Saturday, April 26, 2014


Poseidons temple
   If the Athenians honored godess Athena with the Parthenon, one of two contenders for the naming of the city of Athens, at Sounion there was a temple dedicated to the second contender, Poseidon (Neptune). 
   A rock of 60 meters above the sea in the southern part of Attica or the point that one encounters when first coming to Athens.
Theseus saying goodbye to his father AEGEUS and his mother
   It's the same rock, as the legend says, Aegeus stood, waiting for his son Theseus returned from Crete, and when he saw in the distance a ship with black sails, he thought that ment his son was dead and jumped in the sea, which has since got his name, the Aegean.

   The temple of Poseidon was constructed in 444-440 BC, over the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic Period. It is perched above the sea at a height of almost 60 m. The design of the temple is a typical hexastyle i.e. it had a front portico with 6 columns. Only some columns of the Sounion temple stand today, but intact 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.
 Temple of Hephaestus beneath the Acropolis
   As with all Greek temples, the Poseidon building was rectangular, with a colonnade on all four sides. The total number of original columns was 34, 
15 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.
The Artemision Bronze, a bronze statue of deity, either Poseidon or Zeus, about to hurl (missing) bolt. Height: 2.1 m. ca. 460 BC. Found in shipwreck off Cape Artemisium. Athens National Archaeological Museum
   At the centre 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 Hephaistos. It would have contained, at one end facing the entrance, the cult image, a colossal, ceiling - height (6m) bronze statue of Poseidon. Probably gold-leafed, 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 Patroklou, the extinct volcano that lies 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.
Sounion Kouros 
Byron inscription
   The inscribed name of the famous Romantic poet George Lord Byron, carved into the base of one of the columns of the Temple of Poseidon, possibly dates from his first visit to Greece, on his Grand Tour of Europe, before he acquired fame. 
   Byron spent several months in 1810-11 in Athens, including two documented visits to Sounion.
 The inscription
   Byron mentions Sounion in his poem Isles of Greece:

   "Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
    Where nothing, save the waves and I,

    May hear our mutual murmurs sweep..."

Heidegger's Visit
   The philosopher Martin Heidegger visited Sounion during his journey to Greece in 1962, as described in his book Sojourns. He refers to the "gleaming-white ruins of the temple". In the strong sea breeze "these few standing columns were the strings of an invisible lyre, the song of which the far-seeing Delian god let resonate over the Cycladic world of islands".    He marvels at "the way that this single gesture of the land suggests the invisible nearness of the divine and dedicates to it every growth and every human work".
   He goes on to reflect "the people of this country knew how to inhabit and demarcate the world against the barbarous in honour of the seat of the gods. ...they knew how to praise what is great and by acknowledging it, to bring themselves in front of the sublime, founding, in this way, a world".

The music in the video is "Titanes" by Vangelis.
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