Homer's Iliad, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Hesiod's Theogony
Son of Zeus and Hera
In Greek mythology Ares (pronounced AIR-eez), the son of Zeus (pronounced ZOOS) and Hera (pronounced HAIR-uh), waged battle as the god of war. The Romans linked him with Mars, their war god, although the two gods were quite different in character. Ares liked to storm around the battlefields accompanied by his sister Eris (pronounced EE-ris), the goddess of discord, disagreement or lack of harmony; Enyo, a war goddess; and his twin sons Phobos (pronounced FOH-bos; Greek for “fear”) and Deimos (pronounced DYE-mos; Greek for “terror”). He represented everything that was bad about warfare, such as fire and bloodlust, and nothing that was good, such as the glory of victory; despite Ares' fierce behavior, the goddess Athena often defeated him in battle.
The Roman version known as Mars, on the other hand, was a much more balanced representation of warfare. Mars was originally a fertility god, associated with spring and vegetation. The Romans celebrated major festivals to Mars in the spring, which also signalled the start of military campaigns. The founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus , were thought to be the sons of Mars.
Ares was not a major figure in Greek mythology, but some stories tell of his love affairs with the goddess Aphrodite and with human women. His sons became kings, warriors, and in one case a bandit. In one myth, Poseidon's (pronounced poh-SYE-dun) son raped one of Ares' daughters, so Ares struck the youth dead. Poseidon insisted that the gods try Ares for murder at the place where the rape and the killing took place, on a hill outside the city of Athens. The gods found Ares not guilty. From that time on, Athenians referred to the hill outside their city as the Areopagus (pronounced ar-ee-OP-uh-guhs), or “Ares' hill.”
Ares in Context
Generally described as bloodthirsty, cruel, and a troublemaker, Ares was not a popular god. Yet the people of ancient Greece saw war as an unpleasant but unavoidable fact of life: they were in a near-constant state of war with various neighbors. While they valued bravery and heroism, they also saw that hate, pain, and rage were also involved in battle. Ares represents that brutal batde-lust. It is important to note that Athena often bests Ares, which demonstrates the importance the Greeks laid on cool-headedness and honor over rage.
Key Themes and Symbols
Although Ares is usually associated with war, the ancient Greeks often viewed Ares as the god of savage or violent warfare. In contrast, they viewed Athena, half-sister of Ares, as the goddess of strategic and heroic warfare. Vultures, who feed on the flesh of the dead on battlefields, were regarded as Ares' sacred birds. Barn owls and woodpeckers were also associated with Ares. Ares also represented sacrifice; aside from the humans sacrificed in battle in Ares' name, animals were also sometimes sacrificed at his temples for good favor prior to the beginning of battle.
Ares in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
Since Ares was not often the subject of worship, he is not featured as much as other Greek gods in sculpture and other ancient art. When shown, Ares is often portrayed holding a shield and a spear, his weapon of choice. In modern times, Ares has appeared as a major villain in both DC Comics and Marvel Comics. He also appears as a motorcycle-riding tough guy in Rick Riordan's 2005 The Lightning Thief. In the novel the young demigod Percy Jackson must fight Ares; he wins by outwitting the angry god.
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
The ancient Greeks make a distinction between savage and brutal warfare, represented by Ares, and strategic and noble warfare, represented by Athena. In your opinion, can all wars be classified easily into one of these two categories? Does one of the two gods more closely match your opinion of war? If so, which one and why?
ARES (Aρης), god of war in Greek mythology, son of Zeus and Hera. The Greeks living in Ereẓ Israel during and after the Second Temple period associated several places with legends from their mythology. Thus the Greek designation for the city of Samaria (Σαμαρεία) was interpreted as denoting σᾶμα Αρεως "the sepulcher of Ares," or – more precisely – the tomb where Ares buried his son Asclepius. Similarly, Rabbath-Moab in Transjordan was called Areopolis, and coins struck by the town portray the deity. *Eusebius identifies Areopolis with the biblical Ariel (i.e., Aryeh; Isa. 15:9), and assumes that the inhabitants worshiped Ares, whom they also called Aryeh.
Press, Ereẓ, 1 (1951), 34; Avi-Yonah, Land, 117; Pauly-Wissowa, 3 (1895), 641–2, and suppl., 3 (1918), 155.