Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ares in myth

From Wikipedia

Ares is the Greek god of war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera. In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent aspect of war, in contrast to the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and generalship. The Greeks were ambivalent 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." Fear (Phobos) and Terror (Deimos) were yoked to his battle 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 even placed in doubt: during the Trojan War, Ares was on the losing side, while Athena, often depicted in Greek art as holding Nike (Victory) in her hand, favored 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, but the most famous story involving the couple shows them exposed to ridicule through the wronged husband's clever device.

Character and origins

Ares was one of the Twelve Olympians in the archaic tradition represented by the Iliad and Odyssey, but Zeus expresses a recurring Greek revulsion toward the god when Ares returns wounded and complaining from the battlefield at Troy:
Then looking at him darkly Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to him:
'Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles

And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky."
This ambivalence is expressed also in the god's association with the Thracians, who were regarded by the Greeks as a barbarous and warlike people. Thrace was Ares' birthplace, true home, and 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' sway:
Stay and mourn at the tomb of dead Kroisos
Whom raging Ares destroyed one day, fighting in the foremost ranks.

In Macedonia, however, he was viewed as a bearded war veteran with superb military skills and physical strength. The ancient Macedonians looked up to Ares as a divine leader as well as a god.In Sparta Ares was viewed as a masculine soldier in which his resilience, physical strength and military intelligence was unrivaled.

Consorts and children

The union of Ares and Aphrodite created the gods Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, and Adrestia. While Eros and Anteros' godly stations favored their mother, Adrestia by far preferred to emulate her father, often accompanying him to war.

Ares, upon one occasion, incurred the anger of Poseidon by slaying his son Halirrhothius, who had raped Alcippe, another 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, and this event is supposed to have given rise to the name Areopagus (or Hill of Ares), which afterward became famous as a court of justice.

There are accounts of a son of Ares, Cycnus of Macedonia, who was so murderous that he tried to build a temple with the skulls and the bones of travelers. Heracles slaughtered this abominable monstrosity, engendering the wrath of Ares, whom the hero wounded.

Founding of Thebes

One of the roles of Ares that was sited in mainland Greece itself was in 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 sprung up as the fully armored autochthonic Spartoi. To propitiate Ares, Cadmus took as a bride Harmonia, daughter of Ares' union with Aphrodite, thus harmonizing all strife and founding the city of Thebes.


The birds of Ares (Ornithes Areioi) were a flock of feather-dart-dropping birds that guarded the Amazons' shrine of the god on a coastal island in the Black Sea. Vultures and dogs, both of which prey upon carrion in the battlefield, were sacred to him.


Deimos, "Terror" or "Dread", and Phobos, "Fear", are his companions in war and also his children, borne by Aphrodite, according to Hesiod. The sister and companion of the violent Ares is Eris, the goddess of discord, or Enyo, the goddess of war, bloodshed, and violence. Enyalius, rather than another name for Ares, in at least one tradition was his son by Enyo.

Ares may also be accompanied by Kydoimos, the demon of the din of battle; the Makhai ("Battles"); thev "Hysminai" ("Acts of manslaughter"); 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, "Youth," also draws baths for him.

According to Pausanias, local inhabitants of Therapne, Sparta, recognized Thero "feral, savage" as a nurse of Ares.


From Men, Myths & Minds

Ares, who became the Greek god of war, had a miserable childhood. The only son of the mighty Zeus, ruler of the Olympians, and his wife Hera, Ares was disliked by his father from the moment he was born and was barely tolerated from then on. 

    Perhaps Zeus just couldn't warm up to the little guy because he hadn't had a part in Ares' conception or his birth. Hera, with the help of a magical herb, had managed to "get herself pregnant" with the help of Zeus or any man, a process called parthenogenesis. (Note: Most myths name Ares as the son who was born as a result of this immaculate conception, but in some versions the son was Hephaestus.)

    Hera had done this to even the score with her husband for having given birth to Dionysus by himself.  A short version of that story: Semele, one of Zeus' many lovers, lay dying while pregnant with Zeus' son Dionysus. With the help of Hermes, Zeus removed the unborn child and implanted him under the skin of his thigh where he remained until he was ready to be born.

    For whatever reason, Zeus failed to bond with his infant son Ares. Zeus was not even particularly concerned when the young boy went missing a few years later and didn't expend much effort looking for the poor lad. As it turns out, the young Ares had been abducted by two playmates, the giant Aloadai twins, who had caught him and locked him in a bronze jar. Ares stayed captive in the bronze jar, almost losing his mind in captivity, until the stepmother of the unruly twins figured out what had happened and told Zeus' assistant, Hermes, who was able to release Ares from the jar.

    After this incident Hera decided that Ares' might be better off living somewhere else and arranged for him to live with Priapus, one of the minor deities. Priapus trained the young Ares in the art of dancing, and, later, in the martial arts.

    Even though he was well-trained and served as the god of war, Ares wasn't a great fighter and lost many of his battles, especially those involving his half-sister and arch-enemy Athena, who was the goddess of wisdom as well as the goddess of war (not to mention being Daddy's favorite).

