Three years ago, we initiated a programme of research in which ideas and tools from statistical physics and network theory were applied to the field of comparative mythology. The eclecticism of the work, together with the perspectives it delivered, led to widespread media coverage and academic discussion. Here we review some aspects of the project, contextualised with a brief history of the long relationship between science and the humanities. We focus in particular on an Irish epic, summarising some of the outcomes of our quantitative investigation. We also describe the emergence of a new sub-discipline and our hopes for its future.