Sounio (Greece, Mainland, Attica)

Archaeological Site of  Sounion (Temple of Poseidon)

Sounion is known for its important geographical position and also because of the ruins of the ancient temple of Poseidon located in it.  The sanctuary of Poseidon is one of the most important sights and archaeological sites of Attica.

Archaeological Site of Sounion located at about 70 km from Athens, is the name of the Cape at the southernmost tip of the prefecture of Attica, with a rocky and steep coast.  It rises almost vertically from the sea to a great height, forming at its foot a small bay, which is separated from a different eastern cove by an isthmus.     In recent years, the wider region due to its environmental value was declared a national park, and along with its Archaeological Site is a must visit for the tourist visitors of Athens.

Sounio (Greece, Mainland, Attica)

The Temple of Poseidon in Sounio

 

The Ancient temple of Sounion Cape and its fortifications

The first written report on Sounio is made by Homer, who called it the Sounion Temple.  Specifically, he mentions that Menelaus, on his return journey from Troy, stopped to bury the captain of his ship, a man named  Frontis.    According to the myth, as reported in Odyssey (c 276-285), he died from Apollo’s arrows and was buried in Sounion. 

In the NW of the Sounion temple of Athena there is an enclosure that belonged to the temple of Athena, possibly defining a sanctuary which was probably devoted to an early goddess or a hero, perhaps the lost steersman ‘Frontis’,  who was worshiped as a hero there from the ancient times.

The ancient temple as well as the depositor (*the excavation trench SE of the Athenian temple) with the older findings are witnesses of an ancient cult that began in the area of the sanctuary of Athena, (according to some historians, from the Mycenaean era).    The depositor is a 15m deep excavation trench SE of the temple of Athena with unspecified use but it seems to have been used for the deposition of old worshiper offerings dated at least from the 9th century BC.

The myth also claims that the name of Helen’s island (*Macronesos) is mentioned in Pausanias (1.35.1), since Helen of Troy was the first Greek to have set foot on that territory.       During the Archaic period, the sanctuary was developed very much, as evidenced by the colossal kouros that was built there.

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

 

The Sounion Fortress Walls

Its walls, parts of which are still preserved, were 3.5 m thick and circularly enclosed the area at a 500 m circumference, while at 20 meters this wall had protective square towers. This fort was manned by a troop guard of the Macedonian phalanx, but it was removed by Demetrios Poliorcetes in 307 BC.  In 263 BC the Sounion’s guard resisted the assault of Antigonus Gonatas, but eventually, the fort fell and a Macedonian garrison was reinstated there.

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

 

The temple of Athena Sounias

During the Archaic period, the sanctuary was developed very much, as evidenced by the colossal kouros revealed that it was built there. Three of those found today at the National Archaeological Museum were found. At that time, it seems, the temple of Athena Sounias was built on a lower neighboring hill. The construction of the portic temple of Poseidon dates back to the early 5th century. However, the temple under construction was never completed because it was destroyed by the Persians during the Medieval Wars.

 

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

 

The Sounion Fortress Walls

The Athenians recaptured the fortress in 229 BC. when the Arato of the Achaic Confederacy intervened and the commander was forced to deliver his position in exchange for money. In the period 104-100 BC, Sounion captured a thousand rebellious slaves from the Lavrion mines. In general, the southern region of Sounion reached east to the bay of Thorikon, north of the current port of Lavrion, and west to Anaflousto, thus occupying the Sunni ends “the horse of Souniokon” as Herodotus (IV 99) mentions.

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO (limestone masonry)

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO (limestone masonry)

 

The small temple of Poseidon

A small temple of Poseidon was built a little later, temporarily to cover the needs of worship. In 444 BC the Athenians built the newest temple of Poseidon. Sounion was fortified during the 9th year of the Peloponnesian War to protect the transit of the wheat carts (Thucydides VIII 4), and this fort was considered to be the strongest of Attica, as witnessed by Demosthenes (238 Peri Stefanou, 238), Livios (XXXI 25) and Skylax (21).

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO  (Temple of Poseidon)

 

The temple of Poseidon and its marble columns

The temple of Poseidon was made of marble of Agrileszas Lavrion, about 4 km north of the Cape of Sounio, where all the quarries which mined the marble for the construction of the temple and the ancient road to the cape of Sounio.

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO

Archaeological Site of SOUNIO

 

The site of Sounio as National Park

A harmonious sequence of wooded hills, rocky slopes and small ravines that end up on a rocky cape over which the beautiful Temple of Poseidon stands for centuries.

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The Sounion National Park is located at the southeastern edge of Attica and stretches from north to south on a long stretch of land embracing the sea.

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