Friday, February 04, 2011

Affairs of the Gods: Poseidon and Tyro

As Valerie pointed out in her fabulous guest post last week, Zeus wasn't the only god who got it on wherever and with whomever he wished. Poseidon had his fair share of indiscretions-- one of which included Tyro.

Poseidon enthroned De Ridder 418 CdM Paris
Poseidon and his Mighty Beard
Tyro was in love with a river god, maybe to the point of obsession. But Poseidon, not unlike Zeus, had no qualms about shape-shifting if it meant he got his way. So what did he do? According to Apollodorus (1.9.8):

Now Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus and Alcidice, was brought up by Cretheus, brother of Salmoneus, and conceived a passion for the river Enipeus, and often would she hie to its running waters and utter her plaint to them. But Poseidon in the likeness of Enipeus lay with her, and she secretly gave birth to twin sons, whom she exposed.
But Homer gave us a much kinder, even romantic, account of Poseidon's affair with Tyro in the Odyssey (Sometimes I'm almost persuaded that Poseidon wasn't half bad, as far as Greek gods go. uhm. kind of.):

She [Tyro] fell in love with the river Enipeus who is much the most beautiful river in the whole world. Once when she was taking a walk by his side as usual, Neptune, disguised as her lover, lay with her at the mouth of the river, and a huge blue wave arched itself like a mountain over them to hide both woman and god, whereon he loosed her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber. When the god had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in his own and said, 'Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of the gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this time twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so now go home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.'
The problem with all of this, of course, is that it's still incredibly deceitful. But I suppose if she thought she was making love with the River (or did he put her to sleep and then make love to her?) then at least she must have rejoiced in her unrequited love being fulfilled at last... Maybe.

I've got to admit that I do love the image of the giant blue wave arching itself over the two of them as a little love shack. And as seductions and rapes go, this one isn't SO terrible, aside from the usual deadbeat dad behavior after the fact, and the whole pretending to be someone else to get in her pant--er, skirt charade. And, wonder of wonders, aside from being knocked up, Tyro didn't get smote by any other gods or goddesses for the trouble Poseidon brought her! (In this instance, I think Tyro won the lottery--Poseidon's consort/wife Amphitrite did not seem NEARLY as interested in taking revenge on the women he seduced.)

Tyro went on to marry Cretheus and have other children, most notably Aeson who fathered Jason (we'll come back to this in a moment).

The twins she bore Poseidon were Pelias and Neleus, and as you might imagine, they survived their exposure to grow up and cause trouble in the usual heroic style. Learning their true heritage and killing some people while earning the enmity of the gods. Pelias in particular seemed to get on Hera's bad side, which as you might have gathered by now isn't typically the BEST idea.

According to Apollodorus, Neleus founded Pylos, and was the father of Nestor, a hero/wise-old-king from the Iliad. At the opposite end of Greece, Pelias wound up in Thessaly where he became King of Iolcus and eventually sent Jason (his half-brother's son--does that make him a half-nephew of Pelias?) on his famous quest for the Golden Fleece with the Argonauts.

Like I said. Trouble in the usual heroic style.

And just because I think it's interesting-- Aeson married the daughter of Autolycus (himself a son of Hermes, and known for his skills as a thief*), Polymede. And Autolycus's other daughter, Anticlea married Laertes, and fathered Odysseus, THEREBY making Jason and Odysseus first cousins.

Now you know!

*Yes. Yes, Autolycus, who was played by Bruce Campbell when KEVIN SORBO WAS Hercules.


  1. i enjoyed the geneology of Odyessus & Jason. Do you think they were meant to be 1st cousins or was it just a fluke of storytelling? If it was on purpose, it gives reason to reconsider their tales in a new light,

  2. Great post. I also appreciated the geneaology lesson on Jason and Odysseus. Funny, I always knew the individual lineages but never had before put the pieces together.

  3. Marroncito: You know, it's hard to answer that. On the one hand, I want to say characters like Odysseus and Jason and Heracles etc were very real-- living, historical people-- to people for a very long time. Just as the Trojan war was, to them, an historical fact. But on the other hand, someone must have made up the lineages which include the gods, unless we're willing to consider that those gods existed as actual... people.

    I have no trouble thinking that maybe there was a famous thief named Autolycus, who claimed Hermes for his father because he was just THAT GOOD. And I have no trouble believing that the craftiest heroes, men like Odysseus and Jason, might then turn around and claim this famously crafty thief as their grandfather. Were Odysseus and Jason real people? That's an impossible question to answer. If they were, it's entirely possible they each claimed descendence through Autolycus independently of one another in order to legitimize themselves and make their abilities that much more special, but then again, if they were real, maybe Autolycus really was their grandfather after all!

    Christopher: Ha! I was wondering if you already knew when I wrote it. It's really fascinating to put together these blood relationships.

  4. At the end, all I could think of was those commercials where someone sings, "The More You Know!"

    I am inclined to agree with you on Tyro's luck! Great how you put it all together. :)

  5. Love this. And Poseidon isn't one I automatically think of, when I think of gods and their love affairs. Also, like other posters mentioned, I never thought about the way the way the bloodlines intertwined. Outstanding and informative post Amalia!!

  6. Ahaha. Sarah, yes, THE MORE YOU KNOW! Especially about gods and their indiscretions :P

    Di: Yay! Yeah-- I don't usually think of Poseidon either, though he had his fair share of...excitement? I think I might start including some Norse gods in this go-round also!


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