Poseidon was the ruler of the sea, a powerful god in Greek mythology who was often called the "Earth-shaker." His father was the Titan Cronus, who at the time was ruler of the Universe, and his mother was Rhea. Cronus was a paranoid ruler, because it had been prophesized that one of his own sons would dethrone him, just as Cronus had done to his father, Uranus.
Thus, Cronus would swallow the children whom Rhea bore him. He figured that it was the safest way to ensure that none of his offspring overthrew him.
One by one, the children were swallowed by Cronus: first Hestia, then Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon. (Some mythographers claim that Rhea tricked Cronus by presenting a foal instead of the baby Poseidon for consumption, but most agree that Poseidon had been swallowed like the rest of his siblings.)
Needless to say, this constant swallowing of her children enraged Rhea. She bore her third son, Zeus, in the middle of the night and gave him for safekeeping to Gaea (Mother Earth). She fooled Cronus into believing he had swallowed his new son by substituting a rock wrapped in baby blankets.
When Zeus grew up, and with the help of Gaea and his mother Rhea, he slipped Cronus a potion that made the Titan disgorge the swallowed children. Being gods, they were unharmed, albeit a tad dazed and confused. With Zeus serving as their leader, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter and Hera waged war against the Titans for supremacy of the Universe.
Assisted by the Cyclops (they gave Zeus his thunderbolts, Poseidon his trident and Hades his helmet of invisibility) and the Hecatoncheires (the Hundred-handed-ones), the siblings fought a terrible war that lasted ten years. In the end they were victorious, banishing their vanquished foes to the deepest depths of the Underworld, called Tartarus. This dark and woeful place is as far beneath the earth as heaven is above the earth. Around Tartarus runs a fence of bronze with gates of bronze, which Poseidon fixed in such as way as to offer no escape, and there the Titans were forever confined.
After Zeus, with his brothers and sisters, defeated the Titans and
dethroned Cronus, the three brothers drew lots out of a helmet to
determine which one of the three realms each would rule. Zeus won the heavens and thus became the supreme ruler, Hades got the Underworld and Poseidon got the sea. The Earth remained common to all three.
Poseidon was very powerful, second only to Zeus himself. Equal to Zeus in dignity, though not in power, he was reputed to be a surly and quarrelsome figure.
Poseidon at once got busy constructing a magnificent palace beneath the sea, off Aegae in Euboea. Splendid white chariot horses with brazen hooves and golden manes lived in the palace's spacious stables and an awesome golden chariot was always ready to transport the sea god about. At the approach of Poseidon's chariot, storms and foul weather would cease, and sea monsters would rise from the depths, playfully frisking around it like friendly dolphins.
As wonderful as his underwater palace was, Poseidon still spent much of his time participating in the festivities in Olympus with the other gods.
Poseidonâ€™s wife was Amphitrite, granddaughter of the titan Oceanus. At first Poseidon courted Thetis the Nereid because she was beautiful and was already accustomed to the sea-depths. But when the respected Titan Themis prophesized that any son born to Thetis would be greater than his father, wisely he backed off and looked elsewhere for a wife.
Next he approached Amphitrite, another Nereid, who wanted nothing to do with Poseidon. For whatever reason, she was turned-off by the god of the sea and fled to the Atlas Mountains in order to escape his advances.
Not to be denied, Poseidon sent messengers all over the earth to look for her. Eventually, after much wandering, a man named Delphinus located Amphitrite and was so convincing in pleading Poseidon's case and his love for her, that at last she yielded and agreed to the marriage. Delphinus himself organized the entire wedding and a splendid party it was!
The union of Poseidon and Amphitrite produced three children: Triton, Rhode and Benthesicyme. But, like his brother Zeus, Poseidon wasn't a very faithful husband and engaged in numerous affairs with goddesses, nymphs, and even mortals.
Understandably jealous, Amphitrite punished many of her husband's lovers, just like Hera did to her husband Zeus' women. She was particularly upset with Poseidon's infatuation with Scylla, gorgeous daughter of Phorcys, and was determined to punish her indiscretion. Amphitrite threw magical herbs into Scylla's bathing pool, and when the woman took her bath, at once she transformed into a barking monster with six heads and twelve feet.
Poseidon was never fully satisfied with his share of the world and once even conspired with other Olympians to dethrone Zeus. But his plot was discovered and in punishment Zeus exiled him to earth. There he was to build the walls of Troy for king Laomedon. He was helped by Apollo, who was also banished from Olympus at that time.
The two Olympian gods assumed the likeness of men and undertook to fortify Troy for wages. Apollo was able to move the heaviest of stones with just the sound of his lyre. But when they had fortified it and the task was completed, the foolish king Laomedon would not pay their wages. Therefore Apollo sent a pestilence, and Poseidon sent a Sea-monster, which snatched away the people of the plain.
