Poseidon, Lord of the Seas,
Known by Many Names,
And Poseidon of the Thunderbolt.
The Mighty Poseidon, the Greek god also
known as the Roman god Neptune.
Poseidon was powerful, decisive, competitive, and dignified. It was very important
to stay on his "good side", for he was also moody and irascible, quick to take
offense, and made a hobby out of taking his revenge out on those who angered him.
Punishing Odysseus for blinding his gigantic one-eyed son Cyclops (never mind that
Cyclops and his gang had shipwrecked Odysseus and his crew, looted the ship, and were
planning to eat them all!), Poseidon spend eight years getting even with him, causing
earthquakes, storms at sea, and throwing horrendous sea monsters in his path.
Although most of the myths of Poseidon cast him in a negative light, either raping
women or exacting retribution from his foes, he was also a deity who made the land fertile
by providing its life-giving moisture and ensured the safety of the sailors who tilled the
His name meant "Husband of the Earth", and as a consort to the Titan Great
Goddess Gaia (Mother Earth), Poseidon was originally worshipped as a fertility god.
Like his brothers and sisters, Poseidon was born full grown. His father, the Titan god
Cronus, fearing a prophecy that one of his children would overthrow him, swallowed each of
his newborn children to prevent the fulfillment of the prophecy. All that is except the
sixth born Zeus, who was hidden away by their mother, the goddess Rhea, and grew up to
liberate his siblings by tricking Cronus into drinking an emetic that made him vomit them
Understandably miffed with their father, his offspring immediately made plans to get
even for the way they had been treated and began a battle to remove Cronus from his
throne. They were helped in battle by their allies, the one-eyed Cyclopes, who gave Zeus
his thunderbolts, Hades his cloak of invisibility, and Poseidon the trident (a
three-pronged spear) that is his most renowned symbol.
After Poseidon and his brothers and sisters defeated the Titans and dethroned their
father Cronus (Kronos), the Greek gods held a lottery to determine which of the realms
each would rule. Hades drew the Underworld, Poseidon won the oceans, and Zeus got the
heavens, making him the supreme ruler. They agree to all share the power over the earth,
though the greatest responsibility for it went to Poseidon.
As dignified as the powerful Zeus, Poseidon at once began building a magnificent
underwater palace and outfitted its stables with golden-maned white horses that would draw
his golden chariot across the seas.
In the first years of his rule, the young Zeus proved to be an impetuous and arrogant
ruler, and everyone was rather displeased with his performance. Poseidon, never quite
satisfied with playing "second fiddle" to his brother, recruited the others to
overthrow the government. They did manage to capture and immobilize Zeus, but he quickly
managed to escape and foil their plot. For punishment Poseidon was banished from his home.
He and Apollo were sentenced to a year of manual labor building the great wall around Troy
while working disguised as a mortals.
The king of Troy had promised to pay the gods with vines of gold when the wall was
finished but failed to keep his end of the bargain. Poseidon was infuriated and sent a sea
monster to punish the city, but the monster was killed by Heracles (Hercules).
But Poseidon could hold a grudge for a long time. During the Trojan war Poseidon was
delighted to fight on the side of the Greeks. In an act of kindness (or perhaps he just
had a keen eye for talent), he spared the life of the young warrior Aenas by hiding him
away so that he would live to rule the Trojans in the future.
Poseidon was an honorable god -- you knew exactly where he stood of things, and when he
gave his word he kept it. He had no time for those whose word could no be relied upon.
When the king of Crete requested a gift from Poseidon, a fine bull to sacrifice, Poseidon
generously sent him the very finest from his herd, so fine in fact that King Minos decided
to keep it himself instead of sacrificing it. Poseidon was angry and caused the king's
wife to fall in love with the bull. The eventual outcome of their love affair was the
birth of a child, half-bull and half-human called the Minotaur. The monster had to be kept
in the center of the labyrinth below the king's palace.
Never quite satisfied with what he already had, Poseidon was always looking to expand
his domain. Consequently he was often quarrelling and competing with the other Olympians.
He rarely won these disputes.
One of the most notorious episodes was his quarrel with the goddess Athena over who
would "rule" the city of Athens. It was decided that there would be a
competition and the one who gave the finest present to the people of the city would win.
Poseidon stuck his trident (spear) into a rock, which split open and began to spew out
water. Athena gave them an olive tree.
