In Greek mythology, Ares is the god of war, bloodshed and violence. He was the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods. As Ares was the god of war, he is usually depicted with a helmet, shield, and a sword or spear. Moreover, there are several animals associated with him including vultures, serpents and dogs. Unlike other Olympian deities, the worship of Ares was not extensive in Greece. A notable exception was Spartans who highly revered the God of War and made sacrifices to him. The Roman equivalent of Ares is Mars, and, unlike Ares, he was highly revered by the Romans. Though ancient Greeks didn’t give importance to Ares, he is a major figure in the popular culture of today with numerous references to him. Know more about the Greek God of War through these 10 interesting facts.

 

#1 Ares is the God of War, Bloodshed and Violence

In ancient Greek mythology, Ares is the god of war, bloodshed and violence. The word Ares is traditionally connected with a Greek word which means bane, ruin, curse, imprecation”. This makes sense given the status of Ares as the God of War. Athena, the sister of Ares, was the goddess of war and his female equivalent in a sense. However, while Athena represented the disciplined and strategic side of war; Ares represented the distasteful aspects of brutal warfare and slaughter. Due to this, while Athena was one of the most popular deities in ancient Greece, Ares was never liked much. The attitude of the Greeks towards him was at best ambivalent and his worship was not extensive in Greece. Two lesser war deities which are also associated with Ares are Enyalius, who is virtually identical with him; and Enyo, who may be described as a female counterpart of Ares.

The Ludovisi Ares
The Ludovisi Ares – Roman version of a Greek original

 

#2 He was highly esteemed by the Spartans

An exception in Greece in their attitude towards Ares was Sparta. Ares was in fact highly esteemed in Sparta due to their strong militaristic culture. In early times at Sparta, human sacrifices were made to him from among the prisoners of war. Moreover, the Spartan Army would sacrifice dogs to Ares on the eve of battle to enlist his support. In the east of Sparta, there also stood an archaic statue of Ares wrapped in chains, to show that the spirit of war and victory was to be kept within the city. Though Ares was not commonly worshiped; there were cult sites with temples dedicated to the god on Crete, Argos, Athens, Erythrae, Geronthrae, Megalopolis, Tegea, Therapne and Troezon. Among these, the most famous is the Temple of Ares, which was located in the northern part of the agora of Athens.

Temple of Ares in Athens
Temple of Ares, Ancient Agora, Athens

 

#3 He is one of the twelve Olympian Gods

Ares is one of the 12 Olympian Gods who resided atop Mount Olympus. The Olympians are a race of deities who are a third or fourth generation of immortal beings and they were worshiped as the principal deities of the Greek pantheon. The Olympians managed to become the supreme deities after a 10 year long struggle known as Titanomachy. In this struggle, Zeus, the father of Ares, led his siblings to victory over the Titans who were the ruling deities at the time. Although there are a number of immortal residents at Mount Olympus, only 12 of them are considered the most important ones. These include the children of Titans Cronus and Rhea; namely Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter and Hestia; along with the main offspring of Zeus; namely Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysus and Aphrodite. Although Ares is one of the twelve Olympian deities, his fellow gods and even his parents were not much fond of him due to his aggressive nature.

The twelve Olympian gods
Fragment of a Hellenistic relief depicting the twelve Olympians

 

#4 Ares is the son of Zeus and Hera

In Greek mythology, Ares is the eldest and the only son of Zeus, the King of the Gods; and his sister-wife Hera. He is usually considered to have been born naturally as a result of union between his father and mother. However, there is another myth according to which Hera had Ares without the help of Zeus by using a magical herb. When Zeus had a daughter without a mother, Hera was enraged and wanted to have a son without a father. Khloris, the goddess of flowers and a nymph, made Hera touch a magic flower. This magic flower made her pregnant and resulted in the birth of Ares. Aloadae is the collective name for two giants namely Otus and Ephialtes. They were the twin sons of Poseidon, the god of the sea. When Ares was still an infant, he was captured by Aloadae and put in a bronze jar for 13 months. When the mother of the giants found out about what they had done, she informed Hermes, one of the Olympian Gods. It was Hermes who came to the rescue of Ares and freed him from the clasps of the giants.

