The Greek God of War Ares

Ares was considered the god of war in ancient Greece and was perhaps the most unpopular of all the Olympian gods due to his temper, aggressiveness and insatiable thirst for war. He seduced Aphrodite, fought unsuccessfully with Heracles, and angered Poseidon by killing his son Alirrothios. He was one of the most “human” Olympian gods, he was a popular subject in Greek art and even more so in the Roman era where he was also considered the god of war under the Latin name Mars.

aresAres was a second generation god, son of Zeus and Hera and his sisters were Hebe and Eileithyia. Despite the fact that he was a god, the Greeks believed that he came from Thrace, perhaps in an attempt to associate himself with those peoples they considered foreign and warlike.

Ares fathered many children with different partners, several of whom were unlucky when they came face-to-face with Heracles in the performance of his infamous labors. Characteristically, Hippolytus’ daughter, the queen of the Amazons, lost her belt, Eurythion’s son lost his cattle and Diomedes his horses from the Greek hero. It should be noted that the courageous and warlike Amazons were also considered descendants of Mars.

Ares was famous for his beauty and courage, qualities that helped him win the favor of Aphrodite (although she was married to Hephaestus) with whom he had a daughter, Harmony and Eros god of love and desire. Hephaestus managed to trap the lovers in a specially made bed and the story is detailed in book 8 verse 266-366 of the Odyssey. The punishment for Ares’ act was temporary expulsion from Olympus.

In Hesiod’s Theogony referred to as “Ares who pierces shields” and “Ares who plunders cities” the god represented the more brutal and bloody side of battle, as opposed to Athena who represented the strategic side of war. In Greek mythology, Ares appears with the children he had with Aphrodite, as well as Phobos and Deimos (Terror), his sister Eris (Strife) and his concubine Enyo.

Ares is accompanied by the Maches (Battles), demons of war – daughters of Eris, the Hysmines (demons of conflict – children of Eris) War (demon of war or epithet of Ares) and his daughter Alala, goddess – personification of the Greek war cry , whose name Ares uses as his own battle cry. Ares sister Ivi is also said to prepare the baths for him. According to Pausanias, the local inhabitants of Therapni in Sparta recognized Thiro as the healer of Ares.

One of the roles of Ares was expressed in ancient Greece with the founding myth of Thebes. Ares was the ancestor of the water dragon killed by Cadmus and from the teeth that were sown in the ground the indigenous Spartans grew. To atone, Cadmus placed himself in the service of Ares for eight years and in order to appease the god, he took as his wife Harmonia, daughter of Ares with Aphrodite. In this way, Cadmus settled all disputes and founded the city of Thebes.

External appearance

In art, Ares is beautiful, imposing, supernaturally large. On the coins, and here his form is rarely found, his helmeted head is usually depicted or with a band (on the coins of the Mamertines from the Sicilian Messina, 3rd century BC). Generally, he is represented with breastplate, helmet, shield, spear, sword.

Ares was usually accompanied by his two sons, Deimos and Phobos, by his sister Eris, who represents discord, and the bloodthirsty, violent daughter or sister or mother of Enio who represents war (identified with the Roman goddess of Bellona War).

He was cruel and raw, unstable, a fighter without measure and judgment, in contrast to his sister Athena, who always beat him in battles and distinguished herself for the correct war strategy. In the narratives of the ancient writers, reference was made to his very loud voice – he roared, as if nine, ten thousand mortals were shouting / a cry that opened war and is struck down.

He wears breastplate and helmet and carries shield, spear and sword. He fights on foot or in quadrupeds with horses named Aethon (=fiery, fierce, impetuous; or of the color of fire), Phloys, Konavos (=noise, wail, knock, crash, wave) and Phobos (Kointos Smyrnaeus 8.239-243) .

Because of these qualities he is not liked by the Olympians, not even by his father Zeus who considers him the most hated god in him. Correspondingly, people have ambivalent feelings about the god – the Athenians on the frieze of the Parthenon isolated him from the rest of the gods, which is aggravated by the proximity of the war god to Demeter, immersed in her thoughts and out of touch with the environment.

