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Olive Tree

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Poseidon was confident the city that resided on the land of Attica would be named after him.  Men feared him.  They were in awe whenever he created storms on the sea and earthquakes on land.  Athena, in comparison, was a mere warrior and craftswoman.  She could never compete with him.

In front of a party that included the rest of the Olympians as well as the citizens of Attica, Poseidon stood in front of the snake-king of Athens, Cecrops.  Cecrops' tail was curled around his throne.

"Poseidon, what have you brought my city?" Cecrops asked.

"This is my gift to you, King Cecrops."

Poseidon stuck his trident in the ground.  Water came out spurting of it. 

"A spring!  This is for you and your people.  You can drink it.  It should be enough to sustain a city here. "

Cecrops slithered his way to the spring.  He summoned some of the Attican people to come to the spring.

Poseidon was never a god of the rivers of Greece.  Achelous was.  If Achelous made the spring, the water from it would be drinkable.  But since Poseidon made the spring, the water from it was salty, making it hard to drink.  Cecrops and the people who tasted the spring spat the water out as soon as they drank it. 

Cecrops slithered back to his throne as his subjects resumed their places.  He coughed.  "Thank you, Poseidon."  He gestured towards Athena, wearing her usual suit of armor.  "Athena, what have you brought the people of this city?"

Athena walked towards the king.  She was silent.  Poseidon watched her.  He noticed something off about her walk.  It was a slow walk, the walk of someone that walked among humans, not of a divinity used to divine palaces.  But Athena wasn't a human in disguise as Athena, so he shook off his suspicion. 

Athena drove her spear into the ground.  A tree came out of it.  It was gnarled and twisted.  Its branches bore fruit and leaves.  

Cecrops slithered over to the tree.  "What is this?"

"It is an olive tree, King."

Athena's voice sounded more jovial and less stern than usual.  But Poseidon shook it off again.

"You can do many things with it.  Have one of its fruits."

"An olive?"

"Yes.  It is called an olive."

Cecrops tried the olive.


"You can eat the olive by itself or make oil from it.  And the oil can be used for many things: to cook your foods with, to heal the sick, to light your lamps…Demeter can teach you how to do these things."

"She can?"

"In the affairs of growing things and their many uses, she is far more experienced than I am.  But that is not all you can do with this tree.  You can use the wood from it and build your homes and boats with it.  I, of course, can help you with your homes and boats."

Cecrops nodded.  "Thank you, Goddess."

Athena, with her unusual walk, walked back to her starting position.

"Poseidon, Athena, thank you.  I now leave the choosing of the patron of this city in the hands of your fellow Olympians."

It was when Athena stood up straighter that Poseidon noticed a flash in her green eyes.

Wait, Poseidon thought.  Athena doesn't have green eyes. 

He looked closer at Athena, under her helmet.  He was right; it wasn't Athena at all.  It was Demeter. 

Poseidon looked out at the audience viewing the contest.  He noticed a black horse in the crowd looking at him and…laughing. 

"Mother has waited so long to avenge you," the horse whispered.  Only Poseidon could hear him talking.  "Today is that day."

Poseidon realized the horse was his son, Arion, the child he had with Demeter while she was looking for her daughter Persephone.  And he knew how he had taken advantage of Demeter while she was grieving for her loss. 

Poseidon looked at the Olympians.  Sure enough, Demeter had blue eyes, not her usual green eyes.  And it felt like Poseidon was the only person noticing these things in Attica. 

Hermes relayed the decision to Cecrops when the Olympians had finished their vote.  Cecrops nodded when he received the message.  He stood out of his throne. 

"The Olympians have decided their winner.  By a vote of 10-0, they have decided that Athena will be the patron of our city.  From now on, the city's name is Athens, and our city's defender will be known as 'Athena of the City.'"

The crowd cheered.  The Olympians clapped.  But Poseidon was furious. 

"I was cheated!  I was cheated!  Demeter tricked me!"

His voice was drowned out by the crowd cheering. 

Poseidon raised a wave over the city, silencing the cheer.  "Because of my loss and the way I was cheated out of my city, I shall flood it."

Hermes flew over to Poseidon.  He was able to talk Poseidon out of flooding Athens.  But trickery or no trickery, Poseidon still lost. 

After Athena and Demeter had a "private conference," Demeter walked to Poseidon.

"I am sorry you lost this contest.  I was certain the people of Athens would accept your spring." 

"You won, Demeter.  I have accepted defeat.  Athens has its patron, and you have righted my wrong I committed against you.  Leave me alone."

"You still have your shrines across this nation, and you'll have other cities you can be a patron of—"

"Go away."

Poseidon couldn't resist.  He had to look up. He saw Demeter smiling at him as she left his side—a sly smile, a victorious smile.  He wanted to retaliate against both Demeter and Athena.  But since he was forbidden to destroy Athens as he saw fit, he had to live with not trusting his instincts and revealing Athena and Demeter's ruse before he ended up losing what he thought was his city. 

Demeter's machinations would be forgotten by later writers who wrote about the history of Athens and Greece.  And even though today Greece, let alone Athens, is not as mighty as it once was, Demeter's grudge against one of her brothers helped make Athens into the city it is today.