Myths and Facts About Ares – Greek God of War
Known for his impulsiveness and unrelenting thirst for blood, Ares, the Greek god of war, was feared by men and Greek deities. Among all the major Greek gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus (the gods’ home), Ares was the most despised as well. The warrior god was always red hot and burning with rage.
His Roman equivalent was Mars. Slightly different from Ares, Mars – the patron god of Rome and war – was often depicted in a bit more composed and disciplined manner than Ares.
Considering the fact that Ares had anything but love in his heart, it was quite uncharacteristic of him to successfully fall in love with the goddess Aphrodite-the god of love. In order to fully understand Ares, here are some major myths and facts about the Greek god of war:
Ares’ birth in Greek Mythology
Ares was the product of a union between supreme god king Zeus and god queen Hera. Accordingly, he got his strength from Zeus, and his vindictiveness and thirst for violence came from his mother, Hera.
It’s been stated in many ancient Greek myths that Ares was often ignored by his father. Right from birth, Zeus sided more with his other children, especially Athena. Perhaps, this was what pushed Ares into a path of utter chaos, destruction, and war.
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How did Ares become the Greek god of War?
Ares’ behavior as a child was certainly unbecoming. As a result, he received significantly less attention from the king of Olympus, Zeus. His mother, Hera, was perhaps the only one who truly understood him. According to a number of ancient Greek stories, Zeus, as well other gods on Mount Olympus, completely hated Ares. All the disgust and hate that were meted out enraged Ares to seek war and violence.
In comparison to his sister, goddess Athena, Ares often lacked any meaningful battle strategy or wisdom. It was not uncommon for him to let his lust for cruelty get the better of him. Winning was of little significance to Ares; all that he wanted was to see men fight and kill each other.
How is Ares depicted in Greek Mythology?
The ancient Greeks usually depicted Ares as a warrior wielding a spear and a shield. In some cases, he donned metal armor and a shining helmet while riding a fierce-looking chariot. The horses that pulled the chariot were often shown breathing fire. They were also very fast and agile, trampling everything that came in their path.
Ares’ most glaring attribute (perhaps weakness) was his crude and uncontrollable urge for violence. Because he was not so much endowed with strategic thinking or wisdom, he relied on mostly his strength and love for blood-shed. Being the god of war, Ares always left a trail of suffering and bodies wherever he went.
On the flip side of things, some stories from the myths paint Ares as one of the finest gods on Mount Olympus. His beauty and courage were just some of the reasons why Aphrodite fell in love with him.
Ares’ Affair with the Goddess Aphrodite
In many stories from Greek mythology, Ares never settled down and married; he was simply too busy lusting over war and devastation. However, it has been stated that Ares once fell madly in love with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The two deities were complete opposites, but somehow they felt attracted to each other. What gives? In any case, their little romance was not entirely chaste. Aphrodite was already married to Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and weapons-making.
Hephaestus’ Ingenious Trap for Ares
Sensing that his wife, Aphrodite, was having an affair with Ares, Hephaestus set forth to trap them. According to Homer’s Odyssey, Hephaestus delicately placed an unbreakable golden net around Aphrodite’s bed. The mechanism worked in such a way that, the moment Ares and Aphrodite got together, the net activated and bounded the two in a very compromising position. Subsequently, Hephaestus put Aphrodite and Ares on display for the gods at Mount Olympus to ridicule. The two unfaithful gods were temporarily kicked out of Mount Olympus.
Ares’ Most Famous Children
Like many of his fellow gods, Ares had several illegitimate children with both goddesses and mortal women. Majority of Ares’ children came from his union with Aphrodite. What this meant was that, some of Ares’ children turned out to be either full of hate (like their dad) or love (like their mother, Aphrodite).
- Phobos and Deimos
Usually, Ares’ children Phobos (the god of fear) and Deimos (the god of terror) accompanied him to battle. On some occasions, his sibling, Eris- the goddess of strife, joined him whenever he ransacked a village.
- The Four Erotes
The four main Erotes (Eros, Anteros, Himeros, and Pothos) in Greek mythology refer to Ares’ children with Aphrodite. The Erotes picked the majority of their attributes from Aphrodite. Thus, they were often considered gods of love, desire, and sex. The most famous of the Erotes has to be Eros- the god of love, desire, and sex.
The deity Harmonia was associated with harmony. Among all the children of Ares, Harmonia was the one that worked the most to nullify the evil deeds of Ares and his other warmongering children.
Adrestia was another child that came out of the union between Ares and Aphrodite. She was responsible for keeping the balance between love and hate. According to ancient Greeks, she is also known as: “she who cannot be escaped”. At every point in time, she made sure that there was a perfect balance between the two opposing forces of good and evil. In some cases, ancient Greeks revered her as the goddess of revolt or retribution. This earned her another name- the goddess of nemesis.
In the Amazon regions, Ares fathered a child who later became the Amazon queen Hippolyta. This is why many Greek mythologists sometimes considered the Amazonians descendants of Ares.
Ancient City-States that Worshiped Ares
Due to his violent and truculent nature, Ares was hardly worshiped in Ancient Greece. He was considered hideous and unwise- the most hated of all gods in the Greek pantheon. When it came to issues of war, city-states like Athens preferred Athena- the goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare. Still, there existed a minuscule number of cult sites in Athens for Ares’ followers.
