Poseidon Epithets: Aegaeus & Hippios

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Many of the Greek gods had various manifestations. In this lesson, we are going to check out the epithets of Poseidon and see when the Greeks would have used each one.

Poseidon and Greek Epithets

We tend to associate the Greek gods with a single attribute. Zeus was the god of thunder, Hades ruled the underworld and Athena represented wisdom. However, we sometimes forget that the gods of Greek mythology were great multitaskers. They all held multiple jobs and had multiple powers, so the Greeks couldn't simply pray to a god. You had to pray to a specific manifestation of that god, and ask them to intervene with a specific power.

To make sure that their prayers were understood correctly, the Greeks recognized the gods by their epithets, which are sort of like nicknames or titles associated with a specific power. One great example of this was Poseidon. Poseidon was the god of the sea, but he had other powers as well, and praying to the wrong version of Poseidon could drastically change the results of your request.

Poseidon
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Poseidon's Epithets

For this lesson, we're mostly going to be focusing on two specific epithets of Poseidon, but before we do let's just acknowledge some of his other titles.

  • People who wanted Poseidon to protect them at sea would pray to Poseidon Soter, savior of the sailors
  • People on dry land would often pray to Poseidon Asphaleios, the averter of earthquakes
  • People wanting Poseidon to help influence the behavior of nymphs may pray to Poseidon Nymphayaetis, leader of the nymphs

As you can see, Poseidon was a busy guy. Besides these epithets, he was also associated with bulls, horses, and rocks. So, you had to be specific when you prayed to him. Otherwise, you may end up guaranteeing safety at sea while trying to hike through earthquake-prone mountains, and that's just not helping anybody.

Poseidon Hippios

Outside of his role as sea god, one of the most common epithets we find associated with Poseidon is Poseidon Hippios, creator and tamer of horses. Yes, it was Poseidon who was said to have first tamed the horse. In many versions of Greek mythology, he also created horses as a way to impress the earth goddess Demeter.

Poseidon was very often associated with horses
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So, when would you pray to Poseidon Hippios? This was the god to invoke if you were having trouble taming a horse, or if your horses were sick or in danger. Poseidon Hippios could intervene and protect horses during storms or warfare or droughts or other events, and could also help them perform in competitions or long-distance travel. Praying to Poseidon Hippios would not, however, bring you any fortune on the seas. Your horse may be saved from the waves, but not you.

Most temples to Poseidon are right next to the sea, for obvious reasons. However, we do find temples to Poseidon inland. One such temple can be found in Athens, far out of sight of the sea. This is a temple to Poseidon Hippios at a place known as the Hill of the Horses. Poseidon the preventer of earthquakes and Poseidon the sea god also had their own Athenian temples, so there was never any confusion as to which manifestation of Poseidon you were worshipping.

Poseidon Aegaeus

It was also common for Greek gods to have epithets that connected them to a certain place. For the sea god, one of the most important of these was the epithet of Poseidon Aegaeus. This epithet identified Poseidon with the city of Aegae, on the Greek island of Euboea.

Bronze statue, believed to be of Poseidon, found in the sea just off the coast of Euboea
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