10 Most Famous Myths Featuring The Greek God Poseidon

Poseidon was the ancient Greek God of the sea, earthquakes and horses. He was eaten by the father Cronus at birth and it was his brother Zeus who, after coming of age, tricked his father to disgorge him. Along with his siblings, Poseidon then helped Zeus overthrow their father. There are numerous myths associated with Poseidon. These include his sexual relationships with Medusa, Demeter and Aphrodite. Moreover, he was involved in a rebellion against his brother Zeus, the King of Gods. In relation to humans, Poseidon took part in the Trojan War and in a competition with the goddess Athena for the position of the primary deity of the city of Athens. Here are the 10 most famous myths featuring the Greek God Poseidon.

#1 The Birth of Poseidon

According to Greek mythology, Cronus overthrew his father Uranus and ruled over the world along with his wife Rhea. However he was told that one of his children would go on to overthrow him like he had overthrown his father. Cronus had several children with Rhea but swallowed them all at birth. These children included Poseidon. However, when her sixth child Zeus was born, Rhea hid him in a cave and instead gave Cronus a stone wrapped in his clothes which he swallowed. When Zeus came of age, he disguised himself as an Olympian cup-bearer; poisoned his father’s wine with a potion; and tricked him to drink it. This led to Cronus disgorging Zeus’ siblings: his sisters Hestia, Demeter and Hera; and his brothers Hades and Poseidon. There is another version of this myth which suggests that Rhea had already saved Poseidon by hiding him among a flock of lambs and instead telling Cronus that she had given birth to a colt.

Chronus disgorging his children
Depiction of Cronus disgorging his children

#2 Battle Against Cronus

After Poseidon was rescued from Cronus by Zeus, he teamed up with him and his other siblings against Cronus and the Titans. Along with his siblings, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes; Poseidon fought against Cronus and the other Titans in the Battle of the Gods known as Titanomachy. In this battle, the Olympians, the younger generation led by Zeus defeated the Titans and overthrew Cronus. Poseidon and his brothers then shared the world by drawing lots. Poseidon was named the lord of the seas and received the rivers and the oceans, Hades received the underworld where he ruled over the souls of the deceased, while Zeus received the heavens and became the king of the Greek Gods.

Titanomachy painting
Painting depicting Titanomachy

#3 Rebellion Against Zeus

Hera was the wife of Zeus while Apollo was his son from Leto. Once, when Zeus was harsh on the other gods, Hera talked them into a revolt against Zeus. This rebellion was led by Hera, Apollo and Poseidon. Hera drugged Zeus and the other gods bound him on his bed and stole his thunderbolt. However, Briareus, who had been freed by Zeus from the prison Tartarus, overheard their conversation and realized that Zeus was tied. He sneaked in and untied the king of the gods. Zeus was furious due to the rebellion and he punished the other gods. Poseidon and Apollo, to atone for their part in the failed rebellion, were sent to Phrygia to serve as slaves to King Laomedon of Troy for one year. Together the two gods built the famous impenetrable walls around Troy.

#4 Poseidon and Medusa

Medusa was a ravishingly beautiful woman who was priestess to the goddess Athena. A requirement for being a priestess to Athena was that the woman should be a virgin. Medusa was deeply desired by Poseidon and he pursued her to great lengths. Medusa tried to escape him by running to the temple of Athena. Nonetheless, Medusa was found by Poseidon, who went on to rape her on the floor of the temple itself. After discovering this, Athena was filled with rage. Punishing her for losing her purity, Athena transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. Medusa thus became a monster. Years later Medusa was slayed by the hero Perseus. This resulted in Chrysaor and Pegasus emerging from her neck. They are considered to be children of Medusa and Poseidon.

1878 Depiction of Medusa as a monster

#5 Poseidon and Demeter

Demeter was the Greek goddess of the grain, agriculture, harvest, growth and nourishment. Poseidon once tried to pursue Demeter but she rejected his love and tried to hide from him by turning herself into a mare. She then joined a herd of horses of King Onkios to disappear in the mix. However, she couldn’t conceal her divinity even in the form of a mare. Poseidon realized this and tricked Demeter by transforming himself into stallion and joining the herd. He then forced her to mate with him. Demeter was furious due to the assault and she retreated into a cave in order to purify herself. Her absence caused the death of crops and of livestock thus leading to a universal famine. Ultimately, she washed away her anger in the River Ladon. As a result of having intercourse with Poseidon, Demeter gave birth to a daughter named Desponia and to Arion, a horse with the ability to speak human language.

