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Neptune reigns in the city centre, Bristol, formerly the largest port in England outside London.



In Greek mythology, Poseidon (Greek: Ποσειδών) was the god of the sea, as well as horses and, as "Earth-Shaker", of earthquakes. He figured as Rodon in Illyrian, Nethuns in Etruscan, and Neptune in Roman mythology.

In Mycenean culture, Poseidon's importance was greater than that of Zeus. At Pylos he is the chief god, if surviving Linear B clay tablets can be trusted; the name PO-SE-DA-WO-NE (Poseidon) occurs with greater frequency than does DI-U-JA (Zeus). A feminine variant, PO-SE-DE-IA, is also found, indicating the existence of a now-forgotten consort goddess. Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for "the Two Queens and Poseidon" and to "the Two Queens and the King". The most obvious identification for the "Two Queens" is with Demeter and Persephone, or their precursors, goddesses who were not associated with Poseidon in later periods. Poseidon is already identified as "Earth-Shaker"— E-NE-SI-DA-O-NE— in Mycenaean Knossos <ref name=Earth_shaker>Template:Cite web</ref>, a powerful attribute where earthquakes had accompanied the collapse of the Minoan palace-culture. In the heavily sea-dependent Mycenean culture, no connection between Poseidon and the sea has yet surfaced; among the Olympians it was determined by lot that he should rule over the sea (Hesiod, Theogony 456): the god preceded his realm.

Demeter and Poseidon's names are linked in one Pylos tablet, where they appear as PO-SE-DA-WO-NE and DA-referred to by the epithets Enosichthon, Seischthon and Ennosigaios, all meaning "earth-shaker" and referring to his role in causing earthquakes. Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance; while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis.

According to Pausanias, Poseidon was one of the caretakers of the Oracle at Delphi before Olympian Apollo took it over. Apollo and Poseidon worked closely in many realms: in colonization, for example, Apollo provided the authorization to go out and settle from Delphi, while Poseidon watched over the colonists on their way, and provided the lustral water for the foundation-sacrifice. Xenophon's Anabasis describes a groups of Spartan soldiers singing to Poseidon a paean - a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.

Like Dionysus and the Maenads, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. One Hippocratic text says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.<ref name=epilepsy>Template:Cite web</ref>

Homeric Hymn to Poseidon

Image:Temple of Poseidon.jpg
Temple of Poseidon at Ak Sounion Greece.
The hymn to Poseidon included among the Homeric Hymns is a brief invocation, a seven-line introduction that addresses the god as both "mover of the earth and barren sea, god of the deep who is also lord of Helicon and wide Aegae<ref>The ancient palace-city that was replaced by Vergina</ref>, and specificies his two-fold nature as an Olympian: "a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships."

Role in society

Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage, sometimes drowning horses as a sacrifice. In his benign aspect, Poseidon created new islands and offered calm seas. When offended or ignored, he struck the ground with his trident and caused chaotic springs, earthquakes, drownings and shipwrecks.

In art

Poseidon's chariot was pulled by a hippocampus or horses that could ride on the sea. He was associated with dolphins and three-pronged fish spears (tridents).

He lived in a palace on the ocean floor, made of coral and gems.

In Rome

Neptune was worshiped by the Romans primarily as a horse god, Neptune Equester, patron of horse-racing. He had a temple near the race tracks in Rome (built in 25 BC), the Circus Flaminius, as well as one in the Campus Martius, where on July 23, the Neptunalia was observed.


Birth and childhood

Poseidon was a son of Cronus and Rhea. Like his brothers and sisters, Poseidon was swallowed by his father. He was regurgitated only after Zeus forced Cronus to vomit up the infants he had eaten. Zeus and his brothers and sisters, along with the Hecatonchires, Gigantes and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans. According to other variants, Poseidon was raised by the Telchines on Rhodes, just as Zeus was raised by the Korybantes on Crete.

When the world was divided in three, Zeus received the earth and sky, Hades the underworld and Poseidon the sea.


Image:Neptune amphitrite mosaic.jpg
Mosaic from Herculaneum depicting Neptune and Amphitrite

His wife was Amphitrite, a nymph and ancient sea-goddess, daughter of Nereus and Doris.

Poseidon fell in love with Pelops, a beautiful youth, son of Tantalus. He took Pelops up to Olympus and made him his lover, even before Zeus did the same with Ganymede. To thank Pelops for his love, Poseidon later gave him a winged chariot, to use in the race against Oenomaus for the hand of Hippodamia.

Poseidon was also thought to have raped Aethra thus fathering the famed Theseus.

In an archaic myth, Poseidon once pursued Demeter. She spurned his advances, turning herself into a mare so that she could hide in a flock of horses; he saw through the deception and became a stallion and captured her. Their child was a horse, Arion, which was capable of human speech.

Poseidon had an affair with Alope, his granddaughter through Cercyon, begetting Hippothoon. Cercyon had his daughter buried alive but Poseidon turned her into the spring, Alope, near Eleusis.

Poseidon rescued Amymone from a lecherous satyr and then fathered a child, Nauplius, by her.

A mortal woman named Tyro was married to Cretheus (with whom she had one son, Aeson) but loved Enipeus, a river god. She pursued Enipeus, who refused her advances. One day, Poseidon, filled with lust for Tyro, disguised himself as Enipeus and from their union were born Pelias and Neleus, twin boys.

With Medusa, Poseidon had sexual intercourse on the floor of a temple to Athena. Medusa was changed into a monster. When she was later beheaded by the hero Perseus, Chrysaor and Pegasus emerged from her neck.

After having sex with Caeneus, Poseidon fulfilled her request and changed her into a man.

