The ancient Greeks carefully chose the location of their temples. This is very evident at Cape Soúnion (Akrotírio Soúnio), 70 km south of Athens, where the Temple of Poseidon was built in 444 BCE on a spur of rock overlooking the sea. The temple was built with the local marble called "Agrilesa" and its columns - of which 16 are still standing - are in the Doric style. It is thought to be the work of Ictino, the architect of the Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora of Athens.
Sounion has been recognized since prehistoric times as a special place of worship, and was an important sanctuary during the Greek archaic, classical and Hellenistic periods. On the promontory there are two sanctuaries: the Temple of Poseidon and the Sanctuary of Athena. The ruins as we see them today are the result of the restoration work that took place during the 5th century BCE and replaced a succession of buildings dating back to the Archaic period. Linked to this place there is also a legend that is among the most famous of the antiquity period: the Aegean king was waiting right here for the return of his son Theseus, who had left to fight the Minotaur on the island of Crete. Aegeus made his son promise to raise a white sail on his ship if his mission had been victorious. For this reason, when the Aegean king saw a black sail on Theseus's ship, he thought he was dead and jumped into the sea. Instead, Theseus had really killed the Minotaur, but he had forgotten to change the sail. In short, the death of Aegeus was the result but it gave him immortality since the sea has his name since then.
The fortifications were built by the Athenians between 413 and 412 BCE, at the height of the Peloponnesian war, when the Spartans with their allies were a constant threat to Attica. From the temple a series of steps led to the sea where the triremes were kept sheltered inside a double pier.
Cape Sounion is located on the southern tip of Attica; to get there you can take a KTEL suburban bus that leaves Athens from Aigyptou square or travel by car along the coast via Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and Lagonisi. You will be struck by the views of the sea and the islands of the Saronic Gulf.
The entrance ticket to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion costs: €8 whole, €4 reduced for those over 65 and for students, with a card that certifies their status, free for those under 18. The Temple of Poseidon is closed on these days: January 1st, March 25th, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, May 1st, Easter, December 25th and 26th. The opening hours are: during the winter from 9:30 am to sunset in the summer from 9 am to 7pm.
Cover picture credits © iStock/dislentev
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