Poseidon: Wikis


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Statue of Poseidon at Copenhagen Port
Statue of Poseidon at Copenhagen Port
God of the Sea, Earthquakes and Horses
Abode Sea
Symbol trident, fish, dolphin, horse and bull
Consort Amphitrite
Parents Cronus and Rhea
Siblings Hades, Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Zeus
Children Theseus, Triton, Polyphemus
Roman equivalent Neptune

In Greek mythology, Poseidon (Greek: Ποσειδῶν; Latin: Neptūnus) was the god of the sea and, as "Earth-Shaker," of earthquakes. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades. Poseidon has many children. There is a Homeric hymn to Poseidon, who was the protector of many Hellenic cities, although he lost the contest for Athens to Athena.


Worship of Poseidon

Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance, while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis. In his benign aspect, Poseidon was seen as creating new islands and offering calm seas. When offended or ignored, he supposedly struck the ground with his trident and caused chaotic springs, earthquakes, drownings and shipwrecks. Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage, sometimes drowning horses as a sacrifice.

According to Pausanias, Poseidon was one of the caretakers of the oracle at Delphi before Olympian Apollo took it over. Apollo and Poseidon worked closely in many realms: in colonization, for example, Delphic Apollo provided the authorization to go out and settle, while Poseidon watched over the colonists on their way, and provided the lustral water for the foundation-sacrifice. Xenophon's Anabasis describes a group of Spartan soldiers in 400–399 BCE singing to Poseidon a paean — a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.

Like Dionysus, who inflamed the maenads, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. A Hippocratic text of ca 400 BCE, On the Sacred Disease[1] says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.

Bronze Age Greece

The name seems to transparently stem from Greek pósis "lord, husband" with a less-transparent -don element, perhaps from dea, "goddess". If surviving Linear B clay tablets can be trusted, the name PO-SE-DA-WO-NE ("Poseidon") occurs with greater frequency than does DI-U-JA ("Zeus"). A feminine variant, PO-SE-DE-IA, is also found, indicating a lost consort goddess, in effect a precursor of Amphitrite. Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for "the Two Queens and Poseidon" and to "the Two Queens and the King". The most obvious identification for the "Two Queens" is with Demeter and Persephone, or their precursors, goddesses who were not associated with Poseidon in later periods.[2] In Mycenaean Knossos, Poseidon is already identified as "Earth-Shaker" (E-NE-SI-DA-O-NE),[3] a powerful attribute (earthquakes had accompanied the collapse of the Minoan palace-culture). In the heavily sea-dependent Mycenaean culture, no connection between Poseidon and the sea has yet surfaced; among the Olympians it was determined by lot that he should rule over the sea [4]: the god preceded his realm.

Demeter and Poseidon's names are linked in one Pylos tablet, where they appear as PO-SE-DA-WO-NE and DA, referred to by the epithets Enosichthon, Seischthon and Ennosigaios, all meaning "earth-shaker" and referring to his role in causing earthquakes.

Andrea Doria as Neptune, by Angelo Bronzino

Poseidon in myth

Birth and triumph over Cronus

Poseidon was a son of Cronus and Rhea. In most accounts he is swallowed by Cronus at birth but later saved, with his other brothers and sisters, by Zeus. However in some versions of the story, he, like his brother Zeus, did not share the fate of his other brother and sisters who were eaten by Cronus. He was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which she gave to Cronus to devour.[5] According to John Tzetzes[6] the kourotrophos, or nurse of Poseidon was Arne, who denied knowing where he was, when Cronus came searching; according to Diodorus Siculus[7] Poseidon was raised by the Telchines on Rhodes, just as Zeus was raised by the Korybantes on Crete.

According to a single reference in the Iliad, when the world was divided by lot in three, Zeus received the sky, Hades the underworld and Poseidon the sea. In the Odyssey (v.398), Poseidon has a home in Aegae.

Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, ca 440 BCE

The foundation of Athens

Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens after a competition with Poseidon. Yet Poseidon remained a numinous presence on the Acropolis in the form of his surrogate, Erechtheus. At the dissolution festival at the end of the year in the Athenian calendar, the Skira, the priests of Athena and the priest of Poseidon would process under canopies to Eleusis.[8] They agreed that each would give the Athenians one gift and the Athenians would choose whichever gift they preferred. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a spring sprang up; the water was salty and not very useful,[9] whereas Athena offered them an olive tree. The Athenians (or their king, Cecrops) accepted the olive tree and along with it Athena as their patron, for the olive tree brought wood, oil and food. After the fight, infuriated at his loss, Poseidon sent a monstrous flood to the Attic Plain, to punish the Athenians for not choosing him. The depression made by Poseidon's trident and filled with salt water was surrounded by the northern hall of the Erechtheum, remaining open to the air. "In cult, Poseidon was identified with Erechtheus," Walter Burkert noted.[10] "the myth turns this into a temporal-causal sequence: in his anger at losing, Poseidon led his son Eumolpus against Athens and killed Erectheus."

The contest of Athena and Poseidon was the subject of the reliefs on the western pediment of the Parthenon, the first sight that greeted the arriving visitor.

This myth is construed by Robert Graves and others as reflecting a clash between the inhabitants during Mycenaean times and newer immigrants. It is interesting to note that Athens at its height was a significant sea power, at one point defeating the Persian fleet at Salamis Island in a sea battle.

The walls of Troy

Poseidon and Apollo, having offended Zeus, were sent to serve King Laomedon of Troy. He had them build huge walls around the city and promised to reward them well, a promise he then refused to fulfill. In vengeance, before the Trojan War, Poseidon sent a sea monster to attack Troy (it was later killed by Heracles).

Poseidon on an Attic kalyx krater (detail), first half of the 5th century BCE.


His consort was Amphitrite, a nymph and ancient sea-goddess, daughter of Nereus and Doris.

Poseidon was the father of many heroes. He is thought to have fathered the famed Theseus.

A mortal woman named Tyro was married to Cretheus (with whom she had one son, Aeson) but loved Enipeus, a river god. She pursued Enipeus, who refused her advances. One day, Poseidon, filled with lust for Tyro, disguised himself as Enipeus, and from their union were born the heroes Pelias and Neleus, twin boys. Poseidon also had an affair with Alope, his granddaughter through Cercyon, begetting the Attic hero Hippothoon. Cercyon had his daughter buried alive but Poseidon turned her into the spring, Alope, near Eleusis.

Poseidon rescued Amymone from a lecherous satyr and then fathered a child, Nauplius, by her.

After having raped Caeneus, Poseidon fulfilled her request and changed her into a male warrior.

Not all of Poseidon's children were human. In an archaic myth, Poseidon once pursued Demeter. She spurned his advances, turning herself into a mare so that she could hide in a herd of horses; he saw through the deception and became a stallion and captured her. Their child was a horse, Arion, which was capable of human speech. Poseidon also had sexual intercourse with Medusa on the floor of a temple to Athena. Medusa was then changed into a monster by Athena. When she was later beheaded by the hero Perseus, Chrysaor and Pegasus emerged from her neck. There is also Triton, the merman; Polyphemus, the cyclops; and Oto and Ephialtae, the giants. [11]

  1. With Aethra
    1. Theseus
  2. With Alope
    1. Hippothoon
  3. With Amphitrite
    1. Rhode
    2. Triton
    3. Benthesikyme
  4. With Amymone
    1. Nauplius
  5. With Astypalaea
    1. Ancaeus
    2. Eurypylos
  1. With Canace
    1. Aloeus
    2. Epopeus
    3. Hopelus
    4. Nireus
    5. Triopas
  2. With Celaeno
    1. Lycus
  3. With Chione
    1. Eumolpus
  4. With Chloris
    1. Poriclymenus
  5. With Clieto
    1. Atlas
    2. Eymelus
    3. Ampheres
    4. Evaemon
    5. Mneseus
    6. Autochthon
    7. Elasippus
    8. Mestor
    9. Azaes
Jacob de Gheyn II: Neptune and Amphitrite
    1. Diaprepes
  1. With Demeter
    1. Arion
    2. Despoina
  2. With Europa
    1. Euphemus
  3. With Euryale
    1. Orion
  4. With Gaia
    1. Antaeus
    2. Charybdis
  5. With Halia
    1. Rhode
  6. With Hiona
    1. Hios
  7. With Hippothoe
    1. Taphius
  8. With Iphimedia
    1. Aloadae, giants Otus and Ephialtes
  9. With Libya
    1. Belus
    2. Agenor
    3. Lelex
  10. With Lybie
    1. Lamia
  11. With Melia
    1. Amycus
  12. With Medusa
    1. Pegasus
    2. Chrysaor
  13. With Periboea
    1. Nausithous
  14. With Satyrion
    1. Taras
  15. With Thoosa
    1. Polyphemus
  16. With Tyro
    1. Neleus
    2. Pelias
  17. Unknown mother
    1. Aon
    2. Byzas
    3. Cercyon
    4. Cycnus
    5. Evadne
    6. Lotis
    7. Rhodus
    8. Sinis


