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Poseidon and Polybotis

August 25, 2014

According to Hesiod (Theogony 184-5) and Apollodorus (Library 1.6.1) the giants were born from Gaia and Uranus. Apollodorus recounts that Gaia, frustrated on behalf of the Titans, instigated a war between the giants and the gods. However, the battle resulted in the destruction of the giants (Apollodorus Library 1.6.1). This piece represents one of the battles of the war, the one between Poseidon and the giant Polybotis.

Poseidon and Polybotis

Poseidon pursued Polybotis across the ocean to Cos. In order to stop the giant from escaping Poseidon struck the island with his trident and then used the rock that broke off to crush him (Apollodorus Library 1.6.1 and Strabo Geography 10.5.16). The island created is called Nisyros but in ancient times it was named Porphyris.

It is possible that the myth could be considered a tale of the success of Greek culture over other primitive societies. The Greek gods were born of the Titans whereas the giants are brought forth directly from the earth (Gaia), a primitive form of creation. Therefore, it might be argued that the gods represent the Greeks and the giants the other barbaric peoples of the Greek world. Furthermore, Poseidon’s action of crushing the giant with a piece of a Greek island could be viewed as another act of domination.

The Attic black figure band cup was discovered in grave number one in the cemetery of Ancient Thera. It dates to the third quarter of the sixth century BC. Poseidon is represented in godly form and the giant in hoplite armour. This scene can be seen in other works such as the Louvre Amphora and the Vatican Amphora. It might be argued that the use of the hoplite armour presents the giant as a mortal subject to the power of the god.

Bibliography

Apollodorus Library Translated by Frazer, J. G. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1921. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0022 [Accessed 25 August 2014]

Hesiod Theogony in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica Translated by H.G. Evelyn-White London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1914. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0130 [Accessed 25 August 2014]

Strabo GeographyThe Geography of Strabo Translated by Jones, H.L. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1924. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0198 [Accessed 25 August 2014]

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One Comment
  1. Magnificent conceptually, the fight between a god and a giant. Especially the trident of Poseidon brought down, striking the island, and the rock which breaks off being used as a weapon against Polybotis (a name I read means “Many bulls”). As out of divine essence comes substance, so out of the god comes the being of the earth, even of gigantic stature. The giant hardly stands a chance. He is derived out of Deity, not vice versa. His only chance would be to find the Achilles heel of the god, that is to say, the exact point where the god at his weakest intersects with the giant at his absolute peak. For a giant to win a fight against a god, it’s there and then he’d have to drive in his weapon.

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