Older Than Feudalism

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/feudalism_6304.jpg
Ancient Roman Floor mosaic at the Baths of Musiciolus in Ostia, probably early 4th century AD

All of The Oldest Ones in the Book first recorded after the invention of the Greek alphabet (c. 800 BC) and before the fall of Ancient Rome (c. 476 AD), a period usually called Classical antiquity. Works from this period include:

  • All ancient Greek and Roman myths, literature, and theatre.note 
  • The Biblenote 
  • Most of ancient South Asian literature and Hindu Mythology, including:
  • Most surviving examples of ancient Chinese literature, philosophy, and history date to this period:
  • The Zoroastrian holy book, Avesta.
  • The Manichean holy book, Shabuhragan.

Note: Tropes originating in other mythologies/religions are not indexed here, as we have no idea whether those stories even existed by the 5th century AD, or what forms they took, centuries before they were first written down. Even Norse and Celtic mythology are only Older Than Print; although they're derived at least in part from earlier (unwritten) stories, the details are fundamentally un-dateable. Early folklorists often started with the assumption that folktales and myths never changed; more research has shown that people can and do modify all sorts of tales for many purposes.

Tropes that date back to this time period:

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     A-C 

     D-I 
  • Daddy's Girl: According to The Iliad, Athena is Zeus' favorite child. Ares claims that Zeus rarely bothers to restrict her behavior. She also has the boyish traits associated with the trope.
  • Damsel in Distress: Andromeda and Hesione in Greek Mythology, both in the same pickle: their parents pissed off Poseidon, and had to sacrifice them to giant sea monsters to save their kingdoms. Thanks, Mom!
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Genesis 38 is the source for an outdated term for masturbation, Onanism. note 
  • David Versus Goliath: The Trope Namer is from the Book of Samuel in The Bible.
  • The Day of Reckoning: The Book of Revelation in The Bible.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Odysseus converses with several ghosts in Homer's Odyssey.
  • Death by Childbirth: Likely as old as our species, what with our disproportionately huge heads and tiny, tiny hips. In The Bible, Jacob's favorite wife Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.
  • Death Faked for You: Faking baby Oedipus' death was what started the whole mess that blew up in Oedipus Rex.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Sisyphos tied up Thanatos in Greek Mythology, and nobody could die until Ares rescued him.
  • Decapitation Presentation: David with Goliath's head in The Bible, Judith with Holofernes' head in the Apocrypha, Salome asking for John the Baptist's head, and Perseus displaying Medusa's head as a weapon in Greek Mythology. In Real Life, Chiomara with the head of the centurion who raped her, and the Egyptians with Magnus Pompeii's head, also during this time.
  • Deconstruction: Euripides's Trojan Women and Hecuba portrayed The Trojan War as a human tragedy rather than a sweeping epic tale of martial valor in the Homeric tradition, by showing the human consequences of war and its aftermath on the conquered people, and the cruelty and violence of the "heroic" invaders.
  • Democracy Is Bad: Plato's The Republic, various ancient Chinese writings.
  • Demythtification: Euhemerus' treatment of Classical Mythology is the alternate trope namer.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: In Greek Mythology Tantalos killed his son and tried to trick the gods into eating him. Punished after death in Tartaros, he stands forever in a pool of water, surrounded by fruit trees, but whenever he reaches for it the water drains away and the branches blow out of reach.
  • Depending on the Writer: The Bible. The Book of Genesis gives two contradictory accounts of Creation, and The Four Gospels tell of Jesus' life from the slightly differing perspectives of four of the Apostles. Notably, the accounts of Creation differ on whether Male and Female were created at the same time, and whether humans were created before or after animals; the Gospels differ slightly on which people witnessed Jesus' crucifixion, and on which women were present when his tomb was found empty.
  • Determinator: Odysseus does get home... eventually.
  • Different for Girls: In the Trojan Cycle, when Thetis disguised her son Achilles in drag, he completely failed to pull it off — not that he really wanted to dodge the draft.
  • Don't Look Back: In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Book of Genesis), looking back got Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. In Greek Mythology Orpheus lost his wife Eurydice (again) because he looked back when leading her out of Hades.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: Several times in The Bible, someone complains that God's followers' actions are besmirching God's name.
  • Double Entendre: A favorite tactic of Greek comedians. Aristophanes's plays are full of them.
  • Double Standard: In The Odyssey the nymph Calypso complains about this. She points out that male gods frequently sleep with mortal women, but are "harsh and far too jealous" when goddesses take mortal lovers.
  • Downer Ending: Rather common in Greek Mythology. The Odyssey has the murder of Agamemnon. The Returns told the deaths of several characters of The Trojan War. The Telegony has Odysseus killed accidentally by one of his own sons. The Argonauts' story ends with Jason's ignominious death. Greek tragedy almost required this trope.
  • Draft Dodging: Odysseus tried to avoid joining The Trojan War by pretending to be insane, but the other princes called his bluff. Thetis tried to get her son Achilles out of it by dressing him in drag.
  • Dragon Hoard: The idea that dragons are irrationally driven to guard treasure first appears in Roman literature: In his 13th Philippic Speech, Cicero compares a supposedly greedy man to a dragon, and in the Beast Fable "The Fox and the Dragon" by Phaedrus (c. 50 AD), a dragon guarding a gold hoard in a cave freely admits his behavior is absurd, leading to An Aesop about avarice.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Homer's Iliad.
  • Driven by Envy: Cain killing Abel in The Bible.
  • Driven to Suicide: King Saul from The Bible. Queen Iocaste in Oedipus the King.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Jehu, son of Nimshi drives his chariot "like a madman" (The Bible, 2 Kings 9:20).
