Sounio (Temple of Poseidon):
The Ancient Greeks certainly knew how to choose a site for a temple. Nowhere is this more evident than at Cape Sounion, 70km south of Athens, where the Temple of Poseidon stands on a cliff that plunges 65m down to the sea. Built in 444 BCE – at the same time as the Parthenon – it is constructed of local marble from Agrilesa, its slender columns, of which 16 remain, are Doric. It is thought that the temple was built by Iktinos, the architect of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens’ Ancient Agora.
It looks gleaming white when viewed from the sea, which gave great comfort to sailors in ancient times: they knew they were nearly home when they saw the first glimpse of white, far off in the distance. The views from the temple are equally impressive: on a clear day, you can see Kea, Kythnos and Serifos to the southeast, and Aegina and the Peloponnese to the west. The site also contains scant remains of a propylaeum, a fortified tower and, to the northeast, a 6th-century temple to Athena. Visit early in the morning before the tourist buses arrive or head there for sunset to enact Byron’s lines from Don Juan:
‘Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep
Where nothing save the waves and I
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep.’
Byron was so impressed by Sounion that he carved his name on one of the columns.