Picture Source: Wikipedia
These ancient ruins may be in a state of disarray but remains an arresting sight. The Temple of Poseidon stands on Cape Sounion at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula in Greece dates back as early as 700 BC, to a time dominated by Greek gods and goddesses.
The remnants of the temple now is what’s left standing from the one built in mid 5th century , somewhere between 444 and 440 BC, built over the ruins of its little-known predecessor from the Archaic period . It was an ambitious undertaking by Perikles, a general of Athens in the Golden Age, an influential statesman involved in the Persian and Peloponnesian wars from the powerful Alcmaeonid family. An inscription on the temple that indicates that it was dedicated to Poseidon, and was erected to closely emulate the original.
The Temple of Poseidon, built in Doric style, was not the only structure initiated by Perikles; he also ordered the erection of other famed temples like the Parthenon (in Athenian Acropolis) and the Hephaisteion (in Athens). This also explains the similarity in the structures of the three temples. It’s widely believed that all three temples share the same architect, which has a curious style of aligning the columns of the porch with the third column of the peristyle.
The temple, situated at the edge of the cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea became a place where mariners place gifts or offer animal sacrifice to Poseidon, the “God of the Sea”, to ensure safe passages on misbehaving waters.
Typical of Greek temples, the temple was rectangular bordered with a colonnade on all four sides, with 13 out of its 34 original columns still stand today. The columns ran up 20 feet high (6.1 meters) and runs around 3.1 feet (1 meter) in diameter at its bottom and 31 inches (79cm) at the top.
The temple center would have been the hall of worship, and at one end would be where Poseidon’s bronze statue stood. The temple of Poseidon was razed by Emperor Arcadius in 399. In 1906, archaeologists excavated a large number of artefacts and inscription related to the temple and two were brought to the Athens National Archaeological Museum and a column from the temple is now displayed in the British Museum.
If you visit, do look closely at the artwork on the beam that rests on top of the columns. Although badly eroded, you can still make out its mythological themes carved on white marble.
The temple of Poseidon is located around 70km south-east of Athens, which means you can make a day trip out here when visiting Athens. You can join a day tour to Cape Sounion from the city, and apart from admiring the ruins of the temple, you can gaze at the beautiful sunset and sweeping views of the Aegean Sea.
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