The oracles foretold deliverance from these calamities if Laomedon would expose the maiden Hesione to be devoured by Poseidon's Sea-monster. Not knowing what else to do, the king followed the oracles' advice and fastened her to the rocks near the sea, but at the last moment, the greatest Greek hero, Heracles (Hercules), saved her and she married Telamon.
Getting stiffed for his wages was also the chief reason why Poseidon was on the Greek side during the Trojan War.
Many more Sea-monsters were unleashed by Poseidon to exact
vengeance: Poseidon sent a Sea-monster against the Teucrians
because Hierax, a righteous man, was devoted to Demeter and would not honor Poseidon. When Queen Cassiopeia boasted of being better than the Nereids, the water nymphs became angry and asked Poseidon to intervene. The wrathful god sent a flood and yet another Sea-monster to invade the land. Andromeda was exposed as a prey to this monster, only to be rescued by the hero Perseus. Poseidon also sent a bull from the sea, and the horses of Hippolytus were startled, entangling their master in the reins, dragging him to a horrible death.
Another time Poseidon competed with the great Athena - goddess of wisdom, war and the crafts - over who would gain patronage of the famous city state called Athens. Poseidon struck the side of the Acropolis and a fountain spurted forth its water, much to the amazement of the people. However, the water was salty, which proved no use to the populace.
Athena presented the people with the first olive tree, which was used for food, oil and provided wood to burn in the winter. The gods and goddesses had assembled to pass judgment, with the males voting for the god of the sea and the females choosing Athena's olive tree. Since the women outnumbered the men by one, Athena's gift was judged to be the most useful and Athena was awarded the city, which forever after carried her name - Athens.
Known for his anger, and not being the best of sports, Poseidon
proceeded to sent huge waves to flood the area in a mean-spirited
parting gesture. To appease Poseidon's wrath, the women of Athens were deprived of their vote, and the men forbidden to bear their mothers names. In the shrine of Erechtheus there remained preserved a long time an olive tree and a pool of salt water which had been set there by Poseidon and Athena as tokens when they contended for the city.
Another dispute arose between Poseidon and Athena over the city of Troezen, but Zeus nipped it in the bud by declaring that it was to be shared equally between the two, an arrangement loathed by both parties.
Quarrelsome Poseidon thus engaged in disputes with: Zeus, over the island of Aegina; Dionysus, over the island of Naxos; Helios, the sun god, over the area of Corinth (Poseidon was upset because he received the Isthmus of Corinth only, while Helios got the prestigious Acropolis of Corinth); Hera, wife of Zeus, got into it with Poseidon over Argolis, and that one got real ugly, with accusations flying all over the place and Poseidon claiming that the Olympians were biased against him.
Poseidon's argument with Hera was referred for arbitration to a panel of three River-gods, who made a decision in favor of Hera. Outraged, Poseidon vowed revenge on them. Zeus had forbidden him to bring on floods, as he had done in Athens, so the sea god did the exact opposite -- He dried up the streams of his three judges (Inachus, Cephissus and Asterion) and they never again flowed in the summer.
But Poseidon could be compassionate. Anymone was a Danaid (nymph of nature) who was greatly distressed by these droughts, and, taking pity on her, Poseidon caused the Argive river of Lerna to perpetually flow, bringing Anymone much-needed relief.
Poseidon liked to boast that he created the first horse, and it was
accepted that he instituted horse-racing. He even claimed to have
constructed the first horse bridle, although Athena begs to differ on that...the two rarely got along at first, even though eventually they reconciled and worked on some common causes. Like Zeus, it took many years for Poseidon to mature and not always act belligerently.
Although Poseidon is adored for giving men the first horse, his primary importance was as Lord of the Sea. At his command winds rose and the most violent of storms began, but when he drove in his golden chariot over the water, the storms subsided and tranquil peace followed his wheels.
Ancient sailors and warriors would pray and offer tributes to the great Poseidon prior to undertaking a sea journey. In turn, Poseidon could be cruel and hostile to those who displeased him, such as the hero of the Trojan War, Odysseus, who suffered great tribulations at the hands of Poseidon while embarked on his Odyssey back home.
Both the bull and the horse are associated with Poseidon, but the bull is associated with many other gods as well, so the horse can be considered his animal.
He was always depicted carrying, or using, his distinguishing weapon, the trident, a three-pronged spear which he used to shatter and shake anything he pleased, much like his brother Zeus used his thunderbolts. That's why he was commonly referred to as the "Earth Shaker". The trident, his symbol, was the gift of the Cyclopes, who had fought with the Olympians versus the Titans.
He was always accompanied by his son, Triton, who was half man, half fish. Triton would blow on his seashell to announce Poseidon's arrival.