In the end of Book VI of the Odyssey, Odysseus sends up a pray to Athena, the Greek goddess of Wisdom and Warfare. It then says Athena does not openly acknowledge him. The reason being that she feared Poseidon's wrath.

[316] So saying, she smote the mules with the shining whip, and they quickly left the streams of the river. Well did they trot, well did they ply their ambling feet, and she drove with care that the maidens and Odysseus might follow on foot, and with judgment did she ply the lash. Then the sun set, and they came to the glorious grove, sacred to Athena. There Odysseus sat him down, and straightway prayed to the daughter of great Zeus: “Hear me, child of aegis-bearing Zeus, unwearied one. Hearken now to my prayer, since aforetime thou didst not hearken when I was smitten, what time the glorious Earth-shaker smote me. Grant that I may come to the Phaeacians as one to be welcomed and to be pitied.”

[328] So he spoke in prayer, and Pallas Athena heard him; but she did not yet appear to him face to face, for she feared her father's brother; but he furiously raged against godlike Odysseus, until at length he reached his own land.

Retrieved from here, on: 3/23/2018

Why would Athena fear Poseidon? Isn't Athena stronger than Poseidon?

  • 3
    Your question seems to imply that Athena's position as goddess of Wisdom and Warfare automatically means she is "stronger" than Poseidon. Why is that? Poseidon is an elder god, second only to Zeus. It's only natural that Athena will fear his wrath, something that is implied in your quote: "she feared her father's brother".
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


As yannis pointed out in the comments, Athena cannot be considered stronger than Poseidon, and you're assuming too much here. Poseidon is one of the most powerful gods, along with his brothers Zeus and Hades. Athena is, don't get me wrong, very powerful, but not in the way Poseidon is. The Greeks knew this, as well.

First of all:

in some versions of the story, he, like his brother Zeus, did not share the fate of his other brother and sisters who were eaten by Cronus. He was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which she gave to Cronus to devour.

This version of the Greek creation myth shows that people wanted others to know that Poseidon was incredibly powerful. This is also shown in the fact that, although he was not the patron god of Athens, he was worshipped a huge amount, and in many other Greek cities, he was the most worshipped god, and the center of attention.

You must also never forget that Poseidon controls the domain of the sea. He is in control of all of the world's oceans, and can do as he pleases with them. When Odysseus enraged him, he sent huge storms to punish him. When he was fighting the war on the giants, he crushed Polybotes with an island.

Polybotes was pursued through the sea by Poseidon until he reached Kos. There Poseidon ripped off part of the island called Nisyros and threw it at him.

And let us not forget that after losing the competition to become the patron god of Athens, he was enraged at Athena.

Why would Athena be scared of Poseidon? Because she knew that he was second only to Zeus in power, and the fact that he held a grudge against her didn't help.



Pseudo-Appollodorus, Bibliotheca 1 (translated by Aldrich) Found here: http://www.theoi.com/Gigante/GigantePolybotes.html

  • +1 for Rhea bearing a colt, then making her colt-baby Cronus-food Commented May 11, 2021 at 15:25

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