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Poseidon

Poseidon (pōsī´dən), in Greek religion and mythology, god of the sea, protector of all waters. After the fall of the Titans, Poseidon was allotted the sea. He was worshiped especially in connection with navigation; but as the god of fresh waters he also was worshiped as a fertility god. In Thessaly and other areas he was important as Hippios, god of horses, and was the father of Pegasus. Poseidon was represented as extremely powerful, with a violent and vengeful disposition. He carried the trident, with which he could split boulders and cause earthquakes. When Laomedon failed to pay him for building the walls of Troy, Poseidon sent a sea monster to ravage the Troad and years later vengefully assisted the Greeks in the Trojan War. His grudge against Odysseus is one of the themes of the Odyssey. He was the husband of Amphitrite, who bore him Triton, and by others he fathered many more sons, who usually turned out to be strong, brutal men (like Orion) or monsters (like Polyphemus). The Romans identified him with Neptune.

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Poseidon

Poseidon

One of the major deities in Greek mythology, Poseidon was the supreme ruler of the seas. The Romans called him Neptune. An awesome, unruly, and powerful god, Poseidon was associated with storms, earthquakes, and some other violent forces of nature. When angry, he could stir the sea to a fury. But he could also calm the raging waters with just a glance. One of his titles, Enosichthon (Earth-shaker), reflected his ability to cause earthquakes by striking the earth and mountains with his trident. Another name for Poseidon was Hippios (lord of horses), and the god presented horses as gifts to various individuals.

Poseidon rode the waves in a swift chariot drawn by golden sea horses. He used his mighty trident not only to provoke earthquakes and stir ocean waves but also to raise new land from beneath the sea or cause existing land to sink below the waters. Although often helpful to humansprotecting sailors at sea, guiding ships to safety, and filling nets with fishNeptune could be a terrifying figure as well. Quick to anger, he directed his fury at anyone who acted against him or failed to show proper respect.


Poseidon's Siblings. The son of the Titans Cronus* and Rhea, Poseidon was swallowed at birth by his father. He was saved by his brother Zeus*, who tricked Cronus into taking a potion that caused him to vomit up Poseidon and the other siblingsHades*, Demeter*, Hera*, and Hestia. Poseidon later joined Zeus and Hades in overthrowing Cronus, and the three brothers then divided the universe among themselves. Zeus received the sky, Hades ruled the underworld, and Poseidon became god of the seas.

deity god or goddess

trident three-pronged spear, similar to a pitchfork

Titan one of a family of giants who ruled the earth until overthrown by the Greek gods of Olympus

underworld land of the dead

Although Zeus was king of the gods, Poseidon often asserted his independence. Once he even plotted with the goddesses Hera and Athena* to overthrow Zeus. Together they managed to put Zeus in chains. However, the sea goddess Thetis saved Zeus by bringing a giant from Tartarusa realm beneath the underworldto release the king of the gods from his chains. As punishment for this rebellion, Zeus made Poseidon serve as a slave to King Laomedon of Troy for a year. During this time, Poseidon helped build great walls around the city. When the king refused to

*See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

pay for this work, Poseidon took revenge by siding with the Greeks against Troy in the Trojan War*.


Love Life and Children. Poseidon had a turbulent love life and fathered many children, including a number of monsters and sea creatures. With his wife, the sea nymph Amphitrite, he had three offspring. One was the sea god Triton, a merman who resembled a human above the waist and a fish from the waist down.

Poseidon had children with other partners as well. After seducing his sister Demeter while disguised as a horse, he had two children: the divine horse Arion and a daughter, Despoina. A beautiful woman named Medusa* also bore Poseidon two children: the winged horse Pegasus and a son named Chrysaor. The goddess Athena, angered that Poseidon had made love to Medusa in one of her temples, turned the woman into a hideous monster, a Gorgon. Through his son Chrysaor, Poseidon became ancestor to some of the most fearsome monsters in Greek mythology, including Cerberus, the Hydra, the Nemean Lion, and the Sphinx.


Gaia, the earth, bore Poseidon two children: Antaeus, a giant, and Charybdis, a sea monster that almost destroyed Odysseus* during his journey home after the Trojan War. Another giant offspring of Poseidonthe one-eyed Cyclops Polyphemusalso threatened Odysseus on his voyage home. When Odysseus blinded the giant, he became a target of Poseidon's hatred.

When Poseidon tried to seduce the beautiful sea nymph Scylla, his wife, Amphitrite, became jealous and transformed her into a horrible sea monster with six dogs' heads. Like Charybdis, Scylla terrorized sailors, and she devoured several of Odysseus's companions.

