Poseidon is one of the Olympians. He is known as the god of the sea and the horse tamer. Like many of the gods, Poseidon is bad-tempered. He is also violent. In ancient times, the Greeks believed that he caused earthquakes, earning him the nickname “Earth-shaker”. Hot-blooded and powerful, Poseidon battled with other gods as well as against men.
Artists often portray Poseidon as a grown man with dark, curly hair and a great beard. He is usually holding his powerful trident and wearing a crown. In artwork, the god is frequently shown in or by the sea, but some have painted him as riding a horse or in a horse drawn chariot.
Ruler of the Sea
Poseidon was the offspring of Cronus and Rhea. He and his brothers, Hades and Zeus, battled bravely in a fight against the Titans. During that battle, he received his famous trident, an immensely powerful weapon made by the Cyclopes. They made it for him as a token of their appreciation. Poseidon helped them escape from Tartarus. Since Poseidon and his brothers received new, more powerful, weapons, they were able to defeat the Titans.
After this major victory, the brothers drew lots to see what area each one would rule over, and Poseidon received control of the sea. Zeus gained control of the sky while Hades received the underworld. Poseidon became Zeus’s second in command. There is a different story about how Poseidon gained power over the sea. According to this story, Cronus cast Poseidon into the sea following his birth because he thought that Poseidon would take the throne from him.
Powers and Abilities
Poseidon had absolute power over the sea including the ability to form storms that were strong enough to sink ships or blow dangerous storms away to help sailors reach their destination safely. It was thought that he could create new islands, and when he was ignored or angered, he would strike the ground with his magical trident, bringing about tumultuous springs and causing people to drown.
Conflict with Athena
According to the legends, Poseidon and Athena both wanted to be the patron god of Athens. To gain favor, both gods presented the leaders of Athens with a gift. Athena created an olive tree that was capable of producing olives, wood and olive oil while Poseidon offered a horse for work, transportation and battle. In some legends, Poseidon offered the city leaders a well of sea water instead of the horse. Regardless, Athena won the contest, becoming the patron goddess of the great city. From that time on, the two were rivals.
Poseidon had numerous offspring some of who were monsters like the cyclops Polyphemus and the sea creature Charybdis. Poseidon was also the father of Pegasus, the famed winged horse, and the hunter Orion. The sea god married Amphitrite. She was a Nereid, which is a sea nymph of Greek mythology. Together, they had Triton. He was half-fish and half-human.
The god also had children with mortal women. One was Tyro, and with her, he had Pelias and Neleus who grew up to be famous Greek heroes. Theseus was another of his half-mortal children as was Hippothous.
A Helpful God
While many stories about Poseidon refer to his wrath, there are accounts of the sea god helping others. One tale is about Ares and Aphrodite who were caught having an affair. Poseidon convinced Hephaestus, Aphrodite’s husband, to release Ares. He also protected Leto from Hera, and he granted Aphrodite’s request to let her descendants enter the sea.
Poseidon took revenge against Ajax after the hero claimed credit for teaching Antichlous about horses, which was false. Poseidon enacted his revenge by breaking apart Ajax’s boat so that he would drown, but the sea god decided not to kill him and saved the man.
Other Poseidon Myths
Poseidon participated in the war of the giants and the great flood. He even took part in the plot against Zeus. It was Hera, Zeus’s wife, who hatched a plan to overthrow Zeus, but after tying the sky god down, they didn’t know what to do with him. Once Zeus became free, he punished Hera severely, causing the other gods to fear him. According to another tale, Zeus wanted to destroy humanity forever, so he ordered Poseidon to unleash a great flood on the Earth. To stop the waters from flowing, it is said that the sea god cracked the Earth open to give the water a place to sink in to.
Honoring the Sea God
The most known festival held in the god’s honor was the Isthmia. During it, athletic contests took place including horse races. The festival was held in alternate years close to the Isthmus of Corinth. In art, Poseidon has been mainly characterized as the god of the sea with works generally representing him with his trident, the tuna and the dolphin. The Romans refer to him as Neptune, which also means sea god.
Cool Facts About Poseidon
• His undersea palace was made from coral and jewels.
• To defeat the giant Polybotes, Poseidon broke off a piece of the Kos island and threw it at him.
• Greek mythology claims that Poseidon was a part of the building crew that constructed the walls that surrounded Troy.
• Poseidon helped the Greeks during the Trojan War.
• He gave his grandson, Pterelaus, immortality.