Friday, 6 May 2011

Ares - God of War

Ares, Thracian born of the Greek pantheon, is the son of Zeus and Hera. He is not the only Greek deity to be connected with the aspect of war, but, brutal and uncivilised, he is the only one who personifies the horror, the aggression, the force and the courage of war. He is not the cool-headed strategist, he is bloodlust and slaughter. Whereas the destruction connected with the Hindu god Shiva is cleansing and transformative, the destruction by Ares is certainly not, so much so that even his own family turn away from him. He is sister to Athene, whose attributes include military strategy.

With Aphrodite, with whom he conducted an adulterous relationship, he is the father of Deimos (God of Terror), Phobos (God of Fear), Harmonia (Goddess of Harmony), Eros (God of Passionate Love), Andrestia (Goddess of Revenge and Anteros (God of Requited Love) He has several other mortal-heroic children, and in fact murdered the rapist of one of his daughters. Many of his children met with violent ends, but perhaps one of his redeeming features was his loyalty to his loved ones, even if it meant bringing harm to himself.

The husband of Aphrodite was Hephaestos, his brother, who fashioned a humiliating trap for the adulterous couple once he found out about the affair. Ares murdered Adonis when Aphrodite became enamoured of the youth. Either he sent a boar to do the deed, or he changed into a boar himself. This is the only account of him using any form of deception, as unlike many of the other gods, he had little use for trickery, not in his battles, or in his love-affairs. Though he is in no way all-powerful, several gods and heroes have either captured or wounded him. It seems it is only over common mortals that he holds sway.

He held no favourites, he supported those who pleased him most, whose battle-style was most interesting. He is also a most conflicting patron, both of rioters and those who police, both defender of cities and involved in the sacking of such. God of rage, and yet invoked by those wishing to curb their violent impulses. He is the personification of that power and force, but he also holds mastery over its control. Upon the battlefield, he inspired strength and exceptional courage from those troops he supported, and as he was generally escorted by Deimos, Phobos and Eris (Goddess of Strife), those he did not support will have born the brunt of these demoralising effects, though he does not always support the winning side in a war.

He fought in the Trojan war siding with Troy at the request of Aphrodite, where he protected her son. He was wounded her by Pallas and by his sister Athene, fighting on the Greek side. He was father to the dragon Drakos, who guarded a spring at Thebes. Cadmus killed the dragon, and sowed the dragon's teeth upon the ground, which sprouted up into Spartans. Cadmus then married Ares' daughter Harmonia.

He was not greatly venerated by the Greeks, except by a few of the more warlike peoples, Spartans, Thracians and the Amazons (said to be the daughters of Ares and his daughter, Harmonia!). He was later equated with the Roman Mars, who was more "manly valour" rather than blood-thirsty, and his extremely rough edges became rather smoother.


Objects: Spear and helmet
Birds: Vulture, Woodpecker, Barn Owl, Eagle Owl
Animals: Snake (dragon), dog

Image: Ares, Athenian black-figure amphora, C6th B.C., Worcester Art Museum

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