Demeter statue
A marble statue of Demeter, National Roman Museum

#6 Poseidon And Amphitrite

Amphitrite was one of the sea-nymphs called the Nereids. While he was searching for a wife, Poseidon saw Amphitrite while she was performing a dance on the isle of Naxos along with other Nereids. He fell in love with her and decided to marry her. However, Amphitrite refused his offer of marriage and fled to Atlas, at the farthest ends of the sea. Poseidon didn’t give up and sent his loyal friend Delphin, a dolphin shaped god, to pursue her. Delphin found Amphitrite, spoke persuasively on behalf of Poseidon and ultimately convinced her to marry Poseidon. Amphitrite then returned, becoming Poseidon’s wife. Poseidon rewarded Delphin by placing him among the stars as the constellation Delphinus. Poseidon and Amphitrite had three children named Triton, Rhode and Benthesicyme.

Poseidon And Amphitrite
Depiction of Poseidon And Amphitrite

#7 Poseidon And Aphrodite

Aphrodite is a Greek goddess associated with love, pleasure, passion and procreation. Though she is married to Hephaestus, Aphrodite has an affair with Ares, the god of war. The sun god Helios saw the two lovers having sex in the bedchamber of Hephaestus. He informed Hephaestus about it and Hephaestus made a plan to trap them with a nearly invisible net. The next time Ares and Aphrodite had sex together, they were trapped in the net. Hephaestus then brought all the gods into the bedchamber to laugh at the captured adulterers. However, Poseidon had sympathy for the couple and he persuaded Hephaestus to free them. In return Ares was to guarantee that he would pay the adulterer’s fine. Due to his kindness towards her, Aphrodite had an affair with Poseidon. She bore him two daughters Rhodos and Herophilos.

Aphrodite statue
A marble statue of Aphrodite

#8 Poseidon And Minos

In Greek mythology, Minos was the son of Zeus and Europa; and the first King of Crete. To justify his accession as king, Minos prayed to Poseidon for a sign. Poseidon sent a bull from the sea which Minos was supposed to sacrifice in honor of Poseidon. But Minos developed a soft corner for the bull and could not bring himself to sacrifice it. He instead substituted it was a different bull. When Poseidon learned of this, he was furious. He asked the goddess of love, Aphrodite, to punish Minos by making his queen, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull. Pasiphae developed a mad passion for the bull and mated with it leading to the birth of a horrible monster named Asterius, who was a Minotaur, half man half bull.

Minotaur bust
Bust of a Minotaur

#9 Athena Versus Poseidon At Athens

Although Poseidon was a leading deity in Athens, he was second to Athena. This may be traced to an interesting myth. At the dissolution festival in Athens, which took place at the end of the calendar year, there was a competition between Athena and Poseidon for becoming the primary deity of Athens. During this competition, Athena and Poseidon were to offer one gift each to the Athenians, leaving up to them to choose their preferred gift. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and up came a spring whose water was salty. Athena, on the other hand, offered the Athenians an olive tree. Since the tree brought them wood, oil and food; the Athenians choose it over the not so useful salty water of the spring. After losing the competition, Poseidon was furious and he sent a monstrous flood to the Attic plain to punish the Athenians.

Poseidon statue in Copenhagen
Statue of Poseidon in Copenhagen, Denmark

#10 Poseidon In The Trojan War

The Trojan War was a major war between mortals in Greek mythology. During the Trojan War, Poseidon fought on behalf of the Greeks because he held a grudge against Laomedon, the Trojan king. However, there is also a myth that says that he worked against them on one occasion. The Greeks had built an impressive wall around their ships and Poseidon was jealous of that because he had built the rival Trojan walls along with Apollo. Hence, he is said to have helped the Trojans destroy the Greek wall. However, Poseidon mostly helped the Greeks in the war. Like, when the Greek soldiers were lacking in morale, Poseidon encouraged the troops indirectly by disguising himself as an old seer named Calchas.

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