However, in places like Sparta and Thrace, Ares was absolutely revered. According to the Athenians, those cities had several cult sites and temples dedicated to Ares. For example, the Spartans always marched into battles praying to Ares. They sought his help to vanquish their enemies on the battlefield. Erythrae, Megalopolis, Tegae, and Troezon are some examples of cities that worshiped Ares.
It is interesting to note that because of Athens’ predisposition for intellectual reasoning and philosophy, the Athenians selected a god whose attributes aligned with their social fabric. Therefore, they preferred Athena over all other gods and goddesses. On the other hand, the Athenians believed that warrior city-states, like Sparta, predominantly worshiped Ares because they were uncivilized and much more prone to the usage of untamed force.
Ares’ battles with the gods and giants
Quite reasonably, the war-loving god of Olympus had a very high tendency to get into a lot of fights with several gods and demigods. And in most cases, Ares was the vanquished one. This was obviously due to his lack of planning or any strategic approach to battle.
- Hercules injures Ares
The battle he had with the demigod Hercules is certainly one of the best-told stories in Greek mythology. The friction between Hercules and Ares came as a result of Kyknos’ (Ares’ son) terrorizing travelers en route to the oracle at Delphi. Apollo had gotten tired of Kyknos’ evil acts; therefore, Apollo sent Hercules to take care of the situation. After Kyknos fell at the hands of Hercules, Ares swore to avenge the death of his son. Luckily for demigod, Athena came to his rescue. The goddess of wisdom helped Hercules injure Ares gravely.
This was not the first time that Hercules came face to face with Ares. More often than not, Hercules somewhat served as the protector of many Greek cities against aggressive moves by Ares or his various children. Hercules once stole a magical girdle from Amazon queen Hippolyta- Ares’ daughter. Another child of Ares, the demigod Eurytion, had his herd of cattle stolen by Hercules.
- Hermes rescues Ares from the twin giants
At an infant age, Ares was once imprisoned in a bronze jar by two humongous giants- Ephialtes and Otus. The giants’ mother got wind of what was going on and sought help from the god Hermes. Ares was eventually set free by Hermes.
- Ares’ role during the Trojan War
Whenever and wherever a war broke out, Ares was either the instigator, or he was there to inflict even greater pains and sufferings. During the Trojan War between Troy and Greece, Ares immersed himself deep in the war and backed the Trojans. According to Homer’s Iliad, Ares’ presence in the war brought him into direct confrontation with his sister, the goddess Athena. The Greeks relied heavily on the wisdom and strategy of Athena- their patron goddess. On the other hand, the Trojans relied on Ares- a god of brute force but very low on strategy.
Eventually, the Greeks successfully defeated the Trojans. The story states that Ares got severely injured from the rock thrown at him by Athena. He tried to get the help of other Olympian gods and goddess. The only person that came to his aid was Paieon. Injured and in massive amounts of pain, the god of war was nursed and resuscitated using Paieon’s magical potions and herbs.
Another instance where Ares tasted defeat at the hands of Athena was when the superhuman Diomedes injured Ares with a spear gifted to him by Athena.
9 Interesting Facts about Ares
Here are nine very interesting facts about Ares – the Greek patron god of war:
- Ares killed the mortal Adonis out of jealousy. His only love, Aphrodite, fell in love with Adonis. The infuriated Ares turned himself into a boar and killed Adonis.
- Ares, the lover of wars, fought and lost against the Greek demigod Hercules on two separate occasions- during the fifth and eleventh labors of Hercules.
- Cycnus, Ares’ mortal/semi-divine son, planed building a temple of Ares out of human bodies and bones.
- He was responsible for the death of Poseidon’s cherished son, Halirrhothios. After an inquiry by the Olympians (at the Areopagos), it was revealed that Ares committed the crime because Halirrhothios had defied his daughter, Alcippe. Ares was subsequently set free.
- The exact place where Ares murdered Halirrhothios is believed to be around the vicinity of a down flowing stream below the Acropolis. It is also the same place where the trial of Ares was held. As a result of that, ancient Greeks often held court cases that involved offences such as rape and murder.
- In Homer’s Iliad, Ares is described as “the man-killer’, ‘the war-glutton’, and sometimes, ‘the curse of men’.
- In the Iliad, Ares’ scream is considered the equivalent of 10,000 men screaming in unison. And whenever Ares arrived at a battle, his scream was so deafening and full of terror that it caused panic among men.
- In ancient Rome, Mars is considered the equivalent of Ares—the god of war. The Romans represented him in a less humanistic manner than the way the Greeks did.
- In addition to Ares (Mars) being the god of war in Rome, the Romans believed that he was the god of agriculture. He was highly venerated and regarded second only to Jupiter (Rome’s equivalent of Zeus). Mars takes on a more serious and strategic demeanor than Ares in Greek mythology. In the Pantheon of Rome, Mars has attributes of wisdom, maturity, and great composure, almost similar to that of the Greek goddess Athena. It is for this reason why Ares’ equivalent, Mars, is regarded as the patron god of Rome.