- Pronunciation: AIR-ees
- Origin: Greek
- Role: God
- Parents: Zeus and Hera
- Children: Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia
- Symbols: Spear, Helmet
- Other Name: Mars
Who Is Ares?
In Greek mythology, Ares was the god of war. He was the son of Zeus and Hera. He was impulsive and bloodthirsty, known for his love of battles and fights. Though he wasn’t a favorite god among the people, he was considered determined and fearless.
Ares represented traits of war, including raw violence. He was considered the opposite of Athena, who represented tactical strategies and smart military planning. Ares acted impulsively while other famous gods in battle planned out their attacks.
Ares was despised by most other gods, including his parents. But he did have a large following in the northern areas of Greece. In earlier times, human sacrifices were made to him using prisoners of war at Sparta. Sparta also offered sacrifices of dogs, which was quite unusual. There was a festival held for him at Geronthrae in Laconia but women were not allowed. He had a temple in Athens at the foot of an area known as Ares’ Hill.
Legends and Stories
There are not many myths surrounding Ares but the ones that do exist serve as a testament to his impulsive and sometimes violent nature.
Ares and Aphrodite
Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty. She was incredibly beautiful and attracted many suiters but she was married to Hephaestus, who was graceless and not an ideal match for the goddess. She found herself attracted to Ares and the two had an ongoing passionate love affair. Hephaestus found out about the affair and decided to punish Ares by hurting his pride. He built an invisible net which was very strong and used it to capture the lovers in the act. He exposed their nakedness to the other gods, who laughed at and ridiculed Ares.
As the god of war, Ares was only interested in battles. While the Greeks believed that gods were there to protect them, they knew that Ares would only help them in terms of war and even then, he might decide to help the opposing side instead. He earned several nicknames, including “Bloody Ares” and “Raging Ares” because of his temper and impulsive nature. Instead of being loved like Athena and other gods, Ares was feared.
A battle had broken out between two great armies. Ares was enjoying the battle as he watched the chiefs drive furiously towards each other in their chariots. He took pleasure in the throwing of spears and flying arrows. He loved the sound of swords clashing. He was happy with the number of soldiers dying in the field in front of him. He often found himself in the middle of battles, similar to the goddess Athena. But even though he took place in fights, he didn’t have the impressive track record Athena did. While Athena took the time to plan attacks and learn of her enemies’ weaknesses, Ares plunged into battles and acted on impulse. This personality trait would lead to an incident between the two warriors.
Ares found himself in a battle against the Greeks. He was driving them away and almost declared victory but Athena quickly stepped in to help. Ares saw the goddess coming towards him and threw his spear directly at her chest. But Athena caught the spear on her shield and tossed it aside. Then she found a giant rock and threw it at the god of war. He was unable to dodge it and the rock hit him head-on. It knocked him flat on his back and he was unable to move. He was so injured that he was forced to give up the fight. When he was able to move, he fled to Mount Olympus. Athena then helped the Greeks for the rest of the battle and lead them to victory.
Otus and Ephialtes
In this myth, Ares is actually captured and made prisoner. It begins with two boys, named Otus and Ephialtes. As young boys, they were small and weak. But they quickly grew and soon towered over most men. At the young age of nine, they were classified as giants. They were incredibly brave but led a modest life. Both boys were farmers and preferred to live in peace while caring for their crops and land. Unfortunately, their crops were often destroyed by soldiers in battle and most of these battles were stirred up by Ares. Eventually, their fields were bare due to the years of abuse they had endured.
Otus and Ephialtes eventually reached their breaking point. They knew they had to stop Ares. Because they were so brave and strong, they did not fear the god. But they didn’t act without a plan. Their attack was successful and they captured Ares. They placed him in a bronze vase so that he couldn’t escape. He was kept there for 13 months. During this time, there were no wars and Otus and Ephialtes were able to grow their crops undisturbed. Unfortunately, Hermes discovered Ares and set him free. Otherwise, he might have remained in the vase forever.
Ares never married. His obsession with war was considered his main love. However, he didn’t spend very many nights alone. He had an ongoing affair with Hephaestus’ wife, Aphrodite. It is said that he was in love with the goddess, though she was married.
Through his many love affairs, he had several children, including gods and mortals. Some of the more well-known offspring include Phobos, the god of fear, Deimos, the god of terror, and Harmonia, the goddess of harmony. He also fathered Drakon of Thebes, a dragon who guarded the spring of Ismene at Thebes.
His mortal children include Meleagros, the Prince of Aitolia, Kyknos, a warrior, Diomedes, the King of Bistones, and Hippolyte, the Queen of the Amazons.
Most artistic representations of Ares show him in the battlefield, as he would never willingly miss a battle. Most show him in the act of fighting with a weapon in his hand and a helmet on his head. He is usually shown with a spear, but this was not his only weapon. He is shown with a muscular body and an attractive appearance, which certainly helped in his many love affairs, including the one with Aphrodite.
Ares is associated with a few different symbols. He is associated with two animals. The boar is said to represent his violent nature while his association with dogs could be linked to sacrifices made to him of the animal.
He is also represented by his helmet and spear, both tributes to his many battles.