Poseidon was worshiped throughout the ancient world as the sovereign lord of the sea. He ruled the deep blue oceans and controlled the fierce storms that blew violently atop of their waves.
Like his fellow siblings, Poseidon had been swallowed up by his father Cronus moments after he was born. He, along with his brother Hades and his three sisters; Hestia, Hera and Demeter remained hidden away inside of the titan's belly until courageously set free by their youngest brother Zeus.
After the fall of Cronus, the three gods drew lots from a helmet to determine how they would divide rulership over the universe. While the earth and Mount Olympus were considered common ground to all, Zeus was given supreme reign over the sky, Hades the underworld and Poseidon dominion over the many seas.
The god built himself a beautiful underwater palace, which included vast stables used for housing his team of prized chariot horses. It was said that no other steeds could compare to their beauty, for they were white in color and sported both brazen hooves and flowing manes of gold.
Poseidon had in his possession a gilded chariot which he often used to restore peace and tranquility to the turbulent waters. Once the tempest had been calmed, aquatic creatures of every type would rise out of the brine and follow behind its rolling wheels, laughing and dancing happily upon the froth.
Because he was also the god of earthquakes, Poseidon was given the nick name of "The Earth-shaker" and was commonly shown carrying a three speared trident which he used to shatter and shake anything he desired.
Poseidon was second only to Zeus in power and was usually described as having a cranky and quarrelsome nature. The sea god often found himself at the center of many disagreements concerning his title as principal deity to many of the regions found across the ancient world. In one instance, he disputed the validity of Corinth's patronage with Helios, the titan ruler of the sun.
Because the situation required an arbitrator, Briareus, one of the Hundred-handed, was called away from Tartarus to preside over the inquiry. After hearing both sides of the argument, Briareus declared that Helios be granted the Acropolis of Corinth and Poseidon be given the Isthmus.
Poseidon also challenged Hera over the reign of the city of Argos. This time the matter was brought before the river gods Inachus, Cephissus and Asterion for judgement.
When the three decided to bestow the city to the goddess, Poseidon flew into a fit of rage and dried up all three of their streams, preventing them from flowing freely during the summer months. He then turned his wrath upon the city of Argos itself, and in a final act of revenge caused a great flood to engulf the land.
On another occasion Poseidon clashed with the goddess Athena for rulership over the town of Troezen, but this time Zeus intervened and insisted that the city be shared equally by both parties. Needless to say this did not sit well with the sea god. Poseidon also challenged Zeus for rulership over Aegina and Dionysus for Naxos, but was unsuccessful at both attempts.
Poseidon's most famous dispute over land once again involved the goddess Athena, but this time the area in question was the district of Attica.
As both gods thought themselves to be the more suitable ruler, it was decided that the deity who could offer the most beneficial gift to the region would be crowned its patron.
Poseidon began the contest by raising up his massive trident and firmly striking it against the ground. A small section of earth was opened and from the chasm a spring of sea water began to flow fluently across the length of the Acropolis.
All eyes now turned towards Athena. The goddess thought for a moment and then with the wave of her hand brought forth a beautiful olive tree, which she gently placed beside the newly formed stream.
After a bit of banter between the remaining Olympians a vote was taken and all were in agreement that Athena had indeed offered the most useful prize. All, that is but Zeus. Wanting desperately to avoid trouble, the chief god chose to remain silent and refused to voice any opinion on the matter.
Once again Poseidon unleashed his wrath upon the unfortunate residents and flooded the plain of Attica. In order to keep the peace, the Athenians pledged to honor both Athena and Poseidon on the Acropolis, where even to this very day one can still find their two gifts sitting quietly side by side.
Like his brother Zeus, Poseidon was well known for having a multitude of romantic partners and possessed a quite impressive roster of lovers. Desiring both deities and mortals alike, the roguish god seemed to have an insatiable appetite for carnal affairs. Below you will find a few examples.
