"Ares, exceeding in strength, chariot-rider, golden-helmed, doughty in heart, shield-bearer, Saviour of cities, harnessed in bronze, strong of arm, unwearying, mighty with the spear, O defender of Olympos, father of warlike Nike (Victory), ally of Themis, stern governor of the rebellious, leader of the righteous men, sceptred King of manliness, who whirl your fiery sphere among the planets in their sevenfold courses through the aither wherein your blazing steeds ever bear you above the third firmament of heaven; hear me, helper of men, giver of dauntless youth! Shed down a kindly ray from above upon my life, and strength of war, that I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful impulses of my soul. Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife. Rather, O blessed one, give you me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death."
(Homeric Hymn 8 to Ares)
Ares (Roman: Mars) [Pronounced in English as "Air-eese" and in Greek as "AH-reese"], is the Greek god of war, battle-lust, the military, courage, strength, raw power and energy, protection and masculinity. Ares is the legitimate son of the King and Queen of the gods, Zeus and Hera. Ares is one of the 12 Olympians.
The meaning of the name Ares is usually claimed to be "bane, curse, ruin". However, some scholars believe it originated from a proto-Indo-European phrase meaning "I war/I battle".
In art, Ares is portrayed as either a mature, bearded man in his 30s-40s or else as a beardless youth in his late teens or early 20s. Ares is often portrayed in the nude. When he is clothed he is generally portrayed as wearing a short tunic that would not interfere with his ability to fight in war. He may also wear a breastplate. Upon his head he wears his golden helmet and in his hands he holds his shield, bronze-tipped spear or sword. Ares is generally portrayed in the company of his attendants, his sister Enyo, the goddess of battle, Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, and his twin sons, Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror). Additional spirits or daemons accompanied Ares, such as; the Makhai, daemons of fighting and battle, Homados (battle noise), Alala (war cry), Proioxis (onrush), Palioxis (backrush), and Kydoimos (confusion), Polemos (war), and the Keres, daemons of violent death and bloodshed. Ares' attendants are often portrayed as either walking beside him or riding with him in his golden chariot that is pulled by four fire-breathing stallions.
Ares is perhaps the most misunderstood of the Greek pantheon. In mythology, Ares is generally portrayed as obsessed with violence and bloodshed, cowardly, childish, and untrustworthy. He is described as the most hated of he gods. However, such representations of the god in myth does not accurately describe the opinions of the actual worshipers of Ares.
Ares can best be described as being the opposite of Athena, who is also a war deity. Where Athena represents intelligence and strategy, Ares represents brutal physical strength, power and force. While Athena represents defensive war or war made through proper motivations and courses, Ares represents offensive war, war for the sake of war, as well as battle-lust.
Ares never married but had many female lovers and fathered multiple children, both divine and mortal. As with Hades, there are no myths describing Ares as having taken male lovers. Ares' most famous affair was with the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
Aphrodite was a married woman at the time Ares commenced with his passionate affair with her. The two were emboldened by the sheer secrecy of their unions. However, the day soon came when the pair were spotted by the sun god, Helios, who sees all. He tattled to Aphrodite's husband, the lame god, Hephaestus, and in return Hephaestus got his revenge by laying a trap for the randy pair. Hephaestus created a net of chain, so thin as to be invisible, but incredibly strong. He ensnared the pair with such device and then called the gods to come and see them in their naked shame. All the male gods, save for Zeus, came to witness the scene. All of the goddesses declined out of a sense of modesty. Hephaestus was sorely mistaken if he thought such public shaming would put an end to their union. It certainly did not. The couple continued their heated affair and Aphrodite would bear Ares the Erotes, the winged gods of love, sex and desire. Their names were Eros (desire), Himeros (uncontrollable desire/unrequited love), Anteros (requited love), Hedylogos (sweet talk), and Pothos (yearning). Aphrodite also bore Ares, Harmonia (harmony), Andrastia (revolt), and the daemons Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror).
