AskDefine | Define Poseidon

Dictionary Definition

Poseidon n : (Greek mythology) the god of the sea and earthquakes in ancient mythology; brother of Zeus and Hades and Hera; identified with Roman Neptune

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English

Etymology

From Ποσειδῶν.

Proper noun

  1. The god of the sea and other waters, earthquakes and horses.

Translations

  • French: Poséidon
  • Italian: Poseidone
  • Portuguese: Poseidon
  • Russian: Посейдон

Portuguese

Proper noun

Poseidon

Related terms

Extensive Definition

this the Greek god In Greek mythology, Poseidon (Greek: ; Latin: Neptūnus) was the god of the sea, as well as of horses, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of earthquakes. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades. Poseidon has many children. There is a Homeric hymn to Poseidon, who was the protector of many Hellenic cities, although he lost the contest for Athens to Athena. Poseidon was given a trident during the war of the Titans and the gods, in which he fought alongside his siblings. The war lasted ten years, after which the gods divided the earth among themselves by drawing lots. Zeus took the sky, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. Although Poseidon, unlike Hades, had a throne on Mt. Olympus, he liked to stay underwater in his palace with his queen Amphitrite, the daughter of the Old Man of the Sea.

Worship of Poseidon

Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance; while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis. In his benign aspect, Poseidon was seen as creating new islands and offering calm seas. When offended or ignored, he supposedly struck the ground with his trident and caused chaotic springs, earthquakes, drownings and shipwrecks. Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage, sometimes drowning horses as a sacrifice.
According to Pausanias, Poseidon was one of the caretakers of the oracle at Delphi before Olympian Apollo took it over. Apollo and Poseidon worked closely in many realms: in colonization, for example, 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. Xenophon's Anabasis describes a group of Spartan soldiers in 400-399 BCE singing to Poseidon a paean - a kind of hymn normally sung for Apollo.
Like Dionysus, who inflamed the maenads, Poseidon also caused certain forms of mental disturbance. A Hippocratic text of ca 400 BCE, On the Sacred Disease says that he was blamed for certain types of epilepsy.

Bronze Age Greece

The name seems to rather transparently stem from Greek pósis "lord, husband" with a less-transparent -don element, perhaps from dea, "goddess'. If surviving Linear B clay tablets can be trusted, the name PO-SE-DA-WO-NE ("Poseidon") occurs with greater frequency than does DI-U-JA (Zeus). A feminine variant, PO-SE-DE-IA, is also found, indicating a lost consort goddess, in effect a precursor of Amphitrite. Tablets from Pylos record sacrificial goods destined for "the Two Queens and Poseidon" and to "the Two Queens and the King". The most obvious identification for the "Two Queens" is with Demeter and Persephone, or their precursors, goddesses who were not associated with Poseidon in later periods. Poseidon is already identified as "Earth-Shaker"— E-NE-SI-DA-O-NE— in Mycenaean Knossos, a powerful attribute where earthquakes had accompanied the collapse of the Minoan palace-culture. In the heavily sea-dependent Mycenean culture, no connection between Poseidon and the sea has yet surfaced; among the Olympians it was determined by lot that he should rule over the sea (Hesiod, Theogony 456): the god preceded his realm.
Demeter and Poseidon's names are linked in one Pylos tablet, where they appear as PO-SE-DA-WO-NE and DA, referred to by the epithets Enosichthon, Seischthon and Ennosigaios, all meaning "earth-shaker" and referring to his role in causing earthquakes.

Poseidon in myth

Birth and triumph over Cronus

Poseidon was a son of Cronus and Rhea. In most accounts he is swallowed by Cronus at birth but later saved, with his other brother and sisters, by Zeus. However in some versions of the story, he, like his brother Zeus, did not share the fate of his other brother and sisters who were eaten by Cronus. He was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs pretended to have given birth to a colt, which she gave to Cronus to devour. According to John Tzetzes the kourotrophos, or nurse of Poseidon was Arne, who denied knowing where he was, when Cronus came searching; according to Diodorus Siculus Poseidon was raised by the Telchines on Rhodes, just as Zeus was raised by the Korybantes on Crete.
According to a single reference in the Iliad, when the world was divided by lot in three, Zeus received the sky, Hades the underworld and Poseidon the sea.