According to Hesiod, Amphitrite was one of the fifty beautiful daughters of Nereus and the sea nymph Doris. As with most of the mythical writings of the ancient world, there are also contradictory texts which assign her lineage to the titans Oceanus and Tethys.
Regardless of which version deems to be true, one can positively ascertain that Amphitrite was an aquatic deity who made her home amidst the ocean waves.
One day Poseidon, who was always seeking female companionship happened to come upon Amphitrite as she was frolicking with her sisters along the frothy shore line. Finding her to be especially pleasing to the eye, the amorous god set out to capture the heart of the enchanting nereid.
Unfortunately Amphitrite proved to be less than interested and tried to escape Poseidon's advances by taking refuge far away in the Atlas Mountains. Rather than admit defeat, Poseidon dispatched a messenger named Delphinius to try and convince the indifferent maiden to be his bride.
Delphinius proved to be very persuasive, and shortly after his visit Amphitrite consented to return to Aegae and marry the old sea god. To show his appreciation, Poseidon placed Delphinius among the stars as a constellation known as both Delphinius and The Dolphin.
Amphitrite went on to bear Poseidon three children; a son, Triton, and two daughters whom they named Rhode and Benthesicyme. Sadly for the new queen, marriage did not tame Poseidon's roving eye and she often found herself standing in the shadows of his countless love affairs.
Along with ruling over earth's many bodies of water, Poseidon was also known to be the god of horses. It is said that he created the first equine creature by hitting into the side of a rock with his trident.
It came to be that Poseidon caught sight of the goddess Demeter as she wandered through the land of Arcadia in search of her lost daughter Persephone. Finding her to be quite desirable, the lascivious god began to chase after the doleful mother in a lustful pursuit.
In order to escape his grasp, Demeter frantically turned herself into a willowy mare, but in return Poseidon transformed himself into a stallion and brazenly mounted her.
This improper union brought about the birth of the mysterious cult goddess Despoena, and her brother, a wild steed known as Arion. For this reason Demeter was worshiped in parts of Arcadia wearing the head of a horse and in the company of a consort known as Horse Poseidon.
One does not have be a connoisseur of ancient literature to be familiar with the epic tale of Perseus and Medusa. If asked, even the most myth challenged person will tell you that Medusa was a frightening beast who possessed the power to turn all that looked upon her into pillars of stone.
But the story goes much deeper than that, for according to some accounts the saga's unfortunate beginnings actually take root in Poseidon's intemperate desire for the company of women.
Medusa and her two sisters Stheno and Euryale were the daughters of the primordial sea deities Phorcys and Ceto.
Though earlier myths describe the three Gorgon sisters as having all been born with hideous faces and monstrous forms, later writings state that Medusa had once been a beautiful and virtuous young maiden.
It seems that one day Poseidon, in his ceaseless quest for new romance happened to come upon Medusa as she was enjoying the warmth of the early morning sun. Finding her to be exceptionally lovely, the god wanted nothing more than to take her as his latest lover.
Because Medusa had taken a vow of chastity, she had no interest in Poseidon's advances and tried her best to avoid all contact with the god. Poseidon continuously attempted to woo the maiden with affectionate words and shameless flattery, but when it became apparent that Medusa was not going to comply with his wishes he angrily decided to take her by force.
Desperate to escape the impassioned embrace of her pursuer, Medusa frantically sought refuge inside of the temple of Athena. She wrapped herself around a golden image of the goddess and begged for mercy, but sadly all of her pleas went unanswered
Poseidon quickly dashed into the sacred chamber and had his way with the helpless maiden. When Athena saw that her sanctuary had been desecrated, she surprisingly chose to punish Medusa exclusively for the illicit wrongdoing.
The outraged goddess transformed Medusa into a horrid creature. With a multitude of poisonous snakes for hair, brazen hands and golden wings, Medusa was so terrifying that all those unfortunate enough to gaze upon her face were instantly turned into pillars of stone.
As a result of her union with Poseidon, Medusa became pregnant with two sons; the winged horse Pegasus and his twin brother Chrysaor. Though Chrysaor is usually depicted as being a man of giant stature, he is sometimes referred to as a winged boar.