  • The Drunken Sailor: In The Odyssey, the ship was almost home when the sailors decided to crack open Odysseus's pouch, assuming he was hoarding wine or gold. It actually contained all the winds, which immediately blew them way off course.
  • Dual Wielding: Dimachaerii type gladiators in Ancient Roman games.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: In Greek Mythology the handsome Endymion is enchanted to eternally sleep, with his youth and beauty preserved. Meanwhile Selene, goddess of the Moon, frequently makes love to him.
  • Due to the Dead: Achilles dragging and abusing Hector's corpse in The Iliad exemplifies the evil version. The protagonists in Sophocles's Antigone and Electra exemplify the good form.
  • Dumb Muscle: Ajax in The Iliad. Olympic "meatbag" athletes, according to some ancient Greek philosophers. Heracles was portrayed this way in Attic comedy, for example in Aristophanes' The Birds (in the "canonical" myths, he is reasonably clever).
  • Dying Curse: Immediately before Queen Dido of Carthage commits suicide in book IV of The Aeneid, she prays to the gods that Aeneas' mission may fail, and that the Carthaginians may forever be enemies to the descendants of Aeneas' Trojans and may one day avenge her. While part of the curse comes true, it ultimately fails.
  • Dystopia: Prophesied in the Book of Revelation, as the Beast arises.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Homer's Odyssey ends with the protagonist triumphant and the evildoers punished, but boy does Odysseus have to earn it. He goes through The Underworld, and 20 years of exile, angst, and heartsickness, to get home. This epic was held up as the prototype of comedy, which originally just meant any story with a happy ending.
  • Eats Babies: In Hesiod's Theogony, the Titan Cronus swallowed his own children, though unlike Child Eaters he didn't make a habit of seeking out more babies.
  • Eaten Alive: Some characters in Greek myth die this way, such as Odysseus's shipmates in Polyphemos's cave. Some gods, such as Prometheus and the siblings of Zeus, suffer this and survive, because Greek gods can't die.
  • Eating The Enemy: Naturally ties in with Eaten Alive in many cases.
  • Egopolis: Such as several Alexandrias founded by Alexander the Great.
  • Emergency Impersonation: Patroclus impersonated Achilles in The Iliad, when the latter refused to fight. Unlike in later impersonation stories, Achilles is the protagonist while Patroclus is a side character.
  • Emotional Bruiser: Hector in The Iliad: mighty warrior, devoted husband and father, and named by Helen as the only one who's nice to her but Priam.
  • Enemies Equals Greatness: The Bible seems to hold that the only reason why people have enemies is because of their choice to follow God. Joseph was hated by his brothers for being favored by Israel, David was resented by King Saul for being the only one to defeat Goliath, and there's Jesus who had set an example to humanity, much to the disgust of the Pharisees.
  • Enthralling Siren: The Sirens and their fatally enthralling voices in Greek Mythology.
  • Entitled to Have You: Propertius devotes some of his poems to saying he's entitled to have Cynthia.
  • Epic Catalog: The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad is probably the most famous one in ancient epic poetry.
  • Eureka Moment: Trope Namer is Archimedes in his bath, allegedly.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Narcissus of late Greek and Roman myth.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Excessive amounts of bribery were commonplace in The Roman Republic.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Bible never specifically states exactly which pharaoh is involved in the Book of Exodus. Biblical scholars have been trying to identify him for a long time.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows:
    • Rainbows used by characters: In Greek religion, the rainbow was personified as the goddess Iris, and was the path left by her as she travelled between heaven and earth.
    • Rainbows as symbols: In Genesis 9, the rainbow is the sign of God's promise that he will never again destroy the Earth with a flood.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Dates back to The Bible, in which the Devil often shown in this fashion, being unable to appeal to anything other than selfish desires when manipulating humans.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Jesus.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Deianira in Trachiniae, telling the chorus about the "strange sight" that is the bubbling, disintegrating piece of cloth she used to smear a "love potion" onto a shirt she just gave her husband.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In the back story of Euripides's play Hecuba, Achilles defected to Troy after falling in love with Polyxena, one of its princesses.
  • The Face of the Sun: This type of solar iconography first showed up in Roman and late Greek religious artwork, such as the sides of temples.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Jesus has a couple in The Bible.
  • Fairest of Them All: The Judgement of Paris in the Trojan Cycle, when Eris deliberately provoked a fight between goddesses using an Apple of Discord inscribed with the words "to the fairest." The resulting fight caused The Trojan War.
  • Fake Defector: In The Aeneid and The Odyssey Sinon surrenders to the Trojans, claiming he defected from the Greeks, so he can convince the Trojans that the Trojan Horse is a gift.
  • Faking the Dead: Orestes in Electra.
  • False Rape Accusation: In The Bible Potiphar's wife, after failing to rape Joseph, tells her husband that Joseph raped her.
  • Fanon: The Bible never states that there are three Magi, never even gives a definite number, and doesn't specify that they were male. It also doesn't specify that the fruit Adam and Eve ate was an apple, and doesn't refer to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute.
  • Fan Wank: As early as 44 AD, Stoic philosophers were complaining about obsessive fans who argued over literary trivia like "how many rowers did Ulysses have?"
  • Fandom Rivalry: In Byzantium, brawls between followers of different religious leaders were an everyday occurence, as were running fights between suporters of different chariot racing teams.
  • Fashion Hurts: Plutarch mentions painful footwear.
