Poseidon (Roman equivalent is Neptune) is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology, brother of Zeus and Hades (Pluto). His main domain is the ocean, and he is called the "God of the Sea". Additionally, he is referred to as "Earth-Shaker" due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the "tamer of horses". He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard.
Poseidon, like his brothers and sisters, lived the first years of his life in the dark belly of his father Cronus. By the time their brother, Zeus, with the magical potion of Metis, managed to get them out of the peculiar prison.
There are also other myths about the birth of Poseidon. Thus, the ancient poets tell that Rhea in the case of Poseidon managed to fool her husband. Rather than giving him to swallow the divine infant, she gave him, wrapped in swaddling clothes, a newborn horse. Then, in order to conceal the baby's crying from Cronus, Rhea put it to grow among a flock of sheep.
The nymph Arne took over the growing up of Poseidon. Someday Cronus went through there, because he thought he heard the crying of a baby, and asked Arne if there was a baby nearby. She replied to him with cleverness, that how a baby could be born by sheep or by her that was single. Cronus was fooled and ashamed by her answer and left.
She therefore called Telchines, deities similar to the Curetes of Crete, who protected Zeus. Each time the newborn was crying, savages Telchines start dancing, screaming and hitting their spears on earth. Within such a big panic and in such a fuss Cronus could not hear anything.
However, what made the early years of his life was to help his brothers in order to outplay their father and the other Titans and take power into their hands. After that, the three sons of Cronus decided to divide the world.
At the suggestion of Zeus, they divided the world in three domains, the sky, the sea and the underworld. Olympus and Earth remained commonplace for visiting them whenever they wanted. Because all three wanted the sky and none naturally wanted to reign for all his life in the underworld, they did draw.
Zeus pulled first and chose the kingdom of heaven. Poseidon pulled second and chose the sea. Hades (Roman equivalent is Hades) responded with anger, but quickly accepted his fate and withdrew to his dark kingdom.
Poseidon could not easily accept the victory of Zeus. Ηe admitted the outcome with cold heart, but since then, there were many times that he argued with his brother, till he recognized his eternal supremacy and omnipotence.
So when Zeus once asked some errand and the marine god refused to perform it, he sent Iris to the ocean palace.
Before Iris left, he told her the following words:
“Tell the King Poseidon that his almighty brother orders him to immediately come to Olympus because I have a job to assign to him. Otherwise, my terrible wrath will fall upon him and he will be dissolved.”
Once Poseidon got the message, he got angry and climbed to Olympus. He then tried to convince the other gods that he is equal to Zeus, the father of gods and men.
“Almighty Olympians, this situation must be clarified once and for all. Our mother Rhea and Cronus had three sons, Zeus, Hades and me. We distributed our domains and one took the sky, the second took the darkness, and I took the foaming sea. However it is not possible anymore for me to accept such threats and intimidation by Zeus.”
But the gods looked at each other and without saying a word to sea lord, they gave him to understand that everyone accepts the Zeus as supreme ruler. Then he took a decision that he never would have their support.
In another case Poseidon is presented to form an alliance with Hera, Athena and Apollo to take over the power of Zeus, trying to tie him with invisible chains from the sky. After the failure of this effort, Zeus decided to punish his brother, forcing him to work in the service of King Laomedon of Troy. The king instructed the god to build the walls of his city. But when a year passed and Poseidon finished his work, the king refused to give him the agreed fee. He even threatened the god that he will sell him as slave.
Once Poseidon acquired back his divine power, he cruelly avenged the king but also the entire country. He sent a monster in the Trojan shore, which caused irreparable damage and killed too many residents. The Trojans called oracle which answered that in order to get rid of the monster they had to sacrifice the daughter of Laomedon, Isioni. Once the monster was about to devour the princess, Heracles (Hercules) appeared and saved her.
Another difference between Zeus and Poseidon was the conquest of Thetis. Both gods were impressed by the beauty of Nereid and wanted marry her. But Gaia or Themis prophesied that the son of Thetis would be more powerful than his father. So the two brothers, fearing this outcome, retracted from the beautiful sea goddess and decided to marry her to the mortal king Pileas of Fthia.
As the time passed, Poseidon began to realize the superiority of Zeus, indicated his allegiance and offered his help whenever he needed it. He stood by his side at the Clash of the Titans and Giants. He also helped his brother in many other cases. He calmed the sea for Zeus to pass with his prey after the abduction of Europe. He helped Leto to find the island of Delos to bring forth his children, Apollo and Artemis. Finally, he protected Io, another mistress of Zeus, when she was persecuted by the jealous Hera.
When the first Greek cities were created, each god decided to take one or more cities under protection. In these cities major shrines were erected and the most glorious feasts and sacrifices were dedicated to them. For who would be the protector of a city, sometimes it was decided by the rest of the Olympians, other times by some smaller deities and sometimes by the king and its inhabitants.
