Whoosh! Issue 31 - April 1999

MY GODS, WHAT DID THEY DO TO YOU?
IAXS project #685
By rax@eclipse.net
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
2670 words



Author's Note: A few years ago, I would not have been able to tell you who the twelve major Olympian Gods were. Today I can tell you who they are and much of what they did. I can also tell you about many minor Greek Gods. Why the change, you ask? Initially, I developed an interest in mythology of all sorts, and subsequently, I (like you, dear reader) became absorbed in Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP). Watching XWP and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (HTLJ) has encouraged me to explore Greek and other mythology. As I explore mythology in the shows, my reactions vary from amusement to outrage to confusion to rolling on the floor.

In this essay, I wish to share with you bits and fragments from Greek mythology that I have found amusing in light of XWP. These highlights of mythology appear in XWP in many forms. I have tried to stick to characters that have appeared in XWP and things that appear in Greek mythology (sorry Nebula, you miss on both counts), although I include stories from HTLJ as well. Since I am using Greek mythology, all mythological references will be in the Greek name, but all character references will be as they are in XWP. So, for example, Heracles is the mythological character, and Hercules is as played by Kevin Sorbo.

This article was written and submitted before the February 4, 1999 appearance of Steven Sears on DWO AoL Chat. In that chat (quoted in the episode guide for A GOOD DAY) he confirmed my conclusion.




What Is The Story? (01-12)
     Hercules
     Autolycus
     Ares, Discord, and Strife
     Aphrodite
     Hestian Virgins
     Meleager
     Cecrops
     Solan
What Is In A Name? (13-17)
     Callisto
     Hades
     Thalassa
     Xena
Xena And Diomedes (18-23)
     Destroyer of Nations
     Greek Hero
     An Idea Gone Too Far
Don't Put Me In The Padded Room, Just Stop Me Now (24)
Bibliography
Biography



My Gods, What Did They Do To You?




What Is The Story?

[1] Many of the characters and stories in Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (HTLJ) have a solid mythological background, even though their use may be twisted and turned, spindled and mutilated. There are enough mythological references to Hercules, or, as the Greeks say, Heracles, to fill several articles but little that crosses into the Xena episodes.


Hercules

Xena is using my contract for a kite?  Cool!

Herc has appeared a few times on XENA (and vice cersa).


[2] The one XWP episode in which Hercules appears is PROMETHEUS (08/108). This episode adds Xena, Gabrielle, and Iolaus to an adventure that originally belonged to Heracles alone as he returned from one of his labors. Other mythological adventures of interest to Xena fans are:

  1. Heracles' rescue of Princess Iole from the belly of a sea monster becomes Hercules' rescue of Princess Deianeira (Renee O'Connor) from the belly of a sea monster [Hercules And The Lost City (Harley Cokeliss, 1994)];

  2. Heracles' retrieval of Hypolita's girdle from Hypolita and the Amazons now involves Lysia (Lucy Lawless) [Hercules And The Amazon Women (Bill L. Norton, 1994)];

  3. Heracles' retrieval of the golden apples from the Gardens of the Hesperides may have been the basis for the HTLJ's episode, SURPRISE (H49/312);

  4. the HTLJ's Golden Hind trilogy has elements taken from Heracles' first marriage to Megara where Hera caused madness in Heracles so that he would kill his wife and children; and

  5. the story of centaurs abducting a bride and women from a wedding did not include Heracles, and there was no mention of any of the centaurs already having girlfriends like Lyla (Lucy Lawless) as in AS DARKNESS FALLS (H06/106).


Autolycus

[3] The spectacular King of Thieves, Autolycus, can be found as the arch-thief of Greek mythology. A master of trickery and thievery, his skills are inherited from his father Hermes, the god of communication and trickery, the same god Autolycus impersonates, as a statue, in END OF THE BEGINNING (H56/319). Hermes did not seem to recognize him when they met in PORKULES (H75/416). Talk about absentee fathers. Autolycus meeting his father could be interesting, and there is no reason not to use this encounter in some future episode.


Ares, Discord and Strife

I've always had this sick fantasy about me and a goth Marie
Osmond chick

Ares and Discord.


[4] Ares says in THE FURIES (47/301), "I've been on the outs with the family before", and he is not kidding. Ares of mythology reacted with emotional and physical rage without regard for the consequences. This caused him ill repute and disapproval among the Gods, especially his father Zeus. Athena, on the other hand, fought with reason and restraint, following the Greek ideals. Ares of mythology was also known as a lover.

[5] I never found anything about Ares disguising himself to seduce any of the women involved. That seems to have been Zeus' territory. Ares' dancing ability may have helped him with these many liaisons. His tutor Priapus, a deformed phallic god, taught him to dance before teaching him the art of war. (Shall we tango?) His liaisons produced over twenty children. Ares was also known to be very protective of his children. Can this be why he has such an interest in Xena?

