Poseidon: Myths and Facts about the Greek God of the Sea

Poseidon

Poseidon in Greek Mythology

Known as the Greek sea god, stories about Poseidon has fascinated both ancient and modern cultures. There are literally a plethora of myths and literature works about him. In Hollywood, for example, several movies have been made about this great Greek Olympian god of the sea and oceans.  He’s the brother of the Olympian god king Zeus and Hades, the boss of the Underworld. In the eyes of the ancient Romans, Poseidon is referred to as Neptune. Regardless of Greek or Roman mythology, Poseidon has always been identified in imagery by his trident.

In today’s piece of writing, we have carefully summarized some very interesting Greek myths and facts about Poseidon. It includes everything that you need to know about Poseidon in terms of his powers, symbols, and family history.

Who is Poseidon?

Poseidon was born to Cronus and Rhea.  It is said that Cronus swallowed his children for fear that they would one day overthrow him.  Some lores state that he swallowed Poseidon along with Zeus, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera.

However, other accounts state that Poseidon was not swallowed by his father because Rhea, his mother, hid him among a flock of lambs. Instead, Rhea pretended she gave birth to a colt which Cronus swallowed.

Another lore states that he was sent to Rhodes by his mother to be taken care of by the daughter of Oceanus,  Capheira, and the Telchines. This was his mother’s way of hiding him from Cronus.

Poseidon was not just a sea god but was also believed to be the god of all the other waters, earthquakes, the storms, and even horses.  According to ancient Greek religion, he was one of the twelve Olympians that domiciled at Mount Olympus. Additionally, he was hailed as the highest deity at Pylos and Thebes. Poseidon’s Roman equivalent is Neptune.

Lord of the Sea and Oceans

Shortly after the Olympians (that is the new gods) overthrew Cronus and his titan gods, the world was divided into three sections among three Olympian brothers: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.  Greek mythology has it that the brothers drew straws to determine which part of the world they would rule.

Zeus had control of the skies; Hades was in charge of the underworld and; Poseidon ruled the seas and all water bodies.  The Iliad by Homer is the only piece of literary reference to this division by the Greek gods.

Common Characteristics of Poseidon

Poseidon’s name was Greek for “husband”. As a result, he was worshiped as a fertility god. Sailors also relied on him for safe passage across the seas.  Because of this, he was worshiped as the god of navigation.

In all his imagery, he is seen wielding a trident.  It is believed he could produce an earthquake by striking his trident on the earth.  For this reason, he was nicknamed the ‘Earth-shaker’. Some Greek mythological accounts depict him as a very hot-headed god. Whenever he was furious, seas would rise and the mountains would tremble very violently.

Works and Attributions of Poseidon

He is praised as the god that created horses. The ancient Greeks believed that the first horse, Skyphios, came to being after Poseidon hit a rock with his trident.

Furthermore, he had a reputation for being in disputes with gods and even men.  His most famous disputes were with Athena and Odysseus.

Poseidon had a palace made of coral and gems which were located on the ocean floor. However, it was believed that he spent more time at Mount Olympus rather than at his palace. It was also believed that he liked to force his power and manliness on women.

Poseidon tried to help the Greeks in the Trojan War but was ordered by Zeus to withdraw from the battlefield which he did reluctantly.

Typically, Poseidon got around places by riding his four-horse chariot while carrying his trident across the waves.

Another great feat of work by the god of the sea is that he buried the giant Polybotes under a piece of the island of Kos. He formed this island by breaking the earth with his trident.

Poseidon’s Battles and Fights

Sometimes, Poseidon’s temper was as rough and chaotic as the oceans. His inability to control this often resulted in him coming into direct confrontations with many Olympian gods and goddesses. The following are some examples of the fights Poseidon had with his fellow gods:

  • With Zeus

Poseidon fought both gods and men. He was very impulsive and violent.  He felt Zeus was arrogant as a ruler and he could not tolerate it.  He, therefore, partnered with Athena and Hera to challenge Zeus. In the end, and with the support of  Thetis and Briareus,  Zeus came out on top.