Poseidon was known in various guises, denoted by epithets. In the town of Aegae in Euboea, he was known as Poseidon Aegaeus and had a magnificent temple upon a hill.[12][13][14] Poseidon also had a close association with horses, known under the epithet Poseidon Hippios.

Poseidon in literature and art

The Neptun brunnen in Berlin

In Greek art, Poseidon rides a chariot that was pulled by a hippocampus or by horses that could ride on the sea. He was associated with dolphins and three-pronged fish spears (tridents). He lived in a palace on the ocean floor, made of coral and gems.

In the Iliad Poseidon favors the Greeks, and on several occasion takes an active part in the battle against the Trojan forces. However, in Book XX he rescues Aeneas after the Trojan prince is laid low by Achilles.

In the Odyssey, Poseidon is notable for his hatred of Odysseus who blinded the god's son, the cyclops Polyphemus. The enmity of Poseidon prevents Odysseus's return home to Ithaca for many years. Odysseus is even told, notwithstanding his ultimate safe return, that to placate the wrath of Poseidon will require one more voyage on his part.

In the Aeneid, Neptune is still resentful of the wandering Trojans, but is not as vindictive as Juno, and in Book I he rescues the Trojan fleet from the goddess's attempts to wreck it, although his primary motivation for doing this is his annoyance at Juno's having intruded into his domain.

A hymn to Poseidon included among the Homeric Hymns is a brief invocation, a seven-line introduction that addresses the god as both "mover of the earth and barren sea, god of the deep who is also lord of Helicon and wide Aegae[15], and specificies his twofold nature as an Olympian: "a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships."

Neptune's fountain in Prešov, Slovakia.

Sound and images

Poseidon myths as told by story tellers
1. Poseidon and Pelops, part I, (integral to Tantalus myth), read by Timothy Carter
Bibliography of reconstruction: Homer, Odyssey, 11.567 (7th c. BC); Pindar, Olympian Odes, 1 (476 BC); Euripides, Orestes, 12-16 (408 BC); Apollodorus, Epitomes 2: 1-9 (140 BC); Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI: 213, 458 (AD 8); Hyginus, Fables, 82: Tantalus; 83: Pelops (1st c. AD); Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.22.3 (AD 160 - 176)
2. Poseidon and Pelops, part II (Integral to the myth of Pelops and Hippodameia), read by Timothy Carter
Bibliography of reconstruction: Pindar, Olympian Ode, I (476 BC); Sophocles, (1) Electra, 504 (430 - 415 BC) & (2) Oenomaus, Fr. 433 (408 BC); Euripides, Orestes, 1024-1062 (408 BC); Apollodorus, Epitomes 2, 1-9 (140 BC); Diodorus Siculus, Histories, 4.73 (1st c. BC); Hyginus, Fables, 84: Oinomaus; Poetic Astronomy, ii (1st c. AD); Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.1.3 - 7; 5.13.1; 6.21.9; 8.14.10 - 11 (c. AD 160 - 176); Philostratus the Elder Imagines, I.30: Pelops (AD 170 - 245); Philostratus the Younger, Imagines, 9: Pelops (c. AD 200 - 245); First Vatican Mythographer, 22: Myrtilus; Atreus et Thyestes; Second Vatican Mythographer, 146: Oenomaus


