The gods of ancient Greece were known for fathering many children. Some were born within their marriages but many more were the results of affairs with other goddesses, nymphs, and human women.
For Poseidon, this list of mistresses even includes at least one monster. While Zeus was known to have many minor goddesses among his children, his brother was more well-known for creating monsters.
Poseidon’s children were not all infamously horrible, though. He was the father of at least one hero and one of the most iconic and noble animals of Greek mythology.
The list of Poseidon’s human sons is, as is typical in Greek mythology, expansive. Many kingdoms, cities, and islands claimed descent from the god of the sea.
Like most of the gods of ancient Greece, Poseidon was believed to have had many affairs. The god of the sea was credited with fathering nearly as many children as his notoriously adulterous brother, Zeus.
Like Zeus, Poseidon was married. He had only three children with his wife, Amphitrite.
Their only son was Triton, the merman, who was most often shown as a member of his father’s retinue. They also had two daughters, Benthesikyme and Rhodos, for whom the island of Rhodes was named.
While Zeus was the father of many daimones, or minor gods and goddesses, Poseidon was more well-known as the father of many children who were neither divine nor human.
In one story, Poseidon attempted to seduce his sister, Demeter. She turned into a mare to run away from him, but he changed himself into a stallion to chase her.
As a result they had a daughter, Despoina, who was associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. Their son, Areion, took the form of an exceptionally handsome immortal horse.
Later writers tried to justify the union between the god and the monster by having Medusa transferred into a monster but born a beautiful woman. The Gorgon, however, was not the only monster associated with Poseidon.
He was also the father of the cyclops Polyphemus and his brothers. The one-eyed giant was a brutal cannibal who was blinded by Odysseus and called out to his father for revenge.
Laestrygon was another man-eating giant said to have been a son of Poseidon. He was the father of the Laestrygonians, an entire tribe of cannibalistic giants who inhabited Sicily.
Some writers also made the god of the sea the father of the giant whirlpool featured in the Odyssey. Charybdis, they claimed, was the offspring of Poseidon and Gaia.
Orion, the huntsman, was a son of Poseidon who was not as antagonistic toward mankind as many of his half-siblings. He was still a giant, however.
Like Zeus, Poseidon was also the father of heroes.
Some myths claimed that Bellerophon was the son of Poseidon, while some made him the rightful son of the king of Corinth.
More famously, he was the father of Theseus. The hero had been born from both Poseidon and a human father, but proved his divine lineage through his heroic actions.
Sometimes, the antagonists of the heroes were Poseidon’s sons instead. Polydictes, who sent Perseus on his quest and Augeas, the king who refused to pay Heracles for cleaning his stables, were both human sons of Poseidon.
Most of Poseidon’s supposed children, however, were not well-known throughout Greece. Instead, they were recognized more locally.
It was common for the gods to be credited as fathers of important figures in Greek history, whether real or legendary. Many of the kings that gave their names to the cities and regions of the Greek world were said to be the sons of deities.
This practice made a connection between the city, its rulers, and the gods. Claiming ancestry from a god gave legitimacy to a ruling king, and having a god’s son found the city made the people believe that the god would have a special interest in them.
Boeotus, for example, gave his name to the region of Boeotia. His twin brother Aeolus founded the Aeolian Islands.
Delphus gave his name to Delphi, Byzas founded Byzantium, and Phocus gave his name to Phocis. Phaeax was the first king of the people who would come to be known as the Phoenicians after him.
Dozens of myths existed throughout Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor that linked Poseidon to their founders. All these places traced their first rulers to the god of the sea, and could thus expect special favor from him.
Sometimes, the Greeks even linked foreign lands to their god. Poseidon was said to have fathered three sons with Libya who became rules in North Africa, and the legendarily cruel King Busirus of Egypt was also his son.
While the cities of the Greek world generally created the connection to the gods themselves, these foreign connections were imagined by Greek writers and applied to other cultures.
This practice linked Greece with other major Mediterranean civilizations, particularly the ancient culture of Egypt. As much as the connection to a god legitimized Greek cities, the god’s connection to a foreign dynasty legitimized Greek religion.
In making characters like Busirus descended from Poseidon, the Greeks reaffirmed their belief that the gods of lands like Egypt were simply different aspects of the familiar Olympians. The imagined kinship to the Greek gods made contemporary rulers part of the Greek world, even if they did not share the belief.
Poseidon was, like most Greek gods, the father of many children.
He fathered three minor sea deities with his wife, Amphtrite. Like his brother Zeus, however, he had many more children with his various mistresses.
He was the father of at least one hero, Theseus, but shared parentage with the king of Athens. Similarly, Bellerophon was sometimes said to be either the prince of Corinth or a son of Poseidon.
Many of these offspring were completely inhuman. He fathered at least two horses, including Pegasus, and several giants.
Some of Poseidon’s children, as well as at least one of his mistresses, were notably monstrous. While some later myths attempted to justify these strange unions, the Odyssey in particular paints Poseidon as the father of many terrible giants and creatures.
Most numerous, however, were the kings who were said to have been sons of Poseidon.
These connections were often only recognized locally as a way to curry the favor of the god and legitimize power. Of the dozens of sons of Poseidon, most are little-known founding kings of various cities and colonies around the Mediterranean region.