[6] Sisyphus captured Death so that no one died. In mythology, Ares rescues Death from Sisyphus. Can we infer from Autolycus' brushes with his father Hermes that Xena was doing the job of her father Ares in DEATH IN CHAINS (09/109)?

[7] Discord was known as Eris in Greek mythology. We do not see too much of her in the Xenaverse because of Ares' interaction with Xena. In mythology, Eris was a constant companion of her brother Ares, and she occasionally brought her son Strife along. A troublemaker all the way, it was her apple of discord that started the Trojan War. Now if our Discord were to get jealous over Ares' obsession with Xena, boy would there be trouble! An interesting note on morality is that in HTLJ and XWP, Discord is emphasized as Ares' lover, while on Young Hercules, she is his sister. You can make these mythological relationships work regardless of who your audience is.


Aphrodite

I'm up here, babe.

Tubular!


[8] The Aphrodite of mythology would have said, "What's a little incest between gods?" Greek mythology did not have twentieth century television censors. The gods paired however and whenever they wished, and Aphrodite was no exception. Since they were limited in number, they could not help fooling around with and marrying siblings, cousins, and other close relations. Zeus and Hera were siblings. Hades was Persephone's uncle. One of Aphrodite's most famous liaisons was her affair with Ares. Wow, can you picture black leather Kevin Smith Ares and pink chiffon Alexandra Tydings Aphrodite together?


Hestian Virgins

[9] Hestian virgins are not much like their portrayal on either show. Our modern definition of virgin does not cut it in Greek mythology. In ancient times, a virgin was a woman who belonged to herself. She was not her father's daughter nor her husband's wife. A virgin goddess could create life by herself. A virgin priestess would not have been chaste, but she would have made love in tribute to her deity. Aphrodite had virgin priestesses! By this definition, Xena is a virgin. But saving Hestian virgins would not be nearly as interesting if their true characterization was used.


Meleager

Sure, just push an old guy down for his social security money!

Meleager the Mighty.


[10] Meleager can also be found in Greek mythology as an Argonaught, the lover of Atalanta and the brother of Deianeira. Meleager dies before Heracles and Deianeira meet in mythology. When Heracles is in the Underworld (catching Cerberus), he sees Meleager. Heracles asks Meleager if he can marry Deianeira. There is also some dispute of parentage. It is clear their mother is Althaea, but while King Oeneus of Calydon appears to be their father, some stories hold that Meleager is sired by Ares and Deianeira by Dionysus. (Does Gabrielle naturally attract the possible offspring of Ares?) Meleager's story with Atalanta revolves around the hunt for the Calydonian Boar and their love for each other. That sounds like a story for HTLJ to do with Atalanta, since Hercules, Iolaus, Iphicles, and Jason were there.


Cecrops

[11] Cecrops was the king of what we call Athens, only at that time it was called Cecropia. What Cecrops neglects to tell our heroes [LOST MARINER (45/221)] about the citizens' vote of Athena over Poseidon was that all the men voted for the god and all the women for the goddess. Since there was one more woman than there were men, Athena won. Women seem to have a lot of power in Cecrops' life, in mythology, and XWP. In mythology, the women actually received Poseidon's wrath in that they lost the power to vote and the right to have their children bear their names.


Solan

[12] XWP fuses several mythological stories to create Solan's life. HTLJ has done a variety of things revolving around the centaur Chiron. XWP has taken another aspect of the only centaur considered wise and an expert of the healing arts. Chiron was given Achilles and Aesculapius to raise. Achilles was saved by his father Peleus, when his mother was attempting to make him immortal like her, and Aesculapius, by his father Apollo, who saved him from his mother's pyre (Apollo was killing Aesculapius' mother at the time). Xena gives Solan to the centaur leader Kaleipus after the death of Solan's father, Borias. Kaleipus and Borias are to Xena's life what Chiron was to the mythological centaurs: wise, good, and peace-loving. If Solan had been allowed to grow up in this environment, he could have become the wise reformer and lawgiver that the Solon of Greek history was.


What Is In A Name?

[13] Some of the characters in XWP have names with interesting etymologies or unrelated references in Greek mythology. These associations are greeted with relish and wonder, but are they are intended?


Callisto

What happens when you run through the chariot wash with the top down

Pin Cushion Callisto.


[14] Callisto in Greek mythology was not the "Psycho Barbie" we know, but she was one of Zeus' dalliances. Callisto was associated with Artemis, but after she became pregnant by Zeus (who had disguised himself as Artemis to get close enough), Artemis banished her. Hera changed Callisto into a bear, and Hermes rescued her child to be raised by others (either Zeus' foster mother or Callisto's father). As a bear, Callisto was either killed by Artemis or by her son who had become a great hunter. Zeus took pity on her at that point and made Callisto and her son into the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the same constellations that Xena and Gabrielle contemplate at the end of A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215).


Hades

[15] Hades, who has the helmet of invisibility, has a name derived from the word for invisible. Since it seems that people were afraid to say his name, they always called him "the invisible," and that is what has come down to us.