Poseidon unfortunately was usually losing the title of protector each time he tried to claim a city. His quarrel with Hera for who will protect Argolis is well known. The gods had designated as jurors Inachos and the two rivers, Kifisos and Asterion. The jurors decided in favor of Hera. Then the lord of the seabed decided to retaliate. He therefore dried up all water sources of Argolis. According to another version, he struck the sea with his trident, lifting a huge tidal wave which flooded the country.
In the same way, Poseidon was forced to yield the island of Aegina to Zeus, Delphi to Apollo, Naxos to Dionysos and Athens to Athena. Moreover, Helios (Roman equivalent is Helius) claimed the area of Corinth. Then Briareus (one of the Hecatonchires), who was appointed judge, gave the Akrocorinth to Helios and the remaining part of the Isthmus to Poseidon.
Poseidon had of course, like the other gods, a stately palace on Mount Olympus which was made by Hephaestus. In it, he remained when required to attend to some important gathering of the gods to get some great decision.
Sometimes he was going to feasts that were held to the highest peak of Greece, either in response to a marriage of the immortals, or the birth of a new god, or the anniversary of a victory.
But since Poseidon was the lord of the sea and there he spent most of his time, he had a golden palace into the vast depths of the ocean. Corals and shells adorned his strangely beautiful, underwater accommodation. Huge diamonds were glistening and were giving light to the dark seabed. Thousands goldfish followed him everywhere and looked for his blue tunic to be groomed. The entrance of the palace was vigilantly guarded, day and night, by two huge marine seahorses. When the revered ruler of the bottoms came out of his palace to ascend to the surface, all the beasts of the ocean recognized their master and sidetracked for him to pass.
The lawful wife of Poseidon is Amphitrite, one of the daughters of Nereus. Once, the god was passing through Naxos and met the Nereids, who were playing on the shore with a colourful handball. Amphitrite stood out from all her sisters due to her beauty and grace. Poseidon fell madly in love with her, he kidnapped her and drove her to a cave where he married and mated with her.
But there is a different version that describes a more thrilling divine mating. Amphitrite did not like Poseidon and resisted. She managed to escape, plunged into the azure blue sea and disappeared. Poseidon was searching, in vain, for her in all coasts and in all sea caves. He was tipping up the rocks and shaking the sand of the sea, but without any result. One day he sat sad and thoughtful on a rock. He was approached by a dolphin that asked him why he was so distressed.
When Poseidon explained, the dolphin promised to its master that it would do anything to find Amphitrite. It travelled for days and nights, and finally found her in Atlas territory near Africa. Then with scherzo and games it managed to lure her and brought her in front of Poseidon. The earth-shaking king, in order to thank his assistant, made him later a constellation. From the union of Poseidon and Amphitrite, a son was born, Triton, and two daughters, Rhodes and Venthesikymi.
The seafarer god had numerous extramarital affairs with goddesses, nymphs and mortals and is considered the father of some of the most famous bandits of antiquity and many of the terrible monsters. But he also left offspring that were honored heroes, founders of important families and city founders. In this subject, he was much more fortunate than his brother Zeus.
Amphitrite was not jealous of her husband as Hera. There is but only one legend about the revenge of the sea goddess.
When once Poseidon fell in love with nymph Scylla, Amphitrite threw magical herbs in the fountain where the nymph bathed, the effect of which was to turn the beautiful daughter into a horrible monster.
By the time Demeter searched across the entire earth to find her daughter, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, Poseidon was madly in love with her. She, in an attempt to avoid him, morphed into a mare and hid among Onkiou’s horses. The god was not fooled by the trick of his sister, turned into a horse and mated with her, without her even noticing it. Demeter was angry from the misfortune and in order to purge the awful sin, she washed herself in the river Ladon. From this strange mating a daughter was born and the faithful, who were not initiated to the mysteries of Demeter, trembled even to say her name. So they called her Lady or Despina (Despoina in Greek is Miss).
But a horse was also born, Arion. This was a magnificent animal that could think and speak with a human voice. Arion’s unique speed saved Adrastos during the campaign of the seven chiefs against Thiva.
It is said that Poseidon had a similar mate with Medusa. Medusa belonged to the generation of Centaurs and had extraordinary beauty to her human body parts. Once when Poseidon came ashore and was walking to the green pastures of Thessaly, met her and unable to resist to the erotic passion, he transformed into a horse, otherwise there was no way to mingle with her. Nearby there was a temple of the virgin goddess Athena.
The goddess was extremely angered that such a sin happened in her sacred space. But she could not punish the culprit because he was an immortal god and even belonged to a previous generation of her. So, she broke out to Medusa, transformed her into a terrible monster which had poisonous snakes instead of hair. This monster was killed, much later, by Perseus.
From their union, Chrysaoras were born, father of the three-bodied giant Geryon, and the winged horse Pegasus.
Additionally, the flirty god mated with the Earth, the par excellence fertile goddess, although she was his grandmother. From their mate, a giant was born, Antaeus, who is said that reigned in Libya. Any stranger that stepped a foot in his country was doomed to die. The terrible giant was challenging the stranger in a fight and was always victorious. He was dedicating the skulls of the victims to his father’s temple. Antaeus was invincible when he was touching his mother Earth.
