Ares | Greek God

Ares Greek Mythology

Ares (Greek: Ἄρης, transl.: Árēs), is a Greek god, son of the king and queen of the gods, Zeus and Hera. In mythology Ares was born as a possible replacement for Zeus as it was written in an ancient prophecy that led Hera to give birth to the god of war in the intention that the overwhelming power of her son who was one of the greatest and most feared on Olympus would lead him to fulfill this prophecy, in ancient Greek religion.

The cult of Ares was not very large, being centered in the northern part of Greece and in Sparta, one of the most important city-states of Ancient Greece.

Although often treated as the Olympian god of war, he is more accurately the god of savage war, bloodlust, or killing personified. The Romans identified him as Mars, the Roman god of war and agriculture (which they had inherited from the Etruscans).

Among the Hellenes there was always distrust of Ares and he was detested by Zeus. Ares was generally diminished on behalf of his half-sister, Athena, who although she was goddess of war, Athena's position was one of strategic warfare, while Ares tended to be the unpredictable violence of war.

His birthplace and true home were placed far away, among the warlike barbarians and Thracians (Iliad 13.301; Ovid, Ars Amatoria, II.10 ;), from where he withdrew after his affair with Aphrodite was revealed.

Although Aphrodite is best known as Hephaestus' wife in late myths, she was most often portrayed with Ares, who because he represents virility is her ideal lover in classical imagery.

Aphrodite's marriage to Hephaestus would have come to an end after her treachery with Ares was exposed, and in the Trojan War, Homer says that Aphrodite is Ares' consort. The passion of the two represents the dualism between love and hate, and they are constantly depicted together in works of art.

"Ares" remained an adjective and epithet in classical times: Zeus Areios, Athena Areios, even Aphrodite Areia. In Mycenaean times, inscriptions mentioned Eniálios, a name that survived into classical times as an epithet of Ares. Crows and dogs, animals that feed on the corpses on battlefields, are sacred to him.


Although important in poetry, Ares was rarely included in worship in Ancient Greece, held few temples and shrines seeming more present in battle rites. His worship was centered in the north, in the region of Thessaly, Thesprotia, and Thrace. Even though he was implicated in the founding myth of Thebes, he appeared in few myths.

In Sparta there was a statue of the god in chains, to show that the spirit of war and victory should never leave the city. The temple to Ares in the Agora of Athens that Pausanias saw in the 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 St. Paul delivered sermons, is situated at some distance from the Acropolis; in archaic times it was a ground for disputes. Its connection to Ares, possibly based on a false etymology, may be purely etiological.

Appearance and iconography

Ares had a chariot designed with gold reins for four (Iliad v.352) immortal stallions that spat fire. Among the gods, Ares was recognized by his brass armor; he wielded a spear or a sword in battle. His sharp and sacred birds were the barn owl, woodpecker, bubo and, especially in the south, the vulture.

According to Argonauticas (ii.382ff and 1031 ff; Higno, Fabula 30) the birds of Ares (Ornithes Areioi) were a flock of feather-throwing, dart-like birds that guarded the temple of the god's Amazons on a coastal island in the Black Sea.

In Sparta, on a chthonic night a dog sacrifice to Enyalios became assimilated into the cult of Ares. The sacrifice could be made to Ares on the eve of a battle to ask for his help.

In classical sculpture, Ares was depicted as a handsome man, often naked, wearing a Greek helmet, and holding a spear or sword. The god is generally difficult to identify because of the lack of distinguishing attributes: a statue of an armed warrior could easily represent a mythical hero or historical warrior.

The symbol of Mars (Roman Ares), an arrow representing a sword and a circle representing the shield, is used as a symbol of the masculine and the planet Mars.

In Renaissance and neoclassical artworks, Ares' symbols are the spear and helmet, his animal is the dog, and his bird is the vulture. In literary works of these eras, Ares appears as cruel, aggressive, and bloodthirsty, reviled by gods and humans alike, much as he was in ancient Greek myths.


In the tale sung by the bard in Alcinoo's room, the sun god Helios once spied Ares and Aphrodite secretly loving each other in Hephaestus' room, and he promptly reported the incident to Aphrodite's Olympian spouse.

Hephaestus managed to catch the couple in the act, and to do so, he made a special net, thin and strong like diamond to catch the illicit lovers. At the appropriate moment, this net was thrown, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite in a passionate embrace.

