Tag Archives: Poseidon

Poseidon’s Temple at Cape Sounion

Cape Sounion, at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, is a promontory located appr. 70 kilometres (45 mi) south-southeast of Athens, Greece. The cape is the point for ships to enter the Saronic Gulf and reach the Port of Piraeus and the city of Athens and it’s an approximate cut-off point of the Aegean Sea.

According to Greek mythology and the founding myth of the city of Athens, Cape Sounion is the spot from where King Aegeus of Athens, leapt to his death off a cliff and thus giving his name to the sea. The Aegean Sea has been the backdrop of the Greek culture since historical records exist. It’s the sea where many city-states on smaller islands flourished, where great trade took place among Hellenistic and foreign peoples. To ancient Greeks in Athens, the Aegean Sea was the window to the world of the Dardanelles and the Black Sea (Hellespont, etc) to the north, to the eastern Mediterranean Basin (Phoenicians, Egyptians, etc) and to the western Mediterranean Basin (Romans, Carthaginians, etc) The Aegean Sea was the life and the blood of the ancient Greece (and of course, of the modern Greece).

What a better place for a temple to the god of Poseidon, brother of Zeus and a major deity among the Olympian gods, and the god in charge of keeping the seas and the waters in control? Cape Sounion is the location of a majestic temple to god of the seas, a great place from where to oversee his kingdom and stay in touch with his subjects, nested atop steep cliffs of appr. 60 meter high (200 ft), a place with commandeering views and fantastic sunsets, at the crossroads of the trading routes and still, a place close enough to the city of Athens.

Archaeological finds on the site date from as early as 700 BC. The original, Archaic-period temple of Poseidon on the site, was probably destroyed in 480 BC by Persian troops during Xerxes I’s invasion of Greece. The later temple at Sounion, whose columns still stand today, was probably built ca. 440 BC. This was during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles, who also rebuilt the Parthenon in Athens. In 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans, the Athenians fortified the site with a wall and towers to prevent it from falling into Spartan hands. This would have threatened Athens’ seaborne grain supply route from Euboea.

The temple of Poseidon was constructed in 444–440 BC, over the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic period. The design of the temple is a typical hexastyle, i.e., it had a front portico with six columns. It has been hypothesized that it would have closely resembled the contemporary and well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus beneath the Acropolis, which may have been designed by the same architect.

The Poseidon building, with a southeastern orientation, is rectangular, with a colonnade on all four sides. The total number of original columns was 34; only 18 columns still stand today. The columns are of the Doric Order. They were made of locally quarried white marble. They were 6.10 m (20 ft) high, with a diameter of 1 m (3.1 ft) at the base and 79 cm (31 inches) at the top.

At the center of the temple colonnade would have been the hall of worship (naos), a windowless rectangular room, similar to the partly intact hall at the Temple of Hephaestus. It would have contained, at one end facing the entrance, the cult image, a colossal, ceiling-height (6 meters (20 ft)) bronze statue of Poseidon. Probably covered in gold leaf, it may have resembled a contemporary representation of the god, appropriately found in a shipwreck, shown in the figure above. Poseidon was usually portrayed carrying a trident, the weapon he supposedly used to stir up storms. On the longest day of the year, the sun sets exactly in the middle of the caldera of the island of Patroklos, the extinct volcano that lies a mile offshore, suggesting astrological significance for the siting of the temple. The temple of Poseidon was destroyed in 399 by Emperor Arcadius.

Archaeological excavation of the site in 1906 uncovered numerous artifacts and inscriptions, most notably a marble kouros statue known as the Sounion Kouros and an impressive votive relief, both now in the Athens National Archaeological Museum. A column from the temple can be seen in the British Museum.


Certain material on the blog has been reproduced by Wikipedia; an article on Poseidon and images of a marble statue of the god (Poseidon of Milos) from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens can be found at a previous posting on this blog.


