Who is Poseidon in Greek Mythology?
Poseidon in Greek Mythology was the son of CRONUS and RHEA. He was the Greek god of the Sea, the god of drought, floods, earthquakes, and horses—his Roman counterpart was NEPTUNE.
But most importantly, one of the Olympians that I still haven’t covered for some reason, and I know some of you have been asking for a while now. So, I guess it is finally time. With an article of this magnitude, we should probably start at the very beginning with the Mycenaean religion. Essentially, the mother of all Greek myths.
Origin of Poseidon
Before we begin, we have to put aside any Greek pantheon image that we think we have, because the Mycenaean Pantheon is pretty much the foundation that all others were built from.
To the Mycenaeans, Poseidon was pretty much the figurehead of their religion. The role that we now associate with Zeus originally belonged to him. Even Persephone was considered the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, as opposed to Zeus. But most of this can be attributed to the fact that Zeus is a deity that doesn’t appear until much later.
One of Poseidon’s earliest stories involves him transforming into a horse to mate with Demeter, who had previously transformed herself into a mare. This whole transformation into an animal to have intercourse with someone is something that we see numerous times throughout Greek mythology.
The Mycenaeans still saw Poseidon as the god of earthquakes, but he was mostly associated with the underworld and its many rivers. This in itself is quite interesting because that is a role, we would more commonly associate with his other brother, Hades. But in the absence of his brothers, Poseidon was pretty much the three-in-one Swiss Army knife deity.
It’s hard to say with any real certainty if the Mycenaeans ever saw Poseidon as the god of the sea because we just don’t know enough about the culture nor the people. But the poets that followed seemed to agree that this association to the sea only came after his father was defeated.
As the years passed and many different versions of the Greek religion came and went, Poseidon became one of the original six Olympians—the children of Cronus and Rhea, whom all except Zeus were swallowed at Birth by their father.
There are some versions of the story where Poseidon was also given away by his mother same way Zeus was, but these are much harder to come by.
When they eventually did manage to overthrow their father, the three brothers drew straws to see how the world would be divided and who would rule which domain. But Zeus never intended for this to be a fair contest, and so the underworld was given to Hades when he drew the shortest straw.
Poseidon would then take the sea when he drew the second shortest straw, and Zeus, emerging victorious will, of course, become the ruler of the sky.
It’s quite rare to see images of Poseidon without his iconic Trident, and when his name is mentioned, I’m sure the Trident is what comes to mind for most people.
During the War of the Titans, Zeus freed the Cyclopes from Tartarus, and in exchange, they forged the gods their weapons. And this is where Poseidon would receive his Trident—the symbol that would identify the god and ruler of the sea. Of course, Poseidon wasn’t the only deity associated with the sea. There were many that came before him. From Pontus and Thalassa, which literally means sea to Oceanus and the many minor gods and children that followed.
The reason we refer to him as the god of the sea is that that is the role he took as ruler, and it’s much easier to refer to one than having to name all 10,000.
Since we are on a topic of thousands of deities, I guess we can look at Poseidon’s lovers and many children. Sadly, I can’t mention every single one in a single blog post, but as I cover these deities and mortal children of Poseidon, I will update this blog post with a relevant link to the articles.
Poseidon’s Lovers and Children
Lover 1: Amphitrite
Back on Poseidon’s many lovers and children, I guess we should start with his wife, Amphitrite, and the rather weird story of how they got married.
When Poseidon made it known he wished to marry Amphitrite, she attempted to flee in the hopes of remaining a virgin. Rather than pursue her himself, Poseidon sent his dolphins to bring her back.
If you are wondering, delphins are pretty much dolphins, except they were spirits in the service of Poseidon. It’s never really stated where they originated from, just that they were amongst his most beloved followers.
There are two different versions of this story, one being that the Dolphins kidnapped Amphitrite and brought her back against her will, and the other being that one dolphin, in particular, managed to convince her to come back and marry Poseidon. It’s because of this lone Delphin’s actions that the Delphin were actually placed in the sky as the constellation Delphinus.
There is an additional part of this story written by Roman poets, where the Delphin responsible for persuading Amphitrite to come back, actually organizes and officiates the wedding.
Now, as where this entire story may be, I’m sure if people could get married by dolphins today, then there are those that would. I don’t know why, because the obvious animal of choice to marry you would be a penguin because it already looks like they’re wearing a tuxedo. And if you disagree, well, you’re just wrong.
Child 1: Triton
So, Amphitrite married Poseidon and became the queen of the sea. Together, they had two children of note. A son named Triton; whose image is often confused with that of his father because he also carries around a trident. The main difference between the two was that Triton had the upper body of a man but a fish’s tail. Pretty much just making him a giant Merman.
