At the southernmost tip of the dry land of the European continent, at Cape Tainaro, where two seas meet, where the elements of nature give daily titanic battles, the sea in perpetual waves from the strong wind, the land pushing forward its rocky breasts to the strong blows of the waves, here in ancient times was believed to be one of the gates of Hades, the entrance to the dark realm of the dead.
When the Dorians reached the last point of the European continent, they gave the cape the name "Metapea 'Akra", that is, a cape located between two seas (the Laconic and Messinian gulfs).
The site was originally dedicated to the god Helios, (as mentioned in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo) whose innumerable shaggy-haired sheep grazed there freely. Here the Cretans of Knossos, traveling to Pylos, had stopped admiring the sight of the sheep, which the god Apollo intended to be priests in his sanctuary at Delphi.
From inscriptions and from information of the authors (Pausanias, Strabo, Skylax, Argonautika) it appears that the temple of Tainarius Poseidon was located in Tainaros, which was the center of the "Council of the Freelancers".
Poseidon, who was worshiped in Tainaron, had the nicknames of Poseidon on Tainaro, Tainarios, Asfalios and Pontios. After all, Poseidon was not only a god of the sea who protected sailors, he caused storms and earthquakes and at the same time could calm the sea and stabilize the earth.
The worshipers of Poseidon were a separate association and were called Tainaristai, and there was a festival of the Laconians that was held in Sparta in honor of Poseidon and which was called Tainarias or Tainaria.
One of the most famous and admirable tributes to the temple was the bronze sculptural complex depicting the harpist Arion on a dolphin. Also, according to Pausanias, in the area there was also a miraculous spring that had the ability to show those who looked at it ports and ships. This quality ceased when a woman washed a mixed garment in it.
The temple of Poseidon was probably located a little beyond the chapel of Asomatos, for the construction of which materials from the temple were used.
It also seems that there was a Necromancy in Tainaro, while the fame of Tainaro is due, according to Plutarch, to the fact that there was a famous "Psychopompeio" there.
Inside a cavernous recess in the rock, in the adjacent cove, is the sacred abode of Poseidon.
It was believed that the Gates of Hades were located there, guarded by the monstrous and terrible three-headed and copper-speaking dog Cerberus. From Tainarus Heracles descended to the underworld and brought Cerberus to earth during his last labor. Orpheus also came down from there to bring back his beloved wife Eurydice from the darkness of Hades to the light, but he did not succeed, while the Spartan Pausanias Arpalus, who stole the treasures of Alexander the Great, fled to Tainarus.
Although the building materials of the temple of Poseidon have disappeared, rock carvings show how the temple was founded.
On one side of the bay, the carved rocks testify that there was an ancient settlement of small ships (neosoiki). On the opposite side of the bay, you can see the also carved in the rock descent trench to the procession, which was probably very dark with a canopy.
In the small harbor called Porto-Sternes is located the ancient settlement of Tainaria, which was abandoned before the Roman years. Despite the centuries that have passed over it, an extraordinary room mosaic is preserved in good condition and leaves the visitor amazed.
Today on the route Porto Cajo - Tainaro we can see the Ancient Marble Quarries. Also an important building of the area is the Lighthouse of Tainaros which was built in 1882 and renovated in 1950.
Editor: Fotini Anastasopoulou