The Ancient Library

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On this page: Portunus – Poseidippus – Poseidon



earlier times, allowed to levy the customs for their own territory, but from these Romans were to be exempt. Under the emperors customs were levied not only at the frontier of the Empire, but also at the frontiers of the several provinces or of combinations of provinces united in one excise-district. Besides this the percentage levied on the purchasing price of articles was different in different districts. The export of many articles was forbidden, especially of corn, oil, wine, salt, iron, and gold.

Portunus. The Roman god of harbours.1 Like Janus, the god of coming in and going out, he was represented with a key, and was perhaps only a personification of one attri­bute of Janus. He had a special flamen in Rome (Portiinalis), and at the harbour on the Tiber he had a temple, where a festival, the Portunalia, was held in his honour every year on August 17th. In later times he was identified with the Greek Patemon.

Poseidippus. One of the most eminent poets of the New Comedy, a native of Cas-sandrea in Macedonia. He began to exhibit for the first time in the third year after the death of Menander, or in b.c. 289. Of his pieces, as many as forty are mentioned by name, but only fragments of them are preserved. It was probably in imitation of one of these that the Mincechmi of Plautua was written.

Pdseidon. The Greek god of the sea and of everything liquid, son of Cronus and Rhea ; a younger brother of Zeus, accord­ing to Homer; an elder brother, according to Hesiod. At the distribution of the world the rule over the sea and all its gods and j creatures fell to him, as the rule over the i sky fell to Zeus, and that over the under­world to Pluto. His wife is Amphitnte, his son Triton, his daughter Bentheslkyme. As described by Homer [11. xiii 21], he has his dwelling in the depth of the sea in a golden palace near .^gse, according to the usual acceptation on the north coast of the Pelo­ponnesus, where lay also his other place of worship mentioned by Homer, Helice [II. viii 203], afterwards overthrown by an earthquake. On leaving his palace, he is clad in a golden robe and wields in his hand ', a golden whip, while he stands in a chariot drawn by swift-footed steeds with hoofs of bronze and manes of gold, with the monsters of the deep bounding and frisking around him, as he drives over the sea, which joy-

1 Perhaps originally the god of house and home, iwhts in its old sense of the entrance to a house (c}t. Prof. Nettleship's TiWa?/?, p. 26).

fully opens before his advance. As Zeug bears the lightning, so Poseidon bears the mighty trident, with which he stirs up the sea, cleaves rocks, and makes fountains and horses spring forth from them. Another symbol of the stormy flood is the bull, for which reason men offered sacrifice to Posei­don with dark-coloured bulls, while on the other hand, the dolphin is a symbol of the peaceful and calm sea. For, while he sends storm and shipwreck, he is also a beneficent god, who sends favourable winds. Every occupation on or by the sea, navigation, trade, fishing, is subject to his power: he also it is who grants victory by sea. Seafar­ing peoples traced their origin to him. But, as the sea was thought of as supporting the earth and as pressing into its hidden clefts and hollows, so Poseidon was worshipped from one point of view as " the supporter of the earth " (gait~6chos), from the other as "the shaker of the earth" (cnnostyaios, eiwsi-chthon), who makes the earth quake beneath the blows of his trident. As such he was wor­shipped in districts which were a prey to earthquakes, as in Sparta, or in those which could show traces of great convulsions, as in Thessaly, where he was said to have opened up the Vale of Tempe, and formed the outlet of the Peneus into the sea by shattering the wall of rock which inclosed the valley. In the interior Poseidon was often worshipped as the creator of waters, especially of springs and the blessing brought by them; so particularly in Arg8lis and Arcadia, where, as being the fertilizing god, he was even regarded as the lover of Demeterand father of Persephone. In the course of time, under the predominance of the conception of Poseidon as god of the sea, his worship in such inland places fell into the background, and was displaced by that of other deities. Hence arose the legends of his contests with other gods for particular countries, as with Athene for Athens and Trcezen, and with Hera for Argfilis, and of exchanges, as that of Delphi for the island of Calaurla, which belonged to Apollo. He was also regarded as the creator and tamer of the horse: sometimes he was said to have brought it out of a rock by a blow, some­times the earth was said to have been im­pregnated by him, and so given it birth; accordingly he was frequently worshipped as an equestrian god (hippids). Thus in the Attic deme of Colonus he was worshipped together with Athene, who was said to have invented the bridle. He was also specially worshipped at the equestrian games at the

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