It’s hard to determine what is more useful to Athenians – olive trees or the sea. Both are everywhere in Greece. However, thousands of years ago, Athenians made their choice clear. In a battle over who would become patron of Athens, Athena offered the people an olive tree and Poseidon offered them ocean water. Athenians valued the olive tree’s wood, oil and food, but didn’t see much use for salt water. They chose Athena as their patron.
Although Poseidon was second to Athena, his importance as Greek god of the sea cannot be underestimated. He was credited for creating new islands and determining the temper of the ocean. The whims of his trident could either bring a ship back to harbor safely or cause fatality. To this day, the Greeks revere their oceans, as a source of food, a means of transport and their solution for leisure.
Today we decided to pay homage to Poseidon by visiting his temple at Sounio, on the tip of the Attica peninsula. We rented a car and made a day of enjoying the sea. Our first stop was an isolated strip of beach around the small coastal town of Saronida. The western Attica coast is full of sandy beaches and little coves and it only takes a bit of exploring to find a spot that is free of other beach bums.
A small marina was around the cove and the kids enjoyed playing the role of captain, as if guiding their little row-boat home.
The coast is dotted with little chapels. This particular one was locked, but the owner-less scooter outside provided plenty of fun for the kids as Sandeep and I sat back and watched the waters.
The Temple of Poseidon at Sounio juts out into the ocean, as if about to collapse into the very domain that Poseidon ruled. Its marble columns dates back to about 400 B.C. What’s left today is the platform and a line of massive white columns on two sides. I suspect that an olive tree in front of the temple. If so, I’d be highly annoyed if I were Poseidon. He had to play second fiddle to Athena due to the olive tree incident and today an olive tree stands at the foot of his shrine.
Our day ended watching sunset over Sounio, perhaps just as Poseidon did after ensuring the seas were just as he wished them to be. This evening the waters were clear and calm, but the skies were murky. Poseidon really should have been in better coordination with Zeus, god of the skies, to provide us the setting for a better picture.