"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 Helicon, and wide Aegae. O shaker of the earth, to be a tamer of horses and savior of ships! Hail Poseidon 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)
Poseidon (Roman: Neptune) [Pronounced in English as "Poe-sigh-dun", Pronounced in Greek as "Paw-see-thawn"], is the god of the ocean, the sea, and ruler of all water in Greek mythology. Poseidon is the fifth child and middle son of his Titan parents, Cronus and Rhea. Poseidon was swallowed by his father with his siblings and was rescued by his youngest brother, Zeus. When the world was divided up according to lot, Poseidon was given the ocean and sea, with Zeus given the sky and weather and Hades, the Underworld. Earth was considered to be neutral territory.
The name Poseidon has been suggested to mean "earth shaker", "master of water", or "husband of earth". Poseidon is believed to be the cause of earthquakes by striking his sacred weapon, the trident, into the ground.
In appearance, Poseidon is the first of his siblings to be portrayed in the nude. Being the ruler over water, this is a natural portrayal as the ancients did not wear bathing suits! Poseidon is revealed as a moody, mature man, with a well-developed and athletic physique. He is described as being dark featured, with hair a bluish-black color and held in place with either a headband or a wreath of wild celery, one of his sacred plants. Poseidon is sometimes shown with a billowing cloak, a symbol usually shown with deities associated with weather. In this instance such use reflects Poseidon's power over marine storms. So in this regard, Poseidon's power appears to overlap with his brother Zeus, the god of the sky and weather. Poseidon is generally portrayed with his trident in one hand and his other hand holding the reigns of his chariot that is pulled by strange beasts called hippocampi, which have the head, upper body, and front legs of a horse with a fish's tale. Modern renditions may show Poseidon riding in a sea shell that is pulled by seahorses.
Like with his sisters, Demeter and Hera, the worship of Poseidon is ancient. It has been suggested that he was originally viewed to be the ruler of the gods before the coming of Zeus, and was originally the husband of Demeter.
Poseidon is technically an Olympian, and is a member of the 12 Olympians. However, he rarely ventures outside his underwater domain. Like with his brother, Hades, the underwater palace of Poseidon is considered to be extremely beautiful and decorated with gold, precious stones, and pearls.
Like with his brothers, Zeus and Hades, Poseidon was incapable of being faithful to his wife, Amphitrite. Poseidon had many affairs with goddesses and mortal women and sired numerous children, though not as many as his brother Zeus. What does set Poseidon apart from his brother Zeus, is the countless demigods he sired. Poseidon sired far more half-divine offspring than Zeus did. Poseidon also has the distinction of being the first male god to take a male lover.
In this case, his male lover was named Nerites. Nerites was considered to be the most attractive sea deity and was he son of Nereus and Doris. He was the only son of his parents and had 50 sisters, the Nereids (sea nymphs). One day Poseidon saw him and instantly fell in love with him. He asked him to be his charioteer. Nerites accepted. Poseidon then took him to his bed. There was only one problem. Helios, the sun god, looked down upon Nerites as he played in the ocean each day and had already fell madly in love with him. So did the goddess of love herself. When Aphrodite was born of the sea-foam, Nerites offered to help her ashore. Aphrodite took one look upon the stunning youth and begged him to be her husband and come to Olympus to live with her. Nerites was genuinely attracted to Aphrodite but did not want to leave his watery world. He turned her down. Now, we don't know who did the deed, but either Helios or Aphrodite was offended that Nerites chose Poseidon as his lover. One of the scorned two decided to get revenge by transforming poor Nerites into a shellfish. In fact, it's believed that Nerites is the shell that Aphrodite stands upon in artistic scenes of her birth.
Poseidon is mostly known in Greek mythology for his marriage to Amphitrite, his affairs, for his contests over the possession of various cities, and for the tales of his anger, rage and vengeance when he was offended.
With Demeter, Poseidon fathered the goddess Despoine and an immortal horse named Arion. With Aphrodite, Poseidon sired the goddess, Herophile. With Gaia, Poseidon sired giants and monsters. With his wife Amphitrite, Poseidon sired the god Triton, the messenger of the sea gods, the goddesses Rhode, an island goddess, and Benthesikyme, the goddess of waves. With an unknown mother, Poseidon fathered the sea god, Proteus, one of the few gods who was actually portrayed as elderly.