Although a god of war and a warmonger, his own exploits are not great. In Giant Battle it kills only one Giant. . In the Trojan War he was on the side of those who were ultimately defeated, the Trojans, while Athena, often depicted in Greek art as holding Victory in her hand, favored the Greeks.

Like Zeus, the Greeks were ambivalent towards Ares, for his impetuosity was brutal and horse-like, more like a demon than a god. That is why he is often defeated or tricked by the clever Heracles and the wise Athena. He is hurt but his wounds are quickly healed, because he is a god.

Ares and Aphrodite

On Olympus, Hephaestus was united in the bonds of marriage with Aphrodite. In this same place Ares, while lying in the arms of Aphrodite on the bed of Hephaestus, was perceived by the lame god and ridiculed before the Olympians, as Hephaestus wrapped the lovers in fine golden netting. When he freed them, Aphrodite headed for Cyprus, Ares to his birthplace, Thrace.

Ares and Hephaestus share, apart from the same woman, the same ridicule. However, after the affair was revealed, Hephaestus demanded the return of the wedding gifts from Zeus, his marriage to Aphrodite was dissolved, and the two lovers were freed for a legal marriage.

Thus Pindar calls Ares chalcarmaton possin, husband, of Aphrodite and describes him as beautiful as Apollo. And Sappho will compare, praising him, his son-in-law to Ares. Meanwhile, Mars and Venus often appear in art side by side.

Duel with Heracles

The most popular myth of Ares concerns his battle with Heracles. The son of Cycnus, he was notorious for attacking pilgrims on their way to the oracle of Delphi, which angered Apollo, who sent Hercules to confront him. Hercules killed Cycnus and Ares, enraged, challenged the hero to battle. However, Heracles with Athena’s protection managed to injure Ares.

The clash symbolizes the confrontation between two different aspects of warfare and heroism. Heracles’ strength and bravery, often used to protect and serve justice, contrast with Ares’ love for bloodshed and chaos.

Ares and Aloede

When Poseidon’s sons Otus and Ephialtes, called Aloyade, threatened the gods with war, they neutralized Ares by chaining him in a copper vessel for thirteen months. The Aloyades’ stepmother Heriboia revealed the place of his imprisonment and Hermes secretly freed him, while Artemis exterminated the Aloyade on Naxos by trickery (Apollodorus 1.7).

The plight of Ares was eventually discovered by Hermes, the messenger of the gods, who managed to rescue him. The imprisonment of Ares highlights the boldness and the significant threat posed by the Aloadae, even though they were ultimately unsuccessful in their rebellion against the Olympian gods.

Additionally, the capture of Ares by the Aloadae adds a layer of complexity to his character, showing that even a powerful god of war could be vulnerable. This narrative also highlights the role of Hermes as a rescuer and problem-solver among the gods.

Ares and Achilles

Before the birth of Achilles, his mother Thetis foretells both the birth and the death of her son by Peleus and describes him by comparing him to Ares: in hands like Mars, as in feet as swift as lightning (Pind ., Isthm. 8.37).

Ares wanted to take revenge on Achilles, because the hero killed his Amazon daughter Penthesilea and despite the different decrees of the Fates who decreed others, he moved against him. He was stopped by Zeus with a strike of his thunderbolt.

His role in the Trojan War

In the Trojan War, Ares supports the Trojans and sometimes leads them into battle alongside Hector. The Iliad outlines Mars in black colors and is described as “hateful” “murderer” “voracious war” and “curse of men”. Homer’s image of Ares, in the above mythological stories, often reveal his weaknesses compared to the other gods.

Ares is attacked by Athena who, supporting the Achaeans, hits him with a large rock. Also the Achaean hero Diomedes manages to wound him with his spear, with the help of Athena. Homer describes the scream of the wounded Ares as the screams of 10,000 men. Returning to Olympus, Zeus ignores Ares’ complaints, but instructs Paeon (healer of the gods) to heal his wound.

