|God of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses|
|Abode||Mount Olympus, or the Sea|
|Symbol||Trident, Fish, Dolphin, Horse and Bull|
|Parents||Cronus and Rhea|
|Siblings||Hades, Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Zeus|
|Children||Theseus, Triton, Polyphemus, Belus, Agenor, Neleus, Atlas|
|Part of a series on|
|Ancient Greek religion and Modern Hellenism|
Poseidon (//; Greek: Ποσειδῶν, pronounced [pose͜edɔ́͜ɔn]) is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain is the ocean, and he is called the "God of the Sea". Additionally, he is referred to as "Earth-Shaker" due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the "tamer of horses". He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard.
The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology; both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece as a chief deity, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades. According to some folklore, he was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which was devoured by Cronos.
There is a Homeric hymn to Poseidon, who was the protector of many Hellenic cities, although he lost the contest for Athens to Athena. According to the references from Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, the island of Atlantis was the chosen domain of Poseidon.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Bronze Age Greece
- 3 Poseidon in mythology
- 4 Genealogy of the Olympians in Greek mythology
- 5 Poseidon in literature and art
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
The earliest attested occurrence of the name, written in Linear B, is 𐀡𐀮𐀆𐀃 Po-se-da-o or 𐀡𐀮𐀆𐀺𐀚 Po-se-da-wo-ne, which correspond to Poseidaōn and Poseidawonos in Mycenean Greek; in Homeric Greek it appears as Ποσειδάων (Poseidaōn); in Aeolic as Ποτειδάων (Poteidaōn); and in Doric as Ποτειδάν (Poteidan), Ποτειδάων (Poteidaōn), and Ποτειδᾶς (Poteidas). A common epithet of Poseidon is Γαιήοχος Gaiēochos, "Earth-shaker," an epithet which is also identified in Linear B tablets. Another attested word 𐀁𐀚𐀯𐀅𐀃𐀚, E-ne-si-da-o-ne, recalls his later epithets Ennosidas and Ennosigaios indicating the chthonic nature of Poseidon.
The origins of the name "Poseidon" are unclear. One theory breaks it down into an element meaning "husband" or "lord" (Greek πόσις (posis), from PIE *pótis) and another element meaning "earth" (δᾶ (da), Doric for γῆ (gē)), producing something like lord or spouse of Da, i.e. of the earth; this would link him with Demeter, "Earth-mother." Walter Burkert finds that "the second element da- remains hopelessly ambiguous" and finds a "husband of Earth" reading "quite impossible to prove."
Another theory interprets the second element as related to the word *δᾶϝον dâwon, "water"; this would make *Posei-dawōn into the master of waters. There is also the possibility that the word has Pre-Greek origin. Plato in his dialogue Cratylus gives two alternative etymologies: either the sea restrained Poseidon when walking as a "foot-bond" (ποσίδεσμον), or he "knew many things" (πολλά εἰδότος or πολλά εἰδῶν).
Bronze Age Greece
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 a lost consort goddess, in effect a precursor of Amphitrite.
Poseidon carries frequently the title wa-na-ka ( wanax) in Linear B inscriptions, as king of the underworld. The chthonic nature of Poseidon-Wanax is also indicated by his title E-ne-si-da-o-ne in Mycenean Knossos and Pylos, a powerful attribute (earthquakes had accompanied the collapse of the Minoan palace-culture). In the cave of Amnisos (Crete) Enesidaon is related with the cult of Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth. Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for "the Two Queens and Poseidon" ("to the Two Queens and the King": wa-na-soi, wa-na-ka-te). The "Two Queens" may be related with Demeter and Persephone, or their precursors, goddesses who were not associated with Poseidon in later periods. The illuminating exception is the archaic and localised myth of the stallion Poseidon and mare Demeter at Phigalia in isolated and conservative Arcadia, noted by Pausanias (2nd century AD) as having fallen into desuetude; the violated Demeter was Demeter Erinys.
It is possible that Demeter appears as Da-ma-te in a Linear B (Mycenean Greek) inscription (PN EN 609), however the interpretetion is still under dispute In Linear B inscriptions found at Pylos, E-ne-si-da-o-ne is related with Poseidon, and Si-to Po-tini-ja is probably related with Demeter.
In the heavily sea-dependent Mycenaean culture, no connection between Poseidon and the sea has yet surfaced. Homer and Hesiod suggest that Poseidon became lord of the sea following the defeat of his father Kronos, when the world was divided by lot among his three sons; Zeus was given the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon the sea, with the Earth and Mount Olympus belonging to all three.
