Ares was the Greek god of war, courage, and violence. As one of the Twelve Olympians, he held a prominent position in ancient Greek religion and mythology. However, he was not a widely beloved or popular deity like some other Greek gods. This was mainly due to his associations with the more brutal aspects of warfare.
The Romans later equated him with Mars, their own god of war. In modern times, the mythology of Ares and Mars has become intertwined.
Ares Facts God For Kids
- Ares is the Greek god of war.
- He’s the son of Zeus and Hera.
- Ares’ Roman counterpart is Mars.
- Symbols: spear, helmet, dog.
- Lover to Aphrodite; had Eros.
- Often opposed by Athena.
- Considered brash and violent.
- Rarely married or settled.
- Captured by giants once.
- His bird is the vulture.
Names and Epithets
The name Ares likely derives from the Greek word “arē” meaning ruin, curse, or bane. His name in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form, was “a-re.”
He was sometimes referred to as Enyalios, a name that either represented Ares himself or a separate war god. Enyalios may have originated as a war deity in Mycenaean times.
Areios and Enyalios were common epithets used for other gods when they took on martial or warlike aspects. The Spartans had an archaic statue of Ares in chains, representing the idea of binding the spirit of war.
Attributes and Symbols
Ares is typically portrayed as a mighty warrior in full battle armor, wearing a helmet and carrying a shield and spear. His attributes are the instruments of warfare and bloodshed.
His sacred animals were the vulture, dog, and wild boar. The wild boar may symbolize Ares’ savage and brutal nature.
Apples were sometimes considered a symbolic offering to Ares, possibly because they represent discord and strife. The color red, blood, and the mineral hematite were also associated with the god.
Tuesday was considered Ares’ sacred day in ancient Greece. The planet Mars, named for the Roman version of Ares, was also associated with him.
Cults and Worship
Considering his status as an Olympian, Ares did not have an extensive cult in ancient Greece. His worship was largely limited to the margins of the Greek world. A few places like Olympia had altars dedicated to him, but he only had a handful of major temples.
The Greeks were often ambivalent about openly worshipping a god who personified the more violent aspects of war. Athens had a modest cult of Ares in the agora during the Roman period.
But Ares did see more devotion in places like Sparta, Crete, Thrace, and parts of Asia Minor. He was bound in chains and fetters by some cities, possibly to symbolically restrain his warlike spirit.
Human sacrifice was not typically offered to Ares, contrary to some claims. Animal sacrifices like oxen, dogs, and roosters were more common.
Origins and Genealogy
Ares was the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and Hera. This made him one of the younger Olympian gods. Some accounts say Hera conceived him alone out of spite toward Zeus.
There are conflicting theories about his origins. His name indicates he may have Mycenaean origins. But his associations with Thrace have led some to propose he was originally a Thracian deity.
In any case, Ares arrived in mainland Greece as a fully-fledged god of war. He had numerous divine lovers and offspring, many of whom embodied some aspect of war, combat, or destruction.
Some of Ares’ famous children include Phobos (Fear), Deimos (Terror), Harmonia (Harmony), and Eros (Love). The latter two resulted from his affair with Aphrodite.
Myths and Exploits
Ares played a prominent role in various Greek myths, often those involving war or conflict. In one key myth, Cadmus killed Ares’ sacred dragon and then had to serve him for eight years. This story connected Ares to the founding of Thebes.
During the Trojan War, Ares fought alongside the Trojans against the Greeks. He had a lengthy affair with Aphrodite which was eventually exposed by her husband Hephaestus.
In the Iliad, Ares is driven from the battlefield by the Greek hero Diomedes, with Athena’s help. Homer’s epic depicts the other gods’ disdain for the brutal Ares.
Another myth tells of Ares being trapped in a bronze jar by the giants Otus and Ephialtes. He was held prisoner for 13 months before being rescued by Hermes. This story likely symbolized restraining war during a ritual time of peace.
The Romans identified Ares with Mars, their own war god. But they emphasized Mars’ roles as an agricultural guardian and father of the Roman people rather than just a god of violence.
Ares in Art and Literature
In Greek art, Ares is depicted as a powerful warrior in armor, reflecting his position as a god of battle and carnage. But he is not a clever strategist like his sister Athena, who often gets the better of him.
Ares is alluded to in various works of ancient Greek literature. In the epic poems of Homer, he is portrayed as disliked by the other gods due to his quick temper and penchant for violence. The tragedians also referenced Ares frequently in plays detailing ancient mythology.
During Roman times and the Renaissance, artists and writers increasingly conflated Ares with the more positive Mars. In recent centuries, Ares has become more synonymous with Mars’ attributes of valor and masculinity rather than solely bloodlust.