Poseidon and Athena

Published: 12th October 2012 11:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th October 2012 11:56 AM   |  A+A-


A Greek myth

Poseidon the God of the Sea and Athena, Zeus’s favourite daughter and the war goddess, had a quarrel. Both wished to be the patron god of Akte, a coastal city in Greece and neither was willing to give in.

Poseidon was one of the most powerful gods on Mount Olympus, where Zeus, the Great God presided. He could, if he wanted, create violent storms and cause earthquakes. He was a fierce-looking bearded man who wielded a trident. Athena, the war goddess, was armed with her spear and wore her father’s protective cloak, the aegis. She was not only beautiful but intelligent as she had inherited the wisdom of her mother Metis. A battle for Akte would be pointless, she knew.

“There’s no point in going to war over Akte, Poseidon. Let’s settle our dispute in another way,” suggested Athena. “And how shall we do that?” asked Poseidon who knew that Athena was not a coward. After all she was the war goddess.

“Let us each gift the people of Akte something. Whoever gives the better of the gifts shall be the controlling deity of the city. Fair, isn’t it?” asked Athena.

“Fair!” agreed Poseidon. Athena was clever, he thought. What better way to win the hearts of the people who would be the subjects.

Poseidon who had been seated on his giant clam shell throne climbed down and made his way up the Acropolis, the hill that overlooked Akte. When he reached the summit, he struck the ground hard with his trident. The trident broke the earth and a salt water spring began to flow out. Remember Poseidon was the god of the Sea.

Now it was Athena’s turn. She too had made her way up the Acropolis to make her offering to the people — the very first olive tree.

Zeus summoned all the other gods from the Mount Olympus to judge the contest. Together they would decide the winner. Everyone admired the spring that gushed water. Apollo, the sun god bent down to drink from it.

“Aaaarrghhh! It’s salty!” he made a face and spat the water out from his mouth. “Well, it’s my water from the seas…” said Poseidon looking at the other gods. But now none seemed impressed. “What use is it to the people of Athens? This spring will not quench their thirst,” said Zeus and turned to Athena. “And what have you got, dear daughter of mine?”

“My gift for the people of Akte is an olive tree. It’ll provide olives. The oil from the olives will help them cook their food and light their homes. The tree will give them wood to build their homes,” said Athena as she showed the gods the tree.

The choice was clear for Zeus and all the other gods agreed that Athena’s wonder tree was the best gift the people of Akte could hope to get. Athena was made patron deity of the city which came to be known as Athens from then on.

Poseidon was angry at the result of the contest of course. He rushed back to the sea and once there, angrily smote the sea with his trident again and again. Reflecting the anger of the god, the sea rose up in a storm. A great flood rushed up the coast, flooding the plains of Eleuis where the city of Athens stood.

In time the floods receded and the people rebuilt their ravaged city. They also built a temple for their patron goddess Athena who would bring them prosperity. But they did not forget the angry sea god, and made him many offerings to appease his anger. And that was how the city of Athens got its name and its guardian goddess. 


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