  • The Fatalist: All the time. Thetis warned her son Achilles that two fates awaited him: if he went to Troy, he would die young, but become famous forever. If he stayed home, he would live a long time, but be forgotten. He went to Troy and was not shy about courting death. Hector knew he was fated to die at Achilles's hands, but eventually chose to face him.
  • Feed the Mole: One of The Thirty-Six Stratagems.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: The march of the Ten Thousand, as depicted in Xenophon's Anabasis. The Hebrews fighting the Canaanites in The Bible. The Trojan refugees in The Aeneid.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Spartans and Thebans encouraged soldiers to have a lover in the army so that they'd fight harder to protect them. And if they died, hopefully they'd go Ax-Crazy in a quest for vengeance.
  • Fire of Comfort: The domain of Hestia, Greek goddess of the Hearth. She was associated with the fireplace and the joys of domesticity. A Homeric Hymn to her mentions her place of honor in the residences of every immortal god and every mortal man.
  • Fix Fic: Iphigenia In Tauris was written to remove the bridge dropped on Iphigenia.
  • Flaming Sword: According to the Book of Genesis, God set up a Cherub with a flaming sword to guard the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve had been cast out from there.
  • Flashback: Homer's Odyssey.
  • Flipping the Table: Jesus does this with the moneychangers in the temple.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: A nasty-looking dog named "Puppy" in The Satyricon.
  • Food Chains: Eating some pomegranate seeds in The Underworld forced the Greek goddess Persephone to return there every year. In the Homeric Hymns, Hades force-fed her. Odysseus almost loses several men to the lotus-eating addiction.
  • Forbidden Fruit: The Adam and Eve story from Genesis is the Trope Namer.
  • Forged by the Gods: Hephaestus forges new armour and shield for Achilles, a knife for Peleus, and the shield and armour of Heracles. The Cypria mentions a spear, created by the Athene, Hephaestus, and Chiron, for Peleus.
  • Forging Scene: The forging of the Shield of Achilles in The Iliad.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: In Greek Mythology, Zeus apparently did this sort of thing whenever he had an affair with a mortal woman, at least according to the story in which his true form turned the woman Semele to ash. In The Bible, angels occasionally tried to appear in human form, since their true forms look more like bizarre Eldritch Abominations.
  • Friendship Denial: Prophesied by Jesus who tells Peter that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows. Peter assures Him that he will never do that to Him, but, as Jesus was arrested that night, somebody in the crowd asks Peter was he with Jesus. Trying to avoid getting himself into further trouble, Peter responds with "No! I do not know Him!". As the rooster crows and with Jesus looking at him, Peter realizes that he was wrong.
  • Frontline General: In Real Life this is at least as old as the Roman Republic, moving to Older Than Dirt when it crosses over with Royals Who Actually Do Something. This is because before the invention of radio the general usually had to be in the midst of his men to be able to give orders and have them carried out quickly.
  • Full-Boar Action: The Erymanthian Boar and Calydonian Boar from Greek Mythology. Both were monstrous boars that could only be vanquished by great heroes (Hercules and Meleager and Atalanta respectively).
  • Funny Foreigner: A staple of ancient Greek and Roman comedy. An example is Triballos, a "barbarian god" serving as an ambassador to Cloudcuckooland in Aristophanes' The Birds.
  • Gainax Ending: The Book of Revelation, for The Bible.
  • Gambit Roulette: According to some ancient Greek writers, Zeus set up the whole of The Trojan War by manipulating one key goddess as a gambit to reduce the population of demigods.
  • Gate of Truth: Described in The Underworld in Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.
  • Gender Bender: Tiresias in Greek Mythology, Iphis and Hermaphroditos in Ovid's The Metamorphoses, and Bhangasvana and Shikandin in the Mahabharata.
  • Genius Bruiser: Odysseus is a powerful Badass, and also a master of cunning and strategy. Heracles is sometimes depicted this way, too.
  • Genius Cripple: The Greek Hephaestus is a crippled god, yet a brilliant craftsman who created magnificent works, including weapons, armor, and robots. Yes, robots.
  • Genre Deconstruction: See Deconstruction above.
  • Giant Squid: Large squids were first described by Aristotle, but Pliny The Elder is the first to give them more explicitly gigantic proportions (heads "as big as a cask" and 30 ft. arms) in his Natural History. The actual animals are presumably Older Than Dirt.
  • God Is Flawed: Rather common in this era. For instance, the Greek gods were a bunch of regular jerkasses. It's been theorized this was a metaphor for how idiotic humans can be.
  • God Test: Frequently in the Old Testament. Additionally the Gospel of Matthew gives us what may be the oldest subversion: Satan telling Jesus to prove he's the son of God, and Jesus basically telling him to screw off. Aristophanes provides a parody in The Frogs, in which Dionysos completely fails said test, despite being a real deity.
  • Going Native: Octavian's propaganda against Mark Antony made the latter out to be the Ur-Example.
  • Gold Fever: Discussed in Book II of the Aeneid, when Aeneas recounts how King Polymestor of Thrace murdered Polydorus, the son of his ally King Priam of Troy, to rob Polydorus' treasure of gold. Aeneas' words auri sacra fames, the "accursed hunger for gold", was a popular quote even in antiquity.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Odysseus and Diomedes in Book 10 of the The Iliad.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The third commandment of the Hebrews: "You shall not take the name of Y**H your God in vain, for Y**H will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." (Exodus 20:7, NKJV). Euphemisms for this four-letter word were "the Name" in speech or "Lord" in prayer.
  • Grand Theft Me: Yayati, after the curse of his father-in-law that he should become old and infirm, asked his sons to exchange their youthful body with his. All refused except the youngest son, Puru, who was crowned after his reign. Puru was the ancestor of the Kauravas and the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. His brother Yadu was the ancestor of the Yadavas — thus the ancestor of Krishna.
