Poseidon or Neptune: God of the Sea

Poseidon (pronounced: po-side-in) was the Greek god of the sea. His Roman name was Neptune. He was also the god of earthquakes. After Zeus had overthrown Cronus, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades divided the world among themselves. Zeus claimed the sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades got the underworld. Poseidon was the son of Cronus and Rhea. The famous Cyclops Polyphemus, who was tricked by Odysseus, was Poseidon's son. Poseidon was creative and warlike, though Ares surpassed him in battle lust. Poseidon was rather promiscuous, which was the reason for some of his quarrels with other gods.

There were many gods of rivers and streams, but Poseidon was more powerful. They usually respected his wishes. Nereids were sea spirits, and they were part of Poseidon's retinue. He married the nereid Amphitrite. Naiads were nereids that lived in fresh water, while the nereids lived in the sea. The naiads respected Poseidon, but they were not part of his court.

Poseidon was often Zeus's rival. Poseidon was the leader of at least one rebellion against Zeus. The Olympians trapped Zeus in a golden net made by Hephaestus and would not let him out until he promised to be a better leader. The two great gods also fought over more trivial things such as who their mother, Rhea, liked best.

Poseidon was often angry at humans. He often flooded places to make people do what he wanted or out of revenge for some slight, real or imagined. After Odysseus blinded Polyphemus, Poseidon tried to kill Odysseus. Flooding the sea would do no good. Odysseus was already in a ship on the sea. Nevertheless, Odysseus was in Poseidon's home territory, and the angry god made whirlpools, whipped up storms, and made life uncomfortable for Odysseus. Miraculously, Odysseus survived. He founded a temple to Poseidon when he got back, gave him many sacrifices, and did anything else he could think of to mollify Poseidon. On another occasion, Poseidon sent a sea monster to destroy the land around Troy when the Trojans refused to pay him for building their walls.

Athena and Poseidon were also often at odds. Once, they had a contest to see for whom the city of Athens would be named. Athena made the olive tree, and Poseidon made a saltwater spring. Of course, Athena won. In revenge, Poseidon flooded the area until his anger abated. Also, Poseidon once kissed his lover in Athena's temple, which was considered to be very disrespectful. Athena turned Poseidon's girlfriend into Medusa and sent Poseidon back to the sea. The only thing they cooperated on was the chariot. Athena invented it, and Poseidon invented horses out of the sea foam to make it work.

Poseidon was popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans, especially the Greeks. This may be because a large part of the population depended on the sea for their living. He might have been so unpredictable in mythology because the sea itself was so wild and unpredictable. Poseidon is normally portrayed as a bearded older man decorated with stuff from the sea. His symbol was the trident. Interestingly, both of these images are used in modern movies, such as The Little Mermaid. Sailors presented offerings to him before they sailed, because when he was in a good mood, the seas were calm. (Obviously, when he was angry, the seas were rough.) One legend says that he took part of the island of Kos and threw it at a fleeing giant. It killed the giant, and the missile became the isle of Nisyros.

Written by Kate Rayment

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