Among Poseidon's other children were the evil Cercyon and Sciron, normal-sized offspring who threatened and killed travelers in Greece, and the giant Amycus, who forced people to fight with him and then killed them. Various ordinary mortals also claimed Poseidon as their father, including the famous Greek hero Theseus*.


Poseidon's Quarrels. Poseidon had numerous quarrels with other gods. One of his most famous disputes involved the goddess Athena. Both Poseidon and Athena claimed the city of Athens and the surrounding region of Attica as their own. A contest was held to see which god could give Athens the best gift. Athena created an olive tree; Poseidon produced a saltwater spring. When the Athenians judged Athena's gift to be superior, the angry Poseidon flooded the surrounding plain.

nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful

Gorgon one of three ugly monsters who had snakes for hair, staring eyes, and huge wings

Poseidon, the god of the seas, was one of the 12 Olympian gods in Greek mythology. Known for his terrible temper, Poseidon was associated with storms, earthquakes, and other violent forces of nature.


Poseidon also quarreled with the sun god Helios over control of the Greek city of Corinth. The giant Briareos settled the argument by giving the hill overlooking the city to Helios and the surrounding land to Poseidon. Satisfied with this decision, Poseidon caused no problems for the people of Corinth.

Another of Poseidon's famous quarrels was with Minos, the king of Crete. Minos asked Poseidon to send him a bull that he could sacrifice to the god. Poseidon sent such a magnificent bull that the king decided to keep it for himself instead of sacrificing it. Furious, Poseidon caused Minos's wife, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull and to give birth to the Minotaur, a monstrous beast that had the body of a man and the head of a bull.

See also Athena; Cerberus; Cyclopes; Demeter; Gaia; Hades; Hera; Hydra; Medusa; Minos; Minotaur; Monsters; Neptune; Odysseus; Pegasus; Scylla and Charybdis; Sphinx; Theseus; Zeus.

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Poseidon

Poseidon In Greek mythology, god of all waters, and brother of Zeus and Pluto, identified with the Roman god Neptune. Poseidon controlled the monsters of the deep, created the horse (he was the father of Pegasus) and sired Orion and Polyphemus. He is always represented holding a trident.

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Poseidon

Poseidon in Greek mythology, the god of the sea, water, earthquakes, and horses, son of Cronus and Rhea and brother of Zeus. He is often depicted with a trident in his hand. His Roman equivalent is Neptune.

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Poseidon

PoseidonAbaddon, gladden, gladdon, Ibadan, madden, sadden •abandon, Brandon, Rwandan, Ugandan •Baden, Baden-Baden, Coloradan, garden, harden, lardon, Nevadan, pardon •Wiesbaden • bear garden •tea garden •Armageddon, deaden, leaden, redden •Eldon, Sheldon •Brendan, tendon •Dresden •Aden, Aidan, Haydn, laden, maiden •handmaiden •cedarn, cotyledon, dicotyledon, Eden, monocotyledon, Sweden •wealden •bestridden, forbidden, hidden, midden, outridden, ridden, stridden, unbidden •Wimbledon •linden, Lindon, Swindon •Wisden • Mohammedan • Myrmidon •harridan • hagridden • Sheridan •bedridden • Macedon • Huntingdon •Dryden, guidon, Leiden, Poseidon, Sidon, widen •Culloden, hodden, modern, sodden, trodden •Cobden • downtrodden •Auden, broaden, cordon, Gordon, Hordern, Jordan, warden •churchwarden • louden • bounden •loden, Snowdon •beholden, embolden, golden, olden •hoyden • Bermudan • wooden •Mukden • gulden • sudden •Blunden, London •Riordan • bourdon • bombardon •celadon • Clarendon •burden, guerdon

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Poseidon

POSEIDON

POSEIDON is the ancient Greek god who embodies primitive powerthe power of the untamed, the brutal, the wild. His name, which has not yet been convincingly explained, occurs on clay tablets from Pylos dating from the period preceding the destruction of Mycenaean civilization (1200 bce). The god thus belongs to the older strata of Greek religion. His exact place in the Mycenaean pantheon is unknown, but he seems to have been more important that Zeus, who was the most prominent Greek god in the Classical period. The tablets of Pylos also mention the Posidaion (a sanctuary most probably located within the city of Pylos) and a goddess Posidaeja (possibly Poseidon's wife, though she is not heard of in later times).