  • Gratuitous Greek: Several ancient Roman authors often inserted Greek quotations into their works.
  • Gray Eyes: Greek goddess Athena is always described as glaukopis, meaning she has blue-green, or blue-gray eyes (or in an alternate translation, owl eyes). Translations typically simplify it to "gray-eyed."
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Achaeans and Trojans in The Iliad.
  • Guile Hero: Odysseus. Ruth and Queen Esther in The Bible. Krishna in the Mahabharata.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The biblical instructions for freeing slaves also tell owners what to do in case they have a happy slave who wants to stay... just in case, you know.
  • Heads or Tails: Dates back to Ancient Rome, according to The Other Wiki.
  • Healing Factor (Regenerative Immortality): Greek gods don't age, can't be killed by anything, and heal very quickly even from massive wounds. Poor Prometheus had his liver torn out every day and grown back by the next morning. The Hydra also had this: whenever Heracles cut a head off, it instantly grew two more. One of its heads was also physically indestructible, which got it buried under a big rock.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Just for starters, St. Matthew and St. Paul of the Apostles. Matthew was a tax collector, while Paul was a Pharisee-in-training cum Bounty Hunter under the name Saul.
  • Hell: The Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell go back to the New Testament.
  • Hell of a Heaven: Happens in one version of the classic Indian epic Mahabharata.
  • Hello, Nurse!: Helen of Troy, the most beautiful mortal woman in the world.
  • Hermit Guru: John the Baptist, and the Real Life Pillar Hermits.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: In The Iliad, the Trojan Asteropaeus throws both his spears at once, "for both his arms were as his right", and by this feat is the first Trojan to wound Achilles. In a list of famous warriors who served King David, Chronicles 1,12 names 23 Benjaminites who "were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed".
  • Heroic Bastard: Almost all of the demigod heroes in Greek Mythology, such as Heracles. Karna in the Mahabharata, and Jephthah in The Bible.
  • Hero Killer: Typhon in Classical Mythology, who is terrifying enough to make the gods flee Olympus, and badass enough to defeat Zeus in a straight up fight. From a Trojan perspective Achilles is definitely this; one could make a case for Mezentius or Turnus in The Aeneid.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: In Kings 20:35-37, a prophet of God needs to be beaten and bruised in order to deliver the message God had for King Ahab.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Oedipus' father Laios, when he's killed by the son he abandoned years earlier. Murderous King Diomedes, eaten by the freakish horses he used to feed human flesh. Corrupt minister Haman in The Bible, hung on the gallows he built for his rival.
  • Holy Is Not Safe: The Greeks believed that seeing the glory of a god would kill you. Likewise the Book of Exodus has God state that seeing his face would kill Moses, and The Ark of the Covenant was an equal-opportunity Doomsday Device.
  • Honor Before Reason: Cicero mentions Marcus Atilius Regulus, who had been captured by Carthage in the Punic Wars. He was sent to Rome to negotiate a Roman surrender, with the promise that he would return to Carthage. If he was unsuccessful, the Carthaginians would kill him. Regulus went to Rome, argued AGAINST surrender, and then returned and accepted execution by a Carthaginian sword.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: In Hesiod's story of Pandora's Box, hope was in the box (jar) to either help mortals, or deceive them.
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal: In the Old Testament the olive branch was the sign to Noah that the flood waters were receding.
  • Hot Librarian: The Greek goddess Athena is beautiful and wise.
  • Human Pincushion: Saint Sebastian's legend says that his martyrdom had him become this. In a subversion, he actually survived, so he "had" to be flogged to death.
  • Hydra Problem: Heracles fought the Trope Namer. He had to burn the stumps to stop its heads from groing back.
  • Hypocrite: Agamemnon in The Iliad; you go to war over a woman being taken — that means you shouldn't take another man's woman.
  • I Am Who?: Oedipus, especially in Sophocles's Oedipus the King.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: "I am Odysseus, son of Laertes". Commonly used in The Bible as well.
  • I Believe I Can Fly: Icarus, Pegasus, Harpies, Sirens, Hermes and Perseus with winged sandals...
  • I Fell for Hours: In The Iliad, when Hephaestus recalls being flung off of Olympus by Zeus he says that he fell all day.
  • I Gave My Word: In Classical Mythology, the oaths of the suitors that required them to follow Menelaus to Troy. Also the Oath of the Styx that Greek gods cannot break, which has gotten Zeus, Helios, and others in big trouble...
  • I Want Grandkids: In The Metamorphoses, Daphne's father often told her this: "Saepe pater dixit 'Debes mihi, nata, nepotes.'"
  • I Will Wait for You: Odysseus's wife Penelope and his dog Argos both waited 20 years for him to return. Penelope kept a ton of obnoxious suitors hanging while she waited.
  • Identical Stranger: In Menaechmi, by the Roman author Plautus.
  • Idiot Plot: Menaechmi, in which the characters take way too long to realize both twins are present.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: The biblical David twice gets close enough to kill Saul, but stays his hand. Although not explicit, the message is clear. Saul doesn't get it.
  • Ignore the Fan Service: Socrates is above such things.
  • Impossible Task: Heracles, David, Psyche, and Perseus faced them in stories from this period.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Roman Republic was full of them. One narrates Juvenal's Satires.
    • A surviving fragment of Euripides' Stheneboea discusses this trope.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Odysseus shot an arrow through the handle-rings of twelve axes in The Odyssey.
  • Improbable Food Budget: The seven years of plenty before Joseph's biblical drought.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The biblical Samson killed an army of Philistines using a donkey's jaw.
