The History and Importance of Poseidon’s Trident

As recognizable as Zeus’s thunderbolt, or Hermes’ winged boots, Poseidon’s Trident is one of those key symbols of Greek mythology.  The legendary weapon was seen in the hands of the sea god from the very beginning of Greek civilization and was passed on to his Roman counterpart, Neptune. Now a symbol seen found throughout art and literature, the story of the trident is one important to humanity as a whole.

Who was Poseidon in Greek Mythology?

Poseidon is one of the Olympians, the original children of Cronus, and the brother of Zeus, the king of all the Greek gods. Known as “The Earth Shaker”, “The Sea God” and “God of Horses”, he ruled over the oceans, helped create islands, and fought over the dominion of Athens. As unpredictable as the seas he controlled, Poseidon was known to create earthquakes, famines, and tidal waves as revenge against other Olympians.

Poseidon was the father of many important children, including the fish-tailed Triton, and Pegasus, the winged horse. Poseidon plays a major role in several tales in Greek mythology, primarily because of his ability to control the seas and his role in building the walls of the city of Troy. 

How Did The Sea God Get His Trident?

According to ancient myth, the trident of Poseidon was given to him by the great Cyclopes, the ancient blacksmiths who also created the helmet of Pluto, and the thunderbolts of Zeus. The legendary weapon was said to be made of gold or brass.

According to Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca, these weapons were given as a reward by the one-eyed giants after Zeus, Poseidon, and Pluto freed the ancient beings from Tartaros. These items could only ever be held by gods, and with them, the three young gods were able to capture the great Cronus, and other Titans and bind them away. 

What Powers Does The Poseidon Trident Have?

Poseidon’s Trident is a three-pronged fishing spear made of gold or brass. Poseidon used his weapon many times in the creation of Greece, splitting land with earthquakes, creating rivers, and even drying up areas to form deserts. 

One unusual ability of the trident was to create horses. According to the account of Appolonius, when the Gods were to choose who controlled Athens, they held a competition for who could produce something most useful for man. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident, creating the first horse. However, Athena was able to grow the first Olive tree and won the competition.

This story was depicted by the great Italian artist, Antonio Fantuzzi, in a quite fantastic etching that includes an audience of other gods. On left you see Hermes and Zeus watching from above.

Where Does The Trident Appear in Art and Religion?

Poseidon was an important figure in the religion and art of ancient Greece. Many statues remain today of the Greek god that shows where he should be holding his trident, while art found on pottery and murals include Poseidon’s Trident in his hand as he rides on his chariot of golden horses.

In Pausanias’s Description of Greece, evidence of Poseidon’s followers can be found all over Athens and the southern coast of Greece. The Eleusinians, traditionally followers of Demeter and Persephone, had a temple dedicated to the god of the sea, while the Corinthians held water sports as games dedicated to Poseidon.

In more modern times, Poseidon and his Roman counterpart, Neptune, are often depicted in the midst of raging storms or protecting sailors from harm. In reference to a story found in Virgil’s Aeneid, as well as a contemporary storm that nearly killed Cardinal Ferdinand, Peter Paul Ruben’s 1645 painting, “Neptune Calming the Tempest” is a chaotic depiction of the god calming “the four winds”. In his right hand is a very modern version of Poseidon’s Trident, with its two outer prongs being quite curved.

 Is Poseidon’s Trident the same as Shiva’s Trisula?

In modern art history and archeology, research is being undertaken to trace the origin of Poseidon’s Trident. In exploring this, many students have come to a similar conclusion: it may have been the trident of the Hindu god Shiva before Poseidon was ever worshiped. While Shiva’s trident or “Trisula” is three blades, instead of spears, ancient art is often so close in appearance that it is generally unknown which god it refers to.

The “Trisula” appears to be a divine symbol for many ancient civilizations, leading some academics to wonder if it may have existed even before most known mythology.

Poseidon’s Trident in Modern Times

In modern society, Poseidon’s Trident can be found everywhere. The crest of the Navy SEALS has an eagle carrying a trident. Britannia, the personification of Britain, carries the trident. It even appears on the flag of Barbados. While the original three-pronged fishing spear was never popular, as a symbol of controlling the uncontrollable seas, Poseidon’s trident has been seen to provide luck for sailors around the world. 

Is Poseidon’s Trident in The Little Mermaid?

Ariel, the main character in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, is the granddaughter of Poseidon. Her father, Triton, was the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. While the Triton of Greek mythology never wielded Poseidon’s Trident, the depiction of the weapon in the Disney movie is the same as those seen in ancient Greek art.

Is Aquaman’s Trident the same as Poseidon’s Trident?

DC Comic’s Aquaman holds many weapons during his time, and the Aquaman as portrayed by Jason Mamoa holds a petadent (five-pronged spear). However, during certain issues of the comic book, Aquaman does, in fact, wield Poseidon’s Trident, as well as “The Trident of Neptune,” which is a different weapon altogether.

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