In the Classical period, Poseidon was mainly connected with the sea, earthquakes, the horse, and men's associations. In Homer's Iliad, most commonly dated from the eighth century bce, Poseidon is pictured as the ruler of the sea. When he drives over the waves, his chariot remains dry and the monsters of the deep play beneath him: "They know their lord" (Iliad 12.28). In the post-Homeric period, he was not so much the god of the sailors as of the fisherman, whose tool, the trident, became his symbol.

Besides the sea, Poseidon was also connected with the earth. His anger was considered the cause of the earthquakes that hit Greece regularly (Homer refers to him as gaiēochos, "earthshaking"), but the god was also invoked to end them; in many cities (especially on the western coast of Asia Minor) Poseidon was worshiped with the epithet asphaleios ("the immovable one"). When volcanic activity in 198 bce caused the emergence of a new, small island, the inhabitants of neighboring Thera, as was typical, dedicated a temple to Poseidon Asphaleios on it.

Poseidon was also widely associated with horse breeding and racing; Greek myth even made him the father of the first horse, and the father or grandfather of the famous horses Pegasus and Areion. Whereas the goddess Athena was considered to be responsible for the technique of horse racing, Poseidon was connected with the wild, nervous, and powerful nature of the horse. Consequently, Athena was invoked during the race, but Poseidon before or after.

Finally, Poseidon was connected with men's associations. His temples were the meeting places of the pan-Ionic league and of the early amphictyony that comprised Athens and its neighbors. Various epithets of the god connect him with specific clans and tribes. Elsewhere Poseidon was worshiped with the epithet phutalmios ("the fostering one"), which points to an association with rites of initiation. Indeed, myth relates that the god's love turned the girl Kaineus into an adult man; her sex change is a mythical reflection of the ritual transvestism of the initiands. At a festival for Poseidon in Ephesus, boys acting as wine pourers were called "bulls," just as the god himself was sometimes called "Bull." All this evidence seems to point to a onetime connection of the god with Archaic men's associations (Männerbünde ) and their ecstatic bull-warriors, which also could be found among the early Germanic peoples.

The Greeks experienced the power of Poseidon as both numinous and untamed. His sanctuaries were usually located outside city walls. Although his power was inescapable, the god was given no place within the ordered society of the Greek city-state.

See Also

Berserkers.

Bibliography

The best collection of sources for Poseidon's cult is still the reliable discussion in Lewis R. Farnell's The Cults of the Greek States, vol. 4, Poseidon, Apollo (Oxford, 1907), pp. 197. The epigraphical material presented by Farnell on a number of epithets is now supplemented by Fritz Graf's Nordionische Kulte (Rome, 1985), pp. 1712, 175, and 2078; see now also Joannis Mylonopoulos, Heiligtümer und Kulte des Poseidon auf der Peloponnes (Liège, 2003). Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant subtly discuss Poseidon's relationship with the horse in Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, translated by Janet Lloyd (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1978), pp. 187213. For a new synthesis see my "'Effigies Dei' in Ancient Greece: Poseidon," in D. van der Plas (ed.), Effigies Dei: Essays on the History of Religions (Leiden, 1987), pp. 3541.

Jan N. Bremmer (1987 and 2005)

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Poseidon

Poseidon ★½ 2006 (PG-13)

Uninspired remake of 1972's “The Poseidon Adventure” sunk faster at the box office than the flick's luxury cruise ship. A rogue wave capsizes the liner on New Year's Eve but a few of the passengers defy the captain's orders to remain in the ballroom and await rescue and decide to make their own way to the surface through the treacherous wreckage. The cast is stuck with recognizable genre types (hero, coward, protective parent) but no one stands out amidst the watery rubble. 99m/C DVD, HD DVD . US Josh(ua) Lucas, Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Jimmy Bennett, Mia Maestro, Andre Braugher, Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Vogel, Kevin Dillon, Freddy Rodriguez, Gabe Jarret, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson; D: Wolfgang Petersen; W: Mark Protosevich; C: John Seale; M: Klaus Badelt.

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Poseidon

Poseidon

Nationality/Culture

Greek

Pronunciation

poh-SYE-dun

Alternate Names

Neptune (Roman)

Appears In

Homer's Iliad, Hesiod's Theogony

Lineage

Son of Cronus and Rhea

Character Overview

One of the major deities (gods) in Greek mythology, Poseidon was the supreme ruler of the seas. The Romans called him Neptune (pronounced NEP-toon). An awesome, unruly, and powerful god, Poseidon was associated with storms, earthquakes, and some other violent forces of nature. When angry, he could stir the sea to a fury, but he could also calm the raging waters with just a glance. One of his titles, translated as “Earth-shaker,” reflected his ability to cause earthquakes by striking the earth and mountains with his three-pronged spear known as a trident. Another name for Poseidon was Hippios (pronounced HIP-ee-ohs), meaning lord of horses, a reference to the fact that he was believed to be the creator of the first horse.

