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6. Poseidóhn (Poseidôn, Ποσειδῶν. Pronounced: poh-see-DOHN, accent on the last syllable; the d (delta) at the beginning of the last syllable is pronounced like a soft th as in this, not like the th in theory.) The etymology of the God’s name is obscure: πούς “foot” + δέω “bind,” therefore: “I bind the feet.” Another proposed etymology is πόσις “husband” + δᾶ “by earth,” therefore “husband of Earth.” In our tradition, Poseidóhn is paired with Dîmítîr (Dêmêtêr, Δημήτηρ) whose name means “Earth-Mother” (her name in Doric Greek is Δαμάτηρ; Δα corresponds to Γῆ “Earth” in Attic Greek, and μάτηρ means “mother,” but this etymology of Δημήτηρ is disputed.)

Poseidóhn is one of the most important deities of Ællînismόs (Hellênismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, and one of the Twelve Olympian Gods. He is the son of Krónos (Cronus, Κρόνος) and Rǽa (Rhea, Ῥέα), and, hence, the brother of Zefs (Ζεύς) and Ploutôn (Pluto, Πλούτων). His sisters are Æstía (Hestia, Ἑστία), Dîmítîr (Dêmêtêr, Δημήτηρ), and Íra (Hêra, Ήρα). In the mythology, like his siblings, he was swallowed up by his father and later thrown up.

There is an interesting story concerning the birth of Poseidóhn told by Pafsanías (Pausanias, Παυσανίας) in his travelogue of Arkadía (Arcadia, Αρκαδία), that Rǽa, after giving birth to Poseidóhn, placed him in a flock of sheep. Rǽa then told Krónos that she had given birth to a foal, which he then swallowed. [1] As the reader will see below, Poseidóhn is called one of the Three Zefs, so it is not surprising that a similar story would be shared in both the birth of Poseidóhn as well as that of Zefs.

Poseidóhn is married to Amphitrítî (Amphitritê, Ἀμφιτρίτη) who bore him the following children: Trítôn (Triton, Τρίτων), Ródî (Rhodê, Ῥόδη), and Vænthæsikýmî (Benthesicymê, Βενθεσικύμη).

Characteristics of Poseidóhn

Poseidóhn, according to the mythology, was determined by lot to have dominion over the sea. Therefore, he has the ability to grant safe voyage over the sea and save seafarers from marine calamity.

Poseidóhn is said to have a similar power as Zefs, the ability to cause storms, but at sea.

Poseidóhn has a particular interest in horses, because according to Homer (Ἰλιὰς Ὁμήρου 23. 277), he created the horse, and taught man how to ride with the bridal. He is said to have instituted the racing of horses. There is also the mythology of Dîmítîr, who to escape him, transformed herself into a mare, but Poseidóhn tricked her and became a horse.

Poseidóhn is described as holding the earth, because his dominion, the Sea, is thought to surround the earth, and, therefore, he has the ability to shake the earth, i.e. to produce earthquakes.

The Orphic hymn to Poseidóhn suggests and offering of myrrh. Also appropriate are cakes made in the shape of the horse, the bull (they could be decorated as either black or white), the boar, the dolphin, and the ram, animals which were sacrificed to him in antiquity.

Poseidóhn Rules the Sea and the Middle Sky

Poseidóhn is Zefs of the Sea and the Middle Sky. His dominion begins above the surface of the Earth (perhaps about 60 feet) and just above the sea-floor. Ploutôn, however, has dominion of the sea-floor and the Earth (and about 60 feet above), but beyond this is the domain of Poseidóhn. The area which includes the Sea, extending above the Sea and above the Earth up to the yposælínia (hyposelênia, ὑποσελήνια), the area just below the moon, is the domain of Poseidóhn.

The Middle Sky, the area from the Earth up to the moon, is where the souls are said to float between lives [2]; it is here where also dwell particular deities, the Gods and Goddesses of the Middle Sky, such as Ækátî (Hecatê, Ἑκάτη). According to Dioyǽnîs Laǽrtios (Diogenês Laërtius, Διογένης Λαέρτιος) in his biography of the ancient philosopher Pythagóras (Πυθαγόρας):

"When cast out upon the earth, it (ed. the soul) wanders in the air like the body. Hermes (Ἑρμῆς) is the steward of souls, and for that reason is called Hermes the Escorter, Hermes the Keeper of the Gate, and Hermes of the Underworld, since it is he who brings in the souls from their bodies both by land and sea; and the pure are taken into the uppermost region, but the impure are not permitted to approach the pure or each other, but are bound by the Furies in bonds unbreakable. The whole air is full of souls ..." [3]

Poseidóhn has dominion over all the souls in the Sea; he also has dominion over all the souls of those who are between lives who dwell in the Middle Sky, and also, he has dominion over the deities who bide there.

