God of courage and war
|Member of the Twelve Olympians|
|Abode||Mount Olympus, Thrace, Macedonia, Thebes, Sparta & Mani|
|Symbols||Sword, spear, shield, helmet, chariot, flaming torch, dog, boar, vulture|
|Day||Tuesday (h?mér? Áre?s)|
|Parents||Zeus and Hera|
|Siblings||Aeacus, Angelos, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Enyo, Eris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, Hephaestus, Heracles, Hermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses, the Moirai|
|Children||Erotes (Eros and Anteros), Phobos, Deimos, Phlegyas, Harmonia, Enyalios, Thrax, Oenomaus, Cycnus, and Amazons|
Ares (; Ancient Greek: ?, Ár?s [ár?:s]) is the Greek god of courage and war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera. The Greeks were ambivalent toward him. He embodies the physical valor necessary for success in war but can also personify sheer brutality and bloodlust, in contrast to his sister, the armored Athena, whose martial functions include military strategy and generalship. An association with Ares endows places and objects with a savage, dangerous, or militarized quality.
Although Ares' name shows his origins as Mycenaean, his reputation for savagery was thought by some to reflect his likely origins as a Thracian deity. Some cities in Greece and several in Asia Minor held annual festivals to bind and detain him as their protector. In parts of Asia Minor he was an oracular deity. Still further away from Greece, the Scythians were said to ritually kill one in a hundred prisoners of war as an offering to their equivalent of Ares, but the later belief that ancient Spartans had offered human sacrifice to Ares may owe more to mythical prehistory and misunderstandings than to reality.
Though there are many literary allusions to his love affairs and children, Ares has a limited role in Greek mythology. When he does appear, he is often humiliated. Most famously, when the craftsman-god Hephaestus discovered his wife Aphrodite was having an affair with Ares, he trapped the lovers in a net and exposed them to the ridicule of the other gods.
His nearest counterpart in Roman religion is Mars, who was given a more important and dignified place in ancient Roman religion. During the Hellenization of Latin literature, the myths of Ares were reinterpreted by Roman writers under the name of Mars, and in later Western art and literature, the mythology of the two figures became virtually indistinguishable.
The etymology of the name Ares is traditionally connected with the Greek word (ar?), the Ionic form of the Doric (ara), "bane, ruin, curse, imprecation". Walter Burkert notes that "Ares is apparently an ancient abstract noun meaning throng of battle, war." R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin of the name.
The adjectival epithet, Areios, was frequently appended to the names of other gods when they took on a warrior aspect or became involved in warfare: Zeus Areios, Athena Areia, even Aphrodite Areia. In the Iliad, the word ares is used as a common noun synonymous with "battle." Ares' attributes are a helmet, shield, and sword or spear.
In mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, only a few places are known to have had a formal temple and cult of Ares.[n 2] Pausanias (2nd century AD) notes an altar to Ares at Olympia, and the moving of a Temple of Ares to the Athenian agora during the reign of Augustus, essentially rededicating it (2 AD) as a Roman temple to the Augustan Mars Ultor. The Areopagus ("mount of Ares"), a natural rock outcrop in Athens, some distance from the Acropolis, was supposedly where Ares was tried and acquitted by the gods for his revenge-killing of Poseidon's son, Halirrhothius, who had raped Ares' daughter Alcippe. Its name was used for the court that met there, mostly to investigate and try potential cases of treason. Numismatist M. Jessop Price states that Ares "typified the traditional Spartan character", but had no important cult in Sparta; and he never occurs on Spartan coins. Gonzalez observes, in his 2005 survey of Ares' cults in Asia Minor, that cults to Ares on the Greek mainland may have been more common than some sources assert. 