    Ares represented war conducted "up close and personal", hand to hand combat, and the frenzy of battle and bloodlust. Athena and Zeus,  superbly rational,  favored "war at a distance", strategic planning, playing according to the "rules of the game", cold and calculating by comparison.   Ares style was instinctual, passionate, and primitive...not destined to make him appear heroic in the eyes of a culture that valued reason and moderation. There were other reasons as well:

    The Greek god Ares, the god least favored by the citizens of Greece and by his parents (Zeus and his wife Hera) was seen by the ancient Greeks as a mercenary warrior, filled with a bloodlust that could not be appeased, and a fickle god as well . . . one who would fight for either side just to have a chance to vent his rage.

    Ares' unpopularity was probably inevitable, given that the Greeks of that time were mostly involved in petty wars amongst themselves,  wars where allegiances were unclear and shifted frequently. Any god of war would have found it very difficult to please everyone in that situation!

    It's easy to see why Ares' other incarnation, as Mars, the Roman God of War, fared much better -- the Roman viewpoint was no doubt influenced by the fact that Rome was usually at war with foreign powers so that a god of war could be someone that could be worshipped and viewed as heroic, one always battling for a just cause (i.e., their side).

    During the Trojan War Ares fought on the side of the Trojans against the Greeks, as a show of support for his lover Aphrodite who had set the war in motion.  This did not win him any points with the other Olympians who, except for Apollo, supported the Greeks.  He charged at Athena who was taunting him about it and she calmly reached down and picked up a rock and smashed him over the head with it, stopping his advance.     greek god Ares

    Athena also convinced one of the Greek warriors, to wound Ares in the side during the battle and Ares bellowed so loudly in pain and rage that the earth shook. He complained to Zeus about Athena's humiliating him on the battlefield, and Zeus dismissively called him a whine who enjoyed nothing but brawling. 

    Ares, rarely went out of his way to come to the aid of his fellow Olympians. But once, bored with the endless petty wars of the Greeks, he decided to rescue Hades who was being held captive by King Sisyphus. Ares came to his assistance, threatening to decapitate Sisyphus if he didn’t release him and turn himself in as Hades’ prisoner. Trembling with fear, Sisyphus surrendered to Hades.


    Ares may not have matched the Olympian ideal of rationality and moderation, but he was not without his followers. Unfortunately they were mostly a band of malevolent minor deities and mortals, including several of his sons, most of whom ended with unhappy fates. Ares usually rode into battle accompanied by his two sons Phobos (Fear) and Daiemos (Panic).

    Although the Greek god Ares was heavily criticized for reacting emotionally rather than rationally, and for not always "following the rules", he was quick to jump to the defense of those with whom he felt a kinship, including his large brood of offspring. Unfortunately, his feelings often propelled him into battles that he could not win.

    When one of his sons was killed during the Trojan War, Ares, leapt onto the battlefield, defying Zeus' orders that the gods and goddesses not take part in the battle. 

    And Ares felt strongly about his daughters as well. When his daughter Alcippe was raped by one of Poseidon's sons, Ares promptly killed him. This lead to the first murder trial in recorded history. The trial was held on a hill in Athens that was subsequently named the Aeropagus (Ares' Hill). Ares was acquitted of the crime.

    Sometimes Ares' loyalties led him astray. One of his sons, Cycnus, was a thief who fell upon travelers, murdering them for their bones which he was using to construct a gruesome temple to his father. Cycnus picked the wrong victim when he tried to assault Heracles (Hercules). As they fought, Areas rushed to fight on his son's side, but they were no march for Heracles, who killed Cycnus and wounded Ares.

    Little is written about Ares in his aspect as Lord of the Dance, but much can be inferred. Just as in many tribal cultures, warriors drum and dance before doing battle, the passion and intensity of the ecstatic dance, the sheer physicality of it, is closely associated with the masculine energy, the forceful and aggressive impulse that can bring courage in its wake. And no one every doubted that Ares had courage!

    But what of his loves? Ares never married, although he had over twenty lovers who bore him children. And apparently his love affairs weren't "overnighters" but were long lasting relationships because many of them bore him several children.

    Being deceptive, or even indirect, could not be listed among his shortcomings. Unlike the other Greek gods, Ares did not rely on trickery, abduction, or rape to establish his love affairs.

    Ares is best known for his long-term love affair with the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of romance and beauty. His lengthy love affair with Aphrodite led to the birth of four children--their daughter, Harmonia (Harmony) later became the mother of the Amazons, a tribe of fearsome warrior women.

    The tabloids were probably invented for the sole purpose of keeping up with the latest gossip about what the couple were up to! Be sure to read the story of Hephaestus for an account of how Aphrodite's husband managed to "catch them in the act" and haul them into court for the "Trial of the Century". . . which ended in their acquittal, of course.

    So important was Aphrodite to Ares that, when she fell in love with the beautiful Adonis (who was, some say, effeminate, Ares' polar opposite), Ares' was overcome with such jealousy that he turned himself into a wild boar (in some accounts it was a bear) and killed his rival -- the only time he was known to battle disguised in another form.

    The union of Ares and Aphrodite, the original macho-man and the ultra-feminine sex kitten, seemed unlikely to survive for long, but it certainly did. Ares contributed the passionate intensity and Aphrodite taught him to accept and enjoy the vulnerable, unprotected parts of himself, the loving and tender feelings he otherwise would never have displayed.

The myths of the Greek God Ares reveal a contradictory character, an enigma. . . a bloodthirsty warrior with a mighty heart, always ready to defend and protect those he loved.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hail be to Lord Ares, the protective father with a passionate heart! <3


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