Poseidon was the Lord of the Sea. His brothers were Zeus – the king of all the gods, and Hades – the king of the underworld.
Poseidon was a good looking fellow. He had deep blue eyes and streaming green hair. He was a restless fellow, always on the move.
Poseidon was very powerful. He could raise his hand and a new island would appear! The Greeks were terrified of Poseidon.
All the Greeks, but especially those who lived in coastal towns, built a temple to honor Poseidon. They brought special gifts to the temple every day, hoping to keep him happy. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Poseidon was verymoody.
Poseidon had many wives. But his main wife was not jealous, so Poseidon did not have the problems at home that Zeus did.
Athena was born without a mother. Her father was the mighty Zeus, king of all the gods. Athena was born directly out of Zeus’ brain.
Zeus loved all his children, but if he had to pick a favorite, it would probably have been Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Athena was a powerful force, and one of the 12 deities who held a seat on Mount Olympus.
There are many myths about Athena in Greek mythology. Here is one of them.
As the story goes …
In ancient Greece, each town had a special deity, a god that looked after them. Poseidon was Zeus’ brother. He was Athena’s uncle. He was also Lord of the Sea. Poseidon was a very powerful god. He loved attention. He loved having towns build temples to worship him. He loved the gifts people brought him.
Poseidon was always on the lookout for towns that had not yet been claimed by a god. He wanted as many towns as possible to call his own. Although towns could only have one god to watch over them, gods could watch over as many towns as they chose.
One day, Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, lord of the sea, both claimed the village of Athens. Back then, Athens was pretty small. Normally, the people would have been thrilled to be selected by a god to watch over them. But two gods at once? A town could have only one guardian, and they did not want to choose. They did not want to anger either god.
Athena, who was wise as well as beautiful, understood their worry. She suggested that both gods should give the town a gift. The townspeople could decide which gift was better. Poseidon loved the idea. The townspeople, if possible, were even more nervous than before.
Poseidon tapped the side of the mountain. Water flowed out in a beautiful stream. Fresh water was so important. The people were sure Poseidon had won. When they tasted the water, they tried to smile, but they had to spit the water out. It was salt water!
Then Athena waved her hand. An olive tree began to grow. The people tasted the olives. Smiles broke out. The olives were delicious. The olive tree would provide food, shelter, and oil for cooking. It was a magnificent gift indeed.
But no coastal town in their right mind would risk angering the lord of the sea, the mighty Poseidon. Fortunately, for the people of Athens, they did not have to choose.
Poseidon threw back his head and laughed his hearty roar. “Yours is a far better gift than mine, my lovely niece. I award you Athens.”
And that is how Athena became the guardian of the city-state of Athens. Even today, Athena’s special tree is the olive.
It is said there were many people in ancient Greece who were sure that Athens’ rise to fame was due mostly to Athena’s wise direction. But that is probably just a myth.