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Bronze Statue of Poseidon the Greek Sea God

Bronze Statue of Poseidon the Greek Sea God, at the National Archaeology Museum of Athens

CC Photo Flickr User Shadowgate

Greek Mythology

Who Is Poseidon?

Poseidon is one of the 3 top gods in Greek mythology, brothers who divided the world among themselves. Poseidon's lot was the sea. As sea god Poseidon is usually seen with a trident. He is the god of water, horses, and earthquakes and was considered responsible for shipwrecks and drownings.

Myths involving Poseidon / Neptune (re-told by Thomas Bulfinch):


Family of Origin:

The Titans Cronus and Rhea are the parents of Poseidon in Greek mythology. Poseidon is one of their 3 sons; the others being Hades (Underworld) and Zeus. There were also 3 sisters, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter.

Cronus was the horrible mythological father who so feared his own children he swallowed them soon after birth. He continued to devour the newborns until his wife got wise (or help from her own parents) and deceived her mate by handing Cronus swaddling clothes covering replacement stones to swallow.

Roman Equivalent of Poseidon:

Poseidon was known as Neptune by the Romans.

Attributes of Posedon:

The symbol for which Poseidon is best known is the trident. Poseidon is often shown alongside his wife Amphitrite in a sea chariot drawn by sea creatures.


God of the Sea

Poseidon was the god of the salt water sea, the watery area on which mankind had to sail to travel from island to island and in which he usually spread nets to fish. Poseidon could cause all manner of trouble on the sea for those who crossed him.

When on earth Poseidon caused earthquakes, particularly in his bull-form, the "Earthshaking bull." Poseidon was especially worshiped in bull form in Thessaly. His connection to the Minotaur also plays on Poseidon's bull nature.

Poseidon was also god of horses, known as both Poseidon the Horse and Poseidon the Terrifier of Horses (Taraxippos). He mated with Demeter in stallion form.

Source: The Cattle of the Sun, by Jeremy McInereney; Princeton: 2010.

The Inferiority of Poseidon:

Poseidon asserts equality with Zeus in the Iliad, but then defers to Zeus as king. By some accounts Poseidon is older than Zeus and the one sibling Zeus didn't have to rescue from his father (the power leverage Zeus usually used with his siblings). Even with Odysseus, who had ruined his son Polyphemus' life, Poseidon behaved in a less fearsome manner than might be expected of an enraged Sturm und Drang kind of god. In the challenge for patronage of the polis of Athens, Poseidon lost to his niece Athena, but then worked cooperatively with her -- as in the Trojan War where they try to thwart Zeus with Hera's help.

Poseidon's Mates:

Poseidon is usually shown with his wife Amphitrite, but he mated with many creatures. Odysseus' (run-in with the) Cyclops are some of his children. Poseidon mated with Medusa when she was still a beauty. Out of their union was born the winged horse Pegasus. When he tried to mate with his sister Demeter, she changed herself into a mare. Turning himself into a stallion, Poseidon raped her, which resulted in the birth of the horse Arion. He once took on the form of the river god Enipeus in order to consort with Iphimedia. Their offspring was the giant Otus. Poseidon was in competition with Zeus for the nymph Thetis.

Poseidon and Zeus:

Poseidon may have had an equal claim to the title of king of the gods, but Zeus is the one who took it. When the Titans made the thunderbolt for Zeus, they made the trident for Poseidon. These objects are symbols of their power and it is sometimes unclear which object and which god is depicted since a trident looks substantially different from a scepter only at the three-pronged fork end.
The trident should not be confused with Triton, the fish-man son of Poseidon and Amphitrite.

In the Iliad:

Poseidon walks among the Greeks in the Iliad, at times taking on the guise of the human Thoas, to help them defeat the Trojans. When one of Poseidon's grandsons is slain by the Trojans, it just spurs the god on more. In this Poseidon is allied with his sister Hera and his niece Athena, but he is thwarting the will of his brother Zeus. Zeus sends Iris to tell him to cut it out. At first Poseidon rails that Zeus is not his superior, that they are equal, but then he backs down.

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