Ares and Poseidon

Ares disturbed the harmony of Olympus when he was accused of killing Poseidon’s son Alirrothios near a stream below the Acropolis of Athens, leading to a special tribunal – the Areos Pagos – being convened on a hill near the stream to hear the case . The god was acquitted when it was revealed that Alirrothios had raped Ares’ daughter Alcippe. Since then the Supreme Court has been established as a court for cases involving murder and blasphemy. Apollodorus recounts:

Cecrops married the daughter of Actaeus Agraylus and had a son, Erysichthon, who died childless, and three daughters, Agraylus, Ersis, Pandrosos. Alkippe was born from Agraulus and Ares. Alirrothios, son of Poseidon and the nymph Eurytis, tried to rape her, but Ares caught him in the act and killed him. Poseidon brought Ares accused to the Ares ice with the twelve gods as judges and was acquitted. (3,142)

Another version wants the Amazons to attack Athens in the years of Theseus, to occupy the rock opposite the Acropolis and there to sacrifice, the first ones, to their father Ares. This is how the name Areios Pagos (=Ares-rock) came about.

Ares and Dionysus

Homer mentions that both gods are wild, come from Thrace and go beyond boundaries. In the Gigantomachia, Dionysus appears as a powerful warrior who fights with a spear and is associated with Ares. Besides, Dionysus also appears as a conqueror of the East, becoming a model later for M. Alexander. In addition, the two gods are related to Thebes, Ares as the progenitor of the Thebans and the royal house of the city, and Dionysus as the son of the daughter of the city’s founder Cadmus by Zeus.


Ares was not worshiped in many places, there were not many sanctuaries in his honor and he was not the patron of any city. He was worshiped mainly in his place of origin, Thrace, but his main sanctuary was in Thebes, where he was considered the ancestor of the Cadmeians.

When Cadmus, arriving in the region, wished to sacrifice the cow to Athena, he sent some of his companions to fetch water from the Areia (Mars) spring which was guarded by a serpent which some said came from the generation of Mars and others that he was his son.

He killed most of the envoys, until, enraged, Cadmus killed the dragon. From the teeth of this dragon, sown by Cadmus on Athena’s advice, the Spartans emerged from the earth, armored and similar in character to the land of their father’s source.

They killed each other in a random fight or for no reason at all. For killing the snake, Cadmus was purified by eight years of servile service to Mars (Apollod. 3.22-25). Soon after, the gods married him to the god’s daughter by Aphrodite, Harmonia, and Athena secured the throne for him in Thebes.

The wall of the seven-door gate is called ἀρειον in the Iliad, while the dance of the Theban women in the tragedy Επτὰ ἐπὶ Thebes by Aeschylus asks the god not to leave the city (104-107), and so does Aphrodite.

And yet, when Thebes was besieged by the Epigones, Tiresias prophesied that they would be victorious if Menochaeus, the son of Creon, offered himself as a sacrifice to Ares. Immediately the young man committed suicide in front of the city gates.

There were temples to him in Athens, near the Areopagus, where he had been tried for the murder of the would-be rapist of the daughter of Alcippus; in Laconia, in Tegea, near Megalopolis, in Troizinia.

Phrixus, arriving at Colchis, sacrificed the golden-wooled ram which had brought him thither from Iolkos to Zeus Phyxius, and gave the skin of the sacrificed animal to Aetes, who nailed it round an oak in the grove of Ares.

Apollonius Rhodius relates that the Stymphalian hens, which had iron wings, were dedicated to Mars. A dog and a falcon were the animals that mortals dedicated to the god.

Roman Ares (Mars)

In later times, the corresponding Roman god Mars was given many of his attributes, but with fewer human elements. In Roman mythology, Ares was the father of Romulus and Remus (through the rape of Hestiada Rhea or Rhea Sylvia) the legendary founders of Rome and as such, the city acquired sacred status. Like Athena for Athens, Mars was the patron god of the Roman capital and the month of March was named after him.