The foundation of Athens

Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens after a competition with Poseidon. Yet Poseidon remained a numinous presence on the Acropolis in the form of his surrogate, Erechtheus. At the dissolution festival at the end of the year in the Athenian calendar, the Skira, the priests of Athena and the priest of Poseidon would process under canopies to Eleusis. They agreed that each would give the Athenians one gift and the Athenians would choose whichever gift they preferred. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a spring sprang up; the water was salty and not very useful, whereas Athena offered them an olive tree. The Athenians (or their king, Cecrops) accepted the olive tree and along with it Athena as their patron, for the olive tree brought wood, oil and food. After the fight, infuriated at his loss, Poseidon sent a monstrous flood to the Attic Plain, to punish the Athenians for not choosing him. The depression made by Poseidon's trident and filled with salt water was surrounded by the northern hall of the Erechtheum, remaining open to the air. "In cult, Poseidon was identified with Erechtheus," Walter Burkert noted. "the myth turns this into a temporal-causal sequence: in his anger at losing, Poseidon led his son Eumolpus against Athens and killed Erectheus."
The contest of Athena and Poseidon was the subject of the reliefs on the western pediment of the Parthenon, the first sight that greeted the arriving visitor.
This myth is construed by Robert Graves and others as reflecting a clash between the inhabitants during Mycenaean times and newer immigrants. It is interesting to note that Athens at its height was a significant sea power, at one point defeating the Persian fleet at Salamis Island in a sea battle.

The walls of Troy

Poseidon and Apollo, having offended Zeus, were sent to serve King Laomedon of Troy. He had them build huge walls around the city and promised to reward them well, a promise he then refused to fulfill. In vengeance, before the Trojan War, Poseidon sent a sea monster to attack Troy (it was later killed by Perseus).

Consorts/children

His consort was Amphitrite, a nymph and ancient sea-goddess, daughter of Nereus and Doris.
Poseidon was the father of many heroes. He is thought to have fathered the famed Theseus.
A mortal woman named Tyro was married to Cretheus (with whom she had one son, Aeson) but loved Enipeus, a river god. She pursued Enipeus, who refused her advances. One day, Poseidon, filled with lust for Tyro, disguised himself as Enipeus, and from their union were born the heroes Pelias and Neleus, twin boys. Poseidon also had an affair with Alope, his granddaughter through Cercyon, begetting the Attic hero Hippothoon. Cercyon had his daughter buried alive but Poseidon turned her into the spring, Alope, near Eleusis.
Poseidon rescued Amymone from a lecherous satyr and then fathered a child, Nauplius, by her.
After having raped Caeneus, Poseidon fulfilled her request and changed her into a male warrior.
Not all of Poseidon's children were human. In an archaic myth, Poseidon once pursued Demeter. She spurned his advances, turning herself into a mare so that she could hide in a herd of horses; he saw through the deception and became a stallion and captured her. Their child was a horse, Arion, which was capable of human speech. Poseidon also raped Medusa on the floor of a temple to Athena. Medusa was then changed into a monster. When she was later beheaded by the hero Perseus, Chrysaor and Pegasus emerged from her neck. There is also Triton, the merman; Polyphemus, the cyclops; and Oto and Ephialtae, the giants.

Epithets

Poseidon was known in various guises, denoted by epithets. In the town of Aegae in Euboea, he was known as Poseidon Aegaeus and had a magnificent temple upon a hill. Poseidon also had a close association with horses, known under the epithet Poseidon Hippios.

Poseidon in literature and art

In Greek art, Poseidon rides a chariot that was pulled by a hippocampus or by horses that could ride on the sea. He was associated with dolphins and three-pronged fish spears (tridents). He lived in a palace on the ocean floor, made of coral and gems.
In the Iliad Poseidon favors the Greeks, and on several occasion takes an active part in the battle against the Trojan forces. However, in Book XX he rescues Aeneas after the Trojan prince is laid low by Achilles.
In the Odyssey, Poseidon is notable for his hatred of Odysseus due to the latter's having blinded the god's son, the cyclops Polyphemus. The enmity of Poseidon prevents Odysseus's return home to Ithaca for many years. Odysseus is even told, notwithstanding his ultimate safe return, that to placate the wrath of Poseidon will require one more voyage on his part.
In the Aeneid, Neptune is still resentful of the wandering Trojans, but is not as vindictive as Juno, and in Book I he rescues the Trojan fleet from the goddess's attempts to wreck it, although his primary motivation for doing this is his annoyance at Juno's having intruded into his domain.
A hymn to Poseidon included among the Homeric Hymns is a brief invocation, a seven-line introduction that addresses the god as both "mover of the earth and barren sea, god of the deep who is also lord of Helicon and wide Aegae, and specificies his twofold nature as an Olympian: "a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships."

