In the next part of our series on Greek God symbols, we will be going back to ancient Greece to discuss Poseidon, the god of oceans and earthquakes, horses, floods and droughts in Greek mythology. Here is everything you should know about Poseidon’s symbols, sacred plants and animals, his family tree and myths involving him.
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Who is Poseidon in Greek Mythology?
One of the most volatile and wrathful of the Olympian gods, Poseidon’s rule extended over all bodies of water. After the god of the sky, Zeus, Poseidon is considered to be the mightiest god in ancient Greek mythology.
Much like Zeus, again, Poseidon also had many illicit love affairs and fathered numerous children, from mortals, gods and even horses. If he failed to woo an interest of his, he would not back down, and get his way through violence, and force.
This ill-tempered nature of his led him to getting involved in a number of disputes. The most famous of his conflicts were those with Zeus, Athena, and Odysseus.
Because of all this, he was known as a fearsome god. Greeks, especially sailors and fishermen, would make a lot of sacrifices in the name of Poseidon, so as to not disappoint him and receive punishment.
It was believed that Poseidon would strike his trident causing the earth to shake and the seas to rumble when he became angry. A creator of earthquakes, floods, and storms, he earned the title “earth-shaker”. He would ride in his chariot, pulled by horses with fish tails called hippocampi.
Poseidon and Zeus
God of the sea, Poseidon was the second son of Cronus and Rhea, after Hades. Just like the rest of his siblings, except Zeus, he was swallowed by his father after birth, and stayed there until he was regurgitated out, and rescued, by Zeus.
In other versions of this myth, however, his mother hid him in a flock of sheep. She told Cronus that she had given birth to a colt, and let him eat it, instead.
Like his brothers, Hades and Zeus, Poseidon also fought valiantly against the titans, and took part in throwing them over.
To divide the world between them, he and his brothers drew lots. Zeus became the lord of the sky, Hades became the ruler of the underworld, whereas, Poseidon became the ruler and god of the oceans and seas.
Poseidon had issues with how Zeus conducted his rule, and liked to intervene in his plans. He conspired with Athena and Hera, to tie him up in chains, and overthrow him. They failed in their mission, and Zeus punished Poseidon by depriving him of his powers, and sending him to Troy.
Here, he had to serve the Trojan King Laomedon by building large walls around Troy. The King tried to be clever, and did not commit to his promise of rewarding Poseidon for his labor.
The mighty and vengeful god did not let this go and sent a sea monster called Cetus to Troy, as a punishment. This monster was later killed by Heracles.
Poseidon and Odysseus
When Odysseus, one of the greatest heroes of ancient Greece, blinded Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus the cyclops, Poseidon showed no mercy. On Odysseus’ journey back home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, Poseidon extended his voyage by ten years. He used his power to steer up storms in the seas, crash his ship, and kill his companions.
Poseidon and Athena, The Competition for Attica
As Poseidon was not content with ruling over the seas only, he went looking for more and even competed with his niece, Athena, for the patronage of Attica, the area surrounding and including the city of Athens.
The two gods needed to convince the king and people of Athens about who deserved to be the patron of Attica. Poseidon struck his trident and a spring of water appeared. The drought-ridden natives of the city were excited, but when they drank the water, it was salty.
Athena, on the other hand, offered the people an olive tree. The tree provided them food, shelter, firewood, and oil. Since it was deemed more useful, they picked Athena as their patron deity. This infuriated Poseidon, and he sent an enormous flood to punish the Athenians.
Poseidon, King Minos, The Cretan Bull and The Minotaur
King Minos wanted to prove to the people of Crete that he was the rightful ruler of Crete. He prayed to Poseidon to send him a magnificent bull from deep under the sea, so he could show the people that he was favored by the gods. After becoming king, he promised to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon.
Poseidon answered his prayers. When people saw the bull, they accepted Minos as their king. King Minos grew to like the bull a lot. Not wanting to lose it, he sacrificed one from his own herd, thinking Poseidon would not find out. He was, of course, wrong.
To take his revenge, Poseidon made Minos’ wife, Queen Pasiphae, fall in love with the bull. The offspring that resulted from their relationship was the half-man, half-bull creature, namely, the Minotaur.
Poseidon’s Consorts and Children
Poseidon wished to marry the nymph Amphitrite. But his feelings were not mutual. When she realized this, Amphitrite fled into the depths of the sea to hide from Poseidon.
He then asked the dolphins to convince her to marry him. One dolphin was able to fulfill Poseidon’s wishes and he was able to marry the nymph. Amongst others, they had a son called Triton, who had the upper body of a man and a fish’s tail.
Another myth involving Poseidon is about him and Medusa, the gorgon. Poseidon violated the beautiful maiden Medusa in one of Athena’s temples.
Athena then transformed Medusa into a gorgon with snakes for hair. When Perseus beheaded Medusa, Pegasus, the mythical winged-horse and Chrysoar were born from her neck.
Having fallen in love with Demeter, Poseidon pursued her, too. Demeter turned herself into a mare, so she could hide herself from him.
However, Poseidon was able to see through her plan. He cleverly transformed himself into a stallion. Arion, the talking horse, was their child.
Due to this close association with horses, Poseidon is also known as the tamer, or the father of horses. For this reason, before embarking on their voyages, sailors would sacrifice horses to Poseidon, in the hope that their journey would be safe and successful, unlike that of Odysseus.
The Poseidon Symbol List – What Are the Symbols of Poseidon?
A three-pronged spear, the trident, fashioned by the cyclopes, is the main symbol of Poseidon. Most of the artwork depict him as an old man with curly hair, a thick beard, and glistening eyes, holding the trident.
Poseidon’s Sacred Animals and Plants
Horses, bulls, dolphins and fish are Poseidon’s sacred animals. Hippocampi, the creatures drawing his chariot, were horses which had tails of fish and were believed to have the magical ability to ride on water.
Poseidon’s sacred plants were pine trees and wild celeries.
This wraps up our post on Poseidon, the god of seas and oceans, earthquakes, horses, droughts and floods, his symbols, sacred animals and plants. If you liked the article, you should definitely check out our posts on Athena symbols here and Artemis symbols here. Thanks for reading with us!