Why Ares is The god of War (Origins, Symbols, and Influence)

Ares is the god of war
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Greek mythology, the rich tapestry of tales from ancient Greece, is a treasure trove of stories about gods, heroes, and monsters. Among the pantheon of deities, Ares the god of war stands out. 

Often depicted as a fierce and brutal deity, Ares personifies the violent and physically untamed aspect of war, which is in contrast to his sister Athena who was the goddess of military strategy and wisdom.

Ares was neither a villain nor a hero in these tales; he was a force of nature, embodying the chaos and destruction that come with war. His character in the myths is complex and multifaceted, a reflection of how the ancient Greeks viewed war – necessary yet destructive, heroic yet tragic.

Even though Ares was not as popular as other deities like Zeus or Apollo, his influence in Greek mythology was significant. 

This article will delve into the mysteries of Ares the god of war, his origins, symbols, and impact on Greek society and modern culture.

Why Ares is The god of War?

Ares, the god of the war
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Ares is considered the god of war in Greek mythology because he represents the brutal and violent aspects of warfare. He embodies the chaos, bloodlust, and aggression often associated with battle. 

Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, and his association with war reflects the Greeks’ understanding of the destructive and unpredictable nature of armed conflict. 

While other gods like Athena may represent strategic aspects of warfare, Ares symbolizes the raw, destructive power of war itself.

The Birth and Origins of Ares

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Born to Zeus, the King of the Gods, and Hera, the Queen, Ares was part of the twelve Olympians, the principal deities of the Greek pantheon. His birth was not a joyous occasion. 

According to the myths, Hera bore Ares out of spite for Zeus and his numerous affairs. Unlike most of his siblings, Ares was not begotten through any romantic liaison, reinforcing his position as an outsider among the gods.

However, the origins of Ares predate the classical Greek mythology. Scholars believe that Ares was originally a Thracian god of war. 

The Thracians were known for their fierce and savage warfare, which could explain why Ares was portrayed as a violent and uncontrollable deity. It was only later that he was incorporated into the Greek pantheon.

Despite his Thracian roots, Ares was thoroughly Hellenized and became a quintessential part of Greek mythology. His character embodied the Greeks’ ambivalent relationship with war, encapsulating both the valor and the savagery that it entailed.

Ares: Understanding the God of War

Ares the god of war was a complex deity. Although he was the son of Zeus and Hera, he was not well-liked by his parents or his fellow gods. 

This could be attributed to his aggressive nature and his delight in the destruction caused by war. 

Yet, Ares was not just a mindless brute. He was also the god of courage and manly courage, aspects that were greatly valued by the ancient Greeks.

Ares was often depicted as a mature, bearded warrior dressed in battle armor, holding a spear or a sword. His presence on the battlefield was believed to incite fear and terror among the enemy ranks, a testament to his power and might. 

However, Ares was not invincible. He was wounded several times in battle, a reminder of the dangers and unpredictability of war.

Yet, despite his fearsome reputation, Ares was not just a god of war. He was also associated with love and beauty, thanks to his affair with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. This dichotomy in Ares’ character reflects the ancient Greek belief that love and war were closely intertwined.

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Iconic Symbols Associated with Ares

Several symbols are associated with Ares, each signifying a different aspect of his character. The spear, the most common symbol associated with Ares, signifies his martial prowess and his role as the God of War.

The vulture and the dog, often depicted alongside Ares in ancient art, were his sacred animals. The vulture, a scavenger that feeds on the dead, symbolizes the aftermath of war, while the dog, a loyal and fearless companion in battle, represents the valor and courage associated with warfare.

Another significant symbol of Ares is the Areopagus, a rocky hill in Athens where the god was supposedly tried by the other gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son. The Areopagus, which translates to “the rock of Ares,” became a symbol of justice and law, aspects that are often overlooked in the chaos of war.

iconic symbols of Ares
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The Role of Ares in Greek Myths and Legends

Ares features prominently in many Greek myths and legends. 

In the Iliad, Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan War, Ares fights on the side of the Trojans, displaying his might and ferocity in battle. However, he is wounded by Diomedes, a Greek hero, and retreats from the battlefield, a stark reminder of the vulnerability of even the gods in times of war.

In another myth, Ares is imprisoned in a bronze jar by the giant sons of Aloeus. He remains trapped for thirteen months until he is rescued by Hermes. This myth underscores Ares’ impulsive nature and his tendency to rush into situations without thinking about the consequences.