  • In the Blood: Original Sin in Genesis.
  • In the Name of the Moon: The heroes of Homer's Iliad do this, down to formulaic repetition originally designed to allow extemporaneous reciters of epic poetry to keep to the meter.
  • Indentured Servitude: In Real Life the Athenian lawmaker Draco passed a law that any man who was owed a debt by another could claim the indebted party as a slave until the debt was paid off. This caused such strife that Solon banned the practice—respecting only Athenian citizens—when he was asked to reform the city's laws.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: The Prometheus myth: the secret of fire given to the mortals against the other gods' will. Older Than They Think? Yup.
  • Inn of No Return: Procrustes' bed: Accept hospitality from this man, and he'll kill torture and kill you.
  • Invisible Jerkass: Plato's The Republic tells the tale of Gyges, a shepherd who finds a ring of invisibility. Gyges promptly uses its power to seduce the queen, assassinate the king, and become king. Plato's moral is that morality is rooted completely in society, and with anonymity, all morality disappears.
  • Invisibility: The Ring of Gyges and the Cap of Hades.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Cap of Hades, which rendered all wearers invisible; later borrowed by Perseus.
  • Ironic Hell: Tantalus and Sisyphus in Greek Mythology both ended up in versions of Tartarus that fit their crimes.
  • Irrevocable Message: The execution order in Antigone, by Sophocles. The result was death and tragedy, not played for laughs.
  • Irrevocable Order: In The Bible, the Medes and Persians had a law that if the king's ring was used to seal a proclamation then it could not be undone, not even if the king changed his mind. This plays a role in the stories of Esther and Daniel.
  • It Was a Gift: Perseus was given his mirror-like shield and winged sandals by the gods Athena and Hermes. In Greek Mythology, Philoctetes got the famous bow of Heracles at the latter's death.

     J-P 

     Q-Z 
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: Jesus versus Satan in the Gospels of Luke and Mark.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The title characters in The Book of Job and Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound.
  • Rags to Royalty: Gaius Julius Caesar went from Impoverished Patrician to dictator-for-life of Rome. The biblical Esther went to common Jewish girl to queen.
  • Raised by Wolves: Romulus and Remus by a wolf. Atalanta by a bear, according to late Classical writers. In both cases, it's more that the babies were nursed by wild animals until human foster-parents found them.
  • Reclining Reigner: The Roman upper class were well-known to dine on reclining sofas, the better to show off their affluence.
  • Reign of Terror: The rule of the Thirty in Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War was an Unbuilt Trope form—when the oligarchs installed by Sparta, in search of establishing the "ideal state" (most were aristocratic students of Socrates—not La Résistance), executed not only all of the leaders of the former Athenian democracy, but all of the potential democratic leaders and all of the suspected potential democratic leaders. (This didn't prevent the overthrow of the Thirty and reestablishment of the democracy—which averted this by issuing a general amnesty.) Later, the proscriptions of Octavian and Marc Antony in Rome—killing hundreds in the name of the people—fits more closely.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Several examples in Hindu Mythology: Sati/Parvati and Shiva; Kama and his wife; etc.
  • Religion of Evil: Pre-Christian "pagan" religions accused Judaism was this. Later on Christians accused non-Christian religions of Satan-worship. Nowadays atheists accuse Christians of this. Tomorrow....?
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: In Genesis, the evil Serpent that persuades Adam and Eve to eat the Forbidden Fruit appears to be a stand-in for Satan.
  • The Resenter: Cain, towards Abel, in the Torah.
  • Revenge Is a Dish Best Served: In Classical Mythology, Atreus' feast for Thyestes, featuring Thyestes' own sons as the main course, in revenge for Thyestes' seduction of Atreus' wife Aerope.
  • Revenge SVP: The Cypria featured the story of Eris, goddess of Strife. Denied invitation to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, she responded by orchestrating a quarrel between Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera. Said quarrel led to The Trojan War.
  • Riddle Me This: The Sphinx in Greek Mythology.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: The Trope Namer in Greek Mythology.
  • Riddling Sphinx: Again, Greek Mythology.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: The Book of Proverbs' first 29 chapters carry the thread of contrasting the wise man and The Fool.
  • Ring of Power: The Ring of Gyges, which made the wearer invisible, but also corrupted him (as told by Plato in book II of The Republic).
  • Rip Van Winkle: The oldest examples are found in The Talmud in the story of the ancient Rabbi and scholar Honi ha-M'agel, and in Diogenes Laertius' biography of the Greek sage Epimenides.
  • Road Trip Plot: The Odyssey, the story of Odysseus's 10-year voyage home.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Essentially the entire plot of the Ramayana once the demon king Ravana kidnaps Rama's wife Sita, starting a war in the process.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: From Greek Mythology: Achilles avenging Patroclus, Odysseus killing the suitors, and Heracles on several occasions.
  • Robot: The automatones created by Hephaestus were machines that moved of their own accord and worked for their maker; some of them had humanoid form.
  • Robot Girl: Hephaestus is served by automaton maidens made of "living gold" in The Iliad.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: Several of these appear in Classical Mythology. In addition, Moses creates one with God's power in The Bible.
  • Romance Arc: Genesis: God creates Man. Next on the agenda — Introducing Man's love interest. Classical Mythology examples include Venus and Adonis, Jason and Medea, and Cupid and Psyche.
  • Ron the Death Eater: The different versions of myths in Ancient Greece would often favour their patron Gods and heroes and paint the heroes and Gods of their enemies unfavourably.