Heracles, the time that he sought the golden apples of the Hesperides, passed from Libya, fought with him and choked him by lifting him into the air and making him vulnerable. Poseidon was considered the father of another monster, Vousiri, who acted in Egypt and killed all the visitors of his country. Eventually, like Antaeus, he was exterminated by Heracles.
Even Amykos was considered son of the sea god and the nymph Melia. He lived in Bithynia and killed all the travelers who passed through there. Finally, Pollux put an end to his injustices when he arrived with the other Argonauts in those parts. They say that the beautiful and brave hero did not kill the giant, but forced him to swear in the name of his divine father that he would not kill again any visitor.
Most of the robbers and bandits that were killed by Theseus while going from Troezen to Athens had Poseidon as their father. Skironas, Sinis, Procrustes and the Kerkyonas found terrible death in the same way that they tortured those passing by after robbing them. One myth says that Poseidon mated with Alopis’s granddaughter, Kerkyona’s daughter, and had with her a son, Ippothoonta who gave his name to the Ippothoontida tribe of Attica.
The most famous giant son of god was the Cyclops Polyphemus, from his mate with the Nymph Thoossa. He had no family relationship with homonymous sons of Gaia. He personifies the blind and brutal force that lacks any trace of logic. Homer tells us the passions of Odysseus, who tricked him by telling him that his name was “No-one”. For this act, however, Poseidon chased the king of Ithaca too, during the ten-year course for his country.
Cycnos (Swan) is also considered to be the son of the sea lord and Skamandrodikis. He died after a long battle with Achilles and transformed into the namesake bird. The giant Orion also came from the mating of the god with Euryale, daughter of Minos. Poseidon even gave his son the gift of walking on the waves of the sea. Finally, according to tradition, sons of god were also the Aloades, Otos and Ephialtes, from his coupling with Ifimedeia.
The fatherhood of many monsters and giants is attributed to Poseidon. Besides, in order to avenge some mortals, he often sent various monsters to wreak havoc. We have already mentioned the monster sent to Troy to avenge the king Laomedon. Once, the Nereids complained to their master that Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia, boasted that she was more beautiful than them. The enraged god sent a monster on the coast of the country, which caused terrible disasters. The oracle said that the country would be exempt from this calamity only if the king Cepheus sacrificed his daughter Andromeda. But at the moment that the monster was about to devour the beautiful princess, Perseus arrived with the winged sandals and saved her.
Well knows is also the adventure of Poseidon with Danaida Amymoni. After the drought sent by Poseidon to avenge Argos, she was looking for water in the forest. But a Satyr swooped at her with violent moods. In order to save her, he struck with his trident the Satyr and killed him. After that, he hit a rock and the spring Lerna flowed. From his love with Amymoni he gained a son, Nafplion, who gave his name to the famous city of the Peloponnese.
Also, one of the most important heroes of antiquity, Theseus, was considered the son of Poseidon and Aethra who she met on the island Thira. From Melanippe, the sea lord had two twin sons, Boeotia and Aeolus, who later became famous heroes and the territories Boeotia and Aiolia were named after them. His relationship with Tyro is also important. She was in love with Enipeas, the most beautiful river. She passed her whole day on his banks, waiting to see him.
Poseidon, who loved her, appeared before her in the form of the river and mated with her. They had two sons, Pelias and Neleus. Pelias reigned in Thessaly and Neleus settled in Messinia and founded Pylos. Poseidon also mated with Neleus’s wife, Flora, and had a son, Periklymenos, who gave him the ability to transform into any animal he wished.
Also from Kleito he acquired Atlas and from Melantho he acquired Delphos, who gave his name to Delphi. From Corfu he had Faiakas and from Rodi he obtained Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos, who gave their names to the three most important cities of Rhodes.
Poseidon as a god of the sea is responsible for the terrible storms and floods caused with a touch of the trident, but also for the smoothed sea and calm trips of the seafarers. For this reason, the latter considered him their patron.
Besides, the Argonauts immediately after the successful completion of their mission dedicated their ship, the fast traveling Argo, to Poseidon. The fishermen also prayed and made sacrifices to the god in order for him to bring them good catch.
The ancient Greeks believed that Poseidon tamed horses, so they also honored him with horse races. The gifts that were usually sacrificed were horses and bulls. The fishermen offered him fish.
Poseidon was worshiped in a lot of places throughout the Greek territory. Temples existed in most capes like in Sounion, in Tainaro and in Malea.
Beloved symbol of the god after the trident was the fish, especially tuna, dolphin and occasionally the bull and the horse.
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Very good article, informative and interesting.
Am a big fan and a young writer,learning about greek mytheology but i have not been able to publish any book of my own. People always tell me that i am worshiping gods but they are wrong cause they know nothing.My parents also don`t have the money to support me. Please Leftris help me.