In Search of Lord Byron's Graffiti at the Temple of Poseidon
Updated: Jul 15
A wise traveler to Athens, Greece knows that their trip isn't complete without taking in the stunning views of the Aegean Sea from the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
A VERY wise traveler knows that not only can you find one of the most gorgeous views in Greece at the Temple of Poseidon, but also the enduring mark of Lord Byron, one of the most famous Romantic poets.
Greece is a fantastic destination for fans of literary travel, and not just because of all the amazing Athens bookstores. Greece is the birthplace of theatre and the source of a rich abundance of mythological tales that continue to inspire stories and writers today. Greece has also been visited by literary legends from elsewhere around the world. One of Greek’s most beloved literary visitors was Lord Byron.
Lord George Gordon Byron, aka Lord Byron, was an English-born aristocrat known for his Romantic poems as well as his scandalous romantic and sexual life. You can't say Lord Byron didn't get around, and I don't just mean sexually: he was a horseback rider, gambler, boxer, and adventurous traveler as well.
If you've checked out my fascinating facts about Mary Shelley, you'll also know that Lord Byron was a close friend of Percy Bysse Shelley and Mary Shelley and helped inspire Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.
Using this post as your guide, you can easily find the best way to visit Cape Sounion's Temple to Poseidon from Athens and where exactly you can find Lord Byron's graffiti there.
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Lord Byron in Greece
Notorious playboy and risk chaser Lord Byron gallavanted around Greece between 1809-1811. During his time there, Lord Byron visited all the historic monuments of ancient Greece, quite an ambitious undertaking.
His travels made Lord Byron fall in love with Greece (and fall in love IN Greece), and he wrote some of his most successful poems from that inspiration, including “Daughter of Athens” and “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.”
Lord Byron also became very invested in the Greek independence movement (Greece at the time was under the control of the Ottoman Empire). Although he was not Greek, in 1823 he volunteered to fight with the Greeks for independence. He invested large amounts of his personal fortune to help repair Greek ships and helped the Greeks get loans from other British sources. He also took an active role in the fighting and led his own squad of fighters for the Greek independence movement. Lord Byron died in Greece in 1824 during the war after contracting malaria. He was 36.
Because of his dedication to the independence movement, Lord Byron was beloved in Greece and considered one of their own people. Greek National Poet Dionysios Solomos even composed an ode to Lord Byron after his death.
Where to find Lord Byron’s Graffiti at the Temple to Poseidon
One of the places Lord Byron visited in his tour of the monuments of Greece was the famous Temple to Poseidon at Cape Sounion. He included it in his poem, “The Isles of Greece.”
“Place me at Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep..”
"The Isles of Greece" by Lord Byron
Lord Byron famously left his mark at Cape Sounion, adding to the graffiti on the Temple to Poseidon by carving his name “Byron” into one of the pillars. (Note that this cannot be proven but is a well-beloved story for tour guides to tell and a fun local legend to check out for those interested in literary travel. Although Byron did visit Cape Sounion, it’s always possible someone else is responsible for the graffiti).
To find Lord Byron’s graffiti at the Temple of Poseidon with the naked eye is next to impossible. The base of the temple and the pillars are so covered in names of people wanting to leave their mark, it’s hard to make out any individual carvings. (This practice is strictly prohibited, by the way, so leave the chisel at home. )
Also, the Temple of Poseidon is roped off so that visitors can’t get too close, so unless your eyesight is off-the-charts incredible, you just won’t be able to see Lord Byron’s signature on the Temple of Poseidon without a zoom camera or binoculars.
Luckily, if you’re like just about everyone, you have a smart phone with a built-in camera zoom.
Here’s how and where to find Lord Byron’s graffiti on the Temple of Poseidon:
The Temple to Poseidon at Cape Sounion is in the shape of a rectangle. To find Lord Byron's graffiti, go to the shorter end of the rectangle that's furthest from the sea. Look for the second column from the right corner. It is a square-shaped column, not cylindrical like most of the others.
