Statue of Ares from Hadrian's Villa
Statue of Ares from Hadrian's Villa
God of war and violence
Abode Thrace, Mount Olympus, Macedonia & Sparta
Symbol spear, helmet, dog, chariot, boar
Parents Zeus and Hera
Siblings Hebe, Hephaestus, Enyo, Heracles, and Eileithyia
Children Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos, Phlegyas, Harmonia, and Adrestia
Roman equivalent Mars

Ares (Ancient Greek: Ἄρης [árɛːs], Μodern Greek: Άρης [ˈaris]) is the Greek god of war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera.[1] In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent aspect of war, in contrast to the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and generalship.[2]

The Greeks were ambivalent toward Ares: although he embodied the physical valor necessary for success in war, he was a dangerous force, "overwhelming, insatiable in battle, destructive, and man-slaughtering."[3] Fear (Phobos) and Terror (Deimos) were yoked to his battle chariot.[4] In the Iliad his father Zeus tells him that he is the god most hateful to him.[5] An association with Ares endows places and objects with a savage, dangerous, or militarized quality.[6] His value as a war god is even placed in doubt: during the Trojan War, Ares was on the losing side, while Athena, often depicted in Greek art as holding Nike (Victory) in her hand, favored the triumphant Greeks.[7]

Ares plays a relatively limited role in Greek mythology as represented in literary narratives, though his numerous love affairs and abundant offspring are often alluded to.[8] When Ares does appear in myths, he typically faces humiliation.[9] He is well known as the lover of Aphrodite, the goddess of love who was married to Hephaestus, god of craftsmanship,[10] but the most famous story involving the couple shows them exposed to ridicule through the wronged husband's clever device.[11]

The counterpart of Ares among the Roman gods is Mars, who as a father of the Roman people held a more important and dignified place in ancient Roman religion for his agricultural and tutelary functions. During the Hellenization of Latin literature, the myths of Ares were reinterpreted by Roman writers under the name of Mars. Greek writers under Roman rule also recorded cult practices and beliefs pertaining to Mars under the name of Ares. Thus in the classical tradition of later Western art and literature, the mythology of the two figures becomes virtually indistinguishable.


Names and epithets

The etymology of the name Ares is traditionally connected with the Greek word ἀρή (arē), the Ionic form of the Doric ἀρά (ara), "bane, ruin, curse, imprecation".[12] There may also be a connection with the Roman god of war Mars, via hypothetical Proto-Indo-European *M̥rēs;[citation needed] compare Ancient Greek μάρναμαι (marnamai), "to fight, to battle", or Punjabi maarna (to kill, to hit).[13] The earliest attested form of the name is the Mycenaean Greek a-re, written in Linear B syllabic script.[14] Walter Burkert notes that "Ares is apparently an ancient abstract noun meaning throng of battle, war."[15]

The adjectival epithet Areios was frequently appended to the names of other gods when they take on a warrior aspect or become involved in warfare: Zeus Areios, Athena Areia, even Aphrodite Areia. In the Iliad, the word ares is used as a common noun synonymous with "battle."[3]

Inscriptions as early as Mycenaean times, and continuing into the Classical period, attest to Enyalios, another name for the god of war.

Character and origins

Ares was one of the Twelve Olympians in the archaic tradition represented by the Iliad and Odyssey, but Zeus expresses a recurring Greek revulsion toward the god when Ares returns wounded and complaining from the battlefield at Troy:

Then looking at him darkly Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to him:
'Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.

And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky."[16]

This ambivalence is expressed also in the god's association with the Thracians, who were regarded by the Greeks as a barbarous and warlike people.[17] Thrace was Ares' birthplace, true home, and refuge after the affair with Aphrodite was exposed to the general mockery of the other gods.[18]

A late 6th-century BC funerary inscription from Attica emphasizes the consequences of coming under Ares' sway:

Stay and mourn at the tomb of dead Kroisos
Whom raging Ares destroyed one day, fighting in the foremost ranks.[19]

In Macedonia, however, he was viewed as a bearded war veteran with superb military skills and physical strength. The ancient Macedonians looked up to Ares as a divine leader as well as a god.[citation needed] In Sparta Ares was viewed as a masculine soldier in which his resilience, physical strength and military intelligence was unrivaled.[citation needed]


The birds of Ares (Ornithes Areioi) were a flock of feather-dart-dropping birds that guarded the Amazons' shrine of the god on a coastal island in the Black Sea.[20] Vultures and dogs, both of which prey upon carrion in the battlefield, were sacred to him.[citation needed]

Cult and ritual

Although Ares received occasional sacrifice from armies going to war, the god had a formal temple and cult at only a few sites.[21] At Sparta, however, youths each sacrificed a puppy to Enyalios before engaging in ritual fighting at the Phoebaeum.[22] The chthonic night-time sacrifice of a dog to Enyalios became assimilated to the cult of Ares.[citation needed]

Just east of Sparta stood an archaic statue of the god in chains, to show that the spirit of war and victory was never to leave the city.[23]

The temple to Ares in the agora of Athens that Pausanias saw in the second century AD had only been moved and rededicated there during the time of Augustus; in essence it was a Roman temple to the Augustan Mars Ultor.[21] The Areopagus, the "mount of Ares" where Paul of Tarsus preached, is sited at some distance from the Acropolis; from archaic times it was a site of trials. Its connection with Ares, perhaps based on a false etymology, is purely etiological myth.[citation needed] A second temple has also been located at the archaeological site of Metropolis in what is now Western Turkey.[citation needed]


