Greek mythology remains popular thousands of years after the stories were first penned. Modern culture is filled with retellings that include everything from the Percy Jackson books to Disney's Hercules; however, some pop culture references to Greek mythology are more obscure than others.
The weird and wild world of Zeus and the Olympians is so embedded in Western culture that it can manifest without most people even noticing. Some of the most popular stories would hardly be as clever or visually striking without the details they borrowed from the ancient Greeks.
Ares, the god of combat, is known for his aggression and lust for fighting. He's often depicted in classical Greek warrior armor, including a crested helm and short tunic. This costume is exactly the outfit worn by Marvin the Martian, one of Looney Tunes' most famous characters.
Marvin is intentionally reminiscent of Ares, known as Mars in Roman mythology. Marvin even shares Ares's temper and penchant for starting fights, though they're presented through a comedic and cartoonish lens.
In Greek legend, the god of dreams is named Morpheus. To be dreaming is to be "in the arms of Morpheus," where he can deliver divine messages or visions of the future to the sleeping person. Morpheus and his family are said to live in a separate but linked world, the Dream World of Morpheus.
Morpheus shares more than a name with the hero from The Matrix. Like his divine namesake, Morpheus leads Neo and others to and from the "dream world" - the Matrix - to the "waking world" - Earth. When he offers Neo the red and blue pills, he provides him with the option to wake or to remain in his dreams forever.
When Saturn - or Cronus in Greek mythology - heard the prophecy that he would be overthrown by one of his sons, he devoured his children to prevent the prophecy from coming true. This myth was later painted by Spanish artist Francisco Goya as one of his "Black Paintings," which expressed his paranoia and depression during Spain's political turmoil.
The terror of both Spanish political rule and gruesome mythology later came to life in the 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth. Director Guillermo del Toro drew on the image of Saturn devouring his son to depict a horrifying moment in the "Pale Man" sequence. When the Pale Man eats several fairies in gruesome fashion, the images call back to Goya's painting and the original myth.
In Greek myth, the underworld is a vast place, and among its many features is the River Lethe. Anyone who drinks from or crosses the Lethe forgets everything about themselves and becomes a blank slate. The River Lethe is meant to prepare the recently perished for their new lives and alleviate their pain by helping them forget what they once possessed.
When Finn and Jake visit Ooo's underworld in Adventure Time, a talking skull tricks Jake into drinking from "The River of Forgetfulness." To no one's surprise, Jake forgets everything, much as he would have if he drank from the River Lethe.