Using your binoculars or camera, zoom in on the second block from the bottom, and you’ll find the name Byron, clear as day. That's exactly where to find Lord Byron's graffiti on the Temple to Poseidon.
What do you think? Is the graffiti cool because he's famous, or did he defile an ancient monument?
How to Get to the Cape Sounion Temple to Poseidon in Greece
The Temple to Poseidon is a popular half-day trip from Athens, but many people may not realize it’s not located in Athens. Cape Sounion is actually found about 70 km south of Athens, at the very tip of the Attica peninsula that juts into the Aegean Sea.
If you've exhausted all the best sites and bookstores in Athens and want an easy trip out of the city, The Temple to Poseidon is a great option and worth the time it takes to get there.
There are several options to get to the Temple to Poseidon at Cape Sounion from Athens.
Athens to Temple to Poseidon by Car
If you are brave enough to rent a car in Athens, you can drive the Athenian Riviera route along the Greek coast to reach Cape Sounion. The scenic drive to the Temple of Poseidon takes an average of 1 hr 30 minutes without stops.
If you want to make a longer trip of it, there are several beaches you can visit along the route, including Asteras Beach and Voula Beach.
Temple of Poseidon Tours from Athens
For ease and simplicity, I opted for a Temple to Poseidon half-day tour from Athens. This included hotel pick-up and a couple of stops along the way, including a seaside stop where travelers could swim (it was raining and chilly, so this was a no for me) or eat at a seaside restaurant. Then, we made it to the Temple of Poseidon and had a couple of hours to walk around the ruins and take in the sunset before the monument closed for the day.
There are lots of companies offering tours to Cape Sounion from Athens, so it's easy to find one that meets your preferred group size and budget.
There are many benefits of using a tour company to get to the Temple of Poseidon: not having to worry about navigating unknown roads alongside notoriously aggressive Greek drivers, relaxing during the trip, and getting to learn about Greek mythology along the way.
On our tour, the stops along the drive were unimpressive, but might have been more enjoyable in better weather.
Finding Accommodations in Athens
As you look for somewhere to stay in Athens, I recommend checking for lodging on Hotels.com. I almost always book my accommodations through Hotels.com, because you can earn rewards for every night you stay without having to choose only one hotel chain to be loyal to. You can even book locally owned aparthotels and bed and breakfasts.
Alternatively, if hotels aren't your thing, check out VRBO. This is a site for private vacation rentals, and I personally have had a better experience with this website than with AirBnb.
Travel Resources At-A-Glance
All of the following are links to sites and services I actually use to book and plan my travel or to purchase books or travel gear.
For flights: Skyscanner is my number one go-to resource for booking flights. I love using the “explore” function to find the cheapest places I can fly during a given time, or using the fare calendar to identify the cheapest days to fly.
For hotels and lodgings: For hotels, hotels.com and for vacation rentals, VRBO.com. I’ve had much better experiences with private rentals through this website than through other popular private vacation rental websites.
For car rentals: Kayak allows comparisons across a wide range of booking agencies and lists reviews of companies as well. I’ve found this to be the most user-friendly and efficient way to compare car rental prices.
For tours & excursions: Viator is my top choice for booking excursions and tour experiences in a new destination.
Best travel credit card: My favorite travel rewards credit card for European travel has been the Chase Sapphire Rewards card. Visa is accepted just about everywhere in Europe, and there are no foreign transaction fees on the card. Some of the travel benefits I love on the Chase Sapphire include free TSA pre check or Global Entry (worth it every time), an annual $200 travel credit, an annual $200 hotel benefit, built-in rental car and trip insurance, and points are worth 50% more when used to book travel. I travel around Europe a LOT, and I end up with many free flights and hotel stays from using my points on my Chase Sapphire.
For books: Bookshop.org often has prices as good as Amazon or sometimes better, but profits go to indie bookstores all over the country. Whenever possible, consider buying your books from this online indie bookshop resource.
That's just about everything you need to know to visit Cape Sounion's Temple of Poseidon from Athens and where to find Lord Byron's infamous graffiti.
Who are some of your favorite Greek authors? Leave some recommendations in the comments!
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