Poseidon the earth shaker

Poseidon is one of the six original Olympians who were born to Cronos (Time) and Rhea (Earth). Cronos swallowed each of his children to avoid being supplanted by them. With the help of his mother Rhea, Zeus managed to escape this fate. 

When he grew up, he overpowered his father and forced him to regurgitate his siblings. After a fierce, ten-year battle with the Titans, the Olympians prevailed and divided the spoils. The three males cast lots for the cosmic domains. Zeus became the lord of the sky and took up residence on Mount Olympus. Poseidon became ruler of the sea. Hades inherited the underworld. The three females, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, took over subservient roles, specializing in female functions related to the earth deities.

Poseidon controls marine weather. He is also the god of horses and earthquakes. He is usually pictured bearing a trident and accompanied by dolphins. The trident is the instrument of his power, like Zeus’ thunderbolt. When Poseidon strikes the ground with it, nature responds. The earth quakes, new springs are born, ships are wrecked, and sailors down. Sailors depend on Poseidon’s benevolence for safety on the sea. Many worshipers drowned horses as a sacrifice to him.

When Poseidon is pleased, the sea is calm, and new lands emerge from the water. When he is not, all tremble with fear. Anyone who has experienced an earthquake, a tsunami, towering ocean waves, or a sudden sea squall will understand the origin of the moody and violently impulsive character of Poseidon.

He is not someone to slight or attempt to deceive. When Minos of Crete asked Poseidon to confirm his fitness to rule, Poseidon sent a white bull from the sea, stipulating that it must be sacrificed to him. The bull was such a beautiful animal that Minos kept it for himself, and substituted a different white bull to be sacrificed. In retribution, Poseidon caused Minos’ wife to fall in love with the bull. She had the craftsman Daedalus construct an artificial cow for her, got inside, and mated with the bull. The result was the flesh-eating Minotaur, half-man, half-bull, whom his father hid in the labyrinth and demanded tribute of young men and women to keep the monster fed.

Although Poseidon favored the Greeks in the Trojan War, the hero Odysseus did not come home to Ithaca for many years. After he blinded the cyclops Polyphemus, who was a son of Poseidon’s, Odysseus’ homeward journey was disrupted by storms. The fact that Polyphemus was bent on devouring Odysseus and his crew did nothing to mitigate the sea-god’s bitter wrath.

Like his brother Zeus, Poseidon made sure that his divinity was adequately represented in the gene pool of both humans and gods. He was inclined to rape and fathered many children, some of them quite unusual. He married the Nereid, Amphitrite, producing the sea deity Triton who was half-human and half-fish. The great hero Theseus resulted from the rape of the human woman Aethra.

Poseidon is the father of “the old man of the sea”, Proteus, who herds his father’s seals and has the gift of prophecy. If someone catches him, he can change into many different shapes to escape. However, if the suppliant can continue to hold on no matter what, Proteus will revert to his human form and provide the desired information.

Poseidon also mated with Demeter. She turned herself into a horse, hoping to lose herself in a herd of horses. Poseidon turned himself into a stallion and found her. The result was a horse, Arion, with the power of human speech.

Poseidon even impregnated the Gorgon Medusa, conceiving the giant Chrysaor and the flying horse Pegasus.

According to Pausanias, Poseidon was one of the caretakers of the Delphic oracle before Apollo took it over. On occasion, he was responsible for the “sacred sickness”, epilepsy, which was believed to be a reaction to divine possession. He and Apollo worked together in human colonization efforts. After Apollo gave the authorization to the settlers, Poseidon would watch over them as they traveled to their new home.

The goddess Athena and Poseidon both wanted to be the patrons of the city of Athens. To impress the people and win them over, Poseidon threw a spear at the ground and created a spring. Athena outdid him by giving the people of Athens the olive tree. Poseidon was so annoyed that he flooded the Attic Plain. Their feud did not last, and they worked together and combined their powers. Athena built the first chariot for Poseidon’s horses, and also the first ship to sail over Poseidon’s domain.

A Homeric hymn calls Poseidon “a tamer of horses and a savior of ships.’ Since the depths of the ocean still hold many mysteries, even to modern man, it is not hard to imagine Poseidon far below, in his gem-studded coral palace, holding the lives of seafaring and coast-dwelling people in his hands.