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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east side. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Background info from the Department of Culture. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Additional background information. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east side; view of the portico. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east side; the south colonnade. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. The south colonnade. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east side; the south colonnade and the portico. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east side; the south colonnade. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east side; south colonnade and portico. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the west; south colonnade. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the west; south colonnade and partial view of the north colonnade. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. Detail of a column head from the south colonnade. The simplicity of the Doric Order is imposing. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from northwest. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from northeast. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion. As seen from the east with a typical sunset. A god would be pleased only with the very best! Image credit: Karatzas Images

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I would not mind a temple with such a view every evening! Image credit: Karatzas Images


© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Images.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

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Poseidon – The Olympian God of the Sea

According to Greek mythology and the story of the genesis of the gods of Olympus (Olympian Gods), Poseidon was the god of the sea and protector of all aquatic features. He spent most of his time in his watery domain, although he was officially one of the supreme gods of Mount Olympus. Also, while there were various rivers personified as gods, these would have been technically under Poseidon’s sway. Similarly, Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea, wasn’t really considered on a par with Poseidon, who was known to drive his chariot through the waves in unquestioned dominance. Poseidon had married Titan Oceanus‘ daughter, and sea-nymph Amphitrite.

Poseidon was a son of Cronus (the youngest of the 12 Titans) and of Cronus’s sister and consort Rhea, a fertility goddess. Poseidon was a brother of Zeus, the sky god and chief deity of ancient Greece, and of Hades, god of the underworld. When the three brothers deposed their father, the kingdom of the sea fell by lot to Poseidon. Zeus became ruler of the sky, Hades got dominion of the Underworld and Poseidon was given all water, both fresh and salt. Poseidon was widely worshipped by seamen.

His weapon and main symbol was the trident, perhaps once a fish spear, with which he could make the earth shake, causing earthquakes, and shatter any object. According to the Greek poet Hesiod, Poseidon’s trident, like Zeus’s thunderbolt and Hades’ helmet, was fashioned by the three Cyclopes. He was second to Zeus in power amongst the gods. He was considered by Greeks to have a difficult quarrelsome personality. Combined with his greed, he had a series of disputes with other gods during his various attempts to take over the cities they were patrons of.

In dividing heaven, the watery realm and the subterranean land of the dead, the Olympians agreed that the earth itself would be ruled jointly, with Zeus as king. This led to a number of territorial disputes among the gods. Poseidon vied with Athena to be patron deity of Athens. The god demonstrated his power and benevolence by striking the Acropolis with his three-pronged spear, which caused a spring of salt water to emerge. Athena, however, planted an olive tree, which was seen as a more useful favor. Her paramount importance to the Athenians is seen in her magnificent temple, the Parthenon, which still crowns the Acropolis. The people of Athens were careful, all the same, to honor Poseidon as well.

At one point , Poseidon desired Demeter. To deter him, Demeter asked him to make the most beautiful animal that the world had ever seen. So, in an effort to impress her, Poseidon created the first horse. In some accounts, his first attempts were unsuccessful and created a variety of other animals in his quest; thus, by the time the horse was created, his passion for Demeter had diminished. Poseidon himself fathered many horses, best known of which was the winged horse Pegasus by the Gorgon Medusa.

The Romans’ name for Poseidon was Neptune.


On a recent summer visit at the National Archeological Museum in Athens, we have had the opportunity to take several pictures of the statue of Poseidon of Melos. According to Wiki Commons:

The Poseidon of Melos is a statue of Poseidon in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (NAMA), with the inventory number 235, which is dated to the last quarter of the second century BC.

The statue was found in 1877 on the island of Melos. It is made of Parian marble and has a height of 2.35 metres, which makes it more than lifesize. The statue was found in several pieces, which have been reattached to one another. Portions of the left foot and of the himation are modern recreations. Parts of the nose, beard and hair are missing.

The sea god is depicted naked to the waist in an awe-inspiring pose, with his muscular right arm raised, probably in order to hold a trident (now lost). His himation hangs around his hips, covering his legs and genitals; he holds it in place at his side with his left hand. His back is also partially covered; a bit of cloth lies, mysteriously suspended, on his left shoulder. His weight rests on his right leg, his left leg is left free. The musculature of his arms and his body generally are very finely worked. The head is slightly tilted to the left and his gaze is directed into the distance. There is a dolphin behind the statue to the right, which serves as an additional support for the weight of the statue. The pose is a standard one for Poseidon, Zeus and Hades.

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Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Plaque at the base of statue ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Throwing his trident. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Detail of the head. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Detail of the dolphin by the right foot of the statue. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. Detail of left hand supported at the waist, counter-balancing the right hand’s cast of the trident. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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‘Poseidon of Melos’. View from the back. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

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Temple of the god of the sea Poseidon propitiously situated at Cape Sounion, a sharp promontory ca 65 km south of Athens. Image credit: Karatzas Images.


© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Images.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

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