  1. ^ (Hippocrates), On the Sacred Disease, Francis Adams, tr.
  2. ^ The illuminating exception is the archaic and localised myth of stallion Poseidon and mare Demeter at Phigalia in isolated and conservative Arcadia, noted by Pausanias (second century CE) as having fallen into desuetude; the violated Demeter was Demeter Erinys.
  3. ^ Adams, Professor John Paul. "Mycenaean Divinities". List of Handouts for Classics 315. http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/mycen.html. Retrieved 2 September 2006.  
  4. ^ (Hesiod, Theogony 456)
  5. ^ In the second century CE, a well with the name of Arne, the "lamb's well", in the neighbourhood of Mantineia in Arcadia, where old traditions lingered, was shown to Pausanias. (Pausanias viii.8.2.)
  6. ^ Tzetzes, ad Lycophron 644.
  7. ^ Diodorus, v. 55.
  8. ^ Discussed by Walter Burkert, Homo Necans, (1972, tr. 1983143-49.
  9. ^ Another version of the myth says that Poseidon gave horses to Athens.
  10. ^ Burkert, Homo Necans (1972, tr. 1983:157). "That Poseidon and Erechtheus were merely two names for a single god, a fact that is stated by Euripides, is also clearly visible in the cult." (p. 149).
  11. ^ Gill, N.S. (2007). "Mates and Children of Poseidon". http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/a/poseidonmates.htm. Retrieved 5 February 2007.  
  12. ^ Strabo, ix. p. 405
  13. ^ Virgil, Aeneid iii. 74, where Servius erroneously derives the name from the Aegean Sea
  14. ^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867), "Aegaeus", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1, Boston, pp. 24, http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/0033.html  
  15. ^ The ancient palace-city that was replaced by Vergina



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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911