  • Rousing Speech: Boudicca gave one in her (ill-fated) campaign against the Roman invaders of Great Britain. Pericles' funeral oration in the Peloponnessian War, as depicted by Thucydides, has elements of this.
  • Rule of Seven: Rome was built on seven hills.
  • Rule of Three: In the New Testament: In John 13:38 "Jesus answered (Peter), Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice." After his resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, extracting from Peter a promise to continue his work three times before he leaves him alone. This could be a symbolic reversal of Peter's thrice-denial of Jesus before his death.
  • Sacred Hospitality: An ancient Greek custom, and a plot point in many myths. The gods punish those who violate this rule. Getting rid of those pesky suitors would have been easier were it not for this.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: When the Greeks started worshipping the Egyptian child-god Harpokrates (Har pa-Khered), they called him the god of silence because Egyptians usually depicted him holding a finger to his lips. But in Egyptian iconography, this was just a symbol of childhood, like sucking a thumb.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: Greek Mythology has the 3 Fates, the 3 Furies, the 3 Graces, the 3 (elder) Cyclopes, the 3 Hekatonkhires, the 3 Horai/Seasons (usually), the 3 Harpies (usually), the 3 Graeae, and the 3 Gorgons (usually).
  • Satan Is Good: Specifically, the positive and sympathetic portrayal of the god Prometheus in Prometheus Bound, as compared to earlier depictions, fits this trope fairly well.
  • Satire: The name of the form comes from the Roman period, being the label given to the works of the poets Ennius, Lucillus, Perseus, Horace, and Juvenal. The Romans considered satire the only uniquely Roman form of literature, but although the Romans did develop it the furthest, the plays of Aristophanes were earlier and were definitely satirical. (Some surviving Ancient Egyptian works can be interpreted satirically, but these can also be read seriously.)
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • "Do not under any circumstances bring this horse into your city, because then us Greeks will never ever be able to conquer Troy."
    • Adam and Eve: "You can eat anything you like in this garden, except the fruit from That One Tree. Got that? Whatever you do, don't touch the fruit from That One Tree."
    • Pandora's Box (actually a jar), with Pandora intentionally set up to peek.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Happened more and more towards the end of The Roman Republic.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Odysseus lost several men to the Trope Namers.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Pandora's Box, filled with all the miseries and evils that now make humanity miserable, as told by Hesiod.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Several examples predate feudalism. Hesiod's Theogony did it twice:
    • The Cyclopes and Hundred-Handed were imprisoned by Uranus, then again by Cronus, because they were ugly. Zeus freed them, and they pledged their not-inconsiderable skills to his cause.
    • Pandora managed to shut the box before Hope got away.
  • Sea Monster: Charybdis and Leviathan are just a couple of many sea monsters found in early myths.
  • Seeks Another's Resurrection: In Greek mythology, Orpheus descends into Hades to try and bring his wife Eurydice back. Izanagi made a similar quest in Shinto mythology to bring back his wife Izanami. In Egyptian mythology, after Osiris got chopped up into bits and scattered all over the world by Set, Isis tracked down all the missing pieces and put them back together again.
  • See You in Hell: According to the Roman biographer Suetonius, a certain actor implied this in a farce during Emperor Nero's bloody reign.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Greek god Cronos, whose brutal efforts to prevent his children from overthrowing him directly motivated them to do exactly that. Oedipus, fleeing his adoptive parents to avoid killing Dad and marrying Mom, came to Thebes where his real parents lived.
  • Sexual Extortion: Testament by Joseph featuring Potiphar's Wife, mentioned in Genesis. Also the story of Bellerophon.
  • Shaming the Mob: The Gospel according to John 8:1-11, New Testament.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Greek god Zeus used the usual form for a Bed Trick with Alcmene, mother of Heracles. But he has also gone after mortal women as a bull, a swan, and a "shower of gold."
  • Shoot the Dog: Fairly common early in the Old Testament.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Happens every so often when when one of Jesus's parables falls flat. See Comically Missing the Point above.
  • Signature Item Clue: In The Bible, Potiphar's wife gets hold of Joseph's cloak as he runs away from her. She later produces the cloak to support her claim that he tried to rape her.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Cicero, in his In Verrem speeches, emphasized his background as a non-patrician from the Italian town of Arpinium.
  • Sinister Minister: Diotrephes and Ciaphas in the New Testament.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: In The Bible, especially Original Sin. The Greek gods bring misfortune on several descendants of Tantalus through their family curse, even those who were innocent, because Tantalus was a cannibalistic jerkass.
  • The Smart Guy: Athena among the Olympians: she's the goddess of wisdom, strategic thinking, and various arts. Odysseus tends to be this whenever acting as part of a group, or leading a crew.
  • Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: The Argonauts had to pass their ships through the maritime version in Greek Mythology.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: One of the Ajaxes in The Iliad curses the gods until Poseidon and Zeus both smite him.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: The state of the world just before The Great Flood occurred, and of Sodom and Gomorrah. Atlantis in Classical Mythology, and Dvārakā in the Mahabharata, both sank into the seas for this reason.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Used to light the Olympic torch in The Clouds. Greek historian Lucian claimed that Archimedes built a giant bronze mirror and set fire to ships attacking Syracuse, but the story is hard to believe.
  • Son of a Whore: In the Chandagoya Upanishad, the sage Satyakama Jabala was the son of a prostitute who did not know who Satyakama's father was. As only boys of Brahmin parentage were allowed to study the Veda, this could have excluded Satyakama from higher learning; but when the boy Satyakama applied to be taught by the sage Haridrumata, he told Haridrumata the full truth about his parentage. Haridrumata opines that only a Brahmin could speak so honestly, and agrees to teach Satyakama.