There was an archaic Spartan statue of Ares in chains in the temple of Enyalios (sometimes regarded as the son of Ares, sometimes as Ares himself), which Pausanias claimed meant that the spirit of war and victory was to be kept in the city.[n 3] Gods were immortal but could be bound and restrained, both in mythic narrative and in cult practise; the Spartans are known to have ritually bound the images of other deities, including Aphrodite and Artemis (cf Ares and Aphrodite bound by Hephaestus), and in other places there were chained statues of Artemis and Dionysos. Statues of Ares in chains are described in the instructions given by an oracle of the late Hellenistic era to various cities of Pamphylia (in Anatolia) including Syedra, Lycia and Cilicia, places almost perpetually under threat from pirates. Each was told to set up a statue of "bloody, man-slaying Ares" and provide it with an annual festival in which it was ritually bound with iron fetters ("by Dike and Hermes") as if a supplicant for justice, put on trial and offered sacrifice. The oracle promises that "thus will he become a peaceful deity for you, once he has driven the enemy horde far from your country, and he will give rise to prosperity much prayed for." This Ares karpodotes ("giver of Fruits") is well attested in Lycia and Pisidia.
Like most Greek deities, Ares was given animal sacrifice; in Sparta, after battle, he was given an ox for a victory by stratagem, or a rooster for victory through onslaught.[n 4] The usual recipient of sacrifice before battle was Athena. Reports of historic human sacrifice to Ares in an obscure rite known as the Hekatomphonia represent a very long-standing error, repeated through several centuries and well into the modern era.[n 5] The hekatomphonia was an animal sacrifice to Zeus; it could be offered by any warrior who had personally slain one hundred of the enemy.[n 6]Pausanias reports that in Sparta, each company of youths sacrificed a puppy to Enyalios before engaging in a hand-to-hand "fight without rules" at the Phoebaeum.[n 7] the chthonic night-time sacrifice of a dog to Enyalios became assimilated to the cult of Ares. Porphyry claims, without detail, that Apollodorus of Athens (circa second century BC) says the Spartans made human sacrifices to Ares, which may be a reference to mythic pre-history,
A Thracian god identified by Herodotus (c. 484 - c. 425 BC) as Ares, through interpretatio Graeca, was one of three otherwise unnamed deities that Thracian commoners were said to worship. Herodotus recognised and named the other two as "Dionysus" and "Artemis". The Thracian aristocracy exclusively worshiped a form of Hermes. In Herodotus' Histories, the Scythians worship an indigenous form of Greek Ares, who is otherwise unnamed, but ranked beneath Tabiti (whom Herodotus claims as a form of Hestia), Api and Papaios in Scythia's divine hierarchy. His cult object was an iron sword. The "Scythian Ares" was offered blood-sacrifices (or ritual killings) of cattle, horses and "one in every hundred human war-captives", whose blood was used to douse the sword. Statues, and complex platform-altars made of heaped brushwood were devoted to him. This sword-cult, or one very similar, is said to have persisted among the Alans. Some have posited that the "Sword of Mars" in later European history alludes to the Huns having adopted Ares.
In some parts of Asia Minor, Ares was a prominent oracular deity, something not found in any Hellennic cult to Ares or Roman cult to Mars. Ares was linked in some regions or polities with a local god or cultic hero, and recognised as a higher, more prestigious deity than in mainland Greece. His cults in southern Asia Minor are attested from the 5th century BC and well into the later Roman Imperial era, at 29 different sites, and on over 70 local coin issues. He is sometimes represented on coinage of the region by the "Helmet of Ares" or carrying a spear and a shield, or as a fully armed warrior, sometimes accompanied by a female deity. In what is now western Turkey, the Hellenistic city of Metropolis built a monumental temple to Ares as the city's protector, not before the 3rd century BC. It is now lost, but the names of some of its priests and priestesses survive, along with the temple's likely depictions on coins of the province.
In Africa, Ma?rem, the principal god of the kings of Aksum prior to the 4th century AD, was invoked as Ares in Greek inscriptions. The anonymous king who commissioned the Monumentum Adulitanum in the late 2nd or early 3rd century refers to "my greatest god, Ares, who also begat me, through whom I brought under my sway [various peoples]". The monumental throne celebrating the king's conquests was itself dedicated to Ares. In the early 4th century, the last pagan king of Aksum, Ezana, referred to "the one who brought me forth, the invincible Ares".
Ares was one of the Twelve Olympians in the archaic tradition represented by the Iliad and Odyssey. In Greek literature, Ares often represents the physical or violent and untamed aspect of war and is the personification of sheer brutality and bloodlust ("overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering", as Burkert puts it), in contrast to his sister, the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and generalship. An association with Ares endows places and objects with a savage, dangerous, or militarized quality.
