Sounion: Temple of Athena

The Temple of Athena Sounias in the foreground. The temple of Poseidon is in the distance.

The temenos of Athena Sounia is built on a low hill in Sounion, a short distance from the better preserved and more visible Temple of Poseidon. Very little of the temple of Athena or the sanctuary remains on site today besides traces of foundations and bases of columns and statue.

The temple of Athena was built in 470 BCE to replace an earlier building which was destroyed early in the 6th century BCE. According to Levi (Pausanias, 9) "At least the facade of Athene's temple must have been stripped in the first century A.D. and taken to Athens for a temple in the Agora, as several of its Ionic columns and a block of cornice have been found there. In the third century they were re-used in the Valerian wall."

The temple of Athena had a colonnade on the south side that faced cape Sounion, but not on the west or north sides, giving it an unusual appearance. Its roof was supported by four columns, the bases of which are preserved along with the base of the cult statue that resided in the cella. Two of the Ionic capitals from the temple are exhibited today in the Agora Museum in Athens (see photos below).

  • A second, smaller temple in the sanctuary is surrounded by an oval enclosure and it has been associated with Artemis or the hero Phrontis, whose death at Sounion is described in Homer's Odyssey. The foundations and base of a statue made of limestone are visible at the archaeological site.

  • The two capitals from the second Temple of Athena at Sounion are exhibited at the Agora Museum. They are some of the best preserved early Ionic examples form the mainland, and their painted decoration is still visible: anthemia at the corners of the volutes, as well as a double meander and scaled pattern, and an egg-and-dart moulding at the echinus.
    460-450 BCE.

Also See: The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion


Ancient Greece Map