The Triton was also the name given to see spirits that resembled mermen, so, I guess that is one of the possible origins.
Child 2: Rhodos
Amphitrite and Poseidon also had a daughter named Rhodos, who was the Greek island’s personification known as Rhodes. But not every poet seems to agree that Poseidon was the father. Instead, she was the daughter of Amphitrite and an unnamed man. Regardless, both Amphitrite and Triton lived with Poseidon in his golden palace, found in the Aegean Sea.
Lover 2: Scylla — The Curse of Scylla
Similar to Hades, he spent most of his time away from Olympus unless he was called upon. While married to Amphitrite, one of his many lovers was the nymph, Scylla.
When Amphitrite eventually found out about this affair, she transformed Scylla into the hideous monster of the sea that we’ve come to know. According to the poet Nona, Poseidon then transformed her from this monstrous form into a coastal cliff found in the Straits of Messina.
Child 3 and 4 (with Medusa): Pegasus and Chrysaor
He also fathered twins who were born from Medusa’s neck, when Perseus beheaded her. The winged stallion, Pegasus, and Chrysaor, the boy born with a golden sword, also known as the golden giant.
Lover 3: Aphrodite
It’s not a huge surprise, but he also had an affair with, Aphrodite. Shortly after Aries and she was released from Hephaestus‘s net, she caught them having an affair while still married to him shortly afterwards. This is where it begins to sound like one of those TV dramas, targeted at bored housewives.
When Hephaestus caught them, most of the gods thought it was hilarious to be caught in the act. But Poseidon didn’t find this funny, so he pretty much pleaded and convinced Hephaestus to let them go—and I guess this is where to show her gratitude, she then had an affair with Poseidon.
So, at this point in the Real Housewives of Olympus, I don’t really know who’s supposed to be cheating on who. Aphrodite was still married to Hephaestus when she had an affair with Aries, but then she obviously left him for Aries to have an affair with Poseidon—who was still married to Amphitrite.
And just to make everything even more confusing, if Amphitrite’s daughter was from an unnamed man, does that mean she had an affair with, Poseidon while he was doing the very same? I honestly have no clue. But if you think that’s confusing, then wait till we get to Zeus his love life. I recommend that you take my approach when it comes to the gods and their many relationships—just nod your head, say, “Oh, okay then” and accept that there’s no point in searching for any semblance of logic and move on.
The children of Poseidon are pretty much an endless list. He fathered gods, demigods, nymphs and giants’ animals, as well as a host of mortal children. So, a good rule of thumb in Greek myth is, if it breathes, there’s a good chance it came from either Zeus or Poseidon.
Some of his most famous mortal children included Bellerophon, Theseus and Lamiae. It’s also pretty ironic that many of the gods hated the Giants, but Poseidon was father to quite a few, including Orion, Otis, Kreisau and the Alodi. But I’m sure the offspring that you want to hear about the most was the animal offspring.
We already mentioned Pegasus. And with Poseidon being the god of horses, it makes sense that he would have more than one horse child. So, along with the flying horse Pegasus, there was also Arion, the fastest of all horses who could also speak.
There was also Chrysomallus, a Golden Fleece flying Ram, who was also capable of speaking. Pretty much Pegasus, Arion, and Chrysomallus rolled into one. So, either the ancient Greeks ran out of ideas or after years of experimentation, Poseidon had finally created the best mutant Ram-child—I’ll leave you to decide.
Stories of Poseidon
So, with that out of the way, I guess we can take a look at some of the stories that Poseidon was involved in, which is quite a few.
Perseus and Andromeda
I’m sure many of you have heard the story of Perseus, using Medusa’s head to slay the sea monster Cetus and save Andromeda. This entire scenario only occurred because Queen Cassiopeia made the claim that her daughter was the most beautiful of all the land. Even more so than the Narades, the maidens of the sea which protected sailors and fishermen.
Poseidon’s wife also happened to be one of the Narades, and so, the thought of his wife’s beauty is compared to a mere mortal angered him enough to where he summoned the monster Cetus to destroy their entire kingdom.
The king and queen not knowing what to do then tied their daughter to a pair of rocks and offered her as a sacrifice to the monster, in order to appease Poseidon, but this is where Perseus swoops in, saves the day and kills the beast.
It wasn’t really uncommon to see Poseidon pop up in a story and retaliate because someone angered him and then just disappeared. When Odysseus blinded the Cyclops, Polyphemus, he turned to his father to help him get revenge—and he did eventually answer his son’s prayers by sending a huge storm to destroy Odysseus’s ship, and leave him and his men stranded, delaying their journey home for an additional ten years.