In the Iliad, Zeus expresses a recurring Greek revulsion toward the god when Ares returns wounded and complaining from the battlefield at Troy:
Then looking at him darkly Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to him:
"Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympus.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.
And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky."
This ambivalence is expressed also in the Greeks' association of Ares with the Thracians, whom they regarded as a barbarous and warlike people. Thrace was considered to be Ares's birthplace and his refuge after the affair with Aphrodite was exposed to the general mockery of the other gods.[n 8]
A late-6th-century BC funerary inscription from Attica emphasizes the consequences of coming under Ares's sway:
Stay and mourn at the tomb of dead Kroisos
Whom raging Ares destroyed one day, fighting in the foremost ranks.
When Ares does appear in myths, he typically faces humiliation.
In the Argonautica, the Golden Fleece hangs in a grove sacred to Ares, until its theft by Jason. The Birds of Ares (Ornithes Areioi) drop feather darts in defense of the Amazons' shrine to Ares, as father of their queen, on a coastal island in the Black Sea.
Ares played a central role in the founding myth of Thebes, as the progenitor of the water-dragon slain by Cadmus. The dragon's teeth were sown into the ground as if a crop and sprang up as the fully armored autochthonic Spartoi. Cadmus placed himself in the god's service for eight years to atone for killing the dragon. To further propitiate Ares, Cadmus took as a bride Harmonia, a daughter of Ares's union with Aphrodite. In this way, Cadmus harmonized all strife and founded the city of Thebes. In reality, Thebes dominated Boeotia's great and fertile plain, which in both history and myth was a battleground for competing polities. According to Plutarch, the plain was anciently described as "The dancing-floor of Ares".
In the Odyssey, in the tale sung by the bard in the hall of Alcinous, the Sun-god Helios once spied Ares and Aphrodite having sex secretly in the hall of Hephaestus, her husband. He reported the incident to Hephaestus. Contriving to catch the illicit couple in the act, Hephaestus fashioned a finely-knitted and nearly invisible net with which to snare them. At the appropriate time, this net was sprung, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite locked in very private embrace.[n 9]
But Hephaestus was not satisfied with his revenge, so he invited the Olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair. For the sake of modesty, the goddesses demurred, but the male gods went to witness the sight. Some commented on the beauty of Aphrodite, others remarked that they would eagerly trade places with Ares, but all who were present mocked the two. Once the couple was released, the embarrassed Ares returned to his homeland, Thrace, and Aphrodite went to Paphos.[n 9]
In a much later interpolated detail, Ares put the young soldier Alectryon by his door to warn them of Helios's arrival as Helios would tell Hephaestus of Aphrodite's infidelity if the two were discovered, but Alectryon fell asleep on guard duty. Helios discovered the two and alerted Hephaestus. The furious Ares turned the sleepy Alectryon into a rooster which now always announces the arrival of the sun in the morning.
In one archaic myth, related only in the Iliad by the goddess Dione to her daughter Aphrodite, two chthonic giants, the Aloadae, named Otus and Ephialtes, bound Ares in chains and imprisoned him in a bronze urn, where he remained for thirteen months, a lunar year. "And that would have been the end of Ares and his appetite for war, if the beautiful Eriboea, the young giants' stepmother, had not told Hermes what they had done," she related. In this, [Burkert] suspects "a festival of licence which is unleashed in the thirteenth month."
Ares was held screaming and howling in the urn until Hermes rescued him, and Artemis tricked the Aloadae into slaying each other. In Nonnus's Dionysiaca Ares also killed Ekhidnades, the giant son of Echidna, and a great enemy of the gods. Scholars have not concluded whether the nameless Ekhidnades ("of Echidna's lineage") was entirely Nonnus's invention or not.
In the Iliad, Homer represented Ares as having no fixed allegiances, rewarding courage on both sides: he promised Athena and Hera that he would fight on the side of the Achaeans (Iliad V.830-834, XXI.410-414), but Aphrodite persuaded Ares to side with the Trojans. During the war, Diomedes fought with Hector and saw Ares fighting on the Trojans' side. Diomedes called for his soldiers to fall back slowly (V.590-605).
