Poseidon Adventures: A Deep Dive Into Zeus’ Other Brother

Photo Courtesy: [Willem Base/WIkimedia Commons]

In Greek mythology, Poseidon rules the sea. But even though the ocean covers a majority of our planet, Poseidon rarely takes center stage. Greek gods and goddesses have long, storied histories, and while Poseidon is present in those narratives, he’s just rarely the hero of the story.

If you think about it, Poseidon is often the villain of many classic tales. His fury is often blamed for issues that sailors face at sea. After all, when Poseidon stories were being crafted, seafaring connected the world.

Known as “Neptune” in Roman mythology, Poseidon does have some underwater adventures of his own and a few interesting appearances in popular culture as well. Read on to learn more about Poseidon, Zeus’s other big brother.

Poseidon on the Family Tree

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Since Zeus’ exploits are the main standouts in Greek mythology, let’s get back to the basics:  Poseidon is one of Zeus’s older brothers. Zeus is the youngest of the six main Greek gods and goddesses, which include Demeter, Hera, Hestia, Hades, and Poseidon are all older than Zeus. By first looking at the history of Zeus, the Greek gods and goddesses can start to make a little bit more sense.

After Zeus defeats Cronus, his Titan father, in what’s pretty much the origin story for Greek mythology, the three brothers decide they will divide the world into thirds. Hades takes the Underworld, Zeus takes the land and Poseidon takes the ocean. (If you ask us, Poseidon didn’t get a bad deal since 71% of the Earth is covered in water.)

Throughout various tales, Poseidon has many, many romantic relationships and literally dozens of children. He’s been with some big names in terms of the Greek goddesses, with his consorts including beings like Demeter, Aphrodite, Gaea, and even Medusa. He had at least one child with each.

Apart from the consorts above, Poseidon has also been linked to many nymphs and mortals. Ultimately, Poseidon has had over 50 consorts and well over 100 children. Poseidon even had queer relationships, including one with a human named Pelops, who even learned how to drive the god’s the royal chariot. Many of Poseidon’s kids are mermaids, giants, horses and other beings with otherworldly qualities. So, Poseidon’s children vary from deities to human to humanoid.

Poseidon is one of the 12 Olympians, meaning he can often be found atop Mt. Olympus with the likes of Zeus, their siblings, and the younger gods and goddesses, like Dionysus, Athena, Apollo and Hermes. Hermes was the messenger of the Gods, so that son of Zeus had to make sure he was on good terms with Uncle Poseidon when delivering news.

Poseidon’s Abilities & Standout Myths

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Since Poseidon governs the whole ocean, his powers are based in water. Poseidon can create tidal waves, floods, water spouts, and maelstroms, for example. He can also cause earthquakes. Aside from being known as the God of the Ocean and the Sea, Poseidon is known as the God of Horses and the God of Earthquakes. He is often seen holding his signature trident.

Sometimes, Poseidon is portrayed with legs. Other times, he has a mermaid tail. Greek gods and goddesses are known for altering their forms. Like Zeus, Poseidon can shapeshift — transform into an animal or other thing — which has led to some troubling instances. Most often, Poseidon will transform into a horse.  

Our favorite Poseidon myth that goes under the radar is the story of Poseidon and Caeneus. In the story, Caeneus was born a woman. After a disturbing encounter with Poseidon, the God of Water and the Sea decided to grant Caeneus one wish. That wish was to become a male warrior. In some ways, this can be seen as an early example of gender affirmation.

Poseidon is known for trying to court Demeter while she was looking for her daughter, Persephone. Another well-known Poseidon story is his courtship of Amphitrite. In that tale, Amphitrite still rejects Poseidon, but instead of tricking anyone or using force Poseidon decides to recruit a wingman. Delphin, Poseidon’s dolphin-built god friend, convinces Amphitrite to marry Poseidon. Even the Greeks knew dolphins were smart.

Poseidon in Literature and Pop Culture

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The earliest notable appearances of Posiedon are in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. In the Iliad, most of Poseidon’s mentions are in the sections that discuss the arrangement of the world, which tells how Poseidon inherited the ocean. In the Odyssey, Poseidon messes with the main character, Odysseus, because Odysseus blinds one of Poseidon’s children, a Cyclops named Polyphemus. Poseidon also appears in the Aeneid, which is like ancient Rome’s Odyssey, as well as in Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

In film, Poseidon appears as a minor character in 1981’s Clash of the Titans, and in its 2010 remake and sequel. The S.S. Poseidon is the name of the ship setting of 1971’s The Poseidon Adventure, which stars Barbra Streisand. In ancient Greek art, Poseidon is often depicted with a , and sometimes with fins, like a merperson. One of his son’s is a merman named Triton, so this may mean that Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989) is a relative of Poseidon.

As a deity, Poseidon has been worshipped and renowned by different groups throughout history. In Athens, Poseidon was worshipped second only to Athena, which isn’t bad considering the city was named after her. In fact, Hellenists, the term applied to those who worship Greek gods and goddesses today, still worship Poseidon.