Looking back at the Hercules television series starring Kevin Sorbo, and its spin-off Xena: Warrior Princess, it is difficult to pin down just when the shows were set. This is due to the Xenaverse (as the show's setting is commonly known) drawing off a number of historical and mythological sources.
The mythos of ancient times continues to live on in a variety of new forms. Series like American Gods mix the deities of dozens of cultures to tell new stories in a modern setting. Video games like the God of War franchise do the same thing, allowing players to interact with the monsters and gods of old. Yet despite the variety of new tales that have been told over the past 25 years, Hercules and Xena have retained their following.
Because of that legacy, many still wonder how the two series managed to build their shared universe and just when exactly it was meant to take place. It doesn't help matters that the show was intentionally anachronistic in its costuming, with Hercules sporting a sleeveless shirt and trousers rather than a Grecian tunic and the love goddess Aphrodite favoring modern lingerie whenever she appeared. Here's a breakdown of how the Xenaverse came into being and just when the events of the shows were meant to take place.
Xena: Warrior Princess' Timeline Established A Historical Setting
The Xenaverse presented a fully developed world mixing historical events and mythology, but when did the adventures of Hercules & Xena take place?
Premiering in the fall of 1995 alongside Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Season 2, Xena: Warrior Princess quickly eclipsed the show that inspired it. The new series centered on Xena as she traveled the world with aspiring bard Gabrielle, seeking redemption for her evil past. In expanding its setting and establishing Xena's history before encountering Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess became equal parts historical epic and fantasy. This increased scope was part of the reason for Xena's longevity and part of why it remains a cult classic to this day.
Xena was established as having a long rivalry with Julius Caesar (played by a young Karl Urban) and Caesar was one of the series' main antagonists until his death in the Season 4 finale, "The Ides of March." This established a rough chronology for when both series took place, with Caesar having been assassinated in 44 BC. It should be noted, however, that neither show was ever concerned with historical accuracy, even after they began utilizing notable historical figures. For instance, one episode of Xena: Warrior Princess Season 6 pitted Xena and Gabrielle against a divinely empowered Caligula, who was depicted as the Emperor of Rome some 25 years after Julius Caesar's death. In our reality, Caligula did not become Emperor until 37 AD. The show also made references to the Lao Dynasty and Ming Dynasty of China, which would not come to exist until many centuries after the fall of Rome.
How Xena: Warrior Princess Expanded The Mythology
Beyond utilizing real-world historical figures, Xena: Warrior Princess also began to utilize mythology from outside the era of Classical Greece. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys followed suit, with both series going on to tackle Norse mythology, bringing characters like Odin and Thor into play. In the episode "Norse by Norsewest," Hercules took the place of the god Höðr in being manipulated by Loki into accidentally killing Balder with a dart made of mistletoe and setting up the start of Ragnarok. Xena: Warrior Princess reworked Xena into the Ring Cycle, making Xena into both a contemporary of the valkyrie Brunhilda and the Dane hero Beowulf. Xena was also revealed to have had traveled to Asia and received training as a samurai, albeit in armor that was not historically accurate and protected very little.