Poseidon's wooing of the nymph Amphitrite was semi-romantic. Poseidon saw Amphitrite dancing and fell instantly in love with her. He approached her and she fled. Like with his brother Zeus, Poseidon never gave up. He enlisted his dolphin friend, Delphinus, to go find her and plead his case to her. Whatever Delphinus said, it must have been the right words because Amphitrite came back and gave Poseidon a second chance. Poseidon rewarded Delphinus by placing him in the sky as the constellation, Delphinus, the dolphin.
Poseidon courted Amphitrite the proper way, treating her like a lady and giving her precious gifts until she finally agreed to be his wife and queen. After that, Amphitrite quietly retreats from myth and not much is known or told about her. Her son with Poseidon, Triton, was far more popular than she. He was a merman and possessed a magic conch shell. With it Triton could summon the animals of the ocean as well as invoke powerful marine storms. Triton was his father's personal messenger.
Poseidon seemed to always be fighting with another god for possession of a city or territory. His most famous dispute was with Athena over who would be the patron god of Athens. The two waring gods decided that they would let the citizens of Athens decide who would win the city. Both Poseidon and Athena would create a gift for the people. The people would then vote on which gift was more valuable. The god who gave the most valuable gift would be declared the winner. Athena created the olive tree. With it people would have fruit that could be eaten, a supply of oil, and wood to burn or craft items out of. Poseidon then struck the ground with his trident, producing a salt water spring. Of course, people can't drink salt water. Therefore, Athena was declared the winner. Poseidon is said to be bitter over this loss to this very day.
Poseidon may have made a mistake with the salt spring but he ultimately was very helpful to humanity. In fact, Poseidon created the first horse. He then made it his sacred animal. Too bad he didn't think of that before as he just might have won Athens after all.
Poseidon may be the moodiest of all the gods. As a sea god this makes perfect sense. The ocean is fickle. One minute it may be smooth and calm. The next minute a massive storm may break out or a rogue wave may sink a ship. Poseidon's attitude and personality reflects the liquid environment over which he rules.
Because Poseidon is so moody he is perhaps the god who is most easily offended. In the myths, whenever Poseidon is offended he usually does one of the following things; cause an earthquake, brew up a marine storm, produce monster waves, or summon a sea monster to destroy a city. Poseidon was extremely fond of the last option. When Poseidon was royally pissed he would send a sea monster, assumed to be his offspring with Gaia, to ravish a city and utterly destroy it. Usually the city was doomed unless a hero just happened by and was able to kill the monster. One of the most famous example of such is in the story of Andromeda.
Andromeda was the beautiful daughter of the Ethopian king, Cepheus and his queen, Cassiopeia. One day Cassiopeia foolishly boasted that her daughter was more beautiful than all of the sea nymphs combined. Poseidon was furious. What pissed off Poseidon the most was hubris. Hubris is a hard word to define as there is no adequate representation in English. The closest translation of hubris would be when mortals act as if they are equal to or superior than the gods. There was actually a goddess who's very purpose was to punish hubris. Her name is Nemesis and she was pictured as a winged woman holding scales, a whip, and a dagger. Even though it was Nemesis' duty to punish idiotic mortals for their sin of hubris any god could step in and dish out punishment if he or she so chose. Poseidon was one of the gods who loved punishing humanity for such crimes against the gods.
As punishment for Cassiopeia's hubris for daring to suggest that the beauty of a mortal woman was superior to all of the ocean nymphs, Poseidon created a sea monster named Cetus, to ravage and destroy Ethiopia. King Cepheus was so devastated that he sought advice from the Oracle at Delphi as to how to stop the destruction the monster was unleashing upon his city. The god Apollo replied through his oracle that Poseidon's wrath would only be abated if the king sacrificed his daughter to the monster. So the king reluctantly made plans to do just that. The lovely Andromeda was chained to a rock in the ocean and just as Cetus appeared, ready to devour her, the hero Perseus, aided with the head of Medusa, turned the monster to stone and saved his fair maiden.
With reference to Medusa, a quick recap of her sad tale is necessary. Medusa was once a beautiful priestess of Athena. Poseidon seduced her and had sex with her in Athena's temple, an act of sacrilege that highly infuriated Athena. As punishment, Athena transformed Medusa into a horrible monster with serpents for hair. She was so ugly that anyone who looked at her was instantly turned to stone. Perseus didn't know it but Medusa was pregnant with twins by Poseidon. After being beheaded, the winged horse Pegasus and a mysterious male demigod named Chrysaor, emerged from her bleeding neck.
