Poseidon

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Marble statue of Poseidon, 2nd century BCE. In the National Archaeological Museum

Poseidon (Known as Neptunus in Latin) is the Olympian God of the sea, floods, drought, earthquakes, and horses. He is commonly depicted as a mature man with a dark beard and sturdy build holding a trident, a three-pronged fisherman’s spear. He is married to Amphitrite (Salacia in Latin).

Poseidon is a major God of several cities. He was second only to Athena in Athens, while in Magna Graecia (especially Syracuse) and He was the chief god of the polis.

In his benign aspect, Poseidon is seen as responsible for the creation of new islands and offering calm seas. When blinded from the light of the Gods, it is said that Poseidon strikes the ground with his trident and caused chaotic springs, earthquakes, drownings, and shipwrecks.

 

Myth

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There are a great many of myths that involve Poseidon.

 

  • At birth Poseidon was swallowed whole by his father Kronos, Titan King of the Gods, but Zeus later enlisted the aid of the Goddess Metis who fed Kronos a magical elixir causing him to disgorge His son, and other Gods. The War of the Titans broke out, and during this war the Cyclopes crafted a magical trident for Poseidon, and together with his brothers Zeus and Hades He defeated the elder Gods and imprisoned them in Tartarus (Some variations say they merely banished Kronos, to which he fled to Italy), allowing Zeus to usurp the throne. Following the war, Poseidon and His brothers drew lots for the division of the cosmos. While Hades won the underworld as His domain, Poseidon won the sea.
  • When the Gigantes (Giants) besieged Olympus, Poseidon crushed Polybotes, leaer of the Gigantes beneath the island of Kos.
  • He entered a contest with the Goddess Athene for patronship over the city of Athens. As His gift to the Athenians, He produced the very first horses, and struck land with His trident to spring about the oceans to allow Athens to become a trading power. Athene offered the first olive branch tree. The King granted Athene the prize of patronship, and in doing so blinded himself from the light of Poseidon, which afflicted the land with drought.
  • Like Zeus, mythology can show Poseidon having several sexual conquests, seducing many nymphs and mortal woman often in the guise of an animal or flowing water. Some of the most famous people he bedded with were the Gorgon Medusa, Tyro, Amymone, and Aithra mother of the hero Theseus.
  • The God assisted in building the walls of the city of Troy, but when King Laomedon refused the payment that he promised, Poseidon sent a sea-monster to ravage the land.
  • The hero Odysseus blinded the God’s son, Polyphemos, on his return from Troy while making a display of hubris. In response Poseidon sent a storm to scatter and wreck the hero’s fleet.

 

Worship

Sailors or those at sea may pray to Poseidon for a safe voyage.

Traditional offerings may take place on the sea. They include:

  • Animal sacrifice, typically of horses, by drowning. An Oracle of Apollo recommends the sacrifice to take place on the shore and to sprinkle salt water on the head of the animal before tossing them the water. According to a fragmentary papyrus, Alexander the Great paused at the Syrian seashore before the battle of Issus and prayed, “invoking Poseidon the sea-god, for whom he ordered a four-horse chariot to be cast into the waves.”
  • The burning of an offering, such as fish.
  • The offering of a bull.
  • Giving anything directly to the ocean, but make sure it doesn’t harm the water of aquatic life. It will only pollute the environment and blind you from the light of the God.

He also has a strong association with Apollo. According to Pausanias, Poseidon was one of the caretakers of the Oracle at Delphi before Apollo took it over. Apollo and Poseidon worked closely in many realms:

  • Colonization: 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.
  • In Xenophon’s Anabasis, he describes a group of Spartan soldiers during 400–399 BCE singing to Poseidon a paean—a type of hymn typically sung in dedication to Apollo.

 

Iconography

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He is commonly depicted as a mature man with a dark beard and sturdy build holding a trident, a three-pronged fisherman’s spear. He’s also associated heavily with dolphins, and in depictions He’s accompanied by an entarage of divinities such as nymphs, but at other times He is depicted with His wife, Amphitrite.

 

 

Epithets

  • Enosichthon, “Earth Shaker”
  • Asphaleios, “Protector from Earthquakes”
  • Redux, “who brings men back”
  • Pater, “Father” or “Venerable”
  • Adiutor, “Helper”

 

Bibliography

“Poseidon.” Poseidon – Neokoroi. Accessed September 26, 2017. http://www.neokoroi.org/religion/gods/poseidon/.

“Poseidon.” http://Www.HellenicGods.org. Accessed September 26, 2017. http://www.hellenicgods.org/poseidon.

“POSEIDON – Greek God of the Sea & Earthquakes.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Accessed September 26, 2017. http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Poseidon.html.

“POSEIDON CULT 2.” POSEIDON CULT 2 – Ancient Greek Religion. Accessed September 26, 2017. http://www.theoi.com/Cult/PoseidonCult2.html.

Nova Roma. “Neptunus.” NOVA ROMA Dedicated to the restoration of classical Roman religion, culture and virtues. Accessed August 17, 2017. http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Neptunus.