When the hero Perseus went on to beheaded Medusa, it is said that these two offspring of Poseidon sprang from her tiny droplets of blood. You can read more about the life and adventures of Perseus by following the preceding link.
Why Poseidon remained blameless throughout the entire ordeal we will never know. According to some writers Athena chose to harshly requite Medusa for previously comparing herself to the goddess and proclaiming that she was by far the more beautiful of the two.
A common characteristic shared among sea deities was the ability to change from one shape to another.
Poseidon being the ruler of all things aquatic, often utilized this special talent when trying to seduce his most current love interest. One such incident involves Theophane, the lovely daughter of King Bisaltes of Thrace.
Because of her outstanding beauty, Theophane attracted the attention of many admirers, including the god Poseidon himself.
Wanting to keep the maiden all to his own, Poseidon carried Theophane off and hid her on the isle of Crumissa. When the outraged suitors heard news of this event, they quickly took ship and sailed off towards the mysterious island.
Poseidon cleverly hid Theophane's identity by changing the nymph into a snow white ewe. He then turned his sights onto the native islanders, and in an instant transformed them into a great herd of cattle.
When the lustful sailors reached the shore they found the island to be completely void of human life, though strangely filled with hordes of well-fed livestock. Feeling hungry from their long journey, the band of seamen began to slaughter the herds in anticipation of a hearty meal.
When Poseidon saw that the innocent natives were about to become a cannibalistic dinner for the crew, he turned the suitors into wolves and allowed nature to take its course.
For his final transformation, Poseidon took on the shape of a ram and proceeded to have his way with Theophane. This union brought about the birth of a magical baby, whose golden fleece would cause quiet a commotion throughout many kingdoms of the ancient world.
Because the god Poseidon indulged in a vast amount of romantic affairs, it was only natural that we find him to be the father of a sundry of children. Many of his sons went on to be primary characters throughout the stories of the ancient Greeks. Below are a few samples.
Poseidon sired the giant Antaeus and his brother Busiris with the Earth Mother Gaia. Antaeus was blessed with the gift of profound strength, which he maintained by coming in direct contact with his mother the earth.
It was customary that strangers arriving at the home of Antaeus be required to participate in wrestling matches with their host.
This proved to be an unfortunate event for even the most able challenger, as Antaeus' strength was miraculously renewed each time his body touched the ground. To celebrate his infinite success, the ruthless giant shamelessly used the skulls of his opponents to line the roof of his father's house.
This went on until the hero Heracles finally put an end to the carnage by holding Antaeus high above the earth and squeezing him to death.
Heracles was also responsible for bringing about the demise of Busiris, who at the time was sitting upon the throne of Egypt. It came to be that the land he ruled was plagued with a serious drought and famine.
In order to put an end to the suffering, Busiris sought the advice a Cyprian seer named Phrasius. The king was warned that lest he offer up the life of a stranger to the god Zeus as a yearly sacrifice, the land of Egypt would be no more.
Without giving the matter a second thought, Busiris had the augur swept quickly away and placed upon the altar of the Olympian god. This practice continued on until Heracles arrived and willingly allowed the priests to prepare him as the next sacrificial victim.
But just as Busiris raised his axe high above the head of the shackled hero, Heracles broke through his bonds and slew the king and all of the attending priests.
Though Poseidon was said to have sired several of the Argonauts, he did not play a major role in their quest for the Golden Fleece. There is however a more obscure story which acknowledges the god as being the father of the blind seer Phineus.
Phineus was a king of Thrace, who according to one account was blinded by Poseidon for showing Phrixus the way to the land of Colchis. Besides the previous interpretation, there are quite a few descriptions in the ancients texts regarding just how Phineus lost his sight.
One version tells us that Phineus was punished by Zeus for allowing his second wife Idaea to trick him into blinding the two sons born during his first marriage. A slight variation to this account states that Zeus allowing Phineus to decide his own fate by offering him death or the loss of his eyesight.