Other stories

Image:Neptun brunnen.jpg
The Greek and Roman view of the world's hydrologic cycle made Poseidon/Neptune a god of fresh waters as well; thus he was an appropriate fountain figure, as here in Berlin.

Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens after a competition with Poseidon. They agreed that each would give the Athenians one gift and the Athenians would choose whichever gift they preferred. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a spring sprung up; the water was salty and not very useful, whereas Athena offered them an olive tree. The Athenians (or their king, Cecrops) accepted the olive tree and along with it Athena as their patron, for the olive tree brought wood, oil and food. This is thought to remember a clash between the inhabitants during Mycenaean times and newer immigrants. It is interesting to note that Athens at its height was a significant sea power, at one point defeating the Persian fleet at Salamis Island in a sea battle. Another version of the myth says that Poseidon gave horses to Athens

Poseidon and Apollo, having offended Zeus, were sent to serve King Laomedon. He had them build huge walls around the city and promised to reward them well, a promise he then refused to fulfill. In vengeance, before the Trojan War, Poseidon sent a sea monster to attack Troy (it was later killed by Heracles).

In the Iliad Poseidon favors the Greeks, and on several occasion takes an active part in the battle against the Trojan forces. However, in Book XX he rescues Aeneas after the Trojan prince is laid low by Achilles.

In the Odyssey, Poseidon is notable for his hatred of Odysseus due to the latter's having blinded the god's son Polyphemus. The enmity of Poseidon prevents Odysseus's return home to Ithaca for many years. Odysseus is even told, notwithstanding his ultimate safe return, that to placate the wrath of Poseidon will require one more voyage on his part.

In the Aeneid, Neptune is still resentful of the wandering Trojans, but is not as vindictive as Juno, and in Book I he rescues the Trojan fleet from the goddess's attempts to wreck it, although his primary motivation for doing this is his annoyance at Juno's having intruded into his domain.


  1. With Aethra
    1. Theseus
  2. With Alope
    1. Hippothoon
  3. With Amphitrite
    1. Rhode
    2. Triton
  4. With Amymone
    1. Nauplius
  5. With Astypalaea
    1. Ancaeus
    2. Eurypylos
  6. With Canace
    1. Aloeus
  7. With Celaeno
    1. Lycus
  8. With Chione
    1. Eumolpus
  9. With Chloris
    1. Poriclymenus
  10. With Clieto
    1. Atlas
    2. Eymelus
    3. Ampheres
    4. Evaemon
    5. Mneseus
    6. Autochthon
    7. Elasippus
    8. Mestor
    9. Azaes
    10. Diaprepes
  11. With Demeter
    1. Arion
    2. Despina
  12. With Europa
    1. Euphemus
  13. With Euryale
    1. Orion
  14. With Eurynome
    1. Adrastus
  15. With Gaia
    1. Antaeus
    2. Charybdis
  16. With Halia
    1. Rhode
  17. With Hiona
    1. Hios
  18. With Hippothoe
    1. Taphius
  19. With Libya
    1. Belus
    2. Agenor
    3. Lelex
  20. With Lybie
    1. Lamia
  21. With Melia
    1. Amycus
  22. With Medusa
    1. Pegasus
    2. Chrysaor
  23. With Periboea
    1. Nausithous
  24. With Satyrion
    1. Taras
  25. With Thoosa
    1. Polyphemus
  26. With Tyro
    1. Neleus
    2. Pelias
  27. Unknown mother
    1. Aon
    2. Briareus
    3. Byzas
    4. Cercyon
    5. Cycnus
    6. Evadne
    7. Lotis
    8. Rhodus
    9. Sinis

Neptune in Pop Culture

Spoken-word myths - audio files

Poseidon myths as told by story tellers
1. Poseidon and Pelops, part I, (integral to Tantalus myth), read by Timothy Carter
Bibliography of reconstruction: Homer, Odyssey, 11.567 (7th c. BC); Pindar, Olympian Odes, 1 (476 BC); Euripides, Orestes, 12-16 (408 BC); Apollodorus, Epitomes 2: 1-9 (140 BC); Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI: 213, 458 (AD 8); Hyginus, Fables, 82: Tantalus; 83: Pelops (1st c. AD); Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.22.3 (AD 160 - 176)
2. Poseidon and Pelops, part II (Integral to the myth of Pelops and Hippodameia), read by Timothy Carter
Bibliography of reconstruction: Pindar, Olympian Ode, I (476 BC); Sophocles, (1) Electra, 504 (430 - 415 BC) & (2) Oenomaus, Fr. 433 (408 BC); Euripides, Orestes, 1024-1062 (408 BC); Apollodorus, Epitomes 2, 1-9 (140 BC); Diodorus Siculus, Histories, 4.73 (1st c. BC); Hyginus, Fables, 84: Oinomaus; Poetic Astronomy, ii (1st c. AD); Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.1.3 - 7; 5.13.1; 6.21.9; 8.14.10 - 11 (c. AD 160 - 176); Philostratus the Elder Imagines, I.30: Pelops (AD 170 - 245); Philostratus the Younger, Imagines, 9: Pelops (c. AD 200 - 245); First Vatican Mythographer, 22: Myrtilus; Atreus et Thyestes; Second Vatican Mythographer, 146: Oenomaus




Greek deities series
Primordial deities | Titans | Aquatic deities | Chthonic deities
Twelve Olympians
Zeus | Hera | Poseidon | Hades | Hestia | Demeter | Aphrodite
Athena | Apollo | Artemis | Ares | Hephaestus | Hermes | Dionysus
Aquatic deities
Poseidon | Oceanus | Ceto | Nereus | Glaucus | Thetis | Amphitrite
Tethys | Triton | Proteus | Phorcys | Pontus | Oceanids | Nereids | Naiads

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