Saturday, December 24, 2011


Poseidon, as the god of the seas, held great power and significance for the ancient Greeks. He was a very popular god, and is consequently the subject of many myths. He appears in both the works of Homer and of Hesiod as the brother of Zeus, and therefore from the first generation of Olympians. And just as Zeus ruled the sky and wielded the deadly thunderbolt, Poseidon controlled, from his sea-domain, the devastating force of the earthquake. This ability to summon earthquakes earned Poseidon the epithet of "Earth Shaker", a name that is fairly common in Greek poetry and literature. But there is certainly more to this god than his relationship to the sea and earthquakes, which we will discover when we investigate the mythology of this Olympian lord.
The Wrath of Poseidon
Possibly because of the association between violent storms and the sea, Poseidon was often depicted in mythology as an angry, turbulent god. There are several myths in which the sea god reveals his terrible temper. For instance, Poseidon was relentless in his persecution of Odysseus after the hero blinded the god's son Polyphemus (details of this tale can be found in the Odyssey, which is an epic poem by the Greek poet Homer). In addition, Poseidon was so furious with King Laomedon when he was denied payment for building the walls of Troy that the vengeful god sent a sea-monster to destroy the countryside as punishment.
In addition to his reputation as a fighter, however, Poseidon was also a legendary lover. From his ill-fated affair with Medusa to his dalliance with the goddess Demeter, Poseidon proved that he could at times rival his notoriously promiscuous brother Zeus. Learn more about the lovers of Poseidon.
The god Poseidon was known as Neptune in Roman mythology.
FROM: Mythography | The Greek God Poseidon in Myth and Art
Poseidon is a god of many names. He is most famous as the god of the sea. The son of Cronus and Rhea, Poseidon is one of six siblings who eventually "divided the power of the world." His brothers and sisters include: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Zeus. The division of the universe involved him and his brothers, Zeus and Hades. Poseidon became ruler of the sea, Zeus ruled the sky, and Hades got the underworld. The other divinities attributed to Poseidon involve the god of earthquakes and the god of horses. The symbols associated with Poseidon include: dolphins, tridents, and three-pronged fish spears. Poseidon was relied upon by sailors for a safe voyage on the sea. Many men drowned horses in sacrifice of his honor. He lived on the ocean floor in a palace made of coral and gems, and drove a chariot pulled by horses. However, Poseidon was a very moody divinity, and his temperament could sometimes result in violence. When he was in a good mood, Poseidon created new lands in the water and a calm sea. In contrast, when he was in a bad mood, Poseidon would strike the ground with a trident and cause unruly springs and earthquakes, ship wrecks, and drownings.
Poseidon was similar to his brother Zeus in exerting his power on women and in objectifying masculinity. He had many love affairs and fathered numerous children. Poseidon once married a Nereid, Amphitrite, and produced Triton who was half-human and half-fish. He also impregnated the Gorgon Medusa to conceive Chrysaor and Pegasus, the flying horse. The rape of Aethra by Poseidon resulted in the birth of Theseus; and he turned Caeneus into a man, at her request, after raping her. Another rape involved Amymone when she tried to escape from a satyr and Poseidon saved her. Other offspring of Poseidon include: Eumolpus, the Giant Sinis, Polyphemus, Orion, King Amycus, Proteus, Agenor and Belus from Europa, Pelias, and the King of Egypt, Busiris.
One of the most notorious love affairs of Poseidon involves his sister, Demeter. Poseidon pursued Demeter and to avoid him she turned herself into a mare. In his lust for her, Poseidon transformed himself into a stallion and captured her. Their procreation resulted in a horse, Arion. Poseidon is Greek for "Husband" (possibly of wheat), and therefore it is thought that he and Demeter (goddess of wheat) are a good match because they reign as the god and goddess of fertility.
Another infamous story of Poseidon involves the competition between him and the goddess of war, Athena, for the city of Athens. To win the people of the city over, Poseidon threw a spear at the ground and produced the Spring at the Acropolis. However, Athena won as the result of giving the people of Athens the olive tree. In his anger over the decision, Poseidon flooded the Attic Plain. Eventually, Athena and Poseidon worked together by combining their powers. Even though Poseidon was the god of horses, Athena built the first chariot. Athena also built the first ship to sail on the sea over which Poseidon ruled.
Poseidon often used his powers of earthquakes, water, and horses to inflict fear and punishment on people as revenge. Though he could be difficult and assert his powers over the gods and mortals, Poseidon could be cooperative and it was he who helped the Greeks during the Trojan War. Poseidon is an essential character in the study of Greek mythology.
FROM: Poseidon - Encyclopedia Mythica
Poseidon's Appearance: Poseidon is a bearded, older man usually pictured with with seashells and other sealife.

