Overview of Temple of Poseidon

The Temple of Poseidon is an ancient Greek temple located on the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, in the city of Sounion. Dedicated to the sea god Poseidon, the temple was built in the 5th century BCE during the Golden Age of Athens. It was a significant religious center and a hub of maritime trade in ancient Greece.

The temple's architectural design follows the standard Greek temple structure, with columns surrounding the main cella or sanctuary. The temple's imposing size and grandeur are a testament to the power and wealth of Athens during the 5th century BCE. Despite being partially destroyed by war and earthquakes over the centuries, the temple's ruins still stand tall, displaying the architectural brilliance of ancient Greece.

The Temple of Poseidon is steeped in myths and legends, adding to its cultural and historical significance. According to Greek mythology, Poseidon was the god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses. The temple was a site of worship for the god, and sailors believed that offerings and sacrifices made at the temple would protect them from Poseidon's wrath during their voyages. Additionally, the temple's cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea is believed to be the site where King Aegeus of Athens took his life after mistakenly assuming that his son Theseus had died in battle.

Today, the Temple of Poseidon is a popular tourist destination and a testament to the rich cultural heritage of ancient Greece. Visitors can take in the breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea from the temple's cliff, explore the temple ruins, and learn about the fascinating myths and legends associated with the temple. The Temple of Poseidon remains a symbol of the magnificent architectural and cultural achievements of ancient Greece and continues to inspire awe and wonder in visitors from all over the world.

History of Temple of Poseidon

Habitation at the Sounion
Habitation at the Sounion

The fortress and sanctuaries at Sounion were a part of the deme, or municipality, of Sounion which was established during the state reorganization by Kleisthenes in 510 BCE. The deme was a part of the Leontis tribe and encompassed the area between Lavrion, Megala Pefka, Kamariza (Agios Konstantinos), and the cape. The fortress served as the center of the deme, and other remains of the settlement have been found in the surrounding area. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Graves from the Early Bronze Age period (3rd millennium BCE) have been discovered on the cape, and a cemetery from the classical period is located on the shore where the church of Saint Peter stands. Additionally, a settlement from the Roman era is situated west of the church.

Also Visit - Beaches Near Temple Of Poseidon

Travelers and archaeologists at Sounion
Travelers and archaeologists at Sounion

Foreign travelers, including G. Wheler (1676), J.-D. Le Roy (1754), R. Chandler (1765), E. Dodwell (1805), and A. Blouet (1829), visited the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion in the 17th century and later, and were struck by the romantic beauty of the ruined temple. Many of these visitors, including Lord Byron in 1810, even engraved their names on the marble columns. In 1797, Blouet and other members of the Dilettanti Society attempted to study the ruins and conducted partial excavations of the sanctuary gateway. In 1884, the archaeologist-architect W. Dorpfeld began scholarly investigations of the temple, and from 1897 to 1913, Valerios Staes excavated the temple, wall, and settlement systematically with the support of the Archaeological Society in Athens. 

Must Checkout - Places To Visit Near Temple Of Poseidon

Restored and Rebuilt
Restored and Rebuilt

Restoration work on the temple has been ongoing since 1875 and the present state of the temple is a result of the work conducted in the 1950s by the Greek Archaeological Service, under the guidance of the expert architect-archaeologist Anastasios Orlandos. In 2011-2013, the Ministry of Culture and Sports completed the project "Arrangement of the Archaeological Site of Sounion," which was co-financed by Greece and the European Union (ERDF), allowing visitors to fully appreciate the composite and important character of Sounion for the city-state of Athens.

Also Read - FAQ's For Temple Of Poseidon

Sanctuary of Poseidon at Sounion
Sanctuary of Poseidon at Sounion

The Sanctuary of Poseidon at Sounion has a rich history dating back to ancient times. The temple, built in the 5th century BC, was part of the deme of Sounion, which was reorganized by Kleisthenes in 510 BC. From the 17th century, foreign travelers visited the ruins of the temple, viewing them in a romantic mood. The scholarly investigation of the Poseidon temple started in 1884 by the archaeologist-architect W. Dorpfeld, with the restoration works ongoing since 1875. In recent years, the Ministry of Culture and Sports carried out a project to arrange the archaeological site of Sounion, making the site more accessible to visitors.

Visit & Checkout - Places To Eat Near Temple Of Poseidon

Architecture of Temple of Poseidon

Architecture of Temple of Poseidon

The Temple of Poseidon is a remarkable example of ancient Greek architecture. It is designed with a hexastyle layout, featuring six Doric columns on the front portico that are made of white marble quarried from the Laureotic Olympus hill. The columns are slender at the top, creating an illusion of greater height. With 6 columns on each end and 13 on each long side, the temple has a grand and imposing appearance.

The rectangular shape of the temple and the frieze that depicts the tale of Theseus and the Battle of Centaurs bear a striking resemblance to the well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus. The hall of worship, located just beyond the colonnade, is a windowless rectangular room that served as the main sanctuary. It once housed a magnificent 5-meter tall bronze statue of Poseidon, the god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses in Greek mythology.

The temple's frieze, which tells the story of Theseus and the Battle of Centaurs, is a masterpiece of ancient Greek art. The intricate carvings and detailed scenes on the frieze depict the mythological battle between Theseus, the legendary king of Athens, and the fierce Centaurs. The frieze adds to the cultural and historical significance of the Temple of Poseidon, and is a testament to the artistic and creative achievements of ancient Greece.

Must Visit - Plan Your Visit

Mythology Behind the Temple of Poseidon

Mythology Behind the Temple of Poseidon

The Temple of Poseidon holds a significant place in Greek mythology, with several myths and legends associated with it. One such myth tells the tragic story of King Aegeus of Athens, who is believed to have ended his life at the temple's cliff. Aegeus anxiously waited at the cliff, gazing out to sea, hoping for his son Theseus and his army's safe return. However, upon sighting a ship with black sails, he presumed that his son had died at the hands of the Minotaur, leading him to jump off the cliff to his death. In reality, Theseus had emerged victorious, but had forgotten to replace the black sails with white ones, resulting in the tragic demise of the King.

The epic Odyssey by Homer mentions that Sounion was the site where King Menelaus of Sparta buried his helmsman, adding to the temple's historical significance. Sailors of ancient times believed that offering animal sacrifices and making offerings at the Temple of Poseidon would protect them from the god's wrath and keep them safe during their voyages, highlighting the temple's importance as a spiritual sanctuary.

Also Checkout - Cape Sounion & Temple Of Poseidon Afternoon English Tour

Faqs for Temple of Poseidon

When was the Temple of Poseidon built?

    The temple was built in the 5th century BCE during the Golden Age of Athens.

What is the architectural design of the Temple of Poseidon?

How was the temple used in ancient times?

What was the significance of offering sacrifices at the Temple of Poseidon?

What are the myths associated with the Temple of Poseidon?

Explore Temple Of Poseidon