Not all of the monsters Poseidon sent to attack humanity were bound to the sea. Perhaps the most famous monster that Poseidon created was in fact a land-dwelling beast, the Minotaur. It came about that King Minos prayed to Poseidon for him to show him a sign of his support by sending him a pure white bull. Minos promised Poseidon that if the god did such that he would turn around and sacrifice the beast to him in favor. Poseidon heard his prayers and sent just such a bull out of the ocean. When King Minos saw the snow-colored bull he was taken back as it was the most beautiful bull he had ever seen. King Minos decided not to keep his word and wanted to keep the bull for his own possession. Poseidon was naturally pissed. To get revenge Poseidon caused an unnatural desire in King Minos' wife, Pasiphae. To be blunt, Pasiphae wanted to have sex with the bull. She tried everything she could think of to get the bull to mount her but each and every time he refused and even fled the queen. Finally, Pasiphae resorted to hiring the famous craftsman, Daedalus, to help her. He designed a hollow bronze bull that the queen then entered and used to be able to have sex with the bull. The deed done, Pasiphae discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to a monster that had the body of a man but the head of a bull. It was dubbed the Minotaur. Not only did it look like a monster but it was in the truest form as it only ate human flesh. Eventually the Minotaur was slain by the hero Theseus.
Like with his sister, Hera, Poseidon tends to get a bad rap in the myths. It's important to realize that the Greeks had no sacred scripture, such as the Bible for example. So the myths were simply stories based solely on the opinions of their authors and do not represent the opinions of actual worshipers. Poseidon is not this raging manic-depressed tyrant. He is in fact a majestic god of the sea whom his worshipers loved, adored and venerated.
Parents: The Titans Cronus and Rhea
Offspring: Triton, Kymopoleia, Benthesikyme, Rhode, Herophilos, Proteus, Areion, Despoine, Pegasus, Chrysaor, Chrysomallos, Asopos, The Prosooes, The Telkhines, Charybdis, The Second Race of Cyclopes, And Numerous Demigods and Mortals
Sacred Epithets/Aspects: Epoptis (watcher), Aglaotriaina (of the bright trident), Anaz (lord), Eftriaina (of the good trident), Cronios (son of Cronus), Nymphayaetis (leader of the nymphs), Orsotriaina (wielder of the trident), Semnos (holy), Soter (savior), Taureos (sea bull), Hippios (horse maker), Petraios (the rock), Asphaleios (averter of earthquakes), Phykios (of seaweed), Phytalmios (of plants)
Sacred Color: Dark Blue
Sacred Number: 6, 8
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Sacred Symbols: Trident, Boulder Studded With Sea Life, Chariot Pulled By Hippocampi, Headband or Wild Celery Wreath, Billowing Cloak
Sacred Incense: Myrrh, Frankincense
Sacred Offerings: Libations of Water, Wine, Honey, Milk, or Oil, Poured In Bodies of Water, His Sacred Plants,
Sacrificial Animals: Black or White Bulls, Rams, Boars
Sacred Plant: Pine Tree, Wild Celery
Sacred Bird: None
Sacred Animal: Horse, Bull, Dophin
Sacred Festival: Poseidonia (December, Near to the Winter Solstice), (Roman: Neptunalia - July 23rd and 24th)
***Note: The Ancient Greeks believed that Poseidon held up the earth, thus this is why they believed that Poseidon was the god who caused earthquakes. This should not be confused with the Titan, Atlas, who was believed to hold up the dome of the sky.
***Note: In at least one myth, Cronus did not swallow Poseidon but was instead tricked into swallowing a colt instead.
***Note: Poseidon was never portrayed by the Greeks as a merman, with the upper body of a man and lower tale of a fish. The Greek always portrayed Poseidon as fully humanoid. This said, one of Poseidon's offspring, the god Triton, was indeed portrayed as a merman.
***Note: Other than his magical trident, Poseidon second "weapon" is boulders which he likes to hurl at his enemies. These boulders are shown studded with sea life. The throwing of these boulders may have been viewed as the origin of large and devastating waves or even tsunamis.
***Note: Poseidon's son, Proteus, was the herdsman of his father's sea animals, especially seals. He had the power of prophecy. He was known for his ability to transform into any shape he pleased.
***Note: Poseidon's Roman counterpart, Neptune, was originally the spirit of freshwater springs before he became equated with the Greek god of the sea.
***Note: Though Neptune was equated with Poseidon by the Romans as being the same deity, the two were portrayed a bit differently. Poseidon was portrayed as being a dark-haired, mature man while Neptune was usually shown as an elder god with gray or white hair.