The Sacred Triangle of Temples

November 27, 2016
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As a small child, I always loved Greek mythology. The stories of beautiful goddesses, brave heroes, and terrible monsters fascinated my young mind. Often, I would pause to wonder what living in ancient and modern Greece was like; I especially wondered about the temples. I understood that most of them were plain ruins  that barely resembled columns and walls now, but that couldn’t stop me from imagining Greek workers from millions of years ago chiseling away at the magnificent marble shapes.

When I found out that I would be visiting Greece this summer, I was beyond thrilled—this was a dream come true! Even before the trip started, I made sure that I told my parents about a special destination that I wanted to visit and had been thinking about for a while. The Sacred Triangle of Temples, for that was the name of my dream destination, was three temples in a perfect triangle formation, but two were on the mainland and one was on an island. What made this triangle so interesting was the fact that the three temples were a perfectly equal distance from each other. How ancient architects calculated and built a site of such accuracy made me even more curious; I couldn’t wait for the trip to begin.

We visited the Temple of Poseidon located on Cape Sounion first. Poseidon was the Greek god of all seas, which is why his temple stands on the very edge of the cape, near to the gleaming sea.

In his mighty hand he always carried his trident. He had long black hair and a matter beard; his face was always depicted with a frown: the bushy eyebrows were knotted together, and his great lips arched like a bridge.

Poseidon is known for his temper, for in all stories where heroes disgrace him, their ships get shaken by the huge waves and broken by the whirling storms that Poseidon sends.

Although the temple itself didn’t even resemble a full building, I could still see that the columns were placed carefully around the outside. Each column was fairly tall, and it was composed of rounded marble blocks. A half-ruined wall stood towards the right side of the temple, and there were several ledges that connected the columns. The path went all around the temple, and it was uneven and dusty. It amazed me to think that these rocks and this dust could’ve been lying around for thousands of years, and the Greek architects of this temple could have stepped on these very artifacts.

I selected a stone to take home with me, and we settled on a bench to observe the sunset of Cape Sounion. While we waited, I remembered that this was also a legendary site, for King Aegeaus threw himself into the sea somewhere near here, thinking that his beloved son was dead: thus giving the sea the name Aegean.

Legend goes that King Aegeaus’ son, Theseaus, sailed to the island of Crete on a ship with black sails to battle the horrible half-human, half-bull monster, the Minotaur. He promised his father to return on a ship with white sails if he defeated the Minotaur. However, after successfully killing the Minotaur, he fell in love with the daughter of the King of Crete, and he forgot about his promise to his father. Seeing the ship returning with black sails could only mean one thing to King Aegeaus, and he jumped off this cliff, grieving.

Finally, it was time for the sun to set. Slowly, the glowing orange ball rolled to meet the sea-line. It began to sink lower and lower, illuminating the sea with a faint glow. The sky was streaked with various hues of pink and purple; it reminded me of an artist’s canvas as he plans out his painting by smearing the basic colors. The Temple of Poseidon seemed shadow-like with the sunset behind it. The photos turned out perfectly. When the sun was out of sight, the sky’s colors began to fade, and soon it was dark.

The Temple’s many lights turned on. They reflected off of the white marble, and gave the ruins a different look in the nighttime air. As the Temple glowed yellow, green, and blue, we said our goodbyes, and took the last photos. It was time to go.

Several days later, we took a ferry boat to Aegina Island. From a distance, the island looked like a collection of white and green clumps, but as we sailed closer, the green clumps turned into forests, and the white clumps turned into roads and houses. After a quick hike, we came to one of the highest parts of the island— and the second temple of the Sacred Triangle: the Temple of Aphaia.

Many Greek mythology lovers don’t know who Aphaia is. Aphaia wasn’t a goddess to begin with, she was an ordinary mortal with special talents. Because she hunted with Artemis and became great friends with her, Artemis made her a goddess when she died.