Poseidon rode the waves in a swift chariot drawn by golden sea horses. He used his mighty trident not only to create earthquakes and stir ocean waves, but also to raise new land from beneath the sea or cause existing land to sink below the waters. Although often helpful to humans—protecting sailors at sea, guiding ships to safety, and filling nets with fish—Neptune could be a terrifying figure as well. Quick to anger, he directed his fury at anyone who acted against him or failed to show proper respect.

Major Myths

The son of the Titans Cronus (pronounced KROH-nuhs) and Rhea (pronounced REE-uh), Poseidon was swallowed at birth by his father. He was saved by his brother Zeus (pronounced ZOOS), who tricked Cronus into taking a potion that caused him to vomit up Poseidon and the other siblings—Hades (pronounced HAY-deez), Demeter (pronounced di-MEE-ter), Hera (pronounced HAIR-uh), and Hestia (pronounced HESS-tee-uh). Poseidon later joined Zeus and Hades in overthrowing Cronus, and the three brothers then divided the universe among themselves. Zeus received the sky, Hades ruled the underworld or land of the dead, and Poseidon became god of the seas.

Although Zeus was king of the gods, Poseidon often asserted his independence. Once he even plotted with the goddesses Hera and Athena (pronounced uh-THEE-nuh) to overthrow Zeus. Together they managed to put Zeus in chains. However, the sea goddess Thetis (pronounced THEE-tis) saved Zeus by bringing a giant from Tartarus (pronounced TAR-tur-uhs)—a realm beneath the underworld—to release the king of the gods from his chains. As punishment for this rebellion, Zeus made Poseidon serve as a slave to King Laomedon (pronounced lay-OM-uh-don) of Troy for a year. During this time, Poseidon helped build great walls around the city. When the king refused to pay for this work, Poseidon took revenge by siding with the Greeks against Troy in the Trojan War.

Love, Life, and Children Poseidon had a turbulent love life and fathered many children, including a number of monsters and sea creatures. With his wife, the sea nymph Amphitrite (pronounced am-fi-TRY-tee), he had three offspring. One of the children, Triton (pronounced TRY-tun), was a sea god and a merman (male version of a mermaid) who resembled a human above the waist and a fish from the waist down.

Poseidon had children with other partners as well. After seducing his sister Demeter while disguised as a horse, he had two children: the divine horse Arion (pronounced uh-RYE-uhn) and a daughter Despina (pronounced des-PEE-nuh). Medusa (pronounced meh-DOO-suh) is also sometimes mentioned as a lover of Poseidon. According to myth, Medusa was once a beautiful woman, and Poseidon seduced her inside one of the goddess Athena's temples. Athena, angered by this sign of disrespect, transformed Medusa into a hideous Gorgon. The two children of Poseidon and Medusa were born from the blood spilled when the hero Perseus (pronounced PUR-see-uhs) cut off Medusa's head. These two children were the winged horse Pegasus (pronounced PEG-uh-suhs), and a son named Chrysaor (pronounced kree-SAY-ohr). Through his son Chrysaor, Poseidon became ancestor to some of the most fearsome monsters in Greek mythology, including the three-headed hound Cerberus (pronounced SUR-ber-uhs), the Hydra (pronounced HYE-druh), the Nemean (pronounced ni-MEE-uhn) Lion, and the Sphinx.

Gaia (pronounced GAY-uh), the earth, bore Poseidon two children: Antaeus (pronounced an-TEE-uhs), a giant, and Charybdis (pronounced kuh-RIB-dis), a sea monster that almost destroyed Odysseus (pronounced oh-DIS-ee-uhs) during his journey home after the Trojan War. Another giant offspring of Poseidon—the one-eyed Cyclops Polyphemus (pronounced pol-uh-FEE-muhs)—also threatened Odysseus on his voyage home. When Odysseus blinded the giant, he became a target of Poseidon's hatred.

When Poseidon tried to seduce the beautiful sea nymph Scylla (pronounced SIL-uh), his wife Amphitrite became jealous and transformed her into a horrible sea monster with six dog-heads. Like Charybdis, Scylla terrorized sailors, and she devoured several of Odysseus's companions.

