Sounion Archaeological Site (Σούνιο)




Location: 69 km (43 mi) South- east of Athens   Map

Tel. 22920 39363

Open: 9am- sunset daily


Description of Sounion Archeological Site

Sounion is an ancient Greek archeological site located 69 km (43 mi) South- east of Athens in Greece. Sounion is most famous for its beautiful Temple of Poseidon (god of oceans) that stands at Cape Sounion. The Temple of Poseidon was constructed in the 5th century BC on site of the older 8th century sanctuary that was destroyed during Persian invasion in 480 BC under leadership of king Xerxex I. Greek culture and life evolved around sea and sea trade. Needless to say that this shrine played an important role in lives of many sailors. The sanctuary was closed to all armies and all people who did not get permission from the priests. So in the ancient times it became famous as a refuge for run away slaves that escaped from Laurion silver mines near by. During Peloponnese War Sounion was well fortified to defend possessions of the Athens in their war against Sparta and its allies. The site was badly damaged by the orders of Byzantine Emperor Arcadius in 399, but much of its structure was preserved due few residents in the area. In the 1800's Sounion was visited by famous English poet George Lord Byron who left his autograph on one of the marble columns.


Ancient times
Ancient temple and fortification enclosure
The first written reference to Sounio is made by Homer, who called it "Sounion sanctuary" (Odyssey). Sophocles (Ajax 1235), Euripides (Cyclops 292), Pausanias (I, 1) and Vitruvius (IV 7) also give testimonies.

In the archaic period the sanctuary was developed a lot, something that is proved by the colossal kouros that were erected there. Three of them are found today in the National Archaeological Museum. At that time, it seems, the temple of Athena Souniados was built on a lower neighboring hill. The construction of the Porian temple of Poseidon dates back to the beginning of the 5th century. However, this temple under construction was never completed because it was destroyed by the Persians during the Median Wars. A small temple of Poseidon was built a little later, temporarily to meet 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 passage of grain from there (Thucydides VIII 4) and in fact this fort was considered the strongest in Attica, as testified by Demosthenes ("Peri Stefanou" 238), Livius ( 25) and Skylax (21). Its walls, parts of which survive to this day, were 3.5 m thick and encircled the area in a circumference of 500 m, while, every 20 meters, that wall had protective square towers. This fort was manned by a guard of soldiers of the Macedonian phalanx, which, however, was removed by Demetrius the Besieger in 307 BC. In 263 BC. The Sounion garrison resisted an attack by Antigonus Gonatas, but eventually the fort fell and a Macedonian garrison re-established itself there. The Athenians recaptured the fortress in 229 BC. when Aratos of the Achaean Confederation intervened and the commander was forced to surrender his position in exchange for money. In the period 104-100 BC, Sounion was occupied by a thousand rebellious slaves from the mines of Lavrio.

In general, the area of ​​Sounion at that time reached east to the bay of Thorikos, north of the current port of Lavrio, and from west to Anaflystos, thus occupying the Sounian extremity "the fur of Sounion" as reported by Herodotus (IV 99).

The temple of Poseidon was built of marble of Agrileza Lavrio, 4 km north of the cape of Sounion, where both the quarries are preserved in good condition, from which the marble for the construction of the temple was mined, as well as their ancient road to the cape of Sounio.

Ancient city
The ancient settlement of SounioSounion was a coastal settlement of the western bay, and the inhabitant of "Sounieus" belonged first to the Leontida tribe and later from 200 BC to the Attalida tribe. During 265 BC. Patroclus, Admiral of Ptolemy Lygidos, built on the opposite islet, today's Patroclus, also a strong fortress with the guard of which Antigonus Gonatas managed to capture Sounio in 260 BC. which was later attributed again to the Athenians by Aratos in 229 BC.

Ottoman rule
In 1762 the English poet William Falconer (1732-1769), traveling from Venice to Alexandria, was shipwrecked in the area of ​​Sounion. He described about this shipwreck and his experience in a famous poetic trilogy entitled "The shipwreck", which was well received and admired by the critics and the public of the time.