Poseidon's Symbol or Attribute:
The three-pronged trident. He is associated with horses, believed to be seen in the crashing of waves on the shore. He is also believed to be the force behind earthquakes, an odd expansion of the power of a sea god.

Major Temple Sites to Visit:
The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion still draws huge crowds of visitors to the cliffside site overlooking the sea.

Poseidon's Strengths:
Creative, designing all the creatures of the sea.

Poseidon's Weaknesses:
Warlike, though not so much as Ares; moody and unpredictable.

Spouse: Amphitrite, a sea goddess.

Parents: Kronos, god of time, and Rhea, goddess of the earth.

Brother to Zeus and Hades.

Children: Many - second only to Zeus in the number of illicit liaisons. With his wife Aphitrite he fathered a half-fish son, Triton. Dalliances include Medusa, with whom he fathered Pegasus, the flying horse, and Demeter, his sister, with whom he fathered a horse, Arion.

A Basic Story: Poseidon and Athena were in a competition for the love of the people of the area around the Acropolis. It was decided that the divinity who created the most useful object would win the right to have the city named for them. Poseidon created horses, but Athena created the olive and so the capital of Greece is Athens, not Poseidonia.

Interesting Fact: Poseidon is often compared or combined with the Roman god of the sea, Neptune. In addition to creating horses, he is also credited with the creation of the Zebra, believed to be one of his early experiments in equine engineering.
FROM: Fast Facts on Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea, Earthquakes, and Horses - Greek Mythology - Myths of Greece
In the historical period, Poseidon was often referred to by the epithets Enosichthon, Seischthon and Ennosigaios, all meaning "earth-shaker" and referring to his role in causing earthquakes.
Poseidon was a major civic god the ocean and 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.
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, Apollo provided the authorization to go out and settle from Delphi, while Poseidon watched over the colonists on their way, and provided the lustral water for the foundation-sacrifice. Xenophon's Anabasis describes a groups of Spartan soldiers singing to Poseidon a paean - a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.
Like Dionysus and the Maenads, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. One Hippocratic text says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.
FROM: Poseidon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"I begin to sing about Poseidon, the great god, mover of the earth and fruitless sea, god of the deep who is also lord of Helikon and wide Aigai. O Ennosigaios (Shaker of the Earth), to be a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships! Hail Poseidon Gaienokhos (Holder of the Earth), dark-haired lord! O blessed one, be kindly in heart and help those who voyage in ships!" - Homeric Hymn 22 to Poseidon

"Hear, Poseidon, ruler of the sea profound, whose liquid grasp begirds the solid ground; who, at the bottom of the stormy main, dark and deep-bosomed holdest they watery reign. Thy awful hand the brazen trident bears, and sea’s utmost bound thy will reveres. Thee I invoke, whose steeds the foam divide, from whose dark locks the briny waters glide; shoe voice, loud sounding through the roaring deep, drives all its billows in a raging heap; when fiercely riding through the boiling sea, thy hoarse command the trembling waves obey. Earth-shaking, dark-haired God, the liquid plains, the third division, fate to thee ordains. ‘Tis thine, cerulean daimon, to survey, well-pleased, the monsters of the ocean play. Confirm earth’s basis, and with prosperous gales waft ships along, and swell the spacious sails; add gentle peace, and fair-haired health beside, and pour abundance in a blameless tide." - Orphic Hymn 17 to Poseidon