Given Poseidon's connection with horses as well as the sea, and the landlocked situation of the likely Indo-European homeland, Nobuo Komita has proposed that Poseidon was originally an aristocratic Indo-European horse-god who was then assimilated to Near Eastern aquatic deities when the basis of the Greek livelihood shifted from the land to the sea, or a god of fresh waters who was assigned a secondary role as god of the sea, where he overwhelmed the original Aegean sea deities such as Proteus and Nereus. Conversely, Walter Burkert suggests that the Hellene cult worship of Poseidon as a horse god may be connected to the introduction of the horse and war-chariot from Anatolia to Greece around 1600 BC.
Poseidon in mythology
Poseidon was the second son of Cronus and Rhea. In most accounts he is swallowed by Cronus at birth but later saved, with his other brothers and sisters, by Zeus. However in some versions of the story, he, like his brother Zeus, did not share the fate of his other brother and sisters who were eaten by Cronus. He was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which she gave to Cronus to devour.
According to John Tzetzes the kourotrophos, or nurse of Poseidon was Arne, who denied knowing where he was, when Cronus came searching; according to Diodorus Siculus Poseidon was raised by the Telchines on Rhodes, just as Zeus was raised by the Korybantes on Crete.
According to a single reference in the Iliad, when the world was divided by lot in three, Zeus received the sky, Hades the underworld and Poseidon the sea. In the Odyssey (v.398), Poseidon has a home in Aegae.
The foundation of Athens
Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens after a competition with Poseidon. Yet Poseidon remained a numinous presence on the Acropolis in the form of his surrogate, Erechtheus. At the dissolution festival at the end of the year in the Athenian calendar, the Skira, the priests of Athena and the priest of Poseidon would process under canopies to Eleusis. 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 sprang 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. After the fight, infuriated at his loss, Poseidon sent a monstrous flood to the Attic Plain, to punish the Athenians for not choosing him. The depression made by Poseidon's trident and filled with salt water was surrounded by the northern hall of the Erechtheum, remaining open to the air. "In cult, Poseidon was identified with Erechtheus," Walter Burkert noted; "the myth turns this into a temporal-causal sequence: in his anger at losing, Poseidon led his son Eumolpus against Athens and killed Erectheus."
The contest of Athena and Poseidon was the subject of the reliefs on the western pediment of the Parthenon, the first sight that greeted the arriving visitor.
This myth is construed by Robert Graves and others as reflecting 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.
The walls of Troy
Poseidon and Apollo, having offended Zeus by their rebellion in Hera's scheme, were temporarily stripped of their divine authority and sent to serve King Laomedon of Troy. 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. The monster was later killed by Heracles.
Consorts and children
Poseidon was the father of many heroes. He is thought to have fathered the famed Theseus.
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 the heroes Pelias and Neleus, twin boys. Poseidon also had an affair with Alope, his granddaughter through Cercyon, his son and King of Eleusis, begetting the Attic hero Hippothoon. Cercyon had his daughter buried alive but Poseidon turned her into the spring, Alope, near Eleusis.
A mortal woman named Cleito once lived on an isolated island; Poseidon fell in love with the human mortal and created a dwelling sanctuary at the top of a hill near the middle of the island and surrounded the dwelling with rings of water and land to protect her. She gave birth to five sets of twin boys(the firstborn who being named Atlas) became the first rulers of Atlantis.
Not all of Poseidon's children were human. In an archaic myth, Poseidon once pursued Demeter. She spurned his advances, turning herself into a mare so that she could hide in a herd 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 also had sexual intercourse with Medusa on the floor of a temple to Athena.
Medusa was then changed into a monster by Athena. When she was later beheaded by the hero Perseus, Chrysaor and Pegasus emerged from her neck. There is also Triton (the merman), Polyphemus (the cyclops) and, finally, Alebion and Bergion and Otos and Ephialtae (the giants).