Even though Aphrodite was cheating on her husband with Ares, Ares himself could not bear having Aphrodite take other male lovers. Case in point: Adonis. When Aphrodite fell for the beautiful Adonis and took him as a lover, Ares became livid. He eventually transformed himself into a boar and gored the hottie to death.
Before his long-term love affair with Aphrodite, Ares bed the beautiful goddess of dawn, Eos. However, no children resulted from their union.
Strangely, the god also bed Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, in her form of Erinys Telphousa. A dragon resulted from their union. The dragon was slayed by the hero Cadmus, who then sowed it's teeth in the earth. From the teeth grew warriors, the ancestors of the first Spartans, a people much beloved of Ares. However, Ares was furious at Cadmus for killing his son, the dragon. As punishment, Ares transformed Cadmus and his wife, who was his daughter Harmonia, into snakes and then set them lose in the Elysian Fields. When Ares turned his attention to Demeter's beautiful daughter, Persephone, Demeter hid her to protect her from the god.
Another of Ares lovers, a nymph named Harmonia, not to be confused with his daughter by the same name, bore him the Amazons, the famous female warriors. Similarly, the majority of Ares' offspring with mortal women would mature to become famous warriors.
One might think that the great god of war would be invincible. However, the myths reflect that Ares often loses his battles and can even be wounded by mortals. During the Trojan War, Ares sided with the losing side, the Trojans, and was severely wounded when the hero Diomedes thrust his spear into Ares' side. Diomedes also stabbed through the hand of Aphrodite, after she tried to rescue her mortal son, Aeneas. The pair cried out in horrible pain and fled back to Olympus where their wounds could be treated. Being gods, they could not die but they sure as hell could experience all the pain of injury.
Not only was Ares often defeated and injured, but he was also capable of being bound. When the Aloadae twins, giant brothers who wished to kidnap Hera and Artemis and make them their wives, attacked Olympus, Ares was the first to fight them. He lost. Ares was not aware that it was prophesied that the only way the twins could die was if they killed each other. So Ares' attack had no effect on them. The Aloadae tied Ares up, threw him into a brass cauldron, secured the lid, and then hid the cauldron. For 12 long years Ares remained trapped in the cauldron, desperately calling out for help that never came. Eventually, Hermes found the cauldron and released Ares. Meanwhile, the Aloadae had already been taken care of by Artemis who turned herself into a deer and tricked the brothers into shooting each other with their arrows.
As previously mentioned, Ares had the reputation in myth as being a coward as well as being untrustworthy. Both notions stem from the fact that when faced with an adversary that Ares knew that he himself could not beat, Ares chose to do the wise thing and flee. For example, when Typhon attempted to overthrow the gods, Ares, along with numerous other deities, fled to Egypt. Once there he transformed himself into a fish in order to hide. However, he was not alone. Apollo, Hermes, Heracles, Artemis, and Hephaestus all fled with Ares, at the same time. They all transformed themselves into animals in order to hide from the dreaded monster. Apollo transformed into a hawk, Hermes an ibis, Heracles, a deer, Artemis a cat, and Hephaestus, an ox. The group was later joined by the rest of the gods, save for Zeus alone who stood his ground to fight Typhon. Athena, stayed to fight by her father's side for a while but even she fled to Egypt as well. So why is Ares picked out of the group and therefore called a coward while the other gods are never criticized for fleeing as well? Makes no sense. Similarly, Ares is criticized for being untrustworthy because he often switches loyalty to either side during a war. This should not be viewed as a defect of character as Ares represents war for the sake of war and thus he will chose his side, even change his side, depending upon whom he thinks will win.
With all the negativity and criticism of Ares, as found in myth, one may question how Ares ever was made it as one of the 12 Olympians in the first place? Surely, such an evil and detestable being such as the "god of war" should be ignored in worship? The answer is of course that mythology is composed of stories invented by their authors. The myths are not sacred scripture and do not reflect what worshipers actually believed.