  • The Sons and the Spears: The oldest known version is by Plutarch.
  • "Sorcerer's Apprentice" Plot: Lucian's Philopseudes, 150 AD.
  • Speech-Centric Work: This was a popular format for philosophical works in Ancient Greece. For example, Plato's works are presented as conversations between two parties.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: The Greek chorus did this on stage, as evidenced in the terms strophe and antistrophe (referring to dancing), though the actual dance steps are lost.
  • Standard Hero Reward: The Greek seer Melampos "won" a princess for a bride by performing heroic feats.
  • Star Scraper: The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 was envisioned as being tall enough to reach heaven, but God put a stop to it.
  • Stars Are Souls: In Greek Mythology, most of the northern hemisphere constellations were supposed to be the souls or images of people placed in the sky by the gods — sometimes to reward or memorialize a hero, sometimes to humiliate (?) somebody they hated.
  • The Starscream: This could sum up the Roman Empire in the 3rd and 4rth centuries CE. One series of these after another. Almost every Emperor was a military general who betrayed his Emperor and seized power for himself, only to have the exact same thing happen to him.
  • Stealth Insult: "Rex Iudaeorum", coming from a Roman, was not an honorific...
  • Stereo Fibbing: The Bible, specifically the story of Susannah and the Elders in the Apocrypha.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Homer's Odyssey.
  • Straw Character: Plato regularly used strawmen as opponents to Socrates in his Socratic dialogues.
  • Straw Nihilist: Achilles goes on a rant about the meaninglessness of the heroic values and how they're all doomed to obscurity in The Iliad.
  • Stylistic Suck: Eumolpus in The Satyricon, an absolutely awful poet who is nevertheless convinced he is a genius philosopher. We hear plenty of his bad poetry throughout his sections of the story, and it is so bad that other people usually pelt him with rocks to make him stop.
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor: In the classical Sanskrit play The Recognition Of Shakuntala.
  • Supernatural Aid: Gods granted Perseus the use of winged sandals and the Cap of Hades (which rendered all wearers invisible) so he could slay Medusa.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Greek myths include Sisyphos, who talked his way out of Tartaros. His son Sinon convinced the Trojans to bring the Trojan Horse into their city. Apparently lying is genetic.
  • Tag Team Suicide: The tale of Pyramus and Thisbe from The Metamorphoses by Ovid, the inspiration behind Romeo and Juliet.
  • Take That: The Bible includes several passages that amount to insults directed at enemies of ancient Israel, such as saying that the people of Moab and Ammon were descended from the products of Parental Incest. Euripides's Electra mocks a plot development in Aeschylus's Oresteia.
  • Take That, Audience!: Most surviving Ancient Greek comedies featured a parabasis, in which the actors suddenly halted the plot to spend several minutes insulting random spectators. Aristophanes' characters also insulted the audience in their dialogue.
  • Taken for Granite: Everybody who ever looked at a Greek Gorgon. Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt in Genesis 19.
  • Taking You with Me: The Bible — post Traumatic Haircut Samson and the Philistines, specifically.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Sisyphos did this to escape The Underworld after he died.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Telemachos in The Odyssey.
  • Tempting Fate: Capaneus of the Seven Against Thebes, and the companions of Diomedes after The Trojan War.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Several examples (as detailed on the Trope Page), although the one with the most lasting influence makes up the bulk of the Gospels: Jesus Christ's entire life.
  • Thicker Than Water: When Theseus comes to Athens, his step-mother, Medea, tries to poison him, but Aegeus recognized the tokens he had left for Theseus, saves him, and exiles Medea — although he had never even seen his son before.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: It seems that at least some of the time, Greeks regarded meteorites as the thunderbolts of Zeus.
  • Test and Trial Tropes: Heracles/Herucles, Theseus, Odysseus, Jason, Oedipus,... all have to fulfill impossible tasks and quests.
  • Too Soon: Athenian playwright Phrynichus' historical tragedy The Sack of Miletus got him in trouble for this reason. Athenian playwrights decided to stick to mythological subjects after that.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Karl Popper (somewhat persuasively) reads Plato's Republic as advocating this: the means are horrifying, but (theoretically) the society is perfectly just and everyone's as happy as can be.
  • Tragedy: Greek theatre, starting in the late 6th century BC.
  • Tragic Hero: A stock technique of Greek tragedy is to make the protagonist one of these, at least in surviving examples and Aristotle's genre analysis.
  • Tragic Mistake: Used by the Greek playwrights and codified by Aristotle.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Theseus, on Ariadne's advice, used a ball of twine this way in the Cretan Labyrinth.
  • Transflormation: Several of the Transformation Fiction stories mentioned below involved the transformed character becoming a flower or other plant.
  • Transformation Fiction: Very popular in Classical Mythology, with stories from The Metamorphoses being some of the more noticable examples.
  • Translator Microbes: In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit blessed Jesus's Disciples so that when they preached, anyone could understand their words, regardless of language barriers.
  • Traumatic C-Section: Agamemnon wants to do this to pregnant Trojan women in The Iliad.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Samson suffers this in the Book of Judges.
  • Tricking the Shapeshifter: Greek god Zeus learned that his wife Metis would bear a son who would overthrow him, so he tricked her into shapeshifting into a fly, and swallowed her whole. Thus he tricked Fate as well.
  • The Trickster: Hermes is a famous example in Greek Mythology. As a newborn, he stole Apollo's cattle. The Homeric Hymn to Hermes describes him as "a son, of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates". Eris has a similar role in the Cypria.
  • Trojan Horse: The Trope Namer.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Jesus at Golgotha, on a spiritual level.