POSEIDON, in Greek mythology, god of the sea and of water generally, son of Cronus and Rhea, and brother of Zeus and Pluto. The connexion of his name with iroocs, 7rovTos, iroraEaos; is generally accepted. When the three brothers deposed theif father Cronus the kingdom of the sea fell by lot to Poseidon. His home was in a golden palace in the depths of the sea near` Aegae in Achaea. In his hand he bore a trident, wherewith :lie lashed the sea into fury, split the rocks, and caused horses mid XXII. 6 a fountains to spring from them. But, while he caused storms and shipwrecks, he could also send favouring winds; hence he was known as Soler, " the preserver." Another of his titles was Gaeeochos, " the supporter of earth," the sea being supposed to support the earth and keep it firmly in its place. He was the god of navigation and his temples stood especially on headlands and isthmuses. Every occupation connected with the sea was under his protection, and seafaring people, especially the Ionians, regarded themselves as his descendants. As god of the sea he disputed with other deities for the possession of the land. Earthquakes were thought to be produced by Poseidon shaking the earth - hence his epithet of Enosichthon, " Earth-shaker"- and hence he was worshipped even in inland places which had suffered from earthquakes. The seismic' wave was also his work; the destruction of Helice in Achaea by such a wave (373 B.C.) was attributed to his wrath (Strabo viii. 384). The island of Delos was thought to have been raised by him, and about 198, when a new island appeared between Thera and Therasia, the Rhodians founded a temple of Poseidon on it (Strabo i. 57). Thessaly was said to have been a lake until he opened a way for the waters through the Vale of Tempe (Herodotus vii. 129). Poseidon was also the god of springs, which he produced by striking the rock with his trident, as he did on the acropolis of Athens when disputing with Athena for the sovereignty of Athens (Herodotus viii. 55; Apollodorus iii. 14). As such he was called Nymphagetes, the leader of the nymphs of springs and fountains, a god of fresh water, probably his original character, and in this connexion was Ovrapcos (phytalmius), a god of vegetation,. frequently associated with Demeter. In regard to the contest with Athena, it is probable that Poseidon is really Erechtheus, a local deity ousted by Athena and transformed into an agricultural hero. Dr Farnell, however, holds that Erechtheus and Poseidon were originally independent figures, and that both Erechtheus and Athena were prior to Poseidon, As he gave, so he could withhold, springs of water; thus the waterless neighbourhood of Argos was supposed to be the result of his anger. Black bulls, symbolical of the stormy sea, were sacrificed to him, and often thrown alive into rivers; in Ionia and Thessaly bull-fights took place in his honour; at a festival of his at Ephesus the cupbearers were called. "bulls," and the god himself was surnamed "Bull Poseidon." The horse was especially associated with his worship; he was said to have produced the first horse by striking the ground in Thessaly with his trident (Virgil, Georgics, i. 12). At the fountain of Dine in Argolis horses bitted and bridled were sacrificed to him by being drowned (Pausanias viii. 7, 2), and similarly Sextus Pompeius sought to propitiate him by throwing horses into the sea (Dio Cassius xlviii. 48). He bore the surname of "Horse Neptune" (Hoo-a6c7w 17r7rcos), and was regarded as the tamer as well as the creator of the steed. In the deme of Colonus he was worshipped with Athena, the reputed inventor of the bridle. Various explanations of the title ` '17r7rcos have been given: (1) that the horse represented the corn-spirit; (2) the resemblance of the crested waves to horses; (3) the impression of horses' hoofs near the god's sacred springs, and the shaking of the earth by them when galloping (see Farnell, Cults of the Greek States, iv. 20). Poseidon plays a considerable part in Greek legend. In the Trojan War he takes the side of the Greeks, because he had been cheated of his reward by Laomedon, king of Troy, for whom he had built the walls of the city. The binding of his son Polyphemus by Odysseus brings upon the hero the wrath of Poseidon, from which he is only protected by the united influence of the rest of the gods. He is famous for his numerous amours, especially with the nymphs of springs and fountains; his offspring were mostly wild and cruel, like the sea - the Laestrygones, Polyphemus, Antaeus, Procrustes and the like. He was worshipped as a national god by the Ionians, who took his worship over with them from Peloponnesus to Asia Minor. His chief sanctuary was at Mycale, where the Panionia, the national festival of the Ionians, was held. Other seats of his worship were in Thessaly, Boeotia and Peloponnesus. At Taenarum in Laconia he had a famous cave-like temple, with an asylum, and on the island of Tenos he was worshipped as the physician, probably in reference to the health-giving properties of the sea air. By far the most famous of his festivals was that celebrated every alternate year on the isthmus of Corinth, at which the "Isthmian games" were held. Here a colossal statue of him was set up in bronze by the Greeks after their victory over the Persians. The horse, the dolphin (the symbol of the calm sea) and the pine-tree, with wreaths of which the Isthmian victors were crowned, were sacred to him. Horses and black bulls, boars and rams were offered to him, sometimes human beings. His attributes are the trident and the dolphin (sometimes the tunny fish.) As represented in art Poseidon resembles Zeus, but possesses less of his majestic calm, his muscles are more emphasized, and his hair is thicker and somewhat dishevelled. He is generally naked; his right leg rests on a rock or the prow of a ship; he carries a trident in his hand, and is gazing in front of him, apparently out to sea; sometimes he is standing on the water, swinging his trident, or riding in his chariot over the waves, accompanied by his wife Amphitrite, the Nereids and other inhabitants of the sea. It is in keeping with his restless character that he is rarely found sitting. He sometimes wears a long robe, sometimes a light scarf. Scopas, in a famous group, represented him surrounded by the denizens of the sea, escorting Achilles to the islands of the blest. In modern Greece St Nicholas has taken the place of Poseidon as patron of sailors. But the Zacynthians have a special sea god, half man, half fish, who dwells under the sea, rides on dolphins or in a car drawn by dolphins, and wields a trident. By the Romans Poseidon was identified with Neptune (q.v.).

See E. Gerhard, Ober Ursprung, Wesen and Geltung des Poseidon (1851), with references to authorities in conveniently arranged notes; Preller-Robert, Griechische Mythologie (1894); O. Gruppe, Griechische Mythologie (1906), vol. ii.; and especially L. R. Farnell, Cults of the Greek States (1907), vol. iv., where special attention is drawn to the ethnological aspect of the cult of Poseidon.

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Poséidon



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From Ancient Greek Ποσειδῶν (Poseidōn).

Proper noun




  1. (Greek mythology) The god of the sea and other waters, earthquakes and horses.




Proper noun

Poseidon m.

  1. Poseidon.

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