make sense then that the
Greek god of the sea would hold a great deal of respect
among ancient Greeks. Poseidon was very powerful,
second only to Zeus, and he was believed to be the controller
of storms. Mix storms with the non-technically sound
boats in ancient Greece and you have the recipe for disaster.
Hence the need, or desire, to appeal to the god of the
sea. The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion was
a place where sailors and governing bodies alike could
honor Zeus by offering gifts or making animal sacrifices.
There is a legend that claims that King Aegeus of Athens
leapt to his death at Cape Sounion when he saw his son’s
ship returning from Crete with
a black sail on it. Supposedly, he thought this
meant his son had died in a battle with the Minotaur.
Near the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion there are
the remains of a sanctuary that was built to honor Athena.
Having been a popular place for tourists for quite some
time, the columns of the Temple of Poseidon have accumulated
quite a bit of graffiti over the past couple of centuries.
Supposedly, the romantic poet, Lord Byron, inscribed his
name here during one of his documented visits to Cape
Sounion Greece. You can visit Cape Sounion and the
Temple of Poseidon every day of the year, and it is generally
open from 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The cost to enter
the site is around $5.50 for adults. It is free
for those under 18 years of age and students from the
European Union. Supposedly, there is an inter-city
bus from Athens that leaves for Cape Sounion every hour
from Egyptou Square. When it returns to Athens,
it makes a stop at Filellinon Street, which is close to Syntagma Square.
From there you can access many of the city’s best attractions, including
the Parliament Building, the nearby Acropolis,
and the Benaki Museum.