In Greek mythology, Poseidon — along with Demeter, Hades, Hera, Hestia, and Zeus — is one of the children of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. He is considered patron of the waters, earthquakes, horses, and navigation, and his counterpart in Roman mythology is Neptune, from whose name we get the name of the eighth planet. He is associated with the trident which he carried.
Poseidon’s wife was the Nereid Amphitrite, who bore him a son, Triton. He also had many other consorts and children: Demeter bore him Arion, and he is said to be the father of the flying horse Pegasus, who sprung from the Gorgon Medusa’s body after Perseus beheaded her and another son Chrysaor. Poseidon was also the father of the Cyclops Polyphemus with the Nereid Thoosa and of the hero Orion, reportedly with Euryale, another of the Gorgons.
Several well-known myths include Poseidon. His life was dramatic from the very beginning, as Cronus, fearing that his children would overthrow him, swallowed them. He and his siblings were freed by Zeus’s rebellion, and in the division of the world between Zeus, Hades, and himself, he received the seas as his domain.
In another myth, Poseidon and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, vie for the patronage of Attica. Both of them claimed the city for their own, and it was decided to have a contest. Poseidon struck the earth with his trident and created a spring. This might have been promising, but it was salt water. Athena, on the other hand, planted the first olive tree, and the citizens — seeing that it could provide not only food, but also oil and wood — chose Athena, hence the name of Athens.
Another story involving Poseidon is told in the Odyssey. After Polyphemus plays host to Odysseus, eats some of his crew members, and is blinded by Odysseus as part of his escape plan, Polyphemus appeals to his father Poseidon to revenge him. It is Poseidon’s anger that keeps Odysseus from his homecoming, providing the occasion for most of the adventures of the Odyssey.
Poseidon plays a role in the 1981 movie, Clash of the Titans, due to be remade for a 2010 release. There is a statue of Poseidon in Copenhagen Port, and another in Barcelona. Several wall and vase paintings, ancient and modern, showing Poseidon and Athena in the contest for Athens and in other situations.
Some of the moons of Neptune are named for Neptune’s/Poseidon’s children, such as Triton. Others are named for Nereids, sisters of his wife, like Galatea, not to be confused with the statue of the same name brought to life by the sculptor Pygmalion. Poseidon is also the name of a submarine-launched missile.