In contemporary culture

"King" Neptune appears as the ruler of the sea, from cans of tuna to The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Disney animators have portrayed Neptune as a fish-man, mistaking him for Typhon, in the 1997 animated Hercules. In Percy Jackson & The Olympians, by Rick Riordan, the main character Perseus Jackson is a son of Poseidon (making him a demigod). The comic book superheroes Namor and Aquaman also bear a strong resemblance to Poseidon. In the anime/manga, Eyeshield 21, one of the teams is called Kyoshin Poseidon, with Poseidon as the mascot. In the animé One Piece Poseidon is viewed as a weapon capable of destruction on a massive level which can be found by reading the inscriptions on a poneglyph.

Sound and images

Gothenburg, Sweden.

Notes

References

Poseidon in Tosk Albanian: Poseidon (Gott)
Poseidon in Arabic: بوسيدون
Poseidon in Bengali: পোসাইডন
Poseidon in Belarusian: Пасейдон
Poseidon in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Пасэйдон
Poseidon in Bosnian: Posejdon
Poseidon in Breton: Poseidon
Poseidon in Bulgarian: Посейдон
Poseidon in Catalan: Posidó
Poseidon in Czech: Poseidón
Poseidon in Danish: Poseidon
Poseidon in German: Poseidon
Poseidon in Estonian: Poseidon
Poseidon in Modern Greek (1453-): Ποσειδώνας (μυθολογία)
Poseidon in Spanish: Poseidón
Poseidon in Esperanto: Pozidono
Poseidon in Basque: Poseidon
Poseidon in French: Poséidon
Poseidon in Galician: Poseidón
Poseidon in Korean: 포세이돈
Poseidon in Hindi: वरुण (ग्रह)
Poseidon in Croatian: Posejdon
Poseidon in Indonesian: Poseidon
Poseidon in Icelandic: Neptúnus (guð)
Poseidon in Italian: Poseidone
Poseidon in Hebrew: פוסידון
Poseidon in Georgian: პოსეიდონი
Poseidon in Latin: Posidon
Poseidon in Latvian: Poseidons
Poseidon in Luxembourgish: Poseidon
Poseidon in Lithuanian: Poseidonas
Poseidon in Hungarian: Poszeidón
Poseidon in Dutch: Poseidon (mythologie)
Poseidon in Japanese: ポセイドーン
Poseidon in Norwegian: Poseidon
Poseidon in Norwegian Nynorsk: Poseidon
Poseidon in Low German: Poseidon
Poseidon in Polish: Posejdon
Poseidon in Portuguese: Posídon
Poseidon in Romanian: Poseidon
Poseidon in Russian: Посейдон
Poseidon in Simple English: Poseidon
Poseidon in Slovak: Poseidón
Poseidon in Slovenian: Pozejdon
Poseidon in Serbian: Посејдон
Poseidon in Serbo-Croatian: Posejdon
Poseidon in Finnish: Poseidon
Poseidon in Swedish: Poseidon
Poseidon in Tamil: போசீடான்
Poseidon in Thai: โพไซดอน
Poseidon in Vietnamese: Poseidon (thần thoại)
Poseidon in Turkish: Posiedon (mitoloji)
Poseidon in Ukrainian: Посейдон
Poseidon in Chinese: 波塞冬

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

AB, Agdistis, Amor, Ancient Mariner, Aphrodite, Apollo, Apollon, Ares, Argonaut, Artemis, Ate, Athena, Bacchus, Ceres, Cora, Cronus, Cupid, Cybele, Davy, Davy Jones, Demeter, Despoina, Diana, Dionysus, Dis, Dylan, Eros, Flying Dutchman, Gaea, Gaia, Ge, Great Mother, Hades, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, Here, Hermes, Hestia, Hymen, Hyperion, Jove, Juno, Jupiter, Jupiter Fidius, Jupiter Fulgur, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Jupiter Pluvius, Jupiter Tonans, Kore, Kronos, Magna Mater, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Mithras, Momus, Neptune, Nereid, Nereus, Nike, OD, Oceanid, Oceanus, Olympians, Olympic gods, Ops, Orcus, Persephassa, Persephone, Phoebus, Phoebus Apollo, Pluto, Proserpina, Proserpine, Rhea, Saturn, Tellus, Thetis, Triton, Varuna, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Zeus, able seaman, able-bodied seaman, bluejacket, buccaneer, deep-sea man, fair-weather sailor, fisherman, fresh-water nymph, hearty, jack, jack afloat, jack-tar, jacky, kelpie, limey, limniad, lobsterman, man fish, mariner, matelot, mermaid, merman, naiad, navigator, nix, nixie, ocean nymph, pirate, privateer, sailor, salt, sea devil, sea dog, sea god, sea nymph, sea rover, sea-maid, sea-maiden, seafarer, seafaring man, seaman, shipman, siren, tar, undine, viking, water dog, water god, water spirit, water sprite, whaler, windjammer, windsailor
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