A popular day trip from Athens, Greece, is to head over to the Aegean Sea and visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
The remains of this ancient temple are surrounded on three sides by water and supposedly the site where Aegeus, the King of Athens, jumped off the ledge to his death. (Hence the name of the body of water.)
While at the ruins, look for the engraving “Lord Byron,” the name of an English poet.
Cape Sounion is about 43 miles southeast of Athens.
Who Was Poseidon?
Here's a quick introduction to one of the major gods of Greece, Poseidon.
Poseidon's appearance: Poseidon is a bearded, older man usually pictured with seashells and other sea life. Poseidon often holds a trident. If he has no attribute, he can sometimes be confused with statues of Zeus, who is also presented similarly in art. It's no surprise; they are brothers.
Poseidon's symbol or attribute: The three-pronged trident. He is associated with horses, seen in the crashing of waves on the shore. He is also believed to be the force behind earthquakes, an odd expansion of the power of a sea god, but possibly due to the association between earthquakes and tsunamis in Greece. Some scholars believe he was first a god of the earth and earthquakes and only later took on the role of sea god.
Major temple sites to visit: The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion still draws huge crowds of visitors to the cliffside site overlooking the sea.
His statue also dominates one of the galleries at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. Poseidon's strengths: He is a creative god, designing all the creatures of the sea. He can control waves and ocean conditions.
Poseidon's weaknesses: Warlike, though not so much as Ares; moody and unpredictable.
Spouse: Amphitrite, a sea goddess.
Children: Many, second only to Zeus in the number of illicit liaisons. With his wife, Amphitrite, he fathered a half-fish son, Triton. Dalliances include Medusa, with whom he fathered Pegasus, the flying horse, and Demeter, his sister, with whom he fathered a horse, Arion.
The basic story: Poseidon and Athena were in a competition for the love of the people of the area around the Acropolis. It was decided that the divinity who created the most useful object would win the right to have the city named for them. Poseidon created horses (some versions say a spring of salt water), but Athena created the incredibly useful olive tree, and so the capital of Greece is Athens, not Poseidonia.
Interesting fact: Poseidon is often compared or combined with the Roman god of the sea, Neptune. In addition to creating horses, he is also credited with the creation of the zebra, believed to be one of his early experiments in equine engineering.
Poseidon is featured prominently in the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" books and movies, where he is the father of Percy Jackson.
He shows up in most movies relating to the Greek gods and goddesses.
The predecessor to Poseidon was the Titan Oceanus. Some images mistaken for Poseidon may represent Oceanus instead.
Other names: Poseidon is similar to the Roman god Neptune. Common misspellings are Poseidon, Posiden, Poseidon. Some believe the original spelling of his name was Poteidon and that he was originally the husband of a more powerful early Minoan goddess known as Potnia the Lady.
Poseidon in literature: Poseidon is a favorite of poets, both ancient and more modern. He may be mentioned directly or by allusion to his myths or appearance. One well-known modern poem is C. P. Cavafy's "Ithaca," which mentions Poseidon. Homer's "Odyssey" mentions Poseidon frequently, as the implacable enemy of Odysseus. Even his patron goddess Athena cannot protect him entirely from the wrath of Poseidon.
More Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses
- The 12 Olympians - Gods and Goddesses
- Greek Gods and Goddesses - Temple Sites
- The Titans
- The Kraken
Plan Your Trip to Greece
Book your day trips around Athens here.