This is a catch-all list of reference to ancient mythological figures in the works of Harry Turtledove. As the mythology of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire have saturated Western literary thought, these are the two most common sources of such references in Turtledove's work, but not the only ones.

In some of Turtledove's fantasy works, the gods of classical polytheist cultures appear directly as real people, or play background roles that are somehow relevant to the plot or the atmosphere of a given work. These deities have their own articles listing these stories. Other references to the gods are not significant enough for articles, but give mildly interesting insight into a certain character or plot element, and are listed below. This list is a work in progress, and therefore by no means complete. Anyone with more information is welcome to share it.


In Ancient Greek mythology, Cadmus (Κάδμος) was the founder and first king of Thebes. He is also said to have introduced the alphabet to Greece. Cadmus was the first Greek hero and, alongside Perseus and Bellerophon, the greatest hero and slayer of monsters before the days of Hercules. Initially a Phoenician prince, son of king Agenor and queen Telephassa of Tyre and the brother of Phoenix, Cilix and Europa, he was sent by his parents to seek out and escort his sister Europa back to Tyre after she was abducted from the shores of Phoenicia by Zeus. Cadmus founded the Greek city of Thebes, the acropolis of which was originally named Cadmeia in his honour. One of the more popular Cadmus stories tells how he slew a dragon and planted its teeth in the ground. The teeth grew into soldiers who became the ruling council of Thebes.

According to The War Between the Provinces: Marching Through Peachtree, Detinans have a similar legend about soldiers grown from dragon's teeth; Joseph the Gamecock refers to the sower as "the Mad Cuss," a punning near-anagram of Cadmus.[1]


Dionysus (Διόνυσος), also called Bacchus, was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped c. 1500–1100 BC by Mycenaean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. The different cults' descriptions of Dionysus vary enough so that some may be considered wholly different characters: in some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; in others, from Ethiopia in the South. He is a god of epiphany, "the god that comes", and his "foreignness" as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians. Dionysus was the last god to be accepted into Mt. Olympus.

In Household Gods, two other Roman wine gods - Liber and Libera - make brief appearances as POV characters who, against all likelihood, grant a wish to American lawyer Nicole Gunther in 1999. The reason given is that they are fed up with Dionysus being the only wine god that modern pop culture remembers, and are thrilled when Nicole talks to them as if to real people. Dionysus is not mentioned at any other point in the novel.

In the Elabon Series, the character Mavrix is very closely based on Dionysus.


In the religion of Gaul, Epona was a protector of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules. She was particularly a goddess of fertility, as shown by her attributes of a patera, cornucopia, ears of grain and the presence of foals in some sculptures. She and her horses might also have guided souls to the afterlife. After Gaul's conquest by the Roman Empire, the worship of Epona became widespread in the Empire between the first and third centuries AD; this is unusual for a Celtic deity, most of whom were associated with specific localities.

In the Videssos Cycle, the Gaulish chieftain Viridovix names Epona as one of his preferred deities, and dedicates prayers and vows to her on several occasions.


In addition to his background role in "Miss Manners' Guide to Greek Missology," Ganymede is referenced in Ruled Britannia by Christopher Marlowe, who points out the ancient romances approving his affair with Jupiter show that not all societies regard homosexual acts as an abomination.


Hercules is the Roman name for the Ancient Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. The best known Hercules story is that of the Twelve Labors, which he performed as penance for crimes which his aunt Hera had entrapped him into committing.

The second labor was to slay the Lernaean Hydra. The difficulty was that upon cutting off each of its heads he found that two grew back, an expression of the hopelessness of such a struggle for any but the hero. In Days of Infamy: End of the Beginning, Commander Minoru Genda reflects on the difficulty of defeating the Americans, telling his friend Lt. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida of a western legend where the dragon grows two heads every time the hero cuts off one.[2]

The fifth labor is to clean the Augean Stables, one of the more humorous and undignified of the Twelve Labors. In "Uncle Alf", Feldwebel Adolf Hitler wishes he could cleanse Lille the way Hercules cleansed the Stables.[3]

The eleventh labor is to retrieve the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. Part of this labour involves holding up the sky in place of the Titan Atlas. In The Two Georges, following the battle between lawmen and criminals at Buckley Bay, Thomas Bushell feels like Hercules holding up the sky.[4]



Romanized Isis from a 2nd-century temple.

Isis (Ancient Greek: Ἶσις, original Egyptian pronunciation more likely "Aset" or "Iset") is a goddess from the polytheistic pantheon of Egypt. She was first worshiped in Ancient Egyptian religion, and later her worship spread throughout the Roman Empire and the greater Greco-Roman world. Isis is still widely worshiped by many pagans today in diverse religious contexts; including a number of distinct pagan religions, the modern Goddess movement, and interfaith organizations such as the Fellowship of Isis.

Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. In her most famous myth, Isis gathered the scattered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris and magically restored him to life. After the suppression of pagan religions in the late 4th century, victorious Christianity appropriated the image of Isis protecting her son Horus for icons of the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus, an aspect which had not previously been emphasized in Christian culture.

Throughout Colonization, Monique Dutourd wants to write a treatise on the history of Isis-worship in Roman Gaul. As this is an obscure and trivial part of history, she can never find anyone interested enough to endorse the project.

In Household Gods, Nicole Gunther alias Umma learns about Isis from a priestess who presides over the funerals of pestilence victims. Nicole is pleased that Isis seems to be a deity for women only, to counterbalance the god Mithras who seems to be for men only. Nicole, a lapsed Catholic, is also a little irked at first that images of Isis seem to be rip-offs of Virgin Mary images, but then realizes that those images of Mary post-date her borrowed lifetime.

Note on similar namesEdit

For the modern terrorist "nation" sometimes known as ISIS, see Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


Jupiter, aka Jove, was the Roman counterpart of the Ancient Greek chief god Zeus. He has been referenced in a number of Turtledove works.

In Supervolcano: Eruption, Bryce Miller and Marcus Wilson bond over a joke about Jupiter Pluvius, "the "Roman rain god known only to classics students and old-time baseball writers."[5]

In "Death in Vesunna," Larcius Afer believes that Jupiter has struck a man down with his lightning bolt when he inspects the mysterious death of Clodius Eprius. Dr. Kleandros, who knows the god as Zeus, considers this unlikely, as the deity had not intervened to slay wicked Roman Emperors of the past, such as Caligula and Nero.

In Ruled Britannia, Christopher Marlowe refers to the ancient romances approving Jove's love for Ganymede, to show that homosexual acts have not always been regarded as abominations.

Gunpowder Empire is set in a world where the Roman Empire never embraced Christianity nor had a decline and fall, and Jupiter is still widely worshipped in the 21st century.

In The Videssos Cycle, some of the Roman characters swear by Jove or Jupiter. Even Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, an acknowledged agnostic, does so out of habit on occasion.


In addition to a significant reference in Gunpowder Empire, Mithras is referenced in Household Gods, where a few Carnuntum residents including ex-soldier Titus Calidius Severus swear by him. Nicole Gunther approves of what little Mithraic doctrine she hears about, but is irritated that Mithras seems to be a deity for men only.

The god Thimras in "Running of the Bulls" is based on Mithras.


Procrustes (Προκρούστης) was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus, on the sacred way between Athens and Eleusis. There he had a bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith's hammer, to stretch them to fit. In later tellings, if the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fit the bed exactly. Procrustes continued his reign of terror until he was captured by Theseus, travelling to Athens along the sacred way, who "fitted" Procrustes to his own bed.

In "Audubon in Atlantis" John James Audubon reflects that the double elephant folio was large enough to show almost all birds and beasts life size even if he had to paint some with unnatural twists or bent necks to fit them on the pages' Procrustean beds.[6]


Zalmoxis (Greek: Ζάλμοξις) is a supposed divinity of the Getae and Dacians (a people of the lower Danube), mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories, Book IV, 93–96, written before 425 BC.

According to Jordanes's Getica, he was a learned man, philosopher, before whom, two other learned men existed, by the names of Zeuta and Deceneus.

In Gunpowder Empire, Zalmoxis is among the pantheon acknowledged at the ecumenical temple in Polisso, in the Dacia Province of the Roman Empire.[7]


Zeus, the chief god of the Ancient Greek pantheon, appears directly in "Miss Manners' Guide to Greek Missology," and has a background role as a missing person in Thessalonica. He is also referenced somewhat less significantly in other Turtledove works.

In "The Daimon", Zeus is called upon by many Greeks during their prayers. Even Alkibiades, who generally disdains worship, readily swears by Zeus when it suited his purposes.[8]

In After the Downfall, the mysterious artifact that transports Hasso Pemsel cross-time is from Zeus' temple in Delphi.[9] However, the world to which Hasso travels has nothing to do with Ancient Greek mythology, and Zeus, and along with any other Greek plot elements, promptly disappear from the story.

In "Death in Vesunna," Larcius Afer believes that Jupiter has struck a man down with his lightning bolt when he inspects the mysterious death of Clodius Eprius. Dr. Kleandros, who knows the god as Zeus, considers this unlikely, as the deity had not intervened to slay wicked Roman Emperors of the past, such as Caligula and Nero.

In Liberating Atlantis, Colonel Balthasar Sinapis has a distinctive mannerism which reminds Consul Jeremiah Stafford of Zeus as described in the Iliad. Stafford's colleague Leland Newton shares this impression, perhaps at a subconscious level.