Ares is the Ancient Greek god of war and violence but there’s a lot more to him than just that title. It’s fascinating how he was treated by the other gods of the Ancient Greek pantheon and how he was worshipped.
Today we’re looking at some interesting facts about Ares and how much they tell us about how the Ancient Greeks thought of war and the mayhem that comes with it.
12 Fun Facts About the Greek God Ares
1. Basic facts about Ares
Ares is the son of Zeus, king of the gods and god of the sky, and Hera, queen of the gods and goddess of marriage, family, women, and childbirth. He is the first born and only child of Zeus and Hera. Ironically, he isn’t favored by his parents and the rest of the gods don’t seem to like him much- except for Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who is his most consistent lover.
Ares represents war in its ugliest forms: bloodlust, bloodshed, rage, violence, hostility, unpredictability and impulsivity are all the elements he is associated with. The noble aspects of war, like strategy, valor, and the like were represented and associated with the goddess Athena.
As such, Ares wasn’t worshipped extensively in Greece, except for Sparta and some cities in northern Greece. He also is known for being the recipient of human sacrifices, especially in Sparta, where they sacrificed war prisoners to him in early times.
Ares goes into battle accompanied by his sons Phobos (the god of panic) and Deimos (the god of rout). Sometimes he is also joined by his sister Eris (the goddess of strife).
2. Ares’ birth
Though there is a myth that presents Ares as the son of Zeus and Hera, conceived and given birth to the normal way, there is another myth that claims Ares is only the son of Hera. According to that myth, Hera was enraged when Zeus gave birth to Athena, technically without a mother since Zeus had absorbed her mother Metis into himself, and she wanted to procure a son without a father.
Hera went to Chloris, the goddess of flowers, who gave her a magic flower to touch. When Hera touched that flower, she became pregnant and had Ares.
It is significant that the two gods of war, Athena and Ares, both had unusual births and prenatal histories according to this myth.
3. Ares’ looks
Ares is depicted as a young man or a bearded man with a helmet, shield, and spear. He generally appears as an armored man on vases and other depictions. It is possible to see him out of his armor in ancient artwork, but it is rare.
4. Ares’ symbols
Ares’ symbols are the sword, spear, and helmet. He was also associated with the vulture, the dog, and the boar as they are aggressive animals that can and do kill or are associated with the dead carcasses war leaves behind.
5. Ares’ Roman name is Mars
When the Romans reinterpreted a lot of the Ancient Greek myths into their Roman mythology, Ares became Mars. Unlike the Ancient Greek version, Mars is more dignified and palatable as the god of war but also the god of agriculture. Romans regarded Mars with a lot more respect and honor than the Greeks did Ares because they felt Mars’ war was a preamble to peace and prosperity after victory.
6. There’s no Greek city named after Ares
Unlike the other gods who have cities named after them, Ares has none. This is attributed to his bad characteristics and unsavory personality. However, he is associated with the founding of Thebes: Thebes’ founding hero, Cadmus killed a water dragon that was the son of Ares. To atone for this, Cadmus placed himself in Ares’ service for 8 years. After those years were up, he married Ares’ daughter Harmonia to further ingratiate himself with the god.
This made it possible for him to found Thebes and bring prosperity to the city.
7. Ares was abducted once
Two giants called the Aloadae decided to abduct Ares. Their names were Otus and Ephialtes and their reason for doing that isn’t clear. What is clear is that they were generally antagonistic to the gods of Olympus and lusted after certain goddesses.
When they managed to grab Ares, they shoved him in an urn or bronze jar called a pithos and bound him with chains. Ares stayed there, screaming and kicking, for 13 whole months before Hermes and Artemis decided to help him.
Artemis tricked the two giants into killing each other by turning into a doe they both wanted to hunt, and Hermes stole the jar, setting Ares free.
8. Ares and Aphrodite
Ares isn’t married. Instead, he fathered his sons with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was originally the wife of Hephestus, the god of fire and craftsmen. Aphrodite didn’t like her husband, who was ugly and had a lame leg. Ares’ handsome physique and face allured her and they frequently met illicitly.
Eventually, Hephestus found out. To ridicule them and get revenge, he devised a plan: he crafted an invisible but extremely strong net which he spread over the bed where Ares and Aphrodite would sleep together.
When the illicit lovers rolled around on the bed, the magic net closed around them and held them captive in the compromising position it caught them in. Hephestus then called in all the gods of Olympus to laugh at them. The goddesses didn’t go, for modesty’s sake, but the male gods did, and they mocked them dreadfully.
The shame was so big that when they were released from the net, Ares went to Thrace and Aphrodite went to Paphos.
Despite that, Ares and Aphrodite kept being together on and off. Together they had eight children. Of those, the most well-known are Eros, the winged god of love, Phobos, the god of panic, Deimos, the god of the rout, and Harmonia, the goddess of harmony.
9. Ares was beaten by a mortal
During the Iliad, Ares relishes the battles between the Greeks and the Trojans. He often aids Aphrodite who is siding with the Trojans though he doesn’t quite have a fixed allegiance.
In one of those times, Ares was aiding the Trojans and one of the Greek kings and leaders, Diomedes, saw him do it so he withdrew his men. Athena was angered that Ares was giving the Trojans an unfair advantage, so she asked permission from Zeus to drive Ares away from the battlefield. Zeus granted the permission so Athena went to Diomedes and told him to attack Ares.
Armed with Athena’s assurance that it wouldn’t be hubris to attack a god, Diomedes threw his spear at Ares and Athena made sure it injured Ares. The whole battlefield shook from Ares’ cries as he felt the pain and fled the battlefield, causing the Trojans to fall back.
10. Ares was beaten by Athena
During the Iliad, there was a period when Zeus ordered the gods to abstain from intervening in the battles between the Greeks and the Trojans. However, Ares defies that order when he hears that his son Ascalaphus, who was a Greek, got killed. That doesn’t work because Athena stops him.
Ares was enraged but he decided to bide his time. When Zeus allowed the gods to intervene again, Ares attacked Athena to exact revenge. But Athena was ready for him and she defeated him by throwing a boulder at him.
11. Ares killed Aphrodite’s lover
Though Ares had many other lovers than Aphrodite, he became immensely jealous when he heard of the deep connection that Aphrodite shared with the mortal Adonis. Adonis was a gorgeous young man who was raised by Persephone and Aphrodite.
Both goddesses fell in love with him, but Zeus ordered them to only spend four months each with the young man, and leave another four months to him to do as he pleased.
Adonis seemed to truly want to be with Aphrodite because he spent all his time with her. She, too, had lost interest in everyone else, incurring Ares’ jealousy and indignance, because Adonis was a mere mortal. Mad with rage, Ares transformed into a boar with curved tusks and attacked Adonis, killing him.
Aphrodite was deeply grieved and created the anemone flower from his blood. It is also said that the red rose was created then, because she pricked her finger on a white rose in her hurry to get to him, staining it red with her blood.
12. Ares is why the Areopagus exists
When a son of Poseidon raped Ares’ daughter Alcippe, Ares killed him to avenge her. Poseidon then, enraged, wanted to kill him but Zeus decided to put Ares on trial. It was the first-ever trial, and it was held in Athens, at a big rock near the Acropolis, which was since named Areopagus, or Ares’ Hill.
Ares was acquitted of the crime. The concept of a trial by one’s peers is attributed to this incident.
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