This Temple was “one of a kind” for Aphaia was only worshipped in this temple and nowhere else. It was much more preserved that the other one, possibly because not many people know about it and come to see it. The paths were less rocky, and the steps were sturdy and not worn away. The temple itself was made out of rock: it was light grey with black specks. There was an inner and an outer rectangle of columns, and you could see where the walls were. The base of the temple was also visible, but there was no roof.

The sun was not out that day, and sky was a stormy blue, which contrasted nicely with the grey columns of the Temple (sometime called Sanctuary of Aphaia). There was also a small museum next to the Sanctuary, and we went in. Inside, we found several pieces of the temple that had broken off, but had been preserved to showcase. Also, there was a model of how the pieces were being filled so that they would seem complete. You could easily distinguish the real material from the plaster close-up, but from a distance it looked like a whole statue or column.

When it was time to go, we walked down the rocky road and took the ferry again to the mainland. There was still one more main trip to prepare for, and that was to the most famous temple of them all.

We took a bus, and then the metro to arrive at the busiest place in Greece— its capital, Athens. After riding on a tour bus through the city, we arrived at Acropolis (which was the hill on which the Parthenon stood). The climb was difficult, for the rocky steps were worn away by the thousands of feet that stepped on them every day and very slippery as a result. The road was steep, and the sun beat down on us with its boiling rays.

Eventually, we made it to the top of Acropolis, and there stood the most famous Temple of the three: the Parthenon. It was very-well preserved, but that was due to the fact that they were filling in all the cracks with the plaster we saw at Aegina-Marina. The construction was going on the day we visited, and there were medal rods supporting the columns everywhere.

The Parthenon had a whole history of conquest and destruction, for it was captured by Persians from the Greeks in 480 BC. It was converted into a Christian church and used to worship Jesus for quite a while before being captured by the Ottomans in the early 1460s and being converted into a mosque. Later, it was used as a store house for explosives until there was a huge explosion which caused the roof of the poor Parthenon to cave in. After that, several statues were stolen and sold to the British government, where they are on display to this day in the British museums.
The Parthenon I saw (after the many years of destruction passed) was very large, and its base was smooth. It had a perfectly rectangular shape, which was unusual for a Temple that stood here for millions of years.  Although this Temple was widely visited, it was originally built to worship Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and victory. Many heroes were said to come to this temple to pray to Athena for successful deeds.

Athena was born from the head of the king of all gods: Zeus. She was born dressed in a full suit of armor, ready for battle. In her right hand she carries a long and sharp spear, and in her left— a shield with the head of Medusa. On her head she wears a shining helmet, and her expression is always depicted as determined and brave. Her eyes reflect all her wisdom, and she has a small smile on her face, as though she is already planning for someone and something.

Nearby, there was a smaller temple, for the Greek goddess of Victory, Nike. Heroes came to this Temple as well to pray for good luck and a brave victory before going on their missions. It is said that Nike is small, and perches on Athena’s shoulder.

This Temple is famous for the karyatides, or statues of women holding up the roof (instead of columns). However, the karyatides that were currently inserted into the temple were simply plaster copies. The real karyatides were inside of the Acropolis museum, which we visited before climbing here.

After walking all around the Parthenon and Temple of Nike, and taking many spectacular pictures, we looked over the ledge and saw the breath-taking view of the city. The Acropolis towered  a little over 500 feet above Athens, and the spectacular view allowed us to see all the buildings with a single glance. They were merely specks, but they gleamed and reflected the sunlight, making the city look like beads scattered after ripping a necklace.
All in all, the Sacred Triangle of Temples amazed me even more when I saw it. I couldn’t believe that people built these wonderful structures and calculated everything without the technology that we have today to do so. If you’re looking for an vacation that will blast you away with amazing sights and facts, then the Sacred Triangle of Temples is perfect for you! Bon voyage!

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Realjay41This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sep. 8 at 8:27 am
I love Greek mythology; but, I know way too much. Last summer, my school had given the opportunity to the freshman class and sophomore class to go to Greece and Italy. I wanted to go so bad; but, I couldn't. It's because of other summer plans like plays. So bummer!
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