Among Poseidon's other children were the evil Cercyon (pronounced SUR-see-on) and Sciron (pronounced SKEE-ron), normal-sized offspring who threatened and killed travelers in Greece, and the giant Amycus (pronounced AM-i-kuhs), who forced people to fight with him and then killed them. Various ordinary mortals also claimed Poseidon as their father, including the famous Greek hero Theseus (pronounced THEE-see-uhs).

Poseidon's Quarrels Poseidon had numerous quarrels with other gods. One of his most famous disputes involved the goddess Athena. Both Poseidon and Athena claimed the region of Attica (pronounced AT-i-kuh) and its capital city as their own. A contest was held to see which god could give Athens the best gift; whoever won would have the capital city named after them. Athena created an olive tree; Poseidon produced a saltwater spring (or, in some versions, the first horse). When the citizens judged Athena's gift to be superior, the angry Poseidon flooded the surrounding plain.

Poseidon also quarreled with the sun god Helios (pronounced HEE-lee-ohs) over control of the Greek city of Corinth. The giant Briareus (pronounced bry-AHR-ee-uhs) settled the argument by giving the hill overlooking the city to Helios and the surrounding land to Poseidon. Satisfied with this decision, Poseidon caused no problems for the people of Corinth.

Another of Poseidon's famous quarrels was with Minos (pronounced MYE-nuhs), the king of Crete (pronounced KREET). Minos asked Poseidon to send him a bull that he could sacrifice to the god. Poseidon sent such a magnificent bull that the king decided to keep it for himself instead of sacrificing it. Furious, Poseidon caused Minos's wife, Pasiphae (pronounced pa-SIF-ah-ee), to fall in love with the bull and to give birth to the Minotaur (pronounced MIN-uh-tawr), a monstrous beast that had the body of a man and the head of a bull.

Poseidon in Context

As the god of the sea, Poseidon reflects the way ancient Greeks and Romans viewed the seas and oceans upon which they relied for trade and commerce. Poseidon is depicted as a god prone to violent outbursts that occur almost without warning. This is similar to how a calm sea can quickly give way to stormy, dangerous swells. In addition, his frequent outbursts at not receiving proper respect may have been viewed as cautionary tales: looking at the available historical evidence, some experts believe that Poseidon was among the most worshipped of all the Greek and Roman deities. This may also reflect the importance these people placed upon the sea as both a provider and a pathway to trade. But though the Greeks worshipped and respected Poseidon, it is important to note that places of worship to Poseidon were always located outside city walls, indicating that he was too violent and unpredictable for civilized, orderly city life.

Key Themes and Symbols

Poseidon represents the untamed and wild power of nature. While he ruled the sea and could cause the waters to become violent, he also had a strong connection to the earth, as shown in his association with earthquakes that the Greeks believed he started with his mighty trident. The trident—itself an important symbol of Poseidon—indicates his stronger association with fishermen than sailors, since the trident is an important tool in the fishing trade.

Poseidon also had a strong connection to horses, particularly the wild and powerful aspects of horses. The Greeks would pray to him before and after a horse race, although they prayed to his sister Athena during the race, as she was responsible for the actual technique of horse-racing. Another animal associated with Poseidon is the dolphin; a sighting of a dolphin by Greek sailors was considered a good sign of a smooth trip.

Poseidon in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

In ancient art, Poseidon was often portrayed riding in a chariot pulled by horses or hippocamps—creatures with front halves similar to horses and back halves like fish. He was usually seen holding his trident. In modern times, he is perhaps best known by his Roman name, Neptune. Sculptures of Neptune are popular in city fountains and can be found in cities such as Copenhagen, Florence, Mexico City, and Virginia Beach. Neptune also makes an appearance in the animated film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), with actor Jeffrey Tambor providing the voice of King Neptune. Poseidon plays a key part in the 2005 novel The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan, which follows the adventures of a demigod (half god, half human) named Percy Jackson.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

Poseidon made his home at the bottom of the sea, in a palace made of coral. Over two-thirds of our planet's surface is covered by water. As the human population continues to grow, the amount of land available for people to live on will become ever smaller. Do you think that humans will someday live in communities on or under the oceans of the world? What unique problems would humans face living in the realm of Poseidon?

SEE ALSO Athena; Cerberus; Cyclopes; Demeter; Gaia; Hades; Hera; Medusa; Odysseus; Pegasus; Sphinx; Theseus; Zeus

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