Athene or Athena, Ares's sister, saw his interference and asked Zeus, his father, for permission to drive Ares away from the battlefield, which Zeus granted (V.711-769). Hera and Athena encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares (V.780-834). Diomedes thrust with his spear at Ares, with Athena driving it home, and Ares's cries made Achaeans and Trojans alike tremble (V.855-864). Ares fled to Mount Olympus, forcing the Trojans to fall back.
When Hera mentioned to Zeus that Ares's son, Ascalaphus, was killed, Ares overheard and wanted to join the fight on the side of the Achaeans, disregarding Zeus's order that no Olympic god should enter the battle, but Athena stopped him (XV.110-128). Later, when Zeus allowed the gods to fight in the war again (XX.20-29), Ares was the first to act, attacking Athena to avenge himself for his previous injury. Athena overpowered him by striking Ares with a boulder (XXI.391-408).
Deimos ("Terror" or "Dread") and Phobos ("Fear") are Ares' companions in war, and according to Hesiod, are also his children by Aphrodite. Eris, the goddess of discord, or Enyo, the goddess of war, bloodshed, and violence, was considered the sister and companion of the violent Ares. In at least one tradition, Enyalius, rather than another name for Ares, was his son by Enyo.
Ares may also be accompanied by Kydoimos, the daemon of the din of battle; the Makhai ("Battles"); the "Hysminai" ("Acts of manslaughter"); Polemos, a minor spirit of war, or only an epithet of Ares, since it has no specific dominion; and Polemos's daughter, Alala, the goddess or personification of the Greek war-cry, whose name Ares uses as his own war-cry. Ares's sister Hebe ("Youth") also draws baths for him.
Though Ares plays a relatively limited role in Greek mythology as represented in literary narratives, his numerous love affairs and abundant offspring are often alluded to. The union of Ares and Aphrodite created the gods Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos, and Harmonia. Other versions include Alcippe as one of his daughters.
Cycnus () of Macedonia, a son of Ares who was so murderous that he tried to build a temple with the skulls and the bones of travellers. Heracles slaughtered this abominable monstrosity, engendering the wrath of Ares, whom the hero wounded in conflict.
Sometimes poets and dramatists recounted ancient traditions, which varied, and sometimes they invented new details; later scholiasts might draw on either or simply guess. Thus while Phobos and Deimos were regularly described as offspring of Ares, others listed here such as Meleager, Sinope and Solymus were sometimes said to be children of Ares and sometimes given other fathers.
|Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Eros, Anteros, Himeros, Pothos,||Aphrodite|
|Odomantus, Mygdon, Edonus (possibly)||Calliope|
|Biston||Terpsichore or Callirrhoe|
|Dragon of Thebes||Erinys of Telphusa|
|Crestone , Diomedes of Thrace||Cyrene|
|Phlegyas||Chryse or Dotis|
|Euenus. Molus, Pylus||Demonice|
|Oenomaus||Eurythoe the Danaid|
|Antiope, Hippolyta, Melanippe, Penthesilea||Otrera|
|Cycnus||Pelopia or Pyrene|
|Alcon of Thrace, Calydon, Chalyps, Cheimarrhoos, Dryas, Evadne, Hyperbius, Lycus of Libya, Nisos, Oeagrus, Paeon, Portheus (Porthaon), Tereus||unknown|
The nearest counterpart of Ares among the Roman gods is Mars, originally an agricultural deity, who as a father of the Roman people was given a more important and dignified place in ancient Roman religion as a guardian deity of the entire Roman state and its people. During the Hellenization of Latin literature, the myths of Ares were reinterpreted by Roman writers under the name of Mars. Greek writers under Roman rule also recorded cult practices and beliefs pertaining to Mars under the name of Ares. Thus in the classical tradition of later Western art and literature, the mythology of the two figures later became virtually indistinguishable.
In Renaissance and Neoclassical works of art, Ares's symbols are a spear and helmet, his animal is a dog, and his bird is the vulture. In literary works of these eras, Ares is replaced by the Roman Mars, a romantic emblem of manly valor rather than the cruel and blood-thirsty god of Greek mythology.
[In Robert Fagles's translation]: ... and the two lovers, free of the bonds that overwhelmed them so, sprang up and away at once, and the Wargod sped Thrace, while Love with her telltale laughter sped to Paphos ...