Influences on Popular Culture

Television and Movies

Clash of the Titans (1981) : A movie describing the adventures of Perseus as he crosses paths with Medusa, Pegasus, the Kracken, and an array of Greek gods and goddesses

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001) : These two popular television shows brought a different myth to life every week, sometimes relying on classics, and other times creating new tales.
The Matrix (1999) : Characters of this science fiction film visit the Oracle in hopes of finding wisdom; aptly, in her kitchen hangs a sign that says "Know thyself," which is also inscribed at the site of the Delphic Oracle in Greek myth.

The Muse (1999) : In this comedy, one of the mythical daughters of Zeus helps a modern-day screenwriter reignite his career.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) : An offbeat retelling of Homer's The Odyssey set in the 1930s Deep South

Star Trek (1966-1969) : This incredibly successful science fiction TV drama took a ship full of adventurers through harrowing adventures weekly, all the while cleverly inserting into the story lines ancient mythological allusions.

Troy (2004) : An adaptation of Homer's epic The Iliad

Wonder Woman (1976-1979) : A favorite in the 70s, this television show spotlighted the heroism of the Amazon goddess Diana in the mortal world while illustrating her amazing super-powers.
X-Men : A series of comic books, cartoons, and films, in which one of the heroes is Cyclops, a man who can shoot a force beam from his eyes.

Xanadu (1980) : The Nine Muses of Greek mythology are alluded to in this movie about a struggling young artist.



The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling.
  Various mythological creatures are sprinkled throughout the pages of this vastly popular series, including a hippogriff, a phoenix, and centaurs.

The Heralds of Valdemar Series, Mercedes Lackey
  A wide array of books portraying various mythological creatures, such as gryphons and salamanders.

The Incarnations of Immortality Series, Piers Anthony.
  A brilliant anthology of Fantasy books personifying the Immortal Powers of Death, Time, War, Fate, Mother Nature, God, and Satan.

The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle.
  Tells a tale of the last living unicorn and her quest to keep hope alive in the world

Mother Love, Rita Dove
  A collection of poems telling, in various ways, the myth of Persephone and Demeter

Pygmalion, G.B. Shaw.
  This play tells the story of a misogynistic sculptor who creates his perfect woman and prays to Aphrodite for the statue to be brought to life. The musical My Fair Lady is loosely based on this play.

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams.
  This play contains several allusions to mythology, such as the poor neighborhood in which the story unfolds ironically being called Elysian Fields.


Brand Names & Logos

The Aegis Group trademark
  [Gk, the protective shield of Zeus] : an insurance services group

Ajax trademark
  [Gk, a hero in the Trojan War who rescued the body of Achilles] : a brand of cleaner trademark
  [Gk, race of warrior women] : an online shopping site

Argus trademark
  [Gk, a hundred-eyed guardian] 1 : a brand of camera 2: a security company

Atlas Van Lines trademark
  [Gk, the god sentenced to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders] : a moving company

Delphi trademark
  [the site of the Oracle of Apollo] : an automotive technology company

FTD trademark
  This flower delivery company's logo features Hermes, messenger of the Gods

Hercules trademark
  [Gk, a hero of great strength] : a maker of video graphics cards

Hyperion trademark
  [fr. L, fr. Gk Hyperion, a Titan, the father of Helios, Selene, and Eos] : a book publishing company

Janus trademark
  [fr. Janus Roman god of beginnings who is represented artistically with two opposite faces] 1 : a brand name of watch 2 : an investment firm, whose logo is that of the two-faced Janus himself

Mercury trademark
  [L Mercurius Mercury, Roman god of merchandise, trade, and theft] 1 : a record production label 2 : a make of automobile

Midas trademark
  [L, fr. Gk, legend of the Phrygian king Midas who is given the power to turn everything he touched into gold] a muffler and brake repair shop

Nike trademark
  [Gk Nike Goddess of victory] : a brand of athletic shoe

Olympus trademark
  [L, fr. Gk Olympos, a mountain in Thessaly that in Greek mythology is the abode of the gods] : a photographic technology company

Orion Pictures trademark
  [L, fr. Gk Orion, a giant hunter slain by Artemis in Greek mythology] : a motion picture production company, whose logo incorporated the belt of the constellation Orion

Phoenix trademark

[L, fr. Gk phoinix a mythical bird of great beauty fabled to rise from its own ashes in the freshness of youth] : a photographic technology company

Poseidon Seafood trademark
  [Gr, Poseidon is the god of the sea] : a national seafood company
Venus trademark
  [L, Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty] : a brand of women's razor, made by


Song Lyrics

"And I know now how it feels
To be weakened like Achilles
With you always at my heels.
--Indigo Girls, "Ghost"

  (Mentions the hero Achilles, who was killed by being cut on the only vulnerable spot on his body: his heel)
"Now I see your face before me.
I would launch a thousand ships
To bring your heart back to my island."
--Indigo Girls, "Ghost"
  (Alluding to Helen of Troy, who is said to have been so beautiful that her abduction was the cause of the Trojan War, i.e. "the face that launched a thousand ships")
"You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis..."
--The Police, "Wrapped Around Your Finger"
  (Refers to the monsters in Greek mythology by which sailors had to pass; the phrase has come to mean being between two equally perilous alternatives, neither of which can be passed without encountering the other, i.e. between a rock and a hard place)
"You can roll that stone
To the top of the hill
Drag your ball and chain
Behind you."
--Rush, "Carve Away the Stone"
  (Referring to the fate of Sisyphus, a legendary king of Corinth condemned eternally to repeat the cycle of rolling a heavy rock up a hill in Hades each day only to have it roll down again as it nears the top)
"If we burn our wings
Flying too close to the sun..."
--Rush, "Bravado"
  (Alluding to the fate of Daedalus, the legendary builder of Cretan labyrinth who makes wings to enable himself and his son Icarus to escape from imprisonment, only to have the wax of the wings melt as the child flies too close to the sun)
"Oh, I will dine on honey dew
And drink the milk of Paradise."
--Rush, "Xanadu"
  (Refers to nectar and ambrosia, the food and drink of the immortal souls in Elysia)
"...I watched him struggle with the sea
I knew that he was drowning
And I brought him into me..."
--Suzanne Vega, "Calypso"
  (This song tells the tale of the sea nymph Calypso in The Odyssey who keeps Odysseus on the island of Ogygia)
"You can hear the siren screaming
Take me to the promised land."
--Yes, "State of Play"
"The x-ray is her siren song
My ship cannot resist her long."
--Rush, "Cygnus X-1"
"Like a siren she calls (to me)."
--U2, "In God's Country"
  (Each of these songs describe the song of the sirens, mythological Greek sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, supposed to lure sailors to their destruction by their seductive singing)
"He's the king of the ninth world
In each and every lobster cage
A tortured human soul..."
--Sting, "The Soul Cages"
  (Alludes to the Ninth Ring of the Underworld, which is eternally reserved for the most evil and hopeless souls)
"Rise from the ashes--
A blaze of everyday glory..."
--Rush, "Everyday Glory"
  (Refers to the rebirth of the phoenix, who burns himself on a pyre to rise once more, in the freshness of youth)

Table of Contents

Notes on Textual Abbreviations


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An Etymological Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Elizabeth W. Kraemer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Last updated 1/13/14