Thalassa

Well I think cepeatone suits me.  So nyah!

Thalassa is also the Commandant.


[16] Thalassa is the Greek personification of the sea. She is not a goddess but is considered the mother of all sea life. Thalassa was also used to refer specifically to an immense and lonely sea with unpopulated shores. Thalassa, the commandant in LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407), gives this definition flesh.


Xena

[17] Everyone has looked, and we know Xena is not a character in Greek mythology. In Greek, "Xena" means foreigner or stranger, a definition that has its own possibilities, but maybe her story is not in her name.


Xena And Diomedes

[18] Who is Diomedes and what does he have to do with Xena? There are two Diomedes in Greek mythology, and, if you bear with me awhile, I will show you how they relate to Xena.


Destroyer of Nations

[19] Xena is from Amphipolis, a town in Thrace. She is the daughter of Cyrene. She may be the daughter of Ares. One of the two Diomedes is the son of Ares and Cyrene and is the king of the Thracian Bistones. The Bistones were a very warlike Thracian people. Hercules defeated Diomedes and the Bistones in his eighth labor, capturing the four man-eating mares of Diomedes. Hercules did kill Diomedes but not Xena, unless you wish to say he "killed" the old Xena, Destroyer of Nations. Xena did not keep man-eating mares, but the mares Hercules captured did drag people to their deaths (a third season recurring endeavor).


Greek Hero

[20] The other Diomedes was son of Tydeus, king of Argos. He was commander of 80 Argive ships and one of the most respected leaders of the Trojan War (on the Greek side). His exploits were numerous and mostly revolved around the Trojan War. Only Achilles with his reputation for daring and skills exceeded Diomedes, just as our Warrior Princess of many skills is second (in some minds) to Hercules. Diomedes was considered a frequent companion to and conspirator with Odysseus, as Xena was intimate with Ulysses.

[21] One of the adventures that Diomedes and Odysseus shared was the stealing of the Trojan Palladium. The Palladium was the sacred statute of Pallas Athena that protected the city of Troy, much as the statute of Pax protected its town. Of course Xena and her frequent conspirators, Autolycus and Gabrielle, stole that statute to give it back to the town in VANISHING ACT (66/320).

[22] Diomedes was also a suitor to Helen, and Xena "knows" Helen from "somewhere" (okay sub-text fans, have a blast). Diomedes accidentally wounds Aphrodite during the Trojan War, and Aphrodite is unintentionally "wounded" by Xena in THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER...(56/310) and intentionally foiled by Xena in FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318). Diomedes also wounds Ares causing him to emit a great bellow and flee from battle. Without Ares' support, the Trojans lose the battle, as does anyone who Ares abandons in their fight with Xena.


An Idea Gone Too Far

[23] The second Diomedes was an Argive, someone from Argos. Xena's horse is named Argo. The women of Argos were driven mad either by Dionysus because they would not celebrate his rites or by Hera for not honoring her. Ares through the Furies drove Xena mad for not honoring him. Xena also had trouble with Bacchus' followers and was resistant to his seduction.


Don't Put Me In The Padded Room, Just Stop Me Now

[24] Connecting our favorite characters with their mythological counterparts is interesting and fun. There are amusing possibilities, and times you wonder if the writers "really meant that". We can only hope that these jewels of allusion will continue to arise.


Bibliography

Online

Encyclopedia Mythica

The Perseus Project

The Probert Encyclopedia

Print

Baring, Anne and Jules Cashford, The Myth Of The Goddess: Evolution Of An Image, Penguin Books, London, 1991

Bolen, Jean Shinoda, Goddesses In Everywoman: A New Psychology Of Women, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1984

Bolen, Jean Shinoda, Gods In Everyman: A New Psychology Of Men's Lives And Loves, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1989

Bullfinch's Mythology

Encyclopedia Britannica

Levi, Peter, Atlas Of The Greek World, Facts on File, New York, 1980

Osborn, Kevin and Dana L. Burgess, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Classical Mythology, Alpha Books, New York, 1998

Skeat, Walter W., The Concise Dictionary Of English Etymology, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire, England, 1993

Waldherr, Kris, Embracing The Goddess Within; A Creative Guide For Women, Beyond Words Publishing, Hillsboro Oregon, 1997



Biography

rax@eclipse.net rax@eclipse.net
Candi has BFA in Theater Arts and MA in Dramatic Arts both specializing in Costume Design. Unfortunately she has found no need for wardrobe tarts where she lives. In the meantime she uses her research skills as research consultant for a law firm and any obsession she dives into.
Favorite episode: THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), LOCKED UP TIED DOWN (75/407)
Favorite line: Thalassa: "What would you know about loss?" Gabrielle: "A few things". LOCKED UP TIED DOWN (75/407); Gabrielle: "Xena, I don't believe in your vision. I can't afford to. Now either I prove you wrong, and we go on from here, or I prove you right, and we die. Either way, I will not continue like this". PAST IMPERFECT (77/409)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112), GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305)

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