In Greek mythology, Ares (Ancient Greek: Ἄρης [á.rὲεs], Μodern Greek Άρης ['a.ris]) is the son of Zeus and Hera. Though often referred to as the Olympian god of warfare, he is more accurately the god of bloodlust, or slaughter personified: "Ares is apparently an ancient abstract noun meaning throng of battle, war.
Although he is already an important Olympian god in the epic tradition represented by the Iliad he is depicted as somewhat cowardly, rather than a brave soldier. The reading of his character remains ambiguous,in a late sixth-century funerary inscription from Attica: "Stay and mourn at the tomb of dead Kroisos/ Whom raging Ares destroyed one day, fighting in the foremost ranks".
The Romans identified him as Mars, the god of war and agriculture, whom they had inherited from the Etruscans; but, among them, Mars stood in much higher esteem. (See also Athena.)
Among the Hellenes, Ares was always distrusted. Although Ares' half-sister Athena was also considered a war deity, her stance was that of strategic warfare, whereas Ares's tended to be one of unpredictable violence. His birthplace and true home was placed far off, among the barbarous and warlike Thracians, to whom he withdrew after his affair with Aphrodite was revealed.
"Ares" remained an adjective and epithet in Classical times, which could be applied to the war-like aspects of other gods: Zeus Areios, Athena Areia, even Aphrodite Areia (1985). Greek Religion.
In Mycenaean times, inscriptions attest to Enyalios, a name that survived into Classical times as an epithet of Ares. Vultures and dogs, both of which prey upon carrion in the battlefield, are sacred to him.
Ares had a quadriga drawn by four gold-bridled (Iliad v.352) fire-breathing immortal stallions. Among the gods, Ares was recognized by his bronze armor; he brandished a spear in battle. His keen and sacred birds were the barn owl, woodpecker, the eagle owl and, especially in the south, the vulture. According to Argonautica (ii.382ff and 1031ff; Hyginus, Fabulae 30) 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. In Sparta, the chthonic night-time sacrifice of a dog to Enyalios became assimilated to the cult of Ares. Sacrifice might be made to Ares on the eve of battle to enlist his support.
In the Iliad (v.890ff) Ares rode into battle and when he was wounded he went back to Olympus where Zeus healed him, but with angry words. Then Ares went straight back to battle.
Though involved in the founding myth of Thebes, he appeared in few myths.
Ares in cult
Although important in poetry, Ares was rarely included in cult in ancient Greece, save at Sparta, where he was propitiated before battle, and where youths each sacrificed a puppy to Enyalios before engaging in the all-out ritual fighting at the Phoebaeum. Just east of Sparta there was an archaic statue of the god in chains, to show that the spirit of war and victory was never to leave the city. The temple
to Ares in the agora
saw in the second century AD had only been moved and rededicated there during the time of Augustus
; in essence it was a Roman temple
to Mars. The Areopagus
, the "mount of Ares" where Paul
preached, is sited at some distance from the Acropolis; from archaic times it was a site of trials. Its connection with Ares, perhaps based on a false etymology, is purely etiological. A second temple has also been located at the archaeological site of Metropolis
in Western Turkey
, "terror", and Phobos
"fear", were his companions in war children, born by Aphrodite
according to Hesiod
. The sister and companion of murderous Ares was Eris
, goddess of discord or Enyo
, goddess of war, bloodshed and violence. He was also attended by the minor war-god Enyalius
, his son by Enyo, whose name ("warlike", the same meaning as the name Enyo) also served as a title for Ares himself. The presence of Ares was accompanied by Kydoimos
, the demon of the din of battle, as well as the Makhai
(Battles), the Hysminai
(a minor spirit of war; probably an epithet of Ares, as he had no specific dominion), and Polemos' daughter, Alala
of the Greek war-cry, whose name Ares used as his own war-cry. His sister Hebe also drew baths for him.
The 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
, and hence the ancestor of the Spartans, for the dragon's teeth were sown into the ground as if a crop and sprung up as the fully armored autochthonic
Spartans, a race of fighting men, the descendants of Ares. 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.
Consorts and children
There are accounts of a son of Ares, Cycnus
(Κύκνος) 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 Heracles wounded.
Ares also had a romance with the goddess Aphrodite. Their union created the minor gods Harmonia, Eros, Phobos, and Deimos. While Harmonia and Eros' godly stations favored their goodly mother, Phobos and Deimos by far preferred to emulate their father, often accompanying him to war.
