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The Temple of Poseidon – Cape Sounion

The Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion is a Doric -surrounded by collonade- temple in the southernmost cape of Attica.

  1. Modern and Contemporary era (1821 - )

    The excavations began during the late 19th century and were systematically continued until 1915.

    1884 Excavations by Dorpfeld.

    1899 First excavation by Valerios Stais on behalf of the Hellenic Archaeological Society.

    1915 Second excavation by Valerios Stais on behalf of the Hellenic Archaeological Society.

    1994 The Hellenic Archaeological Society began the most recent excavations.

  2. Ottoman era (1453- 1821)

  3. Byzantine era (331 AC- 1453)

  4. Roman era (30 BC- 330 AC)

    The sanctuary is in ruins.

  5. Hellenistic era (322- 31 BC)

  6. Classical era (478-323 BC)

    It was constructed in the mid-5th century BC from marble from the nearby Agrileza quarries by the architect that, most probably, designed Temple of Hephaestus (Thision) in Athens, as the two temples look alike.

  7. Archaic era (800-479 BC)

  8. Geometric era (-1100- 800 BC)

  9. Prehistory (-1100 BC)

What I can see

The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion is a 31.12 m long and 13.7 m wide temple in Doric order, surrounded by a colonnade (peripteros). Although a temple of Doric order, it has many Ionic influences, such as the inner Ionian frieze. Each of its short sides has 6 columns, while each of its long sides has 13. It is located at the southernmost tip of Attica, in a defensive enclosure made of porous rock and in a surrounding wall exclusively built to protect it. It was built on a plateau on purpose, in order to both dominate the area and be clearly visible from a great distance. The Roman historian Aelius writes that Sounion is like an outstretched hand beckoning and welcoming seafarers. This cape is both high and very steep, thus, extremely beautiful. Visitors have the sea just below and are invited to enjoy both sunrise and sunset in a rare landscape. Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that a temple of ionic order dedicated to Athena Sounias stands nearby.

What I can't see

The area of Sounion has been inhabited since the Prehistoric Times (Bronze Age). It is known from the period during which the Homeric epics were written. In ancient times, Sounion was a point of great economic and strategic importance because of its silver mines and the high visibility of enemy ships provided by the promontory. Thus, during the Classical Times, the Athenians established there a naval base. They also felt obliged to honour Poseidon, god of the sea. The selection of this location is probably related to the social stratification of antique city-states. Poseidon (Neptune), protector of the sea, referred directly to trade and shipping, and not to philosophy and the arts. He was, therefore, probably mostly identified with daily toiling so, perhaps, the temple’s location outside the city is not a random choice. The weather conditions at this point also played an important role. The north winds blow unceasingly in this place. It was the ideal place to appease any anger of the god. The temple was built over the ruins of a smaller, archaic period temple that its reconstruction stopped due to Persian invasion. Within the temple walls, there were houses, ship-sheds and other facilities. A set of visitor collonades also located to the west of the temple. The frieze was decorated with scenes from the Battle of the Centaurs, the Battle of the Giants and the exploits of Theseus. In recent years, foreign sailors stopping at Cape Sounion, removed parts of the temple which are currently found in the UK, Venice and Germany.


Oikonomakou M., (2010), Λαυρεωτική, [Lavreotiki], Ministry of Culture

Oikonomakou M., (2012), Ιερό Ποσειδώνος στο Σούνιο, [Sanctuary of Poseidon in Sounio], Odysseus, Ministry of Culture

Last visit 3/9/2013

Foka Ι., Valavanis P., (1994), Περίπατοι στην Αθήνα και την Αττική, τόποι, θεοί, μνημεία [Strolls in Athens and Attica, places, gods, monuments], Kedros

Camp J., (2001), The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, New Haven and London

Oikonomakou M., (2014), Sounion, in Navigating the routes of Art and Culture, Part 3, Athens, Ministry of Culture and Sports