God of the Sea
Photo: Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/0036MAN_Poseidon.jpg
Poseidon, God of the Sea
Roman Name: Neptune
God of: the sea, earthquakes, soil, horses and bulls
Parents: Kronos and Rhea
Married to: Amphitrite, an Ocean spirit
Children: Poseidon had many children with many different women. With his wife Amphitrite, he had two sons: Triton, the sea messenger and Proteus, the old man of the sea. He also fathered many heroes and monsters including Theseus, Medusa and Polyphemus the Cyclopes amongst others.
Symbols: The sea, the trident (like a giant fork), horses and celery (which was used as a prize at sports competitions in his honour!)
The view from the Acropolis was truly breath-taking. Delphi felt like she was on top of the world.
She was standing in the shade of an olive tree, next to the Erechtheion temple. The houses, the markets and the temples of the city stretched out below her, under a perfect cloudless sky. She could even see the sea, sparkling away in the sunlight.
She suddenly felt a splash of cold water wash over her foot.
Delphi leapt up in surprise. A spring of water was bubbling and squirting up between a crack in the stone floor.
“I see you, at least, are suitably impressed!” The voice was as booming as the waves.
Delphi looked up to see Poseidon, tall and imposing, resting the base of his huge trident on the ground near the spring.
“Err.. yeah!” said Delphi quickly, who knew not to disagree with gods. At least not very often. “Very impressive!”
“Not impressive enough, it seems!” Poseidon roared, sticking his bearded chin out proudly. “Did you know that when it came to choosing a miracle, the people of this city chose Athena’s olive tree over my spring of water?” He banged his trident on the stone floor in frustration and Delphi heard the waves crashing louder. “How can there be anything more important than water?”
Delphi looked at the stormy face of the god, and then down at the gurgling spring. She knelt down and put her hand into the water and tasted it.
“It’s salty,” she pointed out.
“So?” boomed Poseidon.
“You can’t drink it.”
“Well that’s not the point!” he spluttered. Delphi shrugged.
“Well, it sort of is. You can eat an olive. Don’t know why you’d want to though, they’re horrible. Both miracles seem a bit rubbish to me.”
“But there is nothing more important than the sea!” insisted Poseidon, but the crease in his forehead hinted that he wasn’t entirely convinced.
“Yeah, but there’s loads of sea, look over there! Why did they need a tiny bit more?” Delphi pointed out, starting to back away. “I can see why they chose Athena, to be honest. Besides, Athens is a much better name than…” She thought about it. “Possons!”
There was another bang of the trident and Delphi felt the ground starting to shake. The god let out a growl that sounded like a ship breaking in half.
But Delphi had already, quite wisely, run away.
Poseidon is the brother of Zeus. Kronos, their father, had feared his sons might grow more powerful than him – so he swallowed Poseidon along with their other brothers and sisters as soon as they were born! Zeus, the youngest brother, escaped that fate thanks to their mother Rhea, who tricked Kronos by giving him a stone wrapped in cloth to swallow instead. Zeus grew up in secret and then gave their father a poison to make him vomit Poseidon and his siblings back up again.
God of the sea
Poseidon joined his brother Zeus in their rebellion against their father and the Titans. This ten year war was called the Titanomachy – a huge and ferocious conflict that decided who would have ultimate power. During the war, Zeus freed the Cyclopes, strong, one-eyed giants who assisted the gods by creating three powerful weapons. Zeus was given his thunderbolts, Hades was given a helmet of invisibility, and Poseidon was given his famous trident – a forked spear. With the power of these weapons and their new allies, the gods defeated the Titans. Poseidon himself defeated one giant by throwing a piece of the island of Cos on top of him! After the war, the three brothers split up the world into three realms – Zeus became the ruler of the sky, Hades, the lord of the underworld, and Poseidon became god of the sea.
The god of Athens (almost)
Poseidon was strongly linked to the first king of Athens, Erechtheus. He was said to be the ‘father’ of the people of Athens, and was worshipped with Poseidon on the city’s famed Acropolis. The Erechtheion temple where they were worshipped may be the same temple that is still there today! However, when there was a contest between Poseidon and Athena to see who the most important god in the city would be, it was Athena who won the day with her olive tree.
Worshipped by sailors
Poseidon was seen to be a very important god to the Greeks, who depended on the sea for food, travel, trade and warfare. Sacrifices and offerings would regularly be made to Poseidon to ensure safe journeys across the sea, and if there was a storm at sea, Poseidon was said to be angry. However, Poseidon was not the only god of the sea – in fact, he wasn’t even the first. Pontus, son of Gaia, was the first Titan god of the sea, and their nephew, Oceanus was father to thousands more sea nymphs, oceanids and river spirits, with his sister Tethys. In fact every river, lake and sea was said to have their own god, and worshipped and respected by locals.
Father of monsters
The sea god was also responsible for fathering some of the most memorable monsters and heroes in Greek mythology. Poseidon’s son Antaeus, a mighty half-giant who decorated his father’s temples with human skulls, was wrestled and defeated by Heracles as part of his labours. Another giant was Polyphemus the Cyclops (who was even said to be a descendant of Plato!). He was tricked and blinded by the hero Odysseus when they got stuck in his cave. Poseidon was even father of Medusa, the snake haired monstrous woman who was defeated by Perseus, and through her, the flying horse Pegasus. He also fathered the Golden Ram, whose Golden Fleece was the target of Jason’s heroic quest. Poseidon was also closely linked to horses, and had a horse-son Arion, when he once seduced his sister Demeter when disguised as a horse! The sea god was a protective father and was quick to punish those heroes who killed or hurt his monstrous children.
Father of heroes
Poseidon didn’t just father monsters – he was also the father of heroes. Orion the hunter, whose constellation we can see in the night sky, was one of his sons (and was a favourite of the hunter god Artemis). In more modern tales, he also was the father of Percy Jackson, from the series of books by Rick Riordan. However, his most famous son was Athens’ favourite hero: Theseus, who is famous for slaying the Minotaur of Crete.