Explore / Articles


The Greek god Poseidon

Poseidon (Roman equivalent: Neptune) was the god of the sea, of earthquakes and of horses. Hades and Poseidon drew lots with their brother Zeus to establish their areas of control, and Poseidon became god of the sea. He also controlled some fresh water sources, particularly those that gushed forth from the ground, and often used flooding as a punishment for towns or regions that offended him. Perhaps his most famous territorial dispute was with Athena for the land of Attica. Her gift of the olive tree was thought more useful than his offering of dominion over the sea. However, the latter was also important to the Athenians, and they prudently worshipped both gods.

Poseidon was married to Amphitrite, daughter of Ocean, and their children included the sea god Triton. He also had many children by nymphs and mortal women. One of the most famous was Polyphemus, the Cyclops, killed by Odysseus on his journey back from Troy. Poseidon's merciless hatred after this very nearly prevented the hero's return.

Poseidon was widely worshipped: he had important shrines in the Isthmus of Corinth and was patron in particular of many islands and sea-ports. In art he usually appears as a bearded, powerfully-built man in the prime of life. He is difficult to distinguish from Zeus, except that he characteristically carries a three-pronged trident.

Shop Online

The British Museum's collections, £16.99

The British Museum's collections, £16.99