POSEIDON OF MILOS 13_whole body lef BMK_2696 @

Poseidon – The Olympian God of the Sea

According to Greek mythology and the story of the genesis of the gods of Olympus (Olympian Gods), Poseidon was the god of the sea and protector of all aquatic features. He spent most of his time in his watery domain, although he was officially one of the supreme gods of Mount Olympus. Also, while there were various rivers personified as gods, these would have been technically under Poseidon’s sway. Similarly, Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea, wasn’t really considered on a par with Poseidon, who was known to drive his chariot through the waves in unquestioned dominance. Poseidon had married Titan Oceanus‘ daughter, and sea-nymph Amphitrite.

Poseidon was a son of Cronus (the youngest of the 12 Titans) and of Cronus’s sister and consort Rhea, a fertility goddess. Poseidon was a brother of Zeus, the sky god and chief deity of ancient Greece, and of Hades, god of the underworld. When the three brothers deposed their father, the kingdom of the sea fell by lot to Poseidon. Zeus became ruler of the sky, Hades got dominion of the Underworld and Poseidon was given all water, both fresh and salt. Poseidon was widely worshipped by seamen.

His weapon and main symbol was the trident, perhaps once a fish spear, with which he could make the earth shake, causing earthquakes, and shatter any object. According to the Greek poet Hesiod, Poseidon’s trident, like Zeus’s thunderbolt and Hades’ helmet, was fashioned by the three Cyclopes. He was second to Zeus in power amongst the gods. He was considered by Greeks to have a difficult quarrelsome personality. Combined with his greed, he had a series of disputes with other gods during his various attempts to take over the cities they were patrons of.

In dividing heaven, the watery realm and the subterranean land of the dead, the Olympians agreed that the earth itself would be ruled jointly, with Zeus as king. This led to a number of territorial disputes among the gods. Poseidon vied with Athena to be patron deity of Athens. The god demonstrated his power and benevolence by striking the Acropolis with his three-pronged spear, which caused a spring of salt water to emerge. Athena, however, planted an olive tree, which was seen as a more useful favor. Her paramount importance to the Athenians is seen in her magnificent temple, the Parthenon, which still crowns the Acropolis. The people of Athens were careful, all the same, to honor Poseidon as well.

At one point , Poseidon desired Demeter. To deter him, Demeter asked him to make the most beautiful animal that the world had ever seen. So, in an effort to impress her, Poseidon created the first horse. In some accounts, his first attempts were unsuccessful and created a variety of other animals in his quest; thus, by the time the horse was created, his passion for Demeter had diminished. Poseidon himself fathered many horses, best known of which was the winged horse Pegasus by the Gorgon Medusa.

The Romans’ name for Poseidon was Neptune.


On a recent summer visit at the National Archeological Museum in Athens, we have had the opportunity to take several pictures of the statue of Poseidon of Melos. According to Wiki Commons:

The Poseidon of Melos is a statue of Poseidon in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (NAMA), with the inventory number 235, which is dated to the last quarter of the second century BC.

The statue was found in 1877 on the island of Melos. It is made of Parian marble and has a height of 2.35 metres, which makes it more than lifesize. The statue was found in several pieces, which have been reattached to one another. Portions of the left foot and of the himation are modern recreations. Parts of the nose, beard and hair are missing.

The sea god is depicted naked to the waist in an awe-inspiring pose, with his muscular right arm raised, probably in order to hold a trident (now lost). His himation hangs around his hips, covering his legs and genitals; he holds it in place at his side with his left hand. His back is also partially covered; a bit of cloth lies, mysteriously suspended, on his left shoulder. His weight rests on his right leg, his left leg is left free. The musculature of his arms and his body generally are very finely worked. The head is slightly tilted to the left and his gaze is directed into the distance. There is a dolphin behind the statue to the right, which serves as an additional support for the weight of the statue. The pose is a standard one for Poseidon, Zeus and Hades.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 1_en face left BMK_2610 @

Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 2_plaque BMK_2586 @

Plaque at the base of statue ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 3_whole body left BMK_2604 @

Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 4_whole body right BMK_2595 @

Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 5_torso and head BMK_2616 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Throwing his trident. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 6_torso and head BMK_2622 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 7_torso and head BMK_2635 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEISON OF MILOS 7A_torso and head BMK_2672 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Upper torso detail. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 8_head BMK_2627 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Detail of the head. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 9_dolphin BMK_2664 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Detail of the dolphin by the right foot of the statue. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 10_LEFT HAND BMK_2683 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. Detail of left hand supported at the waist, counter-balancing the right hand’s cast of the trident. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 11-back BMK_2702 @

‘Poseidon of Melos’. View from the back. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 12_whole body_right_BMK_2687 @

Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

POSEIDON OF MILOS 13_whole body lef BMK_2696 @

Image of Olympian god Poseidon: larger-than-life statue made of Parian marble, known as ‘Poseidon of Melos’. Discovered in shipwreck in 1877. ca 125-100 BC. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

CAPE SOUNION 1_windy BMK_8951 @

Temple of the god of the sea Poseidon propitiously situated at Cape Sounion, a sharp promontory ca 65 km south of Athens. Image credit: Karatzas Images.


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One thought on “Poseidon – The Olympian God of the Sea

  1. Pingback: Poseidon’s Temple at Cape Sounion | Full Steam Ahead! The Maritime Blog

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