A wonderful route in the Athenian Riviera, the coastal avenue that connects Athens with Cape Sounio, will give us the chance to admire beautiful beaches, small bays and islands. Cape Sounio is about 70km away from Athens and is located on the southern edge of Attica. The Temple of Poseidon is on the top of the edge of the cape. Built in about 400 BC, it overlooks the water entrance of Saronikos Bay.
The temple is of Doric style and was built in the 5th Century BC, supposedly on the location of an even older temple. You are not allowed to enter the temple any longer and it is roped off but you can get close enough to appreciate it and even read the graffiti carved on the ancient columns, some of it hundreds of years old. Lord Byron is in there somewhere and if you have binoculars and a camera with a large zoom you can get a photo of it as did traveler Steven Christensen did: Lord Byron’s Graffiti. Once you get up there you will understand how it is possible that a class full of 9th graders could be so distracted and the temple could hold our interest only fleetingly. The view is incredible. You can see the islands of Kea, Kythnos and clear over to the Peloponessos with ships and fishing boats passing by.
Soúnio has been a sacred site since very ancient times. The “sanctuary of Sounion” is first mentioned in the Odyssey, as the place where Menelaus stopped during his return from Troy to bury his helmsman, Phrontes Onetorides.
Archaeological evidence has shown that there were two organized places of worship on the cape by the 7th century BC: a sanctuary of Poseidon at the southern edge and a sanctuary of Athena about 500 m to the northeast.
Construction on a grand Temple of Poseidon began around 500 BC but was never completed; the temple and all the votive offerings were destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. The Temple of Poseidon that now stands at Soúnio was built in 444 BC atop the older temple ruins. The Temple of Athena was also built at this time, atop her ancient sanctuary on the cape.
The sanctuaries began to decline from the 1st century BC onwards. Pausanias, who sailed along the coast around 150 AD, wrongly believed the prominent temple on the hill was the Temple of Athena.
Modern travellers visited Sounion long before excavations started on the site, including Lord Byron in 1810. Systematic excavations began on the site in 1897 and continue today.
Wear comfortable clothes and trainers, also a hat and sunglasses. Photographing of the sites is allowed.