Even in this day and age where mythology is treated as completely fictional and only a small percentage of the world’s population still holding on to its ancient traditions and beliefs, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find anyone who wasn’t familiar with at least one aspect of mythology.
Whether Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Norse, or what have you, mythology has made its way into popular culture, and more often than not, we probably don’t even realize it.
Big Hollywood films make use of mythology very often – like in The Mummy franchise, Gods of Egypt, the Percy Jackson films (and novels, of course), Wonder Woman, and Clash of the Titans.
Everyone knows the strongman Hercules, and not to mention everyone’s favorite Norse Gods from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor and Loki! If you play Pokemon, then you’ve already encountered multiple influences from Chinese and Japanese mythology. Heck, anybody you know named Zeus, Athena, Iris, Diana, Venus, Seth – these are all names of mythological gods and goddesses!
Probably one of the most well-known, however, is Greek mythology: Zeus with his thunderbolts, Poseidon ruling over the seas and his brother Hades as the god of the underworld, Aphrodite as the goddess of love and beauty.
Because of that, there’s a whole array of media to consume in popular culture based on these myths. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best TV shows about Greek mythology!
Cupid, ABC (2009)
We’re starting off with something a little lighthearted before we dive into the shows with heavy doses of Greek mythology.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t Cupid a Roman god?” Well, yes. ABC’s revival of the 1998 series Cupid is named after the Roman god of love (whose Greek counterpart is Eros), but the series does use a mix of Greco-Roman mythology.
More specifically, the main character is a man who believes himself to be Cupid reincarnated as a human, banished from Mt. Olympus by Zeus himself. In order to regain access to his home, he must help 100 couples find true love – naturally, without using his bow and arrow or any kind of divine intervention.
Valentine, The CW (2008 – 2009)
Our next show is another that takes place in modern times, focusing less on the myths themselves and more on the characters – a fun, comedic take on them though sadly, the show only lasted for one season.
Valentine follows the titular Valentine family as they fulfill their mission to bring soulmates together, using methods they’ve needed to adapt to fit the present day and age.
Unbeknownst to their clients, the Valentines are actually the Greek gods and goddesses living as humans! Matriarch Grace Valentine is the goddess of love herself, Aphrodite. Her son is Eros, has swapped out his bow and arrow for a love gun. Even Hercules and the Oracle at Delphi play their parts in bringing love to those who are meant to be.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, syndication (1995 – 1999)
If you were a little boy growing into his preteens in the mid-90s, this is probably the Hercules that you know and remember.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys ran for over a hundred episodes within six seasons and true to its title, does indeed chronicle various legendary journeys Hercules takes with the help of his regular companion Iolaus (and Salmoneus in the earlier seasons).
Throughout the series, Hercules saves one village after another from evil monsters, people, and sometimes even the gods themselves (particularly his stepmother Hera, who did whatever she could to try and kill him). Another running subplot is the tenuous relationship Hercules has with his father, Zeus, who he views as neglectful.
Xena: Warrior Princess, syndication (1995 – 2001)
Where there was Hercules, there was Xena. She first appeared as a recurring character in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but was such a strong and well-liked character that eventually, a spin-off was created for her as the protagonist.
The eponymous Xena is a mythical warrior with a dark past. Now, she’s on the path to redemption by helping those in need.
Though primarily set in Ancient Greece, her adventures take her and her sidekick-turned-fellow-warrior Gabrielle to lands across the earth, battling evil forces from various parts of world mythology. At times, this would even put her at odds with the gods themselves – as well as many famous historical figures like Julius Caesar.
Young Hercules, Fox Kids Network (1998 – 1999)
Young Hercules once again tells the story of the famed mythological hero while he was still a hero-in-training.
Given the youth of the characters (with Hercules played by a young and dashing Ryan Gosling), Young Hercules is geared towards a younger audience as well.
Throughout the show, Hercules is attending warrior training at Cheiron Academy, under the tutelage of its headmaster (and centaur), Cheiron. While there, he forms friendships with Kora, an innkeeper with special powers through Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, a former bandit named Iolaus, and Jason the future king of Corinth.
Outside of his training, Hercules and his friend must contend with his jealous half-brothers Ares and Apollo, and his stepmother Hera.
Troy: Fall of a City, BBC One/Netflix (2018)
The story of Troy and the Trojan War is a prime example of a love story gone horribly wrong; of how falling in love with the wrong person can be catastrophic (although not every story will end in a war of this scale, of course).
When Paris of Troy and Helen, the wife of Sparta’s King Menelaus, fell in love and left together, their romance sparked a ten-year siege that destroyed Paris’ family and home.
BBC One’s eight-episode miniseries Troy: Fall of a City retells the story in ways different from earlier adaptations, borrowing from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but adding more to the story – particularly in the addition of the Greek gods as human characters.
Blood of Zeus, Netflix (2020)
When you first read the title and synopsis of Netflix’s for-adults animated series Blood of Zeus, the first name you’ll likely think of is Hercules. He is, after all, one of the more well-known legends of Greek mythology.
In Blood of Zeus, however, we’re looking at another of Zeus’ illegitimate demigod sons: Heron.
