Temple of Poseidon
There is evidence of a Neolithic presence on Cape Sounion from finds dating as early as 700 BCE.
An early temple dedicated to Poseidon had been built on the site, but was destroyed by the Persians during the wars around 480 BCE.
Greece, as maritime nation, held the God of the ocean Poseidon, in very high esteem, considering him second only to Zeus, within the Greek pantheon. Poseidon had however been the God of destruction and earthquakes before being given control of the oceans, and was credited with the destruction of the Minoan civilisation, when Thera erupted.
After the Persian wars ended, as a thanks to the Gods two temples were built on the site, one dedicated to the Goddess Athena (patron of Athens) and one to Poseidon God of the oceans. Poseidon's consort was Amphitrite a Sea Nymph, although he fathered many children with many women, including his sister Demeter with whom he fathered a girl and a horse.
This was about the same time as the Parthenon was built about 440 BCE, and whilst only some of its locally quarried white marble Doric columns still stand it is most impressive in this natural setting. Its design can be seen compared with the similar contemporary Temple of Hephaestus which stands in the agora below the Acropolis in Athens, and is much better preserved.
The temple was said to contain a twenty foot high gold plated statue of Poseidon holding his trident.
Little remains of the temple of Athena, but the temple of Poseidon still dominates the sea, standing some 60 metres high on the promontory. A curtain wall and towers were later built on the landward side in 413 BCE to fortify it during the Spartan wars.
It was from Cape Sounion that Aegeus, King of Athens, threw himself to his death in the sea which is now named after him (Aegean). He had been watching from the headland for the return of his son Theseus who had journeyed to Crete where he killed the Minotaur in the labyrinth at Knossos, but following a misunderstanding he believed his son to have died in the attempt. Poseidon is also thought to be the father of Theseus!