Ares’ affair with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, is another significant part of his mythology. Their illicit love affair resulted in several children, including Eros, the god of love, and Harmonia, the goddess of harmony. This myth highlights the dichotomy in Ares’ character, as a god of war who is also capable of love and desire.

Ares’ Relationships and Offspring

Ares had numerous relationships, both with goddesses and mortal women, resulting in many offspring. His most famous affair was with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. This union resulted in several children, including Eros, the god of love, Anteros, the god of reciprocal love, Deimos, the god of terror, Phobos, the god of fear, and Harmonia, the goddess of harmony and concord.

Ares also had an affair with a mortal woman named Alcippe. When Halirrhothius, the son of Poseidon, violated Alcippe, Ares killed him in a fit of rage. This led to a trial in the Areopagus, where Ares was acquitted, setting a precedent for the sanctity of a father’s rights in ancient Greece.

The offspring of Ares were as diverse and complex as the god himself. While some were deities of love and harmony, others personified fear and terror, reflecting the multifaceted nature of their father.

The Worship and Temples of Ares

Despite his important role in Greek mythology, Ares was not widely worshipped in ancient Greece. This was primarily due to his violent and unpredictable nature, which did not endear him to the Greeks. The cult of Ares was limited and did not have the same reach or influence as the cults of other gods like Zeus or Apollo.

However, there were several temples and shrines dedicated to Ares across Greece. The most famous of these was the temple of Ares in Athens, located on the Areopagus. This temple was a significant legal and religious center in Athens, where important trials were held.

The Spartans, known for their warrior culture, also worshipped Ares. They believed that Ares was their divine ancestor and offered him sacrifices before going to war. This reflects the central role that war and martial prowess played in Spartan society.

Ares: His Impact on Greek Society and Culture

Despite his notoriety, Ares had a significant impact on Greek society and culture. As the god of war, Ares embodied the valor and courage that were highly valued by the ancient Greeks. He was seen as a protector of the city in times of war, a role that was crucial in a society that was often at war.

Ares also played a significant role in the legal and judicial system of ancient Greece. His trial on the Areopagus set a precedent for the sanctity of a father’s rights, a principle that was incorporated into Greek law.

Moreover, Ares’ mythology was a source of inspiration for many works of art and literature. From Homer’s Iliad to the plays of Euripides, Ares’ character and exploits were depicted in a variety of ways, contributing to the richness and diversity of Greek culture.

The Lasting Impact and Influence of Ares in Modern Culture

Ares’ influence extends beyond ancient Greece and can be seen in modern culture. His Roman counterpart, Mars, was revered as the father of the Roman people and had a month, March, named after him. Mars also gives his name to the fourth planet in the solar system, reflecting the enduring impact of Ares’ mythology.

In literature and cinema, Ares often appears as a symbol of war and conflict. From Shakespeare’s plays to modern films like “Wonder Woman,” Ares’ character is used to explore the themes of war, violence, and their consequences.

Moreover, Ares’ symbols, like the spear and the shield, have become universal symbols of war and military power. They are often used in logos and insignia of military organizations, a testament to Ares’ enduring influence.

Classical Literature about Ares, the Greek God of War

Here are some classical literature quotes about Ares, the Greek god of war that have been collected from some of the most famous and intriguing passages that describe or mention this controversial deity, who was both feared and despised by many ancient Greeks.

– “Ares (The God of War) hates those who hesitate.” – Euripides

– “You’re pretty smug, Lord Ares, for a guy who runs from Cupid statues.” – Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

– “Ares was worshipped, it appears, by the Mycenaean Greeks from at least 1200 BC. In some sources, he was born in Thrace, which was an area populated with fearsome, war-like people. This god was never popular and there were very few temples and shrines to him.” – Edward Whelan, Ares: The Greek God of War

– “To me, you are the most hateful of all the gods who hold Olympus. Forever quarreling is dear to your heart, wars, and battles.” – Zeus, quoted in Ares, the god of war by Josho Brouwers

– “Many of us who live upon Olympos have taken hurt from mortal men and hurt each other. Ares bore it, when Otos and Ephialtes, Aloeus’ giant sons, put him in chains: he lay for thirteen moons in a bronze jar, until that glutton of war might well have perished had Eëriboia, their stepmother, not told Hermes: Hermes broke him free” – Homer, The Iliad

These quotes show different aspects of Ares’ personality and role in Greek mythology. He was a fierce and impulsive warrior, but also a coward and a troublemaker. He was hated by his own father Zeus, but also loved by Aphrodite, the goddess of love. He was powerful enough to challenge the gods, but also vulnerable enough to be captured by mortals. He was a complex and fascinating character, who inspired many writers and artists throughout history.