  • With Laomedon

Owing to some conflict, Zeus punished Poseidon by sending him and Apollo to work for Laomedon, the Trojan king. Zeus ordered them to build fortified walls all around Troy. After a great deal of effort, the wall was completed. To the surprise of the two gods, Laomedon refused to pay them for their labor. Zeus advised Poseidon to let it go but he refused. As punishment for Troy’s betrayal, Poseidon supported the Greek side during the Trojan war.  He sent the sea monster Cetus to frustrate and terrorize the Trojans.

  • With the Greeks and Odysseus

The Greeks felt the wrath of Poseidon when he broke down their walls. Poseidon did this because he believed only walls built by him were worthy.  He also had a feud with Odysseus for years for blinding his son.

  • With Athena

Poseidon hit his trident against a rock, creating a stream of seawater, which gathered in the temple of  Frechtheion. He did this because he was envious of the manner in which the Athenians revered the goddess Athena. He desired to bring Athens under his control.  He insinuated that their lands will fare better under his rule.  Athena, in turn, gave roots to an olive tree in Athens. Looking favorably on those olive roots, Cecrops (the first king of Athens) decided that Athena’s gift was of more value. The Athenians valued the olive tree because it gave them wood, fruit, and oil. As a result, Athena was allowed to keep Athens.  Today, the olive branch is considered a symbol of peace universally.

Poseidon’s Life with Women and His Children

Poseidon absolutely adored women, but unfortunately, they didn’t like him in return. Since he couldn’t get them to like him, he decided to use wit and violence to bring them under his control. Here are examples of Poseidon’s encounters and shenanigans with women:

  • Medusa and Caenus 

Poseidon forced himself on both women. In a very weird turn of events, Athena, hearing of it, decided to punish Medusa for allowing Poseidon to have his way with her. According to Greek mythology, just after Perseus beheaded Medusa, Medusa gave birth to Poseidon’s children: Chrysaor and Pegasus.

  • Aethra, Demeter, and Amymone

Demeter turned into a mare in order to escape Poseidon’s advances but he transformed himself into a stallion and got her pregnant.  Afterward, she gave birth to the nymph Despoena and the talking horse Arion. Poseidon also impregnated Amymone and fathered Nauplius with her.  Similarly, he and Aethra had a child together called Theseus.

  • Amphitrite the Neried

In the case of Amphitrite, she also did not want Poseidon so she fled to the Atlas Mountain. Incorrigible as Poseidon was, he refused to give up. He sent Delphinus to win her over on his behalf.  So skilled was Delphinus that he succeeded in accomplishing his task in no time.

As an appreciation for Delphinus’ kind gesture, the god of the sea set Delphinus’ image, the constellation dolphin, among the stars.  Amphitrite was faithful to Poseidon and bore him three children:  Triton, Rhode, and Benthesikyme.

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3 Responses

  1. JOHN R BALFOUR says:

    What was the kinship relationship between Poseidon and Atlas the son of Iapetus?
    How did they interact?

    • World History Edu says:

      Atlas and Poseidon were cousins. Atlas’ father Iapetus was the brother of Poseidon’s father, the Titan Cronus. The relationship between Atlas and Poseidon was everything but peaceful. Bear in mind, Atlas was a Titan while Poseidon was an Olympian. The two groups never saw eye to eye.
      Atlas, a second generation Titan, fought against Poseidon and the Olympians during the battle for the heavens, i.e. the Titanomachy. After eons of years of fighting, the Titans lost the battle to the Olympians who were led by Zeus.
      Zeus and his siblings (Poseidon included) sentenced Atlas to hold the heavens for an eternity. On the other hand, Poseidon was given dominion over the sea and oceans, thus becoming the god of the sea.
      For more information about how Atlas ended up in such miserable conditions, please visit this link: https://www.worldhistoryedu.com/greek-titan-atlas-origin-story-powers-symbols/

  2. no says:

    hey uhm it was good ig lol

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