Legends and History of Cape Sounion in Greece
The breathtaking cliffs of Cape Sounion, which over look the Aegean Sea, is said to be the location where the King of Athens, Aegeus, leapt to his death after he was wrongfully led to believe that his son, Theseus, has perished in his fight against the Minotaur. Unbeknownst to the King, Theseus had forgotten to raise the white flag as he had said he would and had actually slain the Minotaur, returning home victorious. Cape Sounion is filled with legends and mythical tales, which along with its historical locations and sites makes it one of the most popular destinations in Greece.
Located approximately sixty-nine kilometers outside of Athens, Cape Sounion is an ancient site that was first documented in the poem The Odyssey, which was written by Homer in the eighth century. It tells the tragic tale of Odysseus, a hero in Greek mythology, who endured ten years on the ocean to make his way home to Ithaca. It is said that this traumatic journey was enforced by Poseidon, and the Temple of Poseidon is one of the most famous attractions in Cape Sounion.
Archaeological discoveries made in Cape Sounion confirm that there has most definitely been human activity on this location from as far back as 700 BCE. It was Herodotus who documented that the Athenians traveled to Cape Sounion in a sacred boat during the sixth century to celebrate the Sounion Festival. It is said that the original temple of Poseidon was constructed from tufa, and it is suspected that it was demolished by the Persians in 480 BC during their invasion. There is no actual evidence of this, but as Xerxes demolished almost every structure in the Acropolis of Athens to punish the Athenians for being defiant, it is generally believed that he was responsible for its destruction. The Athenians had their revenge shortly thereafter, defeating Xerxes at the Battle of Salamis.
The Temple of Poseidon was rebuilt in 440 BCE, and it is these columns that are still visible today. The ascendants of Pericles were responsible for the rebuilding of the temple, as well as the Parthenon, which is located in Athens. In 1906 excavations began at the Temple of Poseidon, with scientists uncovering a variety of inscriptions, artifacts and even statues. During his first visit to Greece from 1810 and 1811, Lord George Byron carved his name into the base of one of the temple columns. Today the area is a famous archeological site and monument to the flourishing communities who once lived here.