Ares

Ares

  Ares, Greek God
of War

Ares, Father of Victory,
Known by Many Names,
Leader of Men,
Lord of the Dance,
And Ares of the Mighty Heart.
Ares, the Greek God of War who is better
known as the Roman god named Mars.

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.  

Ares

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.

greek god Ares

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). 

greek gods

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.

The Symbols of the Greek God Ares

  • Sword
  • Dogs
  • The Planet Mars
  • Horses (Roan/red) 
  • Bronze jars and vases
  • The Color Red
  • Vultures
  • Aeropagus (hill near the Acropolis)

 

Which god are you?  Ares?
Or one of the other
Greek gods?

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Greek god Ares

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