Hey guys, what’s up? Tyler here. The Star Trek universe, much like our world today, contains a litany of references to classical mythology, especially when it comes to ship names, planet and system names, and more. Our favorite Starfleet crews even encounter situations that bear relevance to classical mythology, in particular, the U.S.S. Enterprise’s chance meeting with the Greek god Apollo in “Who Mourns for Adonais?” The confirmed existence of the Greek gods as extraterrestrials in the episode is yet another fascinating example of alien interference in Earth’s ancient past. But this episode also raises important questions about the true nature of the Olympians’ interaction with ancient Earth peoples.
First things first, let’s recap what we learn about Apollo and his cohorts from the Original Series episode. After the Enterprise is captured by Apollo on Pollux IV, the demigod reveals that many of the stories about his race are true—they visited Earth some five thousand years ago, settling in the Olympus region of Greece where they were worshipped as deities. They eventually left Earth after humans lost faith in them; the Olympians returned to Pollux IV and gradually transcended from corporeal existence until only Apollo remained on the planet. Upon meeting the Starfleet crew, Apollo demonstrates his pyrokinetic abilities, hoping to impress anthropology officer Carolyn Palamas and seduce her into becoming his queen. Palamas ultimately rejects Apollo’s advances, consigning him to the same fate as his fellow Olympians—stretching himself into oblivion until he is but a memory.
We don’t know much about the parental lineage of the aliens, although some of the more well-known gods—such as the ones who make up the core Olympian part of the pantheon in Greek mythology—are definitely treated as real beings in the episode. What’s more uncertain, though, is the familial history of the Olympians’ direct ancestors. Was Zeus born in Crete as classical mythology states? If so, were Rhea, Cronus, and the other Titans born to Gaia and Ouranos on Earth or another world? And what if some of the other primordial gods, such as Tartarus, Eros, Erebus, and Nyx—who emerged from a collective known as the “Chaos”—or their offspring, including Pontus, Aether, and Hemera? These primordial beings could have originated on other planets and represented different natural phenomena to alien worshippers before the Olympians visited Earth.
So, what exactly was the Olympians’ visit to ancient Earth-like? Hard dates on the Olympians’ stay on our planet are harder to come by, but many non-canon sources such as the Star Trek Encyclopedia date their visit between about 3000 and 2700 B.C. In this three-century window, give or take a few harvests, the Olympians would have been worshipped directly by the immediate ancestors of the Minoan civilization from Crete. The powerful abilities these humanoid aliens possessed would have been considered magic by the ancient Greeks. Coinciding with the early-to-mid Bronze Age of the Aegean, tales of the Olympians would have been transmitted orally across generations until they were recorded by Homer in the Odyssey and the Iliad. By this time, the Olympians would commonly be regarded merely as myths, much as they are today, though with incredible cultural significance that resonates into the modern era.
Although it’s difficult to properly date the events depicted in the Homeric works, the traditional dating of the Trojan War is around the 12th or 13th century B.C., nearly half a millennium before Homer’s time. Archaeological studies at sites in Turkey and surrounding areas have revealed multiple sieges that resulted in catastrophic city burnings during the Late Bronze Age. However, in “Who Mourns for Adonais,” Apollo references Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Hector as historical people that lived on Earth, and he is confirmed to be the son of Zeus and the human Leto, who would have presumably lived in the early 3rd or late 4th millennium B.C.—not the 2nd. It’s not entirely certain whether Odysseus and his peers were intended to be the same as the characters from the Odyssey, but a plain interpretation of the dialogue implies the events of the Odyssey occurred historically in the Trek universe.
This is acceptable if we conclude that the stories that inspired the Odyssey and Iliad originated not just four to five hundred years before Homer but more than two thousand and were transmuted down through history as legends that became the basis for his works. The stories would, at best, be exaggerations of historical events much in the same way that legends of King Arthur diverge from academic accounts of European history. Depending on when these persons lived, the Trojan War, for example, could have coincided with one of Flint the Immortal’s potential aliases, such as Achilles—whom Apollo also references in the novelization of “Who Mourns for Adonais.” Either way, such events could illustrate an example of parallel societal development not just between planets but across time periods on the same world.
StarTrek.com also theorizes that the Olympians may have visited Vulcan and Romulus centuries before coming to Earth, given the use of words such as Vulcan, Romulus, Remus, Centurion, and Senate across cultures. While this could be explained by quirks of the universal translator and/or the parallel nature of human and Vulcanoid languages, this theory does shed light on the possibility that a much larger number of planets were visited by such gods than previously imagined. Indeed, the Olympians may have visited Magna Roma, home of a human-like civilization as seen in “Bread and Circuses,” leading to the Latinized versions of Greek mythological names by that culture. In any event, “Who Mourns for Adonais” indicates that Earth was probably the last planet the Olympians visited before returning to Pollux IV.
Additionally, some novels put forth the idea that the Olympians were also the gods of Egyptian and Norse mythology, and that many of them had actually survived despite Apollo’s belief to the contrary. This opens a whole other can of worms, as each member of Apollo’s race may have their own Egyptian and Norse equivalent—for example, Zeus also being Amen-Ra and Odin. The timing is even more difficult to pin down, with the origins of Egyptian gods potentially predating the Olympians’ visit to Earth or, at the very least, predating their extended stay in Greece. Norse mythology is a little easier to reconcile, with the bulk of Old Norse religious texts originating in the 13th century based on earlier pre-Christian oral traditions from Iceland, although the existence of Thor and Loki in the Trek universe is certainly subject to debate.
Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning another phenomenon from beta continuity that corresponds to classical mythology in Star Trek—the Furies. Depicted in multiple novels, the Furies are an extragalactic civilization composed of several species that periodically devastate the Milky Way. In ancient Greek religion, the Furies—also known as the Erinyes—were female deities associated with fear and vengeance, and they originated from the Underworld. In Trek, the Furies are likewise associated with other demonic and monstrous entities such as the Devil, Medusa, and the Klingon Fek’Ihr. The Furies are said to have terrorized numerous worlds in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, including Qo’noS, Earth, and a Tellarite colony called Karzh’ulla on which they established a key outpost. The Furies may have even battled with the Prophets before being banished to the Delta Quadrant, and—well, you can read the rest on Memory Beta.
In my opinion, the interesting questions raised by “Who Mourns for Adonais?” provide ample material for future stories to be told in the Star Trek universe. In the same vein as a miniseries depicting the life and times of Flint the Immortal, a series depicting Trek’s take on the exploits of the Titans, the Trojan War, and other classic stories offers exciting possibilities. So, what do you think? Did the Greek gods in Star Trek’s history visit other planets before Earth? How much of Greek mythology could truly be based in accounts of the Olympian aliens? And, most importantly, could the massive amount of incest among the Greek gods be a gross misunderstanding of their biology or a literal interpretation of their family dynamics? These are the important things to consider.
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