Limenoscope - Ancient Hellenic Ports
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Attica - Sounion
The archaeological research depicts the existence of organized worship of Poseidon and Athena during the 7th century B.C., while certain evidence exists for installations in the area of Cape Sounion from the Prehistoric period. At the begging of the 5th century the construction of a temple dedicated to Poseidon began, which had been later destroyed by the Persians. After the victory of the Greeks the marble temple of Poseidon was built and an equivalent of Athena. During the Peloponnesian war the cape was fortified in order to operate as an Attica fortress. Both sanctuaries at Sounion declined and were eventually abandoned by the 1st c. A.D.  


Main features
Region Saronic Gulf  
Use Naval Base  
Prosperity period (centuries) 5th B.C. - 1st A.D.  
Existence of contemporary port No  
Findings on site Yes  
General description
From the harbour's installations only carvings and the ramps from a double ship-shed are preserved, as well as a part of a marble wall, at the south-east of Sounion gulf. The ship-shed had probably a symmetrical two-slope roof, possibly in two levels (Kenney 1947, 199). Remains of constructions, now underwater, are reported in the ship-shed area and the nearby bay (Baika 2005), however research has not yet completed for the evaluation of their use.  
Technical features
Construction period (centuries) 5th B.C.  
Port configuration Natural Harbour  
Port basin size m2 
Main wind direction SW
Port land area km2 
Port entrance  
Change of sea surface elevation
Outer port structures
Inner port structures  
Land facilities Shipsheds  
Construction method  
Neotectonic history  
Shore line displacement  
Function and operations
The port of Sounion operated as a nautical base and an observation post watching over the entrance of Saronic and Euboean gulf. Coincidently it was a point for safeguarding the nearby Lavrion mines and the wheat trade routes to Athens during the Peloponnesian war as Thucydides mentions (Hist. 8.4). Thus the construction of the ship-shed is explained.
The port mentioned by Pausanias (Attica Ι.1), must be identified as the small bay west of the cape. Trade ships could have been dragged on the sandy beach and served by improvised port constructions that left no traces, although some submerged remains in the bay could belong to regular port installations (fig. 3; see Papahatzis 1974, 89 and Baika 2005)  
References in ancient literature
  • Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum 7.3.10
  • Dittenberger W. (ed.), 1913, Inscriptiones Graecae, (2nd ed.), Berlin, 1170, 1180
  • Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 28.8.11, 32.17
  • Herodotous, Histories 6.87-90, 8.121
  • Thoucydites, History of the Peloponnesian War 8.4
  • Xenophon, Hellenica 5.1.23
  • Homer, Odyssey 3.278-283
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece. Attica Ι.1
  • Strabo, Geography 390, 398  
  • Related researches Archeological  
    Findings in museums Yes  
    Other references
  • Baika K., 2005, "Sounion shipsheds reconsidered" in Tzalas H. Tropis IX, Athens (in press)
  • Blackman D.J., 1968, "The ship-sheds" in Morrison J. - Williams R., Greek oared ships 900-322 BC., Cambridge, 184-192
  • Dismoor W.B., 1971, Sounion, Athens
  • Kenny A.E.J., 1947, "The ancient docks on the promontory of Sounion", BSA42, London, 194-200
  • Mussche H.F., 1964, "Note sur les fortification de Sounion", BCH 88, Paris, pp. 423-432,
  • Davaras Κ., 1974, Sounion. Archaeological guide, Ministry of Culture - TAP, Athens, 20-21 (in Greek)
  • Oiconomides Α., 1955, Sounion, Athens (in Greek)
  • Papahatzis Ν., 1974, Pausanias. Description of Greece. Attica , Ekdotike Athinon, Athens, 78-90 (in Greek)
  • Staes V., 1900, "Sounion excavations", ΑΕ, Athens, 113-150
  • Staes V., 1917, "Excavations at Sounion", ΑΕ, Athens, 168-213  
  • Protection regime  
    Author Theotokis Theodoulou  
    Editor Theotokis Theodoulou  
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