In the myths, Heron is another heroic character entirely but this time, he takes center stage as the son of Zeus in one of the stories “lost to history”, as the show claims. Here, Heron is tasked with saving both Earth and Mt. Olympus, but it’s not easy when there’s a jealous goddess with monsters at her bidding hot on his tail.
Atlantis, BBC One (2013 – 2015)
When the BBC One series Atlantis hit the air, it was wildly popular even amongst its well-established timeslot competitors. Subsequently, it was renewed for a second season but was sadly canceled before it could move on to a third.
Atlantis starts out in the present, with our main character Jason boarding a submarine to investigate an underwater disturbance that may be related to his father’s disappearance. When he gets there, he is unexpectedly pulled into a vortex that transports him to the shores of Atlantis.
Eventually, he befriends a smart young man named Pythagoras and a now-retired, regularly drunk and gambling Hercules, who join him on his adventures to help the innocent against the Greek mythological evils and live out his destiny as predicted by the Oracle.
Olympus, Super Channel/Syfy (2015)
Olympus was a fantasy series from Canada’s Super Channel and American network Syfy. Sadly, the series was canceled after just one season.
Set in a time where the gods and goddesses of Olympus have all been banished to the underworld, the show follows a young man (aptly) named Hero, who starts out seeking answers about his mysteriously unknown past.
As it turns out, he is the illegitimate son of King Aegeus, thus putting him in the Queen’s bad graces. On his journey for answers, he discovers he has access to the Lexicon, a code that – when unlocked by a riddle – will unlock the doors to Olympus and give him immortality.
The Odyssey, RAI (1968)
Not to be confused with the children’s series that ran in the early 1990s, The Odyssey adaptation we’re talking about here is the 1968 co-production between German, Italian, Yugoslavian, and French creators.
Hailed by critics as a an accurate depiction of the ancient world and perhaps one of the most faithful to Homer’s original Odyssey, viewers will encounter many characters and events from the original text that are often overlooked in other adaptations.
The Odyssey retells Homer’s epic in eight parts, detailing not just Ulysses’ decade-long journey back home to Ithaca from the Trojan War but also how the humans in his life (particularly his wife Penelope and son Telemachus) survived during his absence and presumed death – until his eventual return.
Clash of the Gods, History (2009)
If there’s one thing you can count on when it comes to shows from the History channel, it’s that they are thorough and ever-faithful to the source. With their ten-episode mythological series Clash of the Gods, this is certainly the case.
Each episode highlights a different myth and not only tells the story as we might already know it but also incorporates insights from experts in the field as to how these myths link to real historical events as well as myths from other cultures.
Clash of the Gods begins with many Greek legends including the story of Odysseus, Hades and his underworld, the Minotaur, and Medusa. Later episodes in the season even cover Norse mythology and the influences behind J. R. R. Tolkiens’ Lord of the Rings saga!
Hercules: The Animated Series, syndication/ABC (1998 – 1999)
The 1997 Hercules animated musical film may have just been my first introduction to the world of Greek mythology as a kid, and it’s still one of my favorites from Disney.
The year after, Hercules: The Animated Series was released in syndication and though we still see many of the characters we met in the movie (like Phil, Hades, and his two demon henchmen Pain and Panic), we also meet a whole slew of new characters, too!
In the series, Hercules is still a teenage hero in training. Even though he’s pretty successful in keeping his uncle Hades at bay, he’s still in the awkward and clumsy phase of adolescence that we loved from the movie!
Jason And The Argonauts, Hallmark Entertainment (2000)
The myth of Jason and the argonauts is probably one of the lesser-known stories in Greek mythology, though some may know it better as the myth involving the search for the Golden Fleece.
From Hallmark Entertainment came the two-part television epic Jason and the Argonauts, which introduced us to this myth in its entirety.
Jason is the rightful heir to the throne of Greece, but he needs to seek the Golden Fleece to prove it. To do this, he assembles a crew of regular townsfolk to journey with him on the ship named Argo (hence, the name Argonauts) – a journey that proves to be more perilous than they had accounted for.
Helen of Troy, USA Network (2003)
We mentioned Helen earlier, as well as her involvement in the fall of the once-mighty city of Troy. In this two-episode miniseries titled Helen of Troy from USA Network, the story is told once again but with more emphasis from the perspective of Helen.
Though it begins with the birth of her lover Paris along with a little bit of background into his youth and upbringing before he was welcomed back as a prince of Troy.
From there, the series delves into how Helen came to be Menelaus’ wife and how she was trapped in a loveless marriage, allowing its viewers to empathize with her decision to leave with Paris when they meet and fall in love – as opposed to always seeing her simply as the “reason” for Troy’s downfall.
Class of the Titans, Teletoon (2005 – 2008)
Finally, we’re wrapping up this list with something a little lighter in the form of an animated series geared towards a younger audience.
Class of the Titans takes place in the present as it follows the descendants of some of the most well-known Greek figures – god and human alike: Achilles, Odysseus, Hercules, Atalanta, Jason, Theseus, and Narcissus. Together, these seven teenagers find that it is their destiny to defeat the titan Cronus, who has escaped his 4000-year imprisonment.
Apart from these descendants, the gods themselves are part of the series as their mentors and guide throughout their mission to save the world from Cronus’ revenge.