List of Poseidon's consorts and children
Female lovers and offspring
- Rhode (possibly)
- Herophile the Sibyl (possibly)
- Hestia (wooed her unsuccessfully)
- Aba, nymph
- Amphimedusa, Danaid
- Idas (possibly)
- Arne / Melanippe
- Astydameia, daughter of Phorbas
- Beroe (daughter of Aphrodite)
- Boudeia / Bouzyge
- Celaeno (Pleiad or daughter of Ergeus)
- Celaeno, Danaid
- Chryses, father of Minyas
- Corcyra, nymph
- Diopatra, nymph of Mount Othrys
- Euryale, daughter of Minos
- Orion (possibly)
- Eurynome (Eurymede), daughter of Nisos
- Euryte / Bathycleia
- Rhode (possibly)
- six sons
- Harpale / Scamandrodice / Calyce
- Minyas (possibly)
- The Aloadae
- Leis, daughter of Orus
- Lysianassa / Anippe
- Mecionice / Europa, daughter of Tityos
- Euphemus, Argonaut
- Melantheia, daughter of Alpheus
- Melantho (daughter of Deucalion)
- Melissa, daughter of Epidamnus
- The Molionides
- Megareus of Onchestus (possibly)
- Olbia, nymph
- Sithon (possibly)
- Pero, nymph / Kelousa, nymph
- Asopus (possibly)
- Pitane, nymph / Lena
- Pronoe, daughter of Asopus
- Rhodope, daughter of Strymon
- Salamis, daughter of Asopus
- Satyria, nymph of Taras
- Leucon (possibly)
- The Ram of the Golden Fleece
- Daughter of Amphictyon, unnamed
- Nymph of Chios, unnamed
- Nymph of Chios, unnamed (another one)
- unknown consorts
- Amyrus, eponym of a river in Thessaly
- Aon, eponym of Aonia
- Astraeus and Alcippe of Mysia
- Corynetes (possibly)
- Cromus (eponym of Crommyon)
- Geren, eponym of a town or village Geren on Lesbos
- Dicaeus, eponym of Dicaea, a city in Thrace
- Euseirus (father of Cerambus)
- Ialebion (Alebion) and Dercynus (Bergion) of Liguria
- Laestrygon, eponym of the Laestrygonians
- Lamus, king of the Laestrygonians
- Lotis (possibly)
- Phorbas of Acarnania
- Sarpedon of Ainos
- Taenarus (possibly)
In Plato's myth of Atlantis, Poseidon consorted with Cleito, daughter of the autochthons Evenor and Leucippe, and had by her ten sons: Ampheres, Atlas, Autochthon, Azaes, Diaprepes, Elasippus, Euaemon, Eumelus (Gadeirus), Mestor, Mneseus.
Male lovers of Poseidon
Worship of Poseidon
In his benign aspect, Poseidon was seen as creating new islands and offering calm seas. When offended or ignored, he supposedly struck the ground with his trident and caused chaotic springs, earthquakes, drownings and shipwrecks. Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage, sometimes drowning horses as a sacrifice; in this way, according to a fragmentary papyrus, Alexander the Great paused at the Syrian seashore before the climactic battle of Issus, and resorted to prayers, "invoking Poseidon the sea-god, for whom he ordered a four-horse chariot to be cast into the waves."
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, Delphic Apollo provided the authorization to go out and settle, while Poseidon watched over the colonists on their way, and provided the lustral water for the foundation-sacrifice. Xenophon's Anabasis describes a group of Spartan soldiers in 400–399 BC singing to Poseidon a paean—a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.
Like Dionysus, who inflamed the maenads, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. A Hippocratic text of ca 400 BC, On the Sacred Disease says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.
Poseidon was known in various guises, denoted by epithets. In the town of Aegae in Euboea, he was known as Poseidon Aegaeus and had a magnificent temple upon a hill. Poseidon also had a close association with horses, known under the epithet Poseidon Hippios. He is more often regarded as the tamer of horses, but in some myths he is their father, either by spilling his seed upon a rock or by mating with a creature who then gave birth to the first horse.
In the historical period, Poseidon was often referred to by the epithets Enosichthon, Seischthon and Ennosigaios, all meaning "earth-shaker" and referring to his role in causing earthquakes.
Genealogy of the Olympians in Greek mythology
Poseidon in literature and art
In Greek art, Poseidon rides a chariot that was pulled by a hippocampus or by 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 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 who blinded the god's son, the cyclops 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.
A 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, and specificies his twofold nature as an Olympian: "a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships."
|Poseidon myths as told by story tellers|
|Bibliography of reconstruction: Homer, Odyssey, 11.567 (7th century BC); Pindar, Olympian Odes, 1 (476 BC); Euripides, Orestes, 12–16 (408 BC); Bibliotheca Epitome 2: 1–9 (140 BC); Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI: 213, 458 (AD 8); Hyginus, Fables, 82: Tantalus; 83: Pelops (1st century AD); Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.22.3 (AD 160 – 176)|
|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); Bibliotheca Epitome 2, 1–9 (140 BC); Diodorus Siculus, Histories, 4.73 (1st century BC); Hyginus, Fables, 84: Oinomaus; Poetic Astronomy, ii (1st century 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. 200 – 245); First Vatican Mythographer, 22: Myrtilus; Atreus et Thyestes; Second Vatican Mythographer, 146: Oenomaus|
- Modern Greek media (e.g. "The Pacific: A history full of earthquakes" Ta Nea, 2011) and scholars (e.g. Koutouzis, Vassilis Volcanoes and Earthquakes in Troizinia) do not metaphorically refer to Poseidon but instead to Enceladus, the chief of the ancient Giants, to denote earthquakes in Greece.
- Burkert, Walter (1985). Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 136–39. ISBN 0-674-36281-0.
- In the 2nd century AD, a well with the name of Arne, the "lamb's well", in the neighbourhood of Mantineia in Arcadia, where old traditions lingered, was shown to Pausanias. (Pausanias viii.8.2.)