Another accepted rendition has Phineus being penalized for frequently revealing the course of future events to mankind. For this transgression, the old man was blinded and exiled to the land of Thynia, where was continuously tormented by the Harpies, a horde of female creatures bearing the faces of women and the bodies of birds.
Each day when Phineus' meals were placed before him the Harpies would swoop down and steal the food from off of his plate. It came to be that when Jason was on his pursuit of the golden fleece, he and his crew happened upon Phineus as he was trying to eat his dinner.
The Argonauts took pity on the old man and forcefully drove the Harpies away. As an expression of his gratitude, Phineus gave the sailors advice as how to safely pass through the deadly Symplegades, a cluster of crashing rocks which shielded the entrance to the Bosporus.
Probably the most famous of all of Poseidon's purported offspring is the young hero Theseus.
Though Theseus is most well known for battling the Minotaur on the island of Crete, there is an interesting back story involving the youth's uncertain lineage.
It seems that Aethra, the daughter of King Pittheus of Troezen was thought to have slept with both Poseidon and Aegeus, the ruler of Athens on the same night.
Because this made it impossible to distinguish who the boy's true father was, he was known to lay claim to both family lines. When Aegeus left Aethra and returned to Athens soon after discovering she was with child, rumors circulated contending that the tale of Poseidon's involvement was just a ruse to detract from the blatant abandonment of the maiden.
On one occasion while Theseus was being held prisoner by King Minos of Crete, the scornful ruler threw a golden ring into the sea stating that if the lad was truly the son of Poseidon he should easily be able to retrieve it from the ocean floor.
Holding on to the assertion that he was indeed the son of the god, Theseus offered up a prayer and dove beneath the turbulent waves in search of the missing babble.
It is said that Poseidon came to the young man's aid by allowing him to rise to the surface bearing not only the ring but also an ornately jeweled crown from the palace of Amphitrite. You can read more about the adventures of Theseus by going to my page dedicated to the story of The Minotaur.
Each god seemed to have their own reason for supporting one side or the other, and Poseidon was no different. Because the god harbored an age old grudge against Troy's former king Laomedon, he chose to bestow his favor upon the armies of the Greeks.
Many years before the Greek assault on Troy, the gods of Mount Olympus had grown collectively tired of Zeus and his prideful nature.
With the exception of Hestia, who was known to avoid even the smallest bit of conflict, all of the deities gathered together and attempted to mutiny against their leader.
When the venture failed to be a success, Zeus focused his attention on Apollo and Poseidon and sentenced the pair to spend one year's time in the service of King Laomedon of Troy. Here, the rebellious duo were commissioned to build a powerful set of towered walls designed to completely encircle the region and transform the city into an impenetrable fortress.
The two gods actively labored at their duties, thus allowing the walls to grow higher with each day that passed. When the fortification was finally complete, King Laomedon found fault with a small gap that was left between two of the stones and refused to pay Apollo and Poseidon their promised wages. If that was not enough, the king then threatened to punish their negligence by having them both sold into slavery!
To teach Laomedon a lesson against showing arrogance before the gods Apollo placed a blight upon the land while Poseidon dispatched a giant sea monster to wreck havoc upon the townspeople.
Laomedon tried to appease the god's anger by offering his daughter Hesione as a sacrifice, but she was unexpectedly set free by Heracles as he was returning home from a skirmish with the Amazons.
Laomedon promised to award the mighty hero the divine horses of Tros as payment for saving Hesione from the jaws of the beast but once he saw that his daughter was indeed safe, the dishonest king refused to turn over the goods.
Heracles sought revenge against Laomedon by assembling a crew of patrons and sailing against Troy, slaying the king and all of his sons in the process. Only the youngest boy Pandares was spared, for in exchange for his life he offered Heracles a golden veil which had been hand spun by Hesione.
From that moment on Pandares would be called Priam, which according to Apollodorus was the ancient Greek word meaning "to buy." Hesione went on to become the bride of Heracles' good friend Telamon, and young Priam was given rulership over the land of Troy.
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