Notes on early trident symbolism: Poseidon and his trident


Many of those warriors were destroyed,
and many men survived. Among Achaeans,
armed in bronze, only two leading warriors
were killed on their way home. As for the fights,
you were there yourself. There is one leader
held back by the sea somewhere, but still alive.
Ajax perished among his long-oared ships— 670
at Gyrae Poseidon first propelled his boat [500]
against huge rocks, then saved him from the sea.7
Though Athena hated him, he’d have been saved,
if he’d not grown insanely foolish—
he stated he had managed to escape
the sea’s huge depths, in spite of all the gods.
Poseidon heard him make this boastful claim.
Immediately those mighty hands of his
picked up his trident and then brought it down
on that rock at Gyrae, splitting it apart. 680
One piece stayed in place—the other one
sheared off and fell into the sea, the part
where Ajax sat when his mind first became
so utterly deluded. He fell down
into the endless surging waves and died [510]
by swallowing salt water

– from Homer’s Odyssey

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