The ancient Greek temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, built during 444–440 BC,is one of the major monuments of the Golden Age of Athens. A Doric temple, it overlooks the sea at the end of Cape Sounion, at an elevation of almost 60 metres (200 ft). The temple was constructed of marble from the valley of Agrilesa, about four kilometers north of the Sounio Cape. The architect is thought to be Ictinus (or Iktinos), who built the Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient agora in Athens.
The original, Archaic-periodtemple of Poseidon on the site, which was built of tufa, was probably destroyed in 480 BC by Persian troops during Xerxes I‘s invasion of Greece. Although there is no direct evidence for Sounion, Xerxes certainly had the temple of Athena, and everything else on the Acropolis of Athens, razed as punishment for the Athenians’ defiance. After they defeated Xerxes in the naval Battle of Salamis, the Athenians placed an entire captured enemy trireme (warship with three banks of oars) at Sounion as a trophy dedicated to Poseidon.
The temple of Poseidon at Sounion was constructed in 444–440 BC. This was during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles, who also rebuilt the Parthenon in Athens. It was built on the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic period. Strabo noted:
- “Geraistos [in Euboia] . . . is conveniently situated for those who are sailing across from Asia to Attica, since it comes near to Sounion. It has a sanctuary (hieron) of Poseidon, the most notable of those in that part of the world, and also a noteworthy settlement.”