"Arion [the poet rescued by a dolphin] wrote a hymn of thanks to Poseidon that bears witness to the dolphin’s love of music and is a kind of payment of the reward due to them also for having saved his life. This is the hymn: ‘Highest of the gods, lord of the sea, Poseidon of the golden trident, earth-shaker in the swelling brine, around thee the finny monsters (theres) in a ring swim and dance, with nimble flingings of their feet leaping lightly, snub-nosed hounds with bristling neck, swift runners, music-loving dolphins, sea-nurslings of the Nereis maids divine, whom Amphitrite bore, even they that carried me, a wanderer on the Sikelian main, to the headland of Tainarion in Pelops’ land, mounting me upon their humped backs as they clove the furrow of Nereus’ plain, a path untrodden, when deceitful men had cast me from their sea-faring hollow ship in to the purple swell of sea." - Aelian, On Animals 12.45
Poseidon is one of the oldest and strongest of the Gods, whose kingdom is the sea. Sailors, fisherfolk, and all who work on or around the sea are his. He values strength and courage, but is not above taking even the most beloved sailor down to the briny depths. He is a chaotic God, completely unpredictable. He is also connected to horses, which form he frequently takes to mate with mortals and Goddesses alike.
Aspheleios (Steadfast), Basileus (King), Ennosigaios (Earth-Shaker), Gaieokhos (Earth-Holder), Hippios (of Horses), Pater (Father), Petraios (of the Rock), Phutalmios (Nourishing), Soter (Savior), Taureos (Bull-like)

trident, crown, conch shell

horse, bull, dolphin, all marine life

conch shells, coral, amethyst, sapphire, aquamarine, cedar, onycha, amergris, myrrh, bisquits, salt, tuna, or the first catch of the season

Primary Cult Center(s):
Cape Sounion, Pylos, Mount Mykale

Isthmian Games: 2nd and 4th years of the Olympiad
Poseidea: 8 Poseidon (December-January)
8th day of the month

Ways to honor:
Visit a beach. Ride horses. Go out on boats. Support fishermen and sailors. Fight pollution of our seas and beaches. Learn a water sport, such as diving or snorkling or boating.

For more information:
Apollodorus' Library 1.1.6, 1.2.2, 1.4.3-5, 1.5.1, 1.6.2, 1.7.5, 1.9.9, 2.1.5, 2.151-57, 2.249, 2.297, 2.4.1, 2.4.4, 2.147, 2.5.5, 2.5.8, 2.5.10, 3.1.4, 3.14.2, 3.14.3, 3.15.5-7, 3.16.6, 3.7.1
Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.179-189, 4.566-571
Demosthenes' Against Aristocrates 66
Euripides' The Trojan Women
Herodotus' The Histories 4.180.4, 7.129, 8.55
Hesiod's Catalogues of Women 7, 9, 10, 13, 72
Hesiod's Theogony 278-281, 453-506, 730-733, 930
Homer's Iliad 7.445, 8.200, 12.15, 13.1, 13.32, 13.59, 13.205, 13.231, 15.155, 15.15.184, 20.54, 20.309, 21.435
Homer's Odyssey 1.19-26, 1.44, 1.68-79, 4.500, 5.282-381, 11.250, 13.125-187
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 5.22-25
Homeric Hymn to Poseidon 22
Hyginus' Fabulae 89, 140, 166, 169, 186-188
Hyginus' Poetica Astronomica 2.5, 2.17, 2.20, 2.22
Ovid's Metamorphoses 4.531-542, 2.547-595, 4.790-803, 6.115-120, 8.848-854, 12.580-596
Pausanias' Description of Greece 1.14.6, 2.1.6, 2.15.5, 2.33.1, 8.8.2, 8.25.5-8, 8.42.1-2, 8.37.9, 10.5.6
Pindar's Isthmean Odes 8.21, 8.30-45
Pindar's Olympian Odes 1.25-88
Plato's Republic 391c
Plutarch's Theseus 6.1
Virgil's Aeneid 1.124-156, 5.779-826
Virgil's Georgics 1.12-14

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