What DC's Wonder Woman Gets Wrong About Greek Mythology

On the surface, Wonder Woman mythology mirrors that of ancient Greece. She's an Amazon sculpted from clay and imbued with powers by the gods of Olympus. Her mother is Hippolyta, the legendary queen of women warriors. There are obvious ties to ancient myths about powerful women from many different pantheons in Wonder Woman, and creator William Moulton Marston combined various myths and powers to create his 20th-century feminist icon.  

Photo: Wonder Woman/Warner Bros.

  • Zeus Didn't Create Humankind

    As Queen Hippolyta tells her daughter Diana about their origins, she says that Zeus made humankind: "Zeus created beings over which the Gods would rule: beings born in his image. Fair and good, strong and passionate. He called his creation Man and mankind was good."

    But according to Greek mythology, Zeus wasn't all too kind to humans, and he wasn't the one who created them. The titan Prometheus is credited with creating humans, or at the very least, giving them all the qualities that make them so. In several stories, Prometheus also takes fire from the gods to give to the humans, much to the chagrin of Zeus and the rest of the Olympians. 

  • In Mythology, The Most Valuable Amazonian Artifact Is A Blessed Girdle

    In both the comics and Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, the Amazons guard a mythical sword known as the God Killer. This sword, like many other precious tools, was gifted to the Warrior Women race by the gods of Olympus. Diana uses this sword when she fights Ares during the climax of Wonder Woman, but he is able to instantly disintegrate the god-gifted blade. Of course, Diana is able to wield her other gifts and ultimately defeat her nemesis. 

    In Greek mythology, however, the Amazons didn't revere a magical sword. Amazon Queen Hippolyta wore a leather girdle gifted to her by Ares, the god of war. She wore this girdle in combat, storing her spear and sword in it. When Eurystheus got wind of this girdle, he tasked Hercules with retrieving it so he could give it to his daughter as a gift. The queen was more than happy to hand over the belt, but Hera started rumors among the Amazons that Hercules was going to slay their leader. The warrior women went to fight him, and as he saw them approaching, he ended Hippolyte's life, took the belt, and fought the remaining Amazons.

  • Ares Never Led An Uprising Against Zeus

    The Big Bad of Wonder Woman is Ares, the god of war, who attempted to overthrow Zeus and still infects mankind with evil and suspicion. Diana's got a one-track mind throughout the film, hellbent on ending Ares's life once and for all. The film depicts Ares as a jealous, vengeful god who wants to scrub the plague of humanity from the planet.

    In Greek mythology, however, Ares is more like an annoying little brother who gets into lots of fights, beds countless women and nymphs, and is a constant embarrassment to his parents, Zeus and Hera. In Homer's The Iliad, Ares switches between fighting for the Trojans and the Greeks at the behest of his lover Aphrodite. His sister Athena beats him in combat twice, and Ares runs back to Zeus to whine, saying, "Father Zeus, does it not stir your indignation to see all this violence? We gods always suffer cruelly at each other’s hands when we show mortals favor."

  • Antiope Didn't Stick Around With The Amazons

    Queen Hippolyta's sister Antiope trains a young Diana to fight and defend herself throughout her adolescence. When Steve Trevor  lands in the ocean, inadvertently bringing with him a fleet of Imperial German ships, the Amazons defend their land. Antiope perishes in the fight, acting as a catalyst for Diana's pursuit of Ares. 

    In Greek mythology, Antiope is still Hippolyta's sister and does perish - but it's not by defending her home. When Hercules visited the Amazons to get their prized girdle, Antiope allegedly fell in love with a man on Hercules's crew. She returned to Athens, becoming a queen and bearing a son - the only Amazon to get married and do so. When the Amazons made their way to Athens to retrieve her, she fought on the side of the Athenians and perished. 

  • Hippolyta Never Had A Daughter

    In Wonder Woman, Diana's overprotective mother, Queen Hippolyta, tells her daughter that she made her from clay. Diana is the only child on the island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. In Ancient Greek mythology, Hippolyte - whom Queen Hippolyta is based on - never had a daughter.

    Some stories, like the myth of Theseus, say that she bore the Athenian king's son. In some variations, the Queen of the Amazons willingly went with the mortal king, and in others he forced her to marry him and become Queen of Athens. 

  • Zeus Is Not A Benevolent God

    When Queen Hippolyta tells a young Diana about their Amazonian origins, audiences get an artful peek at the fighting gods of Mount Olympus. According to Queen Hippolyta in Wonder Woman, Zeus is a benevolent god who created humans in his own image. She said they were without corruption, and when Ares became jealous of his father's creation, Zeus fought Ares to protect humankind. In a dramatic and heroic effort, Zeus uses the last of his power to shut down Ares. 

    Wonder Woman makes Zeus sound like the good guy, the hero to root for. In Ancient Greek mythology, however, Zeus was not depicted in such a compassionate manner. His list of atrocities is by no means short. Zeus turned a wife into a fly and ate her, cheated on numerous wives, and has unleashed pain and evil on humans on several occasions. In Theogony, the epic poem of Hesiod, Zeus gives Pandora a box full of evil, knowing all too well she wouldn't be able to resist opening it. In The Library, a book attributed to Apollodorus of Alexandria, Zeus decides to flood the Earth and end humankind, save one honest man, King Deucalion.