Poseidóhn and the Three Zefs

These are the three Gods we call Zefs: Olympian Zefs, Poseidóhn (Zefs of the Sea and the Middle Sky), and Ploutôn (Zefs of the Earth), as explained by Prόklos (Proclus, Πρόκλος):

"He (Ζεὺς Ὀλυμπικός) is also the summit of the three, has the same name with the fontal Jupiter, is united to him, and is monadically called Jupiter. But the second is called dyadically, marine Jupiter (Ζεὺς), and Neptune (Ποσειδῶν). And the third is triadically denominated, terrestrial (χθόνιος) Jupiter, Pluto, and Hades (Ἅιδης-Πλούτων). The first of these also preserves, fabricates, and vivifies summits, but the second, things of a second rank, and the third those of a third order. Hence this last is said to have ravished Proserpine (Περσεφόνη), that together with her he might animate the extremities of the universe." [4]

Zefs wields the thunderbolt. Ploutôn possesses the Áïdos kynǽîn (Aïdos kuneên, Ἄϊδος κυνέην), the dog-skin cap which renders the wearer invisible. All these weapons, which are symbols of the power of the Three Zefs, were created by the Kýklôpæs (Cyclopes, Κύκλωπες). Poseidóhn wields the Tríaina (Trident, Τρίαινα), which has the power to cause earthquakes, sea-storms, crack rocks, and even to cause springs of sea-water to flow when struck on the ground. It indicates his power over the sea. According to Ploutarkhos (Plutarch, Πλούταρχος), the three prongs of the Tríaina are representative of his dominion over the third region (Ἠθικὰ Πλουτάρχου· Περὶ Ἴσιδος καὶ Ὀσίριδος 75.381f), while Zefs and Ploutôn have dominion over the other two, as described above.

Poseidóhn in Iconography

In iconography, Poseidóhn is depicted as fully mature and bearded; he is portrayed as being powerful, and with a serious demeanor, often appearing wrathful. He is accompanied by horses or sea-creatures, especially the dolphin, and various deities associated with the sea. Poseidóhn rides a glorious chariot led by two or four horses with golden manes and hooves of bronze. Poseidóhn is usually depicted holding the Tríaina.

Poseidóhn and Numbers

The number 8 is associated with Poseidóhn for the following reason, as given to us by Ploutarkhos:

"...they (ed. the Athenians) sacrifice to Neptune on the eighth day of every month. The number eight being the first cube of an even number, and the double of the first square, seemed to be an emblem of the steadfast and immovable power of this God, who from thence has the names of Asphalius (Ἀσφάλειος) and Gæiochus (Γαιήοχος), that is, the establisher and stayer of the earth." [5]

Poseidóhn and the Stories of Troy

Poseidóhn is said to have built the walls of Tría (Troy, Τροία) for King Laomǽdôn (Laomedon, Λαομέδων):

(Poseidóhn speaks): "I built for the Trojans the wall about their city, so wide and fair that it might be impregnable, while you, Phoebus (Ἀπόλλων), herded cattle for him in the dales of many valleyed Ida." [6]

Using a mythological interpretation of the battle of Tría, Ælǽni (Helen, Ἑλένη) represents the Basket of the Mysteries stolen from Greece by the Trojans, Poseidóhn would be a protector of the Mystíria, along with Apóllôn, their primary guardian, who in some accounts is said to have built the walls together with him. This would follow, as without próödos (progress, πρόοδος), the jurisdiction of Poseidóhn, entry to the Mysteries is impossible.

Poseidóhn plays a role in both of the epic poems of Ómiros (Homer, Ὅμηρος). In Iliás (Iliad, Ιλιάς), he is described as opposing the Trojans (this because King Laomǽdôn did not fulfill his promise of a great reward for having built the Trojan walls); in Odýsseia (Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια) he persecutes Odysséfs (Odysseus, Ὀδυσσεύς) for the blinding of his son, the Kýklôps (Cyclops, Κύκλωψ) Polýphîmos (Polyphêmus, Πολύφημος). The battle of Troy is history, but the two epic poems of Homer use this history as the background for mythology, for while Poseidóhn is depicted as opposing the Trojans and Odysseus, in reality, he plays a major role in their progress; in a like manner, Apollo is depicted as on the side of the Trojans and therefore the enemy of Achilles, but in the end, he deifies the Hero; so, it must be understood that myths conceal meanings which sometimes are the opposite of the way they appear on the surface.


[1] Ἑλλάδος Περιήγησις Παυσανίου, Βοοκ 8 Ἀρκαδίας 2-3.

[2] Ἠθικά Πλουτάρχου· Περὶ τοῦ ἐμφαινομένου προσώπου τῷ κύκλῳ τῆς σελήνης 28.943C:

Πᾶσαν ψυχήν, ἄνουν τε καὶ σὺν νῷ, σώματος ἐκπεσοῦσαν εἱμαρμένον ἐστὶν <ἐν> τῷ μεταξὺ γῆς καὶ σελήνης χωρίῳ πλανηθῆναι

"All soul, whether with or without wit, when it has departed from the body, is ordained to wander in the district between earth and the moon"

(trans. by the author)

[3] Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων Διογένους Λαερτίου· Πυθαγόρας 8.31, trans. by C. D. Yonge, 1828.

[4] σχόλιον Πρόκλου επὶ Κρατύλου Πλάτωνος, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816.

[5] Βίοι Παράλληλοι Πλουτάρχου· Θησεύς, Chapter 36.4, final sentence of the essay, trans. by John Dryden, 1864.

[6] Ἰλιὰς Ὁμήρου 21.445-449, trans. Samuel Butler, 1898.

The Orphic Hymn to Poseidóhn

Poseidæa: a festival of Poseidóhn

The Epithets of Poseidóhn

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

This logo is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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