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This article is about the Greek god. See also: Poseidon missile; Poseidon drowning detection system; and Poseidon bubble.
Andrea Doria as Neptune by Agnolo Bronzino : a potent allegory of Genoa's hegemony in the Tyrrhenian Sea
Andrea Doria as Neptune by Agnolo Bronzino : a potent allegory of Genoa's hegemony in the Tyrrhenian Sea

In Greek Mythology, Poseidon was the god of the sea, known to the Romans as Neptune, and to the Etruscans as Nethuns. He was also the god of earthquakes and horses. Benthesikyme was sometimes mentioned as his sister.



In the heavily sea-dependent Mycenean culture, Poseidon's importance dwarfed that of Zeus, if the extant Linear B 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 goddess to match the god. Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for "the Two Queens and Poseidon" and to "the Two Queens and the King", compounding the mystery further. The most obvious identification for the "Two Queens" is with Demeter and Persephone (or some predecessors thereof), who are not associated with Poseidon in historical times.

Greek deities
Primordial deities
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Zeus and Hera,
Poseidon, Hades,
Hestia, Demeter,
Aphrodite, Athena,
Apollo, Artemis,
Ares, Hephaestus,
Hermes, Dionysus
Aquatic deities

Poseidon, unlike many of the Greek gods, has a name that is identifiably Indo-European in derivation. The first half means "lord" (or "husband"). The second half may come from the same root *deiwo- "god, sky, shining" that also yield "Zeus" and the "De-" in "Demeter"; others have interpreted it as "earth", although this view has lost some favor among linguists. Given Poseidon's connection with horses as well as the sea, and the landlocked situation of the likely Indo-European homeland, some scholars have proposed that Poseidon was originally an aristocratic 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.

In any case, the early all-importance of Poseidon can still be glimpsed in Homer's Odyssey, where Poseidon rather than Zeus is the major mover of events.


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.

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 Poseidon a paean - a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.

Like Dionysus and the Korybantes, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. One Hippocratic text says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.

Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage, sometimes drowning horses as a sacrifice.

Role in society

When in a good mood, Poseidon created new islands and calm seas. When in a bad mood, 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. He was associated with dolphins, tridents and three-pronged fish spears (tridents).

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

In Rome

Neptune was worshipped 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. Only July 23, the Neptunalia was observed at the latter temple.

Birth and Childhood

Poseidon was a son of Cronus and Rhea. Like his brothers and sisters save Zeus, 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.



His wife was Amphitrite, 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 once pursued Demeter. She turned herself into a mare; and he became a stallion and captured her. Their child was a horse, Arion.

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 was born Pelias and Neleus, twin boys.

With Medusa, Poseidon had Censored page on the floor of a temple to Athena. Medusa was changed into a monster and gave birth to Chrysaor and Pegasus.

After raping Caeneus, Poseidon fulfilled her request and changed her into a man.

Other stories

Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens, in 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.

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).

Poseidon is best known for his hatred of Odysseus, preventing his return home to Ithaca for many years.


  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 Demeter
    1. Arion
    2. Despina
  11. With Europa
    1. Euphemus
  12. With Euryale
    1. Orion
  13. With Eurynome
    1. Adrastus
  14. With Gaia
    1. Antaeus
    2. Charybdis
  15. With Halia
    1. Rhode
  16. With Hiona
    1. Hios
  17. With Hippothoe
    1. Taphius
  18. With Libya
    1. Belus
    2. Agenor
  19. With Lybie
    1. Lamia
  20. With Melia
    1. Amycus
  21. With Medusa
    1. Pegasus
    2. Chrysaor
  22. With Periboea
    1. Nausithous
  1. With Thoosa
    1. Polyphemus
  2. With Tyro
    1. Neleus
    2. Pelias
  3. Unknown mother
    1. Aon
    2. Briareus
    3. Byzas
    4. Cercyon
    5. Cycnus
    6. Evadne
    7. Lotis
    8. Rhodus
    9. Sinis
    10. Taras

External links

  • Greek Mythology resource
  • The story of Poseidon and Pelops

Last updated: 02-07-2005 06:33:01
Last updated: 02-26-2005 20:31:43