- . Retrieved October 02, 2012.
- Plato (1971). Timaeus and Critias. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 167. ISBN 9780140442618.
- Timaeus 24e–25a, R. G. Bury translation (Loeb Classical Library).
- Also it has been interpreted that Plato or someone before him in the chain of the oral or written tradition of the report accidentally changed the very similar Greek words for "bigger than" ("meson") and "between" ("mezon") – Luce, J.V. (1969). The End of Atlantis – New Light on an Old Legend. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 224.
- Martin Nilsson (1967). Die Geschichte der Griechische Religion. Erster Band. Verlag C. H. Beck. p. 444. Also Beekes entry "Poseidwn".
- Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, Ποσειδῶν.
- Adams, Professor John Paul. "Mycenaean Divinities". List of Handouts for Classics 315. Retrieved 2 September 2006.
- Ennosidas (Pindar), Ennosigaios (Homer): B. C. Dietrich (2004), The origins of the Greek religion. Bristol Phoenix Press, p. 185.
- Pierre Chantraine Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue grecque Paris 1974-1980 4th s.v.; Lorenzo Rocci Vocabolario Greco-Italiano Milano, Roma, Napoli 1943 (1970） s.v.
- Martin Nilsson, p. 417, p. 445
- R. S. P. Beekes. Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 324 (s.v. "Δημήτηρ").
- Plato, Cratylus, 402d–402e
- B.Dietriech (2004):The origins of the Greek religion Bristol Phoenix Press. p.185
- "Wa-na-ssoi, wa-na-ka-te, (to the two queens and the king). Wanax is best suited to Poseidon, the special divinity of Pylos. The identity of the two divinities addressed as wanassoi, is uncertain ": George Mylonas (1966) Mycenae and the Mycenean age" p.159 .Princeton University Press
- Pausanias VIII 23. 5; Raymond Bloch "Quelques remarques sur Poseidon, Neptunus et Nethuns" in Comptes-rendus des séances de l' Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Letres 2 1981 p. 345.
- Ventris/Chadwick,Documents in Mycenean Greek p.242: B.Dietriech (2004):The origins of the Greek religion Bristol Phoenix Press. p.172
- George Mylonas (1966), "Mycenae and the Mycenean world ". p.159. Princeton University Press
- Hesiod, Theogony 456.
- Komita, "Poseidon the horse-god and the early Indo-Europeans", Research Reports of Ikutoku Tech. University, 1985; Komita, "The Indo-European attribute of Poseidon was a water-god", Research Reports of the Kanagawa Institute of Technology, 1990.
- Tzetzes, ad Lycophron 644.
- Diodorus, v. 55.
- Burkert, Walter (1983). Homo Necans. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 143–49.
- Another version of the myth says that Poseidon gave horses to Athens.
- Burkert, Walter (1983). Homo Necans. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 149, 157.
- . Retrieved October 02, 2012.
- Gill, N.S. (2007). "Mates and Children of Poseidon". Retrieved 5 February 2007.
- Suda s. v. Ergiske
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 1206
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9. 29. 1
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 838
- Ovid, Heroides, 18 (19). 135
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2. 30. 5
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Dyrrhakhion
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Mytilene
- Stephanus of Byzantium, s. v. Astakos, with a reference to Arrian
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Torōnē
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 923
- Scholia on Theocritus, Idyll 7. 76
- Probus on Virgil's Georgics, 2. 197
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9. 29. 5
- Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 596
- Scholia on Statius, Thebaid, 1. 34
- Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 21. 1
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Kalaureia
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2. 1. 3
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Gerēn
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Dikaia
- Bibliotheca 2. 5. 10
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9. 26. 5
- Hyginus, Fabulae, 161
- Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 11. 1
- Plato, Critias, 114c
- Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History, 1 in Photius, 190
- Papyrus Oxyrrhincus FGH 148, 44, col. 2; quoted by Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great (1973) 1986:168 and note. Alexander also invoked other sea deities: Thetis, mother of his hero Achilles, Nereus and the Nereids
- (Hippocrates), On the Sacred Disease, Francis Adams, tr.
- Strabo, ix. p. 405
- Virgil, Aeneid iii. 74, where Servius erroneously derives the name from the Aegean Sea
- Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Aegaeus". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 1. Boston. p. 24.
- The ancient palace-city that was replaced by Vergina
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Poseidon.|
- Media related to Poseidon at Wikimedia Commons
- Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (1977) 1985.
- GML Poseidon
- Theoi.com: Poseidon
- Gods found in Mycenaean Greece; a table drawn up from Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek second edition (Cambridge 1973)
- Jenks, Kathleen (April 2003). "Mythic themes clustered around Poseidon/Neptune". Myth*ing links. Retrieved 13 January 2007.