Here we cover the Greek God Poseidon, other postings examine the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with descriptions of the gods individually. Below is an excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray published 1897. The entire book is in our library in individual chapters – and you can begin reading it here.
Poseidon or Neptune
It has already been told how, when all resources had failed which the Titans could bring to bear for the restoration of Cronus to the throne, the government of the world was divided by lot among his three sons, Zeus, Poseidon, Hades.
To Zeus fell, besides a general supremacy, the control of the heavens; and we have seen how he and his consort Hera, representing the phenomena of that region, were conceived as divine persons possessed of a character and performing actions such as were suggested by those phenomena. To Poseidon (Neptune) fell the control of the element of water, and he in like manner was conceived as a god, in whose character and actions were reflected the phenomena of that clement, whether as the broad navigable sea, or as the cloud which gives fertility to the earth, growth to the grain and vine, or as the fountain which refreshes man, cattle, and horses.
A suitable symbol of his power, therefore, was the horse, admirably adapted as it is both for labor and battle, whilst its swift springing movement compares finely with the advance of a foaming wave of the sea. “He yokes to the chariot,” sings Homer in the Iliad, “his swift steeds, with feet of brass and manes of gold, and himself clad in gold, drives over the waves. The beasts of the sea sport around him, leaving their lurking places, for they know him to be their lord. The sea rejoices and makes way for him. His horses speed lightly, and never a drop touches the brazen axle.”
It may have been to illustrate a tendency of the sea to encroach in many places on the coast, as well as to show the importance attached to a good supply of water, that the myth originated which tells us of the dispute between Poseidon and Athene for the sovereignty of the soil of Attica. To settle the dispute, it was agreed by the gods that whichever of the two should perform the greatest wonder, and at the same time confer the most useful gift on the land, should be entitled to rule over it. With a stroke of his trident Poseidon caused a brackish spring to well up on the Acropolis of Athens, a rock 400 feet high, and previously altogether without water. But Athene in her turn caused the first olive tree to grow from the same bare rock, and since that was deemed the greatest benefit that could be bestowed, obtained for all time sovereignty of the land, which Poseidon thereupon spitefully inundated.
There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.
Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897
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