Unfortunately for Poseidon the spring water was brackish and not much use, so Athena
won. Angry with the citizens decision, Poseidon flooded the plains surrounding the
Another dispute over land, this one with the goddess Hera, was to prove to be both
lengthy and acrimonious, hastening the establishment of the patriarchal system of
government in Greece. Poseidon challenged Hera's claim to the city of Argos, Hera's
hometown and the center of her worship. The dispute eventually had to be settled by a
tribunal of the Olympian deities.
|The vote was close, with only one vote deciding the outcome...since there were four
goddesses (and all voted with Hera), and only three votes (by the gods) for Poseidon, he
felt that the deck had been "stacked against him".
Holding a grudge, Poseidon
dried up all the rivers surrounding the city and refused to let them flow again until the
laws were changed so that women lost their right to vote!
He did make one exception, however, and restored one river, the home of a river goddess
who had once done him a favor.
On the subject of Poseidon and his relationships with women . . . not a pretty picture.
It is understandable that, as a fertility god, Poseidon would be every bit as lusty and
sexually insatiable as his brother Zeus, if not more so. They both had numerous affairs
and a great number of children resulted from their liaisons. But there was a difference.
When Zeus desired a woman he usually made an effort to seduce her, either by courting her
affection or by trickery. Poseidon, however, always used outright physical force to get
As a fertility god, Poseidon's spear symbolized his instinctual, primal, sexual energy
and ability to impregnate. Poseidon was unsuccessful in his attempt to subjugate the
virgin goddess Athena, the Greek goddess of war, who was able to physically repel him. In
his attempt, however he spilt his semen on the ground and a child grew from it. Athena
graciously agreed to provide a home for the child.
Still smarting from Athena's rejection, Poseidon found solace in the willing arms of
the hauntingly beautiful Medusa. They made love in the temple of Athena (no doubt to spite
her for having scorned him). Athena, furious over the defilement of her temple, turned
Medusa into a hideous monster with writhing snakes in place of her hair.
Perhaps the most infamous of Poseidon's rapes was when he pursued the goddess Demeter
when she was distraught and full of grief, searching for her daughter who had just been
abducted. Discovering that she had turned herself into a mare and hidden inside a herd of
horses to escape his unwanted advances, Poseidon simply transformed himself into a
stallion and mounted her.
Poseidon eventually did manage to fall in love. As he watched the sea goddess dancing
something stirred in him . . . yes, the usual sexual urges, but something else as well,
something sensitive and tender. Never having learned any other way to approach a woman he
desired, he used his usual methods. The devastated Amphitrite fled and hid herself from
him at the bottom of the sea.
Suddenly Poseidon realized that he had lost something truly special, the opportunity
for union with a woman that was more than just physical. Even though he searched
everywhere, he could not find her, and he was filled with sadness and a great sense of
loss. His friend, Delphinus (Dolphin), volunteered to find her and plead Poseidon's case.
And he succeeded, convincing Amphitrite of Poseidon's love and wish to make her his wife
and the Queen of the Seas.
Amphitrite was touched and returned with the Dolphin to marry Poseidon. She eventually
bore two of his children. His son Triton rode with Poseidon in his chariot across the
seas, trumpeting a sea shell to announce Poseidon's arrival wherever they went.
Unfortunately, Poseidon soon returned to his womanizing, and there are many legends of
the vengeance Amphitrite wreaked upon Poseidon's girlfriends. Jealous of Poseidon's
attraction to the lovely Scylla, Amphitrite threw magical herbs into the water while
Scylla was bathing, turning her into a hideous sea-monster with six heads, three rows of
teeth, and 12 feet. Scylla was consigned to snatch sailors off their ships for her meals,
and was greatly feared by all sea-going men.
Although most of the stories of Poseidon recount his amorous activities or his acts of
revenge, he obviously had a peaceful side as well. He offered protection to sailors, dried
up lakes and rivers when needed to reclaim land for the building of cities, and continued
to bless the land with fertile soil so that crops could grow.
Before setting out to sea, ancient mariners would pray and make offerings to the Greek
god Poseidon, hoping to insure a safe and profitable journey. With the approach of
Poseidon in his chariot, raging storms would calm, and the sea-monsters would rise to the
surface swimming playfully around his chariot.
However difficult and tumultuous Poseidon might have been, he reminds us to stay
connected to the deep emotional and instinctual parts of our selves, however
uncomfortable, or even painful it might be.