Conclusion: The Enduring Mystique of Ares the God of War

Ares the god of war is a complex and intriguing figure in Greek mythology. His character embodies the violent and brutal aspect of war, yet he is also associated with love and beauty.

 Despite his notoriety, Ares had a significant impact on Greek society and culture, influencing everything from law to art.

His influence extends to modern culture, where he is often used as a symbol of war and conflict. Whether in literature, cinema, or even astronomy, Ares’ legacy endures, a testament to the enduring mystique of this ancient deity.

In unraveling the mystique of Ares, one gains a deeper understanding of ancient Greek culture and its complex relationship with war.

 Ares was not just a god of war; he was a reflection of the paradoxes inherent in war – the valor and the destruction, the heroism and the tragedy. Through Ares, the ancient Greeks explored these paradoxes, a testament to their sophisticated understanding of human nature.

FAQs about Ares, the God of war

  1. Who is Ares?

Ares is the Greek god of war and courage. He is one of the Twelve Olympians and the son of Zeus and Hera. He represents the distasteful aspects of brutal warfare and slaughter.

  1. What are his symbols and attributes?

Ares’ symbols include the sword, spear, shield, helmet, chariot, dog, boar, vulture, and flaming torch. He often wears armor and a helmet and rides a red chariot pulled by fire-breathing horses. He is accompanied by his children Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Terror), as well as Enyo (Discord), Eris (Strife), and the Keres (Death-spirits).

  1. Who are his lovers and offspring?

 Ares had many lovers, both mortal and immortal. His most famous affair was with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was married to Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalworking. Ares and Aphrodite had several children, including Eros (Cupid), Anteros, Harmonia, Phlegyas, and the Amazons. Ares also fathered other children with various women, such as Oenomaus, Cycnus, Diomedes, Ascalaphus, Ialmenus, and Thrax.

  1. How did the other gods and mortals view him?

A: Ares was not well-liked by the other gods and mortals. He was often seen as a destructive and bloodthirsty force, who incited violence and conflict for his own amusement. His own parents, Zeus and Hera, detested him. He was also humiliated by other gods on several occasions, such as when he was trapped in a net by Hephaestus, who exposed his adultery with Aphrodite to the Olympians; or when he was wounded by Athena, Apollo, or Diomedes during the Trojan War. The only god who supported him was his sister Eris.

  1. How did he influence Greek culture and history?

A: Ares had a limited influence on Greek culture and history. He was not widely worshipped or revered by the Greeks, who preferred Athena as their patroness of war. He had some cults in places like Sparta, Thebes, Thrace, Macedonia, and Anatolia. He was also associated with some foreign gods such as the Thracian Bendis or the Anatolian Men. He was sometimes depicted in art as a handsome but cruel warrior or as a lover of Aphrodite.

  1. Who kills Ares?

In Greek mythology, Ares, the god of war, is not killed by any specific individual or deity. However, there are stories in which he is wounded or temporarily defeated in battle. For instance, during the Trojan War, the hero Diomedes, aided by the goddess Athena, manages to wound Ares. Still, Ares does not meet his ultimate demise in the myths.

  1. How powerful is Ares, the god of war?

Ares is considered one of the most powerful Olympian gods in Greek mythology. His strength and influence are primarily associated with the violent and chaotic aspects of warfare. While not as strategic or wise as some other gods, his power lies in his ability to incite conflict, inspire fear, and thrive in the midst of battle. Ares is a formidable deity, but his power is often contrasted with the wisdom of goddesses like Athena.

  1. Who is Ares in love with?

Ares, the god of war, is known for his tumultuous love affairs in Greek mythology. His most famous and passionate love interest is Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Their love affair is notorious in Greek mythology, often leading to scandalous and dramatic consequences. Ares’ other romantic involvements include Eos (the goddess of the dawn) and, in some accounts, the mortal woman Adonis.

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