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Poseidon - Lord of the Seas

Poseidon, who won the right to rule the seas, was also the god of horses and of earthquakes. His domain actually extended beyond the oceans to include the freshwater rivers, even though the rivers gods were the sons of Oceanus and Tethys.

Myths often portray him as bad tempered and quick to anger. He sometimes resented Zeus greater power. Perhaps because of this, Poseidon does not live in Olympus but in an underwater palace off the eastern coast of Greece.

His lower position to Zeus made hm sensitive about his other rights. Poseidon involved himself in more arguments over city patronage than any other Oylmpian.

He challenged the patronage of Argos with Hera and the patronage of Corithn with Helius. He lost both disputes and had to be contented with the patronage of various islands and seaports.

Dispute over Athens with Athena

A famous dispute was the fight over Athens with Athena . Poseidon claimed the land by plunging his trident into the ground of the Acropolis and creating a salt-waterspring. But Athena later planted the first olive tree beside this well and claimed the city as her own.

He immediately challenged her to combat, but Zeus intervened and put the matter before the gods tribunal. To remain netural, Zeus did not vote. Hades did not attend the hearing, as this was his custom. The remaining four gods voted for Poseidon. The five goddesses however voted for Athena, giving her the right to the land as she had given the city a greater gift.

Poseidon was furious and flooded the Attic plain. The Athenians adopted several measures to appease Poseidon's wrath. They denied the women of Athens the right to vote. It ended the practice of men carrying on their mothers' names. And all Athenians continued to honor both Poseidon and Athena in Athens.

Poseidon's Love Affair and his Beastly Children

Poseidon courted Amphitrite, one of the Nereids (daughters of Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea). Amphitrite rejected his advances and fled to the Atlas Moutnains. But he was persistent and sent messengers to plead with her. One of the them, Dephinius succeeded and Amphitrite agreed to marry him. The god showed his gratitute by placing Delphinius image as a constellation in the sky: the Dolphin.

Like his brother Zeus, Poseidon had many love afffairs with goddesses, nymphs and mortals. He had the power to transform his shape and often use it for seduction:

  • He appeared to the maiden Medusa as a bird. Unfortunately, he did it in one of Athena's temples. The furious goddess punished Medusa by turning her into a Gorgon. Their children were the famous winged horse Pegasus and the giant warrior Chrysaor.
  • He changed into a ram to mate with Theophane whom he had changed into a ewe to hid her from her other suitors. They produced the famous Golden-Fleeced ram .
  • When Demeter, overhelmed by the loss of her daugther Persephone, attempted to escape by changing into a mare, he changed himself into a stallion and mated with her. They had two children, the nymph Despoena and a wild and remarkable horse named Arion.
  • Many of his other childrens were Giants, including the Cyclops Polyphemus and the provocative brothers Otus and Ehpialtes.

Poseidon was very protective of his children. He made his son Cycnus invulnerable to weapons. He assited Theseus prove his parentage in a bragging contest with King Minos of Crete. He avenged the blinding of Polyphemeus by torturing Odyseseus for 10 years.

It could be because he mated with a goddess as a horse, the horse was sacred to Poseidon. Some mythmakers insisted he invented the horse by smashing his trident into a rock. It is said that he invented horse racing and perhaps bridle as well. Wherever he went, he rode in a gold chariot drawn by two magnificent white horses with golden manes and brass hooves.



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