Dispute with the Goddess, Athena
Another pretty well-documented story was his dispute with the goddess Athena, as to who would become the patron of Athens. As it was a city plagued by drought, Poseidon slammed this Trident against the ground and created the people a spring. But the only water to come from this spring was saltwater, so it was pretty much useless.
Athena then gave the people an olive branch, which they preferred, because it provided food, firewood and it also represented peace, and so she became their patron deity, leaving Poseidon less than happy with the outcome.
Story of the Minotaur
In the story of the Minotaur, King Minos prayed to Poseidon to present him with a splendid bull from the depths of the ocean, so he could show the people of Crete that the gods favoured him and that he was the rightful king. He promised Poseidon that he would then sacrifice the bull in his honour, should he grant his prayer.
Shortly after the most splendid white bull, Minos had ever seen appeared before him, and once his people saw this, he became the king of Crete. Now that was time to keep his side of the bargain, Minos had grown fond of the bull and thought he could trick Poseidon by swapping the bull of another from his herd.
This, of course, didn’t work, and Poseidon turns the bull feral. But he didn’t stop there. He then made it, so Minos’s wife fell in love with this bull, and after having Daedalus build her a wooden cow, she climbed inside and had sex with the bull — This bull will then be captured by the Greek hero, Hercules, in his one of 12 Labours.
From that rather odd animalistic form, she had a child. This child would, of course, be the Minotaur, who would plague Minos’s kingdom.
So, we are starting to learn that making Poseidon angry doesn’t end very well. The same can be said for most gods, but Zeus and Poseidon tend to find the most creative ways to punish those guilty of betrayals and sins against them.
The Saga of Olympus
There was also the time that the gods rebelled against Zeus, during the Saga of Olympus. And as a result, both Apollo and Poseidon were stripped of their divinity and placed in the service of King Laomedon, who had them build a wall around the city of Troy, promising to reward them once it was finished.
The king went back on his word, so Poseidon once again sent a sea monster to destroy the city. After consulting with an Oracle, she told the king that the only way to save his people was to tie his daughter to a rock and offer her as a sacrifice. It is very similar to the story of Perseus and Andromeda, but this time, it will be Heracles who killed the monster.
The Trojan War
Throughout the trojan war, Poseidon intervenes several times, helping the Greeks over the Trojans. But that is something we can discuss further when we cover the Trojan War itself.
Believes Regarding Poseidon
The cult of Poseidon may arguably be one of if not the biggest throughout ancient Greece. It did have some presence in central Greece, but most of his statues and temples were built in southern Greece and around the coastal islands, which makes sense, as many of his followers would have been sailors and fishermen.
It became a reasonably new more custom amongst fishers to take a bull down to the shore and sacrifice it in Poseidon’s name, believing that he would then grant them a bountiful catch the very next day. They would then offer a tenth of what they caught to the Delphins so that they wouldn’t destroy their fishing nets, and to Poseidon, he would grant them safe passage home, averting any disaster sea.
Many also believed that he could create new islands by merely driving his Trident into the ground. But the same goes for when he was angered. By smashing his Trident down, he would cause earthquakes, floods, and all sorts of destruction to ships and fishing villages. Hence one of his names being the Earth-Shaker.
Some would even drown horses during storms because they believed this was the only way to appease him, but this also sounds like a pretty good way to piss him off pretty quickly.
How Did Poseidon Travel?
For those wondering how Poseidon traveled, swimming doesn’t seem like the most efficient way. Instead, he rode a chariot pulled by the Hippocampus—horses with a fishtail—so pretty much giant sea horses.
The Debate — Who is the King of the Gods?
There will always be an argument as to whether Poseidon should have been the ruler of the gods over Zeus, similar to that of the Mycenaean iteration. Ultimately there isn’t a way of determining this, without just arguing about which one of the two you prefer.
Zeus was the ruler because that is what the ancient Greeks decided, so arguing that they were wrong about their religion is pointless. The poets and historians didn’t come up with some kind of power scale we can measure. There are some quotes about Poseidon being able to rule if he wished. Still, most agree that Zeus possessed the most authority, which is the only reliable way to determine power without speculation.
Who is Stronger? Zeus or Poseidon?
So, to answer the question that so many people ask, “who is stronger? Zeus or Poseidon?”
The answer is very simple, Zeus. Because if Pokémon has taught us anything, it’s that thunder is super effective against water. Also, in terms of influence, Zeus outranked Poseidon. After all, Zeus is the king of the Gods. But Poseidon comes next, as he is the Protector of Greece and the King of the Oceans.
Art Credit: Fran Fdez