Page last updated on: April 4th, 2021
The Contest of Poseidon and Athena
There once came a time in Ancient Greece when the first king of Athens, Cecrops, who was half man and half serpent, had to find a tutelary deity for the city-state of Athens.
The two Olympian gods who were particularly interested in patronage were Poseidon, the god of the seas, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and skill. They presented themselves before Cecrops, and Cecrops required them to offer a gift of real value to Athens.
Poseidon came first: he struck the earth powerfully and created a fountain with his trident. Immediately, water gushed forth, but the water proved to be salty and not very useful for the people.
Next it was the goddess Athena's turn. Athena stepped forward, jammed her spear into the ground, knelt down, and planted an olive branch inside. In this way, she created an olive tree that symbolised peace and prosperity on earth.
Cecrops was very impressed by Athena's gift. So he chose Athena to be the ruler of the city of Athens and the city was named after her. However, God Poseidon was not pleased with Cecrops' decision and cursed the city of Athens to never have enough water from then on. After that, it is said, a great problem of water shortage began in Athens, which continues to this day.