The temple was built during the Golden Age of Pericles, part of the Athenian politician's ambitious building project that included the construction of the glorious Parthenon. An inscription confirms that the temple was dedicated to Poseidon, correcting a widespread misconception that lasted until 1900; in his Guide to Greece,thetraveler Pausanias, who visited the area in the second century CE when the sanctuary had declined, linked the temple with goddess Athena.
Original Theme Music
Dating to the fifth century BCE, this spectacular monument was an addition to the sacred precinct of Poseidon that already existed in the Archaic period. Archaeologists have unearthed significant votive offerings dating to the sixth century BCE that had been initially placed in the open-air sanctuary and then buried in depositors after its destruction by the Persians in 480 BCE (a representative example can be found in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens: a well-preserved large-scale statue of a young man, the so-called Kourosin ancient Greek). There was in fact a previous limestone temple very similar to the later one preservedtoday, which was left incomplete due to the Persian invasion.
The walled enclosure of the sanctuary was entered through the Propylaea (monumental gateway), a portico divided by two Doric columns, adjacent to which was a room used for ritual feasts as well as a colonnade (stoa) built also in the fifth century BCE. The north and west sides of the sanctuary boasted two colonnades, serving to provide shelter to visitors.
Naturally, the highest point of the sacred area is occupied by the Temple of Poseidon, a peristyral Doric building made of marble from the nearby Agrileza quarries. The columns are almost 20 feet tall and their unique feature of 16 flutes instead of the ordinary 20 must be attributed to the lack of high resilience of the material. This architectural innovation was in all probability based on an effort to minimize the erosion caused by the sea.
The metopes of the temple lacked any sculptural decoration, however the east pediment (at the entrance side) was decorated with statues, of which fragments of a seated female figuresurvive. In addition, there was a continuous frieze in the interior of the pronaos (vestibule at the front, leading to the cella). Extensively eroded today, the frieze was made of white marble from Paros and depicted scenes of the Gigantomachy, the Centauromachy and the Labours of Theseus (fragments are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum at Lavrion).
The statue of Poseidon, of which we have no information, stood at the end of the cella, while the temple's treasury and votive offerings were housed at theopisthodomos(the rear room). Similarities in design and construction methods have led scholars to identify the architect of this temple with the anonymous architect of the temple of Hephaistos at the Athenian agora and the temple Nemesis at Rhamnous.
Gazing upon the endless blue of the sea, the temple of Poseidon has been standing in all its splendor on this privileged spot of the Attic land for countless years. This splendid monument has never seized to constitute a unique symbol of harmonious human and natural creation, a familiar landmark for all sailors and travelers as well as acontinuous source of inspiration for artists, authors and poets alike.