But Hephaestus was not yet satisfied with his revenge-he invited the Olympian gods and goddesses to examine the unhappy couple. Because of their modesty, the goddesses doubted, but the gods witnessed the sight.

Some commented on Aphrodite's beauty, the others opined on eagerly exchanging places with Ares, but all mocked the two. Once the couple was released, Ares, embarrassed, fled far away to his homeland, Thrace.

In a much later interpolated detail, Ares puts the young Alectrian at his door to warn them of Helios' arrival, as Helios would tell Hephaestus of Aphrodite's infidelity if the two were discovered, but Alectrian fell asleep.

Helios discovered the two and alerted Hephaestus. Ares was furious with Alectrian and turned him into a rooster, which now never forgets to announce the arrival of the sun in the morning.

The founding of Thebes

One of Ares' roles that was situated on dry land in Greece itself was in the foundation of the myth of Thebes: Ares placed a dragon to guard a spring in Thebes (Pseudo-Apolodorus mentions that some versions said the dragon was Ares' son),

and this dragon was killed by Cadmo, being the ancestor of the Thebans, as the dragon's teeth were sown in the earth as a harvest, from which were born fully armed soldiers, who fought to the death, until there were only five left, when Equiontus, one of them, commanded them to stop fighting.

The names of these sowers (spartans) were Equionte, Udeu, Ctonius, Hyperenor, and Pelorus.To propitiate Ares, Cadmo served one year (equivalent to eight of today's years) to Ares, and after that he married Harmonia, the daughter of Ares' union with Aphrodite.

Ares and the giants

In an archaic and obscure myth related in the Iliad by the goddess Dione to her daughter Aphrodite, two Cthonic giants, the Aloides, named Otho and Ephialtes, cast Ares into chains and put him in a bronze urn, where he remained for thirteen months, one lunar year.

"And that would have been the end of Ares and his appetite for war, if the beautiful Eriboea, the stepmother of the young giants, had not told Hermes what they had done," she reported (Iliad 5.385-391).

"In one of these suspected a festival of leave which is done in the thirteenth month." Ares was left screaming and howling in the urn until Hermes rescued him, and Artemis tricked the Aloides into making one murder the other.

The Iliad

In the Iliad, Homer depicted Ares as fixing neither loyalties nor respect for Temis, the right order 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 (Iliad V.699).

During the war, Diomedes fought with Hector and saw Ares fight on the side of the Trojans. Diomedes asked his soldiers to slowly retreat. Hera, Ares' mother, saw his interference and asked Zeus, his father, for permission to expel Ares from the battlefield.

Hera spurred Diomedes to attack Ares, so he threw a spear at Ares and his cries made both the Achaeans and Trojans alike tremble. Athena then took the spear and bruised the body of Ares, who cried out in pain and fled to Mount Olympus, forcing Trojans to retreat (XXI. 391).

Later when Zeus allowed the gods to fight the war again, Ares tried to fight Athena to avenge his previous injury, but was once again injured when she threw a huge rolling pebble at 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 Olympian gods should enter the battle. Athena stopped Ares and helped him take off his armor (from XV.110-128).

Other myths

Ares apprehended the criminal Sisyphus, a ruthless man who dared to kidnap the god of death Tânato. During the battle between Heracles and Cygnus (son of Ares), the god intervened but was wounded by the hero and forced to flee back to Olympus. Ares actively supported the Amazons in many wars and battles. The most famous of these was his daughter Pentesileia who joined the Trojan war.

War companions

Deimos, "the terror," and Phobos "fear," were his companions in war, children born to Aphrodite according to Hesiod. Ares' sister and companion in murder was Eris, the goddess of discord or Enio, the goddess of war, bloodshed and violence.

He was also assisted by the minor god of war Enyalios, his son with Enio, whose name ("warlike," the same meaning as Enio) also served as a title of Ares himself.

Ares' presence was accompanied by Kydoimos, the demon of the thunder of battle, as well as Makhai (Battles), Hysminai (Carnages), Polemos (a lesser spirit of war; probably an epithet of Ares, as he had no specific domain), and Polemos' daughter Alala, the goddess/personification of the Greek war cry, whose name Ares used as his own war cry. His sister Hebe also performed baths for him.