Ares is rightfully a member of the 12 Olympians because he is crucial to human existence. Ares represents the will, the driving force, determination, courage, and the physical power and stamina to be able to survive in this world. He does not win all of his wars because nobody wins every battle, but still he and we, continue to march on. If you have had life throw some doozies at you, numerous severe problems and obstacles, yet you still managed to muster the strength to get out of bed and move forward with your day, then you have unknowingly tapped into Ares' power. You need his power simply to survive. We all need him.
Parents: Zeus and Hera
Offspring: Eros, Himeros, Anteros, Hedylogos, Pothos, Harmonia, Andrastia, Phobos, Deimos, The Dragon of Thebes, The Amazons, and Numerous Mortals
Attendants: Enyo, Eris, Phobos, Deimos, The Makhai, Homados, Alala, Proioxis, Palioxis, Kydoimos, Polemos, The Keres
Sacred Epithets/Aspects: Aphneius (Giver of Plenty), Enyallios (Warlike), Gynaecothoenas (Feasted by Women), Thrax (Thracian), Adámastos (Unonquerable), Álkimos (Brave), Alloprósallos (Leaning First to One Side and then to Another), Ánax (King), Aphneiós (Wealthy), Íppios (Of Horses), Árriktos (Unbreakable), Mægasthænís (Mighty in Strength), Omvrimóthymos (Doughty/Indomitable), Oplódoupos (Rattling with Armour), Oplokharís (Delighting in Arms), Oplophóros (Bearing Arms), Phriktós (Horrifying), Polæmóklonos (Raising Clamor of War), Skiptoukhos (Bearing Staf/Sceptor), Teikhæsiplítis (Approacher of Walls), Vrotoktónos (Man-Slaying), Thêritas (Beastly/Brutish), Brotoloegus (Murderous), Andreiphontês (Manslaying), Miaiphonos (Blood-stained), Laossoos (He who Rallies), Aatos Polemoio (Insatiate of Fighting), Khalkeos (Brazen), Khalkokorustês (Armed with Bronze), Enkhespalos (Spear-Wielding), Rhinotoros (Shield-Piercing), Oxux (Piercing), Polemistês Talaurinos (Fighting under the Shield), Thoos (Swift), Thouros (Violent), Obrimos (Strong), Deinos (Terrible), Khrysopêlêx (Of the Golden Helmet)
Sacred Color: Red
Sacred Number: 2
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Sacred Symbols: Golden Helmet, Bronze-Tipped Spear, Sword, Shield, Gold Chariot Pulled By Four Fire-Breathing Horses, The Birds of Ares, The Planet Mars
Sacred Incense: Frankincense
Sacred Offerings: Libations of Water, Wine, Milk, Honey and Olive Oil, Cakes or Cookies in the Form of his Sacred Animals, Weapons
Sacrificial Animals: Male Oxen, Goat, and Sheep
Sacred Plant: None
Sacred Bird: Vulture, Owl, Woodpecker
Sacred Animal: Serpent/Dragon, Dog
***NOTE: The Roman Mars was viewed in a more positive light as Mars was associated with farming and thus was a bringer of civilization and social order. This belief likely originated due to the fact that before standing armies farmer grouped together, using their farming tools as weapons to fight in war.
***NOTE: In some versions of the myth, Ares is conceived without the aid of Zeus and when his mother, Hera, touched a magical flower.
***NOTE: The Spartans were devoted to Ares and possessed a sacred cult image that was kept chained as to prevent Ares as "the spirit of victory" from leaving the city.
***NOTE: In some versions of the myth, Enyo is Ares' spouse. However, the usual belief is that she is his daughter.
***NOTE: In some versions of the myth, Enyalios is not an epithet of Ares but is considered to be the son of Ares.
***NOTE: The Birds of Ares are a flock of violent birds possessing feathers that can be shed at will and which act as darts or arrows and can significantly harm or kill humans. The Birds of Ares were believed to protect the Amazons shrine to Ares.
***NOTE: Ares is believed to be quite wealthy and to possess a beautiful palace decorated with the magnificent treasures taken as booty or spoils of war.