Deimos, "Terror" or "Dread", and Phobos, "Fear", are his companions in war[24] and also his children, borne by Aphrodite, according to Hesiod.[25] The sister[citation needed] and companion of the violent Ares is Eris, the goddess of discord, or Enyo, the goddess of war, bloodshed, and violence. Enyalius, rather than another name for Ares, in at least one tradition was his son by Enyo.[26]

Ares may also be accompanied by Kydoimos, the demon of the din of battle; the Makhai ("Battles"); thev "Hysminai" ("Acts of manslaughter"); Polemos, a minor spirit of war, or only an epithet of Ares, since it has no specific dominion; and Polemos's daughter, Alala, the goddess or personification of the Greek war-cry, whose name Ares uses as his own war-cry. Ares's sister Hebe, "Youth," also draws baths for him.

According to Pausanias, local inhabitants of Therapne, Sparta, recognized Thero "feral, savage" as a nurse of Ares.[27]

Founding of Thebes

One of the roles of Ares that was sited in mainland Greece itself was in the founding myth of Thebes: Ares was the progenitor of the water-dragon slain by Cadmus, for the dragon's teeth were sown into the ground as if a crop and sprung up as the fully armored autochthonic Spartoi. To propitiate Ares, Cadmus took as a bride Harmonia, daughter of Ares' union with Aphrodite, thus harmonizing all strife and founding the city of Thebes.[28]

Consorts and children

The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis.

The union of Ares and Aphrodite created the gods Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, and Adrestia. While Eros and Anteros' godly stations favored their mother, Adrestia by far preferred to emulate her father, often accompanying him to war.[citation needed]

Ares, upon one occasion, incurred the anger of Poseidon by slaying his son Halirrhothius, who had raped Alcippe, another daughter of the war-god. For this deed, Poseidon summoned Ares to appear before the tribunal of the Olympic gods, which was held upon a hill in Athens. Ares was acquitted, and this event is supposed to have given rise to the name Areopagus (or Hill of Ares), which afterward became famous as a court of justice.[29]

There are accounts of a son of Ares, Cycnus (Κύκνος) of Macedonia, who was so murderous that he tried to build a temple with the skulls and the bones of travellers. Heracles slaughtered this abominable monstrosity, engendering the wrath of Ares, whom the hero wounded.[30]

List of Ares' consorts and children

  1. Aphrodite
    1. Eros
    2. Anteros
    3. Harmonia
    4. Phobos
    5. Deimos
    6. Adrestia
  2. Aerope
    1. Aeropus
  3. Aglauros
    1. Alcippe
  4. Althaea
    1. Meleager (possibly)
  5. Anchiroe
    1. Sithon (possibly)
  6. Astyoche, daughter of Actor
    1. Ascalaphus
    2. Ialmenus
  7. Atalanta
    1. Parthenopaeus (possibly)
  8. Caldene, daughter of Pisidus
    1. Solymus (possibly)
  9. Callirrhoe, daughter of Nestus
    1. Biston
    2. Odomas
    3. Edonus
  10. Critobule
    1. Pangaeus[31]
  11. Cyrene[32]
    1. Diomedes of Thrace
    2. Crestone[33]
  12. Demonice
    1. Euenus
    2. Thestius
    3. Molus
    4. Pylus
  13. Dormothea
    1. Stymphelus[34]
  14. Dotis / Chryse
    1. Phlegyas
  15. Eos
  16. Erinys of Telphusa (unnamed)
    1. Dragon of Thebes (slain by Cadmus)
  17. Harmonia
    1. The Amazons
  18. Leodoce (?)[35]
  19. Otrera
    1. Hippolyta
    2. Antiope
    3. Melanippe
    4. Penthesilea
  20. Parnassa / Aegina
    1. Sinope (possibly)[36]
  21. Phylonome
    1. Lycastus
    2. Parrhasius
  22. Protogeneia
    1. Oxylus
  23. Pyrene / Pelopia
    1. Cycnus
  24. Sterope (Pleiad) / Harpinna, daughter of Asopus / Eurythoe the Danaid
    1. Oenomaus
  25. Persephone (wooed her unsuccessfully)
    1. Tanagra, daughter of Asopus
  26. Tereine, daughter of Strymon
    1. Thrassa (mother of Polyphonte)
  27. Theogone
    1. Tmolus[37]
  28. Triteia
    1. Melanippus
  29. mothers unknown
    1. Alcon of Thrace[38]
    2. Dryas
    3. Lycus of Libya[39]
    4. Nisos (possibly)
    5. Portheus (Porthaon)
    6. Tereus

Hymns to Ares

Homeric Hymn 8 to Ares (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) 
"Ares, exceeding in strength, chariot-rider, golden-helmed, doughty in heart, shield-bearer, Saviour of cities, harnessed in bronze, strong of arm, unwearying, mighty with the spear, O defender of Olympos, father of warlike Nike (Victory), ally of Themis, stern governor of the rebellious, leader of the righteous men, sceptred King of manliness, who whirl your fiery sphere [the star Mars] among the planets in their sevenfold courses through the aither wherein your blazing steeds ever