Pursuing Byron at The Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion
It has been a schoolboy dream to visit this place (yeah, I know; I was, and am still, a bit of a classics geek): the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion (the southern tip of Attica, just below Athens). There’s not a lot of it left sadly. But it is one of the most spectacular spots for any building, let alone one of such antiquity and distinction. Having had an action-packed but positive few days doing some Langham teaching in Athens, it was a joy to get out to the cape for Monday morning, followed by a great seafood lunch with good friends overlooking the Aegean.
This is of course a special place mythologically. Quoting Wiki on Sounion:
According to legend, Cape Sounion is the spot where Aegeus, king of Athens, leapt to his death off the cliff, thus giving his name to the Aegean Sea. The story goes that Aegeus, anxiously looking out from Sounion, despaired when he saw a black sail on his son Theseus‘s ship, returning from Crete. This led him to believe that his son had been killed in his contest with the dreaded Minotaur, a monster that was half man and half bull. The Minotaur was confined by its owner, King Minos of Crete, in a specially designed labyrinth. Every year, the Athenians were forced to send 7 men and 7 women to Minos as tribute. These youths were placed in the labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur. Theseus had volunteered to go with the third tribute and attempt to slay the beast. He had agreed with his father that if he survived the contest, he would hoist a white sail. In fact, Theseus had overcome and slain the Minotaur, but tragically had simply forgotten about the white sail.
So what a thrill to stand at the bay into which Theseus once sailed. Here are a few snaps (others are here):
To top it all, we managed to identify where the infamous and generally dangerous to know Byron etched his name on one of the columns (though the local guide on hand to answer questions seemed rather put out that this was all I asked for – I guess everyone asks to see it.) Anyway, just for fun, I photoshopped a highlight of it.
As is clear, he was certainly not the only one to indulge in a little antiquity defacement.
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…