History Summarized: The Athenian Temple at Sounio


I have talked a lot about the Athenian Empire on this channel but I’ll also be the first to admit that putting into perspective the political military and economic Dominance of just one city over most of Greece is really hard It’s especially hard to quantify what most of Athens power came not from Land’s, but from the sea so bear with me here It’s no secret that Athens had a cartoonish amount of money tucked away in their treasury for most of the fifth century BC on account of those guys having extortion down to a science for the most part the Parthenon serves as the definitive ish Symbol of Athenian power a giant elegant and brilliant monument to Athena and by extension to Athens itself But I offer you the possibility that there’s something far more quintessentially Emblematic aliy Athenian and indicative of Athenian power than anything else and it happens to be almost 30 miles away from the Parthenon It’s the Temple of Poseidon at suniye both mythologically and historically Cape tsuneo Which is at the southern tip of Attica has been a central part of Athenian heritage and identity for centuries? it was supposedly the site where the Athenian King at Gia’s threw himself into the Aegean Sea when his son Theseus was too busy getting hammered after Successfully playing matador with a Minotaur to change the sails on his ship and even Homer who notably says very little about Athens mentions in the Odyssey that Cape tsuneo was sacred to the Athenians more Practically the silver mines at La Fea were the Athenians mined all of the silver that paid for their fleet of ships in the second Persian war are just five miles northeast of tsuneo so bottom line is it’s a really important location to Athens and As such there’s been stuff on and around tsuneo for a good long while even before the Athenian Empire in the 400s BC the Cape was home to a temple that dated back to at least the 700s, BC And we don’t really know all that much about that one because the Persians rekted and 480 when their Navy was on its way to Get unceremoniously destroyed at the Battle of Salamis in the forty years before its replacement was built Athens proceeded to build up its Navy and sweep up all of the Aegean islands into it school best friends Club, aka Oppressive Empire and even in the 40 years between temples Athens had a critically important use for the Cape Greek geography is Many things but convenient for Athens to run a naval Empire is most definitely one of them In the Imperial days tsuneo functioned as the perfect lookout post since it has direct sight lines from the Aegean Sea all the way to The Peloponnese the Athenians could see every single ship, and at least a 15 mile radius And that is HUGE now you may rightly ask well why not just avoid sailing there But the problem is you Couldn’t really See in ancient times all sailors got from place to place by sailing close to the coasts of islands in the mainland because venturing into open water was objectively terrifying all the way up until at least the 1800s if you’re curious you can check out my video on the Vikings for a longer explanation of maritime navigation in a Greek Context this meant that anyone who wanted to go into or out of the Aegean Sea I had no choice But to sail right past Attica and right in front of Cape tsuneo at that point with a navy like the Athenians any ship that passed into or out of the Aegean did so because Athens allowed them from one tiny Hill on the tip of Attica they could exercise an astounding level of control over a vast majority of Greek maritime travel from their owning almost every Aegean Island doesn’t seem like so much of a stretch they all depended on waterways for treat and Resources and Athens controlled the waterways so they in turn depended on Athens and Athens in turn controlled all of them It was a self-perpetuating cycle that started with tsuneo and ended with this gigantic mess of blue here and remember Athenian silver came from nearby la Vidya and that silver paid for the Navy so pretty much the heart of Athenian naval power sat in Sunni oh and it’s Amanda de suitably kick-ass temple to go along with it the temple that we know today was built in the 440s around the same time as the Parthenon because the Athenian statesman Pericles loved building stuff much like the Parthenon Suniya was built with marvel line from a mountain northeast of Athens That’s not too bad for the Parthenon But to drag all that junk the 30 miles down to tsuneo is a little ridiculous You don’t hold that much marble across that big a distance unless you are on a mission So simply getting the materials for this thing even though. It’s only about half the size of the Parthenon would have been a colossal undertaking structurally speaking the temple is Mostly was beautiful. It’s a little rough around the somewhat non-existent edges today But if you want to know what it would have looked like it’s nearly identical to an Athenian temple dennah Festus Which miraculously is almost entirely intact like seriously what this is incredible and almost no one knows about it Anyway, while we’re appreciating the pretty marble one of my favorite details about the construction of classical Greek temples has to do with the columns from the Parthenon We’ve learned that the pretty fluting on the columns was carved after the perfectly cylindrical sections of marble were assembled which itself was done rather Ingeniously to assemble a column in the first place the Athenians cut out a square peg into each of the marble cylinders So that a small wooden block could be placed there to guide the marble into perfect alignment And that wasn’t all the tops of the cylinders were so finally machines that won the gaps between sections of columns were practically invisible to the eye But also to no air could get between the cylinders so when we pulled apart the parthenons columns. We found the wood from 2,500 years ago still completely intact and if 0% wood erosion isn’t crazy Then I don’t know what is these builders really knew what they were doing? so it was both a really pretty temple and an incredible feat of Engineering all sitting atop the Athenian viewing post to the entire world and the heart of its naval supremacy, but there’s one more thing Too it’s uniquely Athenian awesomeness to continue beating this poor dead comparision horse the Parthenon Functioned as somewhat of a mirror for Athenian society all of Athens could look up to the sky and see their brilliant accomplishment But it was special and that only Athenians or the occasional visitors to Athens would ever see it broadly speaking it existed to inspire pride within Athens however suniye wasn’t in Athens and a fair number of Athenians probably never saw it But you know who did see it pretty much every single sailor who passed into or out of the Aegean? Sea Everyone who knew the water knew that Athens and Athens alone owned it Perhaps the most striking detail that lies hidden in plain sight is how the temple was dedicated to Poseidon now to my eyes Athens is making quite a statement here essentially it’s telling all passers-by that if you so dare to With us we will be the poseidon to your Odysseus And we will ruin you so I remember who’s boss okay Athens is directly putting itself and its control over the sea on the same level as the god Poseidon Now that is what projecting power looks like so Basically though my love for the Parthenon knows very few bounds I believe that suniye was a monument that much more deeply represents what Athens and by extension the Athenian Empire fundamentally were all about unrivaled maritime power and Holy crap the Sun sets there are really pretty

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