Superheroes and Greek Mythology

Some superheroes have been around since the early 1900’s. They’ve had many different forms, different enemies, and been portrayed by different actors in film. But If you really think about it, the inspiration for these heroes usually goes back much further - back to ancient Greece even.

Every hero has to be thought up by their creator. Everything about them, from their outfit and powers, to their origin story. The creator has to have some kind of inspiration to work.

It can be easy to believe that many of the familiar superheroes only relate to the modern world. Especially because they often use many highly advanced technologies, like Tony Stark or Black Panther. But there are still some very strong similarities to some of the ancient gods and heroes.

The next time you put on your Iron Man Compression shirt and leggings for a workout, you’ll remember how far back the origin of that hero actually goes.

Whether you believe it or not, here are a few similarities to consider.

Tragic Origin Stories

Most of your favorite heroes probably were born from some tragic origin.

Consider Batman. Young Bruce Wayne was born to extremely wealthy parents and who he eventually sees being murdered down a dark alleyway. Bruce blames himself or their deaths, and becomes a vigilante by night. He fights crime around Gotham city to help ease his feelings of guilt for the death of his parents. Many other superheroes have similar origins.

Batman’s origin really parallels the ancient tragedy of Hercules. If you’re not familiar, Hercules was the son of the most powerful Greek god, Zeus. Hercules’s stepmother, Hera, was incredibly jealous and despised Hercules so much. She cast a spell over him that eventually leads him to kill his own family by mistake.

The guilt of killing his family leads to Hercules to decide to do the twelve labors. These are very heroic type labors. They include bull wrangling, lion wrestling, and defeating the nine-headed serpent, Hydra.

The similarities are quite clear. Both were triggered by their past and blamed themselves for the demise of their families. This led them to devoting their lives to fighting evil and protecting others.

Brilliant Inventors

You’re probably familiar with Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Hank Pym (Ant-Man). But you’re probably not as familiar with Daedalus, whom both heroes seem to embody quite closely.

All are great inventors, mad scientist almost. They’ve created both wonderful and deadly inventions. Similar to Tony Stark’s iron man suit, Daedalus created the Icarus’s wings. And you can’t forget about the horrible monster created by Daedalus, the Minotaur. Similar to Hank Pym’s powerful creation, Ultron. Both Ultron and the Minotaur were humanoids of sorts.

Achilles’ Heel vs. Kryptonite

Superman is a classic. Even more classic, Achilles. They both seem to have some very big similarities.

Superman is definitely in the running for the most powerful of all the superheroes. He’s very fast, has x-ray and laser vision, tornado breath, can fly and is pretty much indestructible. The keyword here is “pretty much”.

Superman’s one main weakness is a fictional substance called kryptonite. It renders him pretty much useless anytime it comes even close to him. This weakness to kryptonite gives him a little more of a human feel, since his powers make him very hard to relate to.

Achilles’ heel is a pretty well-known tale from Greek mythology. When Achilles was just a baby, his mother took him to the River Styx. Holding him by his heel, she dipped him in the magical waters making him invulnerable.

Achilles grew up to be a great warrior, fighting many battles unharmed. Until one day, he’s shot with a poison arrow that impales his heel, the one spot not washed by the River Styx, and he dies.

Superman Is a Zeus Figure

Superman has yet another similar parallel to the past: Zeus. Like Zeus, Superman is the leader of his council much like Zeus. But they both always seem to be worried about being overthrown by a new leader or god.  Even some of the heroes question Superman’s judgment and decisions, there’s often quite a bit of tension.

Further, Superman tends to get a lot of resistance from Batman, who is an easy parallel of Hades. Batman is a very dark hero, always surrounded by misfortune and death. Not to mention, he’s always hiding out in the Batcave, which just so happens to be located underground. It’s difficult to miss that similarity to Hades, king of the underworld.

Wonder Woman’s Direct Relation to Hippolyta

Wonder Woman’s is one of the most interesting similarities to Greek mythology. She’s highly intelligent, can fly and has super strength. Her role in the Justice League easily parallels Hera.

She’s the most powerful woman and has a very strong influence over Superman’s decisions and thoughts, much like Hera to Zeus. But what makes her most special, is that she’s actually the daughter of the actual Hippolyta, the Amazonian queen from Greek mythology.

So while tther superheroes links to the past are mostly perceived and guessed at, Wonder Woman is a direct descendant of a Greek myth.

Conclusion

The superheroes that you’ve grown up reading about, watching and loving are no doubt inspired and based on tales from an ancient time.

Superheroes of today relate to the characters of Greek mythology in so many ways. From their origin stories, their roles, their powers and even their weaknesses. It’s quite interesting how the same stories survive and evolve so much throughout history.

Now when you wear your awesome superhero gear, you’ll feel inspired. Not only because of the power of that hero, but also the strength and power of the ancient stories that have survived the test of time to inspire them.

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