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SU´NIUM (Σούνιον: Eth. Σουνιεύς), the name of a promontory and demus on the southern coast of Attica. The promontory, which forms the most southerly point in the country, rises almost perpendicularly from the sea to a great height, and was crowned with a temple of Athena, the tutelary goddess of Attica. (Paus. 1.1.1; Σούνιον ἱρόν, Hom. Od. 3.278; Soph. Ajax, 1235; Eur. Cycl. 292; Vitr. 4.7). Sunium was fortified in the nineteenth year of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 413) for the purpose of protecting the passage of the cornships to Athens (Thuc. 8.4), and was regarded from that time as one of the principal fortreses of Attica (Comp. Dem. pro Cor. p. 238; Liv. 31.25; Scylax, p. 21.) Its proximity to the silver mines of Laurium probably contributed to its prosperity, which passed into a proverb (Anaxand. ap. Athen. 6.263c.); but even in the time of Cicero it had sunk into decay (ad Att. 13.10). The circuit of the walls may still be traced, except where the precipitous nature of the rocks afforded a natural defence. The walls which are fortified with square towers, are of the most regular Hellenic masonry, and enclose a space or a little more than half a mile in circumference. The southern part of Attica, extending northwards from the promontory of Sunium as far as Thoricus on the east, and Anaphlystus on the west, is called by Herodotus the Suniac angle (τὸν γουνὸν τὸν Σουνιακόν, 4.99). Though Sunium was especially sacred to Athena, we learn from Aristophanes (Aristoph. Kn. 557, Aves, 869) that Poseidon was also worshipped there.

The promontory of Sunium is now called Cape Kolònnes, from the ruins of the temple of Athena which still crown its summit. Leake observes that “the temple was a Doric hexastyle; but none of the columns of the fronts remain. The original number of those in the flanks is uncertain; but there are still standing nine columns of the southern, and three of the northern side, with their architraves, together with the two columns and one of the antae of the pronaus, also bearing their architraves. The columns of the peristyle were 3 feet 4 inches in diameter at the base, and 2 feet 7 inches under the capital, with an intercolumniation below of 4 feet 11 inches. The height, including the capital, was 19 feet 3 inches. The exposed situation of the building has caused a great corrosion in the surface of the marble, which was probably brought from the neighbouring mountains; for it is less homogeneous, and of a coarser grain, than the marble of Pentele. The walls of the fortress were faced with the same kind of stone. The entablature [p. 2.1048]of the peristyle of the temple was adorned with sculpture, some remains of which have been found among the ruins. North of the temple, and nearly in a line with its eastern front, are foundations of the Propylaeum or entrance into the sacred peribolus: it was about 50 feet long and 30 broad, and presented at either end a front of two Doric columns between antae, supporting a pediment. The columns were 17 feet high, including the capital, 2 feet 10 inches in diameter at the base, with an opening between them of 8 feet 8 inches.” (The Demi of Attica, p. 63, 2nd ed.) Leake remarks that there are no traces of any third building visible, and that we must therefore conclude that here, as in the temple of Athena Polias at Athens, Poseidon was honoured only with an altar. Wordsworth, however, remarks that a little to the NE. of the peninsula on which the temple stands is a conical hill, where are extensive vestiges of an ancient building, which may perhaps be the remains of the temple of Poseidon. (Athens and Attica, p. 207.)

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