Ares in myth
In the tale sung by the bard in the hall of Alcinous
, the Sun-God Helios
once spied Ares and Aphrodite enjoying each other secretly in the hall of Hephaestus
, and he promptly reported the incident to Aphrodite's Olympian consort. Hephaestus contrived to catch the couple in the act, and so he fashioned a net with which to snare the illicit lovers. At the appropriate time, this net was sprung, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite locked in very private embrace. But Hephaestus was not yet satisfied with his revenge — he invited the Olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair. For the sake of modesty, the goddesses demurred, but the male gods went to witness the sight. Some commented on the beauty of Aphrodite, others remarked that they would eagerly trade places with Ares, but all mocked the two. Once the couple were loosed, Ares, embarrassed, sped away to his homeland, Thrace.
In a much later interpolated detail, Ares put the youth Alectryon by his door to warn them of Helios' arrival, as Helios would tell Hephaestus of Aphrodite's infidelity if the two were discovered, but Alectryon fell asleep. Helios discovered the two and alerted Hephaestus. Ares was furious and turned Alectryon into a rooster, which now never forgets to announce the arrival of the sun in the morning.
Ares and the giants
In one obscure archaic myth related in the Iliad
by the goddess Dione
to her daughter Aphrodite, two chthonic giants, the Aloadae
, named Otus and Ephialtes, threw Ares into chains and put him in a bronze urn, where he remained for thirteen months, a lunar year
. "And that would have been the end of Ares and his appetite for war, if the beautiful Eriboea
, the young giants' stepmother, had not told Hermes
what they had done," she related (Iliad
5.385–391). "In this one suspects a festival of licence which is unleashed in the thirteenth month." Ares remained screaming and howling in the urn until Hermes rescued him and Artemis
tricked the Aloadae into slaying each other. In Nonnus
Ares also killed Ekhidnades, the giant son of Echidna
and a great enemy of the gods; it is not clear whether the nameless Ekhidnades ("of Echidna's lineage") was entirely Nonnus' invention or not.
In the Iliad
represented Ares as having no fixed allegiances nor respect for Themis
, the right ordering of things: he promised Athena and Hera that he would fight on the side of the Achaeans
, but Aphrodite was able to persuade Ares to side with the Trojans
V.699). During the war, Diomedes
fought with Hector
and saw Ares fighting on the Trojans' side. Diomedes called for his soldiers to fall back slowly. Hera, Ares's mother, saw his interference and asked Zeus, his father, for permission to drive Ares away from the battlefield. Hera encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares, so he threw a spear at Ares and his cries made Achaeans and Trojans alike tremble. Athena then drove the spear into Ares's body, who bellowed in pain and fled to Mt. Olympus
, forcing the Trojans to fall back (XXI.391). Later when Zeus
allowed the gods to fight in the war again, Ares tried to fight Athena to avenge himself for his previous injury, but was once again badly injured when she tossed a huge boulder on him. However, when Hera during a conversation with Zeus mentioned that Ares' son Ascalaphus was killed, Ares burst into tears and wanted to join the fight on the side of the Achaeans discarding Zeus' order that no Olympic god should enter the battle. Athena stopped Ares and helped him take his armor off (XV.110–128).
Ares in the Renaissance
works of art, Ares' symbols are a spear and helmet, his animal is a dog, and his bird is the vulture. In literary works of these eras, Ares appears as cruel, aggressive, and blood-thirsty, reviled by both gods and humans, much as he was in the ancient Greek myths.
Ares in popular culture
The god made his gaming debut in Sony's 2005 hit Playstation 2 game, God of War
. Ares played as the game's villain. Using the Spartan warrior Kratos (who gave his life to Ares in exchange for retribution over a Barbarian horde massacring his army) to commit atrocities throughout Greece and undermine the status of his sister Athena in the mortal world. However after Kratos accidentally murders his wife and daughter in a plan orchestrated by the god, he swears revenge and renounces his servitude. The player battles the minions of Ares throughout the game and recovers the mythical Pandora's Box
. Culminating in a final confratation with the God of War in which Ares is killed and Kratos replacing him in Olympus.
In addition, a popular fileshare program is named after the god. Ares Galaxy
is known for being as fast and simple as Limewire
, though without the viruses.
There may be a connection with the Roman war god Mars
, via Common Indo-European
; compare Ancient Greek μάρναμαι = "I fight".