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.,
|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.
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 didnt 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
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.