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Why Did Poseidon Create Horses?

By Andy Watkins


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Poseidon is best known as the Olympian god of the sea. However, he had many other roles in Greek mythology. Interestingly, other than the sea, he was also god of hurricanes, earthquakes and storms.

He also tried his hand at creating a whole load of different animals that walked the earth and swam in the oceans. One of the most important of these is the horse. But, why did he create the horse?

There are two completely different reasons in the myths for why Poseidon created the horse. The first reason was that he created the horse as a gift to win the attention of the Olympian goddess Demeter. In the process of creating the horse he made a number of failed attempts which include the hippopotamus and the zebra. The second reason is that he created the horse to give to the city of Athens. He and the Olympian god Athena were competing for the right of patronage of the city and both he and Athena present gifts to the city. Athena gave the gift of the olive tree and beat Poseidon with his horse. 

Both of these myths are very interesting and would be worth diving into in more detail. So lets take a look at these two myth now.

Poseidon Makes a Gift to Win the Attention of Demeter

Poseidon was married to the Amphitrite and together they had 4 different children, the most famous being the sea god Triton.

That Poseidon was married didn’t stop him from attempting to win the attention of other gods and mortals. In fact, he had huge number of affairs with different women and with these women he sired a number of children who feature prominently in other Greek myths.

So it wasn’t any surprise that Poseidon spent a lot of his time trying to woo the Olympian goddess Demeter. Demeter was the goddess of agriculture, law and the harvest. She had no initial interest in Poseidon and his advances.

She became so annoyed by his attempts that she ventured inland away from the ocean where the powers of Poseidon were much diminished.

Poseidon at this point felt motivated to win her attention by presenting her with a gift. He often would create different sea creatures to woo different women, in fact he had created the dolphin as a gift for his wife Amphitrite. But for Demeter, he needed to create a land based creature.

He began to craft a four legged animal but each time his attempt failed in some manner or another and he deemed it insufficient as a gift. He began with the camel, then later the hippopotamus, the giraffe, the donkey and then the zebra. None were good enough as gift for the goddess Demeter.

On his final attempt he achieved what he wanted in the form of a horse. Demeter was delighted by the gift and she changed her opinion about Poseidon. They began an affair together and produced the children Areoin and Despoine.

There is another much darker version of this myth. In this myth, Demeter is depressed because her daughter Persephone has been kidnapped by the god of the underworld Hades. As goddess of the harvest, when Demeter is saddened the earth doesn’t produce the necessary food and there is famine across the land.

Demeter wishes to hide away and not talk to anyone so she transforms herself into a horse and hides amongst a great herd of horse on the Greek plains. Poseidon, who is attracted by Demeter, transforms himself into a great mare and goes in search of Demeter. When he finds her he rapes her and like before the Demeter gives birth to Areoin and Despoine.

What Animals Did Poseidon Create?

Across many of the Greek myths Poseidon has created many different animals both land and sea based animals. Here is a non exhaustive list of just some of the animal Poseidon is said to have created.

  • Dolphin
  • Octopus
  • Blow-fish
  • Sea-polyp
  • Seahorse
  • Camel
  • Hippopotamus
  • Giraffe
  • Donkey
  • Bull
  • Zebra
  • Horse

Poseidon vs Athena for the Patronage of Athens

Poseidon was often getting into fights and disagreements with his fellow Olympian gods. He had rivalries with Zeus, Hades and one of the more famous he had was with the goddess Athena. Athena was the daughter of Zeus and Metis and was the goddess of warcraft, strategy and heroism. She was quite the combatant and could very easily hold her own against the other Olympians.

Many of the Greek gods liked to take on a Greek city as the patron or protector. Athens and the surrounding area was one of the most popular cities because of its cultural and economic might. As such, both Poseidon and Athena vied for the honour of being patron and battled it out for the right.

They both attempted to persuade the city with their own special gifts. Poseidon was said to have crafted the horse which was used by the Athenians in battle and to transport goods. He also used his trident to produce a saltwater spring which erupted from the mountain on which the acropolis can be found. The Athenians were initially very impressed by the gifts that Poseidon had given.

Then came Athena with her gift of the olive tree. She also placed this olive tree on the acropolis and the Athenians were able to produce olives and olive oil from the tree. The Athenians were equally if not more impressed by this gift from Athena. The Athenians were not however the judges for this particular contents. The judge was none other than Zeus, and he declared Athena the victor.

In the end, Poseidon was so angered by this that he took revenge on the Athenians by flooding their city. Poseidon battled with many other gods for patronage of a number of cities, but in the end was given the role of patron of Corinth.

The rivalry between Athena and Poseidon didn’t end with their content for control of Athens. Following the Trojan war, Poseidon took particular dislike to a number of Greek soldiers who were returning to Greek. Odysseus ended up killing a son of Poseidon and so Poseidon tormented Odysseus and his crew for much of their journey home. To counter this, Athena would often appear to help Odysseus in one or another of their trials.

Final Thoughts

Poseidon is one of the more warped and terrible Olympian gods. He has a terrible temper and was feared by many of the Greeks. He is often vengeful when he doesn’t get his way.

He is also the creator of a lot of the interesting animals in Greek mythology. We mentioned a few of creations above, but he was also father to a number of different characters including gods, giants and monsters.

I hope you enjoyed our attempt to answer this question about the origins of the horse in Greek mythology. We have many more interesting articles so be sure to visit some of the other parts of the site. Thanks!

About Andy Watkins

I have always been interested in mythology. From a very early age in Britain, I was known to sit at the breakfast table reading encyclopedias about many of the major world mythologies. Learn more about MythNerd's Editorial Process.

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