Ares is the Greek god of war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians, the son of Zeus and Hera. In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent and untamed aspect of war and is the personification of sheer brutality, in contrast to his sister, the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and generalship.
The Greeks were toward Ares: although he embodied the physical valor necessary for success in war, he was a dangerous force, "overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering." His sons Phobos and Deimos and his lover, or sister, Enyo accompanied him on his war chariot. In the Iliad, his father Zeus tells him that he is the god most hateful to him. An association with Ares endows places and objects with a savage, dangerous, or militarized quality. His value as a war god is placed in doubt: during the Trojan War, Ares was on the losing side, while Athena, often depicted in Greek art as holding Nike in her hand, favoured the triumphant Greeks.
Ares plays a relatively limited role in Greek mythology as represented in literary narratives, though his numerous love affairs and abundant offspring are often alluded to. When Ares does appear in myths, he typically faces humiliation. He is well known as the lover of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was married to Hephaestus, god of craftsmanship. The most famous story related to Ares and Aphrodite shows them exposed to ridicule through the wronged husband's device.
The counterpart of Ares among the Roman gods is Mars, who as a father of the Roman people was given a more important and dignified place in ancient Roman religion as a guardian deity. 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.
NamesThe etymology of the name Ares is traditionally connected with the Greek word ἀρή, the Ionic form of the Doric ἀρά, "bane, ruin, curse, imprecation". There may also be a connection with the Roman god of war, Mars, via hypothetical Proto-Indo-European *M̥rēs; compare Ancient Greek μάρναμαι, "I fight, I battle". 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 earliest attested form of the name is the Mycenaean Greek ??, a-re, written in the Linear B syllabic script.
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."
Inscriptions as early as Mycenaean times, and continuing into the Classical period, attest to Enyalios as another name for the god of war.
Character, origins, and worshipAres was one of the Twelve Olympians in the archaic tradition represented by the Iliad and Odyssey. Zeus expresses a recurring Greek revulsion toward the god when Ares returns wounded and complaining from the battlefield at Troy:
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 Ares's birthplace, his true home, and his refuge after the affair with Aphrodite was exposed to the general mockery of the other gods.
A late-6th-century BC funerary inscription from Attica emphasizes the consequences of coming under Ares's sway:
Ares in SpartaIn Sparta, Ares was viewed as a model soldier: his resilience, physical strength, and military intelligence were unrivaled. An ancient statue, representing the god in chains, suggests that the martial spirit and victory were to be kept in the city of Sparta. That the Spartans admired him is indicative of the cultural divisions that existed between themselves and other Greeks, especially the Athenians.
Ares in the Arabian PeninsulaAres was also worshipped by the inhabitants of Tylos. It is not known if he was worshipped in the form of an Arabian god or if he was worshipped in his Greek form.
Ares in the ScythiansAccording to Herodotus' Histories, the Scythians worshipped a god he equated with the Greek Ares; unlike most other Scythian gods, he does not offer the indigenous name for this deity. While ranking beneath Tabiti, Api and Papaios in the divine hierarchy, this god was apparently worshipped differently from other Scythian gods, with statues and complex altars devoted to him. This type of worship is noted to be present among the Alans.
Noting how Greek mythological Amazons are devotees of Ares and most likely based on Scythian warriors, some researchers have considered the possibility that a Scythian warrior women cult of this deity existed. Others have also posited that the "Sword of Mars" alludes to the Huns having adopted this deity.
Ares in Ethiopia, the principal god of the kings of Aksum prior to the 4th century AD, was always equated with Ares. In their Greek inscriptions, the kings invoke Ares. In bilingual inscriptions, where the Ethiopic has Maḥrem the Greek will have Ares. The anonymous king who put up 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".
AttributesAres’ attributes were a helmet, shield, and sword or spear. The birds of Ares were a flock of feather-dart-dropping birds that guarded the Amazons' shrine of the god on a coastal island in the Black Sea.
Cult and ritualAlthough Ares received occasional sacrifice from armies going to war, the god had a formal temple and cult at only a few sites. At Sparta, however, each company of youths sacrificed a puppy to Enyalios before engaging in ritual fighting at the Phoebaeum. The chthonic night-time sacrifice of a dog to Enyalios became assimilated to the cult of Ares.
Just east of Sparta stood an archaic statue of Ares in chains, to show that the spirit of war and victory was to be kept in the city.
The Temple of Ares in the agora of Athens, which Pausanias saw in the second century AD, had been moved and rededicated there during the time of Augustus. Essentially, it was a Roman temple to the Augustan Mars Ultor. From archaic times, the Areopagus, the "mount of Ares" at some distance from the Acropolis, was a site of trials. Paul the Apostle later preached about Christianity there. Its connection with Ares, perhaps based on a false etymology, is etiological myth. A second temple to Ares has been located at the archaeological site of Metropolis in what is now Western Turkey.
AttendantsAres's sons Deimos and Phobos are his companions in war. According to Hesiod, they were also his children, born to him 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 ; the "Hysminai" ; 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 also draws baths for him.
According to Pausanias, local inhabitants of Therapne, Sparta, recognized Thero, "feral, savage," as a nurse of Ares.
Consorts and childrenThe union of Ares and Aphrodite created the gods Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos, and Harmonia. Other versions include Alcippe as one of his daughters.
Upon one occasion, Ares incurred the anger of Poseidon by slaying his son, Halirrhothius, because he had raped Alcippe, a daughter of the war-god. For this deed, Poseidon summoned Ares to appear before the tribunal of the Olympic gods, which was held upon a hill in Athens. Ares was acquitted. This event is supposed to have given rise to the name Areopagus, which afterward became famous as the site of a court of justice.
Accounts tell of 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.
List of Ares's consorts and children
Hymns to Ares;Homeric Hymn 8 to Ares
;Orphic Hymn 65 to Ares
Founding of ThebesOne of the roles of Ares was expressed in mainland Greece as the founding myth of Thebes: Ares was the progenitor of the water-dragon slain by Cadmus, for 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 atoning for the crime of killing Ares’ dragon. To 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.
, Roman version of a Greek original c. 320 BC, with 17th-century restorations by Bernini
Ares and AphroditeIn 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.
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.
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.
Ares and the giantsIn 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, threw Ares into chains and put 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 one 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 was entirely Nonnus's invention or not.
''Iliad''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, 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.
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. Hera and Athena encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares. Diomedes thrust with his spear at Ares, with Athena driving it home, and Ares's cries made Achaeans and Trojans alike tremble. 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. Later, when Zeus allowed the gods to fight in the war again, Ares was the first to act, attacking Athena to avenge himself for his previous injury. Athena overpowered him by striking Ares with a boulder.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.