 

#5 Ares was the lover of the goddess of pleasure Aphrodite

According to Greek mythology, Ares had several love interests and fathered many children from both mortal and divine consorts. The most prominent lover of Ares was Aphrodite; the Olympian goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. Their divine union created the gods Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos and Harmonia. Eros is known as the Greek god of love and sex. His Roman equivalent is the more famous Cupid. Anteros is the God of reciprocated love and Harmonia is the immortal goddess of harmony and concord. On the other hand, Phobos and Deimos are the personification of fear and terror respectively. Interestingly, Ares conceived more mortal children than divine children. Other mortal and semi-divine off springs of Ares include Aeropus, Alcippe and the Amazons.

Ares and Aphrodite painting
Painting of Mars and Venus – Equivalent of Ares and Aphrodite

 

#6 He is often portrayed in ancient art as a warrior ready for battle

In ancient Greek art, Ares is usually portrayed as a young bearded or beardless warrior; standing upright; unclothed or semi-clothed; and always ready for battle. Moreover, he is often shown wearing a helmet, metal breastplate, armored boots and a shield along with a sheathed sword or a spear. The metal breastplate is sometimes omitted in favor of a simple tunic. His features in ancient art include curly soft hair, muscular build body and brown eyes. His expression may be perceived as bold, moody, aggressive, physically untamed and unreliable. Ares is also at times shown riding his four-horse chariot and being accompanied by dogs or vultures. Ares can be quite difficult to identify in ancient Greek Art as there is little to distinguish him from other warrior figures.

Statue of Ares
Statue of Ares from Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, Italy

 

#7 He was associated with several animals including vultures and dogs

In Greek Mythology, Ares was associated with serpents, vultures, owls, dogs and boars in different contexts. Snakes were associated with him because of his sneaky habits, destructive nature and foul temper. Vultures and a few species of owl are analogous to the Greek god because they were considered as portents of war, sedition and ill-fortune. When Aphrodite fell in love with Adonis, Ares grew resentful. In this reference, the Greek god is associated with boars because it is believed that he transformed into a boar and attacked Adonis with his tusks to kill him. As mentioned before, the Spartan Army would sacrifice dogs to Ares on the eve of battle to enlist his support. The aggressive nature of dogs might be the reason for their being linked to Ares.

 

#8 Areopagus hill in Athens is named so due to a myth featuring Ares

Alcippe was the daughter of Ares and Aglaulus. Halirrhothius, the son of the Sea God Poseidon, raped Alcippe. Out of vengeance and immense anger, Ares killed Halirrhothius. For this murder, Poseidon summoned Ares to appear before the tribunal of the Olympic gods. The trial was held on a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Ares was acquitted by the court made up of his fellow gods. Due to this trial the hill became known as Areopagus. The name is the Late Latin composite form of the Greek name Areios Pagos, translated as “Hill of Ares”. In ancient Greece, Aeropagus functioned as the court for trying deliberate homicide, wounding and religious matters. Later, the Romans referred to the rocky hill as “Mars Hill” after Mars, the Roman equivalent of the Greek God.

The Areopagus
The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis

 

#9 Mars is the Roman equivalent of Ares

In Roman mythology, Mars is considered as the God of the War and he may be considered as the Roman equivalent of Ares. His depictions in Roman art are similar to those of Ares in Greek art. Moreover, Roman mythology also states that Mars was the son of the Jupiter, the king of the Roman Gods; and his wife, Juno. As Greek influence had a profound impact on Roman religion, Mars possessed many similar attributes of Ares. Thus, he was was fully conflated with Ares in Roman art and literature. However, the nature and morality of Mars varied in fundamental aspects from that of his Greek counterpart. While Ares is generally looked down upon with derision and repulsion in Greek folklore, the same is not the case with Mars. Moreover, while Ares was viewed In Greece as primarily a destructive and destabilizing force; Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace and was regarded as a father of the Roman people.

Statue of Mars in Rome
Statue of Mars at Capitoline Museums in Rome

 

#10 Ares is the main antagonist in the popular game God of War

In contemporary era, Ares is portrayed as a violent war-monger with hostile and combative aspects. The Greek God featured in the popular American television series Xena: Warrior Princess. In it, he is scripted as a conflicted God who is torn between his passionate desire for Xena and his inherent desire to foster war. In the 2017 film, Wonder Woman, based on a DC comics character, Ares plays the main antagonist. He is depicted as the treacherous son of Zeus and the half-brother of Diana/Wonder Woman. There are numerous sports clubs in Greece named after Ares, the most famous of which is Aris Thessaloniki. There are also numerous video games which use Ares as a character the most famous of which is titled God of War. In science, Ares is the name of NASA’s transport ship replacing the Space Shuttle. In music, Bloc Party, an English rock band, recorded a song “Ares” on their third studio album, Intimacy.

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