Zeus vs. Poseidon – How Do They Compare?

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In Greek mythology, Zeus and Poseidon were brothers and sons of the primordial deities Cronus and Rhea. Zeus was the god of the sky while Poseidon was the god of the sea. Both were strong and powerful leaders of their realms. There are similarities between the two brothers, but there are also many differences which is why they were never known to get along well. In this article, we’ll be exploring the similarities and differences of these two Greek gods, how they compare and who is the more powerful deity.

Zeus vs. Poseidon: Origins

Poseidon god

Both Zeus and Poseidon were born of the Titan Cronus (the personification of time) and his wife Rhea (the mother of the gods). They were two of six children including Hestia, Hades, Demeter, and Hera.

According to the myth, Cronus was a tyrannical father who thought that his children would try to overthrow him when they old enough and so he swallowed them whole. However, before he could swallow Zeus, Rhea hid the child in a safe place and wrapping up a big rock in a blanket, she handed it to Cronus, making him believe that it was Zeus. Therefore, Zeus escaped from being imprisoned in his father’s stomach whereas his brother Poseidon was swallowed whole.

When Zeus grew older, he returned to Cronus to free his siblings and together with their allies, the Elder Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires, they waged war against Cronus and the Titans. The battle was called the Titanomachy and continued for ten long years. The Olympians finally won the war and it was Zeus who cut up his father into pieces with his own scythe and threw the parts into Tartarus, the Underworld prison.

Zeus origins
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Zeus vs. Poseidon: Domains

After the Titanomachy, the brothers and their siblings drew lots to decide how to divide the cosmos amongst themselves.

  • Zeus was made the King of the gods and the Supreme ruler of the sky. His domain included everything in the heavens: the clouds, the weather and even Mount Olympus, where the Olympian deities lived.
  • Poseidon was named the god of the seas, earthquakes and horses. Although he was one of the supreme gods of Mount Olympus, he spent almost all his time in his watery realm. He was known as the protector of sailors and sailing ships and was widely worshipped by sailors.  Poseidon also was also credited with the creation of the horse.
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Zeus vs. Poseidon: Personality

The two brothers Zeus and Poseidon had different personalities but shared certain characteristics and traits.

  • Zeus was known for being quick-tempered and vengeful. He didn’t tolerate being slighted by anyone and when his temper flared, he created terrible thunderstorms. It’s said that all living things, divine or mortal were frightened of his wrath. If things didn’t go his way, he became furious. However, Zeus was also known for committing heroic acts like returning to save his siblings from imprisonment in Cronus’ stomach. In some accounts, he had all the Titans who opposed him imprisoned in Tartarus for eternity, but in others, he eventually showed them mercy and released them.
  • Poseidon was said to have been a very moody and reserved character. When in a good mood he was friendly and helped other deities, mortals or demigods. He wasn’t as easily angered as Zeus was. However, when he did lose his temper, it usually resulted in violence and destruction. He would cause earthquakes, tidal waves and floods and he usually didn’t consider if anyone or anything else was affected. Some sources say that Poseidon was greedy and shrewd and always looking for a chance to overthrow his brother Zeus.  
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Zeus vs. Poseidon: Appearance

Poseidon and Zeus both look very similar, often depicted as muscular, bearded men with curly hair. They were often mistaken for each other but are easy to identify because of their weapons and symbols associated with them.

Zeus as a ruler
  • Zeus is often portrayed by Greek artists either  standing with his thunderbolt held in his raised hand, or majestically seated with the weapon. He’s also sometimes shown with his other symbols, the eagle, oak and the bull.
  • Poseidon is usually pictured with his weapon, the Trident, a three-pronged pitchfork he holds in his hand. He is rarely depicted without this weapon, which serves to identify him. Sometimes he’s depicted riding his chariot pulled by hippocampi (large aquatic creatures that look like horses with fish tails). Without these attributes he looks almost exactly like Zeus.
Poseidon
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Zeus vs. Poseidon: Family

Both Zeus and Poseidon were married, Zeus to his own sister Hera (the goddess of marriage and family) and Poseidon to a nymph called Amphitrite (the female personification of the sea).

  • Zeus was married to Hera, but he still had numerous other lovers, both divine and mortal of whom Hera was extremely jealous. He also had a large number of children by them. Some of his children became famous figures in Greek mythology, including the Greek hero Heracles, Helen of Troy, Hermes, Apollo and Artemis. Some others remained obscure.
  • Poseidon and Amphitrite had two children together. These were Triton (a sea god like Poseidon) and Rhodos (nymph and eponym of the island of Rhodes). Like his brother Zeus, Poseidon was also a lustful god and had many lovers and offspring including Theseus, Polyphemus, Orion, Agenor, Atlas and Pegasus. Many of his children also played important roles in Greek myths.
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Zeus vs. Poseidon: Power

Both gods were extremely powerful, but Zeus was the supreme god and was the stronger and more powerful of the duo.

  • Zeus was the most powerful of all the Greek gods, the one that both mortals and deities would call upon for help. His thunderbolt, a weapon that was forged for him by the Cyclopes, added to his power and control. His use of the lightning bolt and his powers to control the weather was always much stronger than his sibling’s powers. He also had excellent leadership qualities which Poseidon wasn’t known to possess. It always seemed that Zeus was destined to become the King of the gods since it was he who had the courage to rescue his siblings and take the first steps in overthrowing his father and the rest of the Titans.
  • Poseidon was also extremely powerful in his own right. His weapon was the trident, which he used to cause changes in the seas . If he struck the earth with it, it could cause catastrophic earthquakes which would result in the earth’s destruction. This is what earned him the title ‘earth shaker’. He could create storms which could sink the largest of ships or, conversely, he had the power to calm the seas to help ships along their way. He also had the ability to control all life that dwelt within the seas. Poseidon was said to have been the second most powerful god on Mount Olympus, just behind his brother Zeus.
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Zeus vs. Poseidon – Who Is More Powerful?

From the comparison above, it’s clear who would win in a fight. While Poseidon is a powerful deity with great power, it falls short compared to Zeus.

Zeus is the supreme god of the Olympians for a reason. He is a leader of mortals and deities, he has tremendous power and control over his domains. Also, Zeus’ thunderbolt

Poseidon is a powerful deity, but he lacks leadership qualities that Zeus has. He also lacks the power and respect that Zeus commands. He has great responsibilities and capabilities, but he remains somewhat in the background, compared to Zeus.

In the end, Zeus and Poseidon are the two most powerful deities among the Olympians. Between the two of them, however, Zeus is the more powerful figure.

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In Brief

Zeus and Poseidon were two of the best known Greek gods, each with their own fascinating traits and characteristics. They featured in many important myths, as well as in the myths of other characters, some of which are the most famous stories  in Greek mythology. They remain two of the most well-known and popular deities of the ancient Greek pantheon.

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