  • Troll Bridge: The Angel of Death in The Bible.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Jesus advocates and names this trope in the New Testament.
  • Turtle Island: Pliny The Elder in his Natural History describes a giant fish called pristis, which is so big that sailors have taken it for an island and landed on its back.
  • 20 Bear Asses: Four words: David. Hundred Philistine foreskins. Worst. Quest. Ever.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The Odyssey has Odysseus attempting to get home, and Odysseus's son Telemachos's attempts to find his father.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Hephaestus and Aphrodite in The Iliad.
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...: Socrates at his trial, according to Plato.
  • Underdressed for the Occasion: Appears in Matthew 22.
  • Underside Ride: Odysseus and his crew escape from Polyphemus's cave by tying themselves to the underside of sheep in The Odyssey.
  • The Unfavourite: Ares in The Iliad, in the eyes of his father Zeus. In a famous scene, Athena helps her champion Diomedes defeat Ares himself in combat. Ares escapes while severely wounded and bleeding. When he complains to Zeus about his favoritism for Athene, Zeus chews him out for being a violent bully.
  • Unicorn: Greek writers first mention them in the 5th century BC.
  • Uriah Gambit: Named after a biblical story of King David.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Plato's Republic institutes a rigorous discipline on its citizens that seems rather harsh to modern readers and would have even seemed so to most Greeks (although perhaps not the Spartans). Additionally, when queried as to how this ideal state might be established in reality, Plato's Socrates replies that the only way to do it would be to find an existing city and exile everyone over the age of ten. (Some scholars think that Plato was using this as an indication that the ideal state was impossible, but others aren't so sure.)
  • Verbal Weakness: Springing from Hindu Mythology
  • Voice of the Legion: Daniel experiences it in The Bible.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: In "Prince Khaemwase and Si-Osiri", the two Ethiopian wizards shapeshift themselves into geese. Though Egyptian, this tale is only from the 1st century CE. Greek gods like Zeus, Proteus, Thetis, and many river gods could take any shape they pleased.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Real Life's Vestal virgins, acolytes of the Roman goddess Vesta who were required to remain virginal and were severely punished for violating this.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Much of The Odyssey is taken up by Odysseus and his men encountering Wacky Wayside Tribes during their 10-year journey home: Cyclopes, Lotus-Eaters, Aeolus and his family, Circe and her "animals," the Laestrygonians, the Cicones, Calypso...
  • Walk on Water: Jesus Christ and Apostle Peter both did it in the New Testament. Ancient Greeks credit Orion with the ability.
  • War Elephants: Encountered by Alexander the Great when invading India; also famously used by Hannibal in the Second Punic War.
  • Warrior Poet: King David slew giants, won wars... wrote poetry, and once danced naked to celebrate the return of the Ark.
  • Weak To Fire: In the legend of Hercules, the only thing that would stop the Hydra regrowing its heads after one was cut off was to quickly cauterize the stump with fire.
  • We Have Become Complacent: Croesus and Solon, as described in Herodotus' Histories.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: The Bible.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Creon or Antigone or both of them in Antigone, depending on interpretation. To audiences at the time it was written, Creon was not considered an obvious villain, though his actions do conflict divine law.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several examples in Classical and Judeo-Christian mythology, ranging from Aeneas after evading Achilles in The Iliad to Jesus Christ's stepfather Joseph after Luke 2:41-51. See the trope page for details.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The Chinese proverb for this tropenote  dates back to the Han Dynasty.
  • Who's on First?: Odysseus telling Polyphemus that his name was "Nobody," leading to Polyphemus screaming to the other Cyclopes that "Nobody has blinded me!" Naturally, they saw no need to go help him.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The message is already implied in the Greek myth of Tithonos, who wished for immortality but forgot to ask for eternal youth, and now ages forever.
  • Wicked Stepmother: In Greek Mythology, Hera reacted to her husband Zeus' constant infidelity by harassing or trying to kill her stepchildren, such as Apollo, Artemis, and Heracles. There is also a poem in the Anthologia Palatina where a warning says that stepmothers bring bad luck
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: A minor prophet in 1 Kings 20 disguises himself by pulling his headband down over his eyes.
  • Wizard Duel: In "Prince Khaemwase and Si-Osiri" the story-within-the-story features a duel between an Egyptian wizard and an Ethiopian wizard at the royal court in Memphis. Though Egyptian, this tale is only from the 1st century AD.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: One of Aesop's Fables.
  • Wonder Child: Isaac in The Bible.
  • World of Ham: Happens in The Bible.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Mrs. Potiphar in The Bible.
  • Wretched Hive: Sodom and Gomorrah from The Bible.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: According to Mahabharata and other texts from Hindu Mythology, King Kakudmi a.k.a. Raivata went to Brahma to ask for advice on to whom he should marry his daughter. After waiting for what seemed to be short time, Brahma informed him that 108 yugas had already passed on earth, and all the candidates that Raivata had considered suitable son-in-laws had died long ago.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Homer's Odyssey.
  • You Have Waited Long Enough: Poor Penelope has to put up with this for years in The Odyssey.
  • You Make Me Sick: A surviving fragment of Plautus' lost play Frivolaria.
  • Youngest Child Wins:
    • Zeus, king of the Greek gods, is the youngest of his siblings according to Hesiod. His father Cronos, previous king of the gods, was also the youngest son. Homer, however, makes Zeus the eldest son of Cronos.
    • Also a remarkably popular trope in The Bible: Abel, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Moses were all favored younger sons. (In most cases, parental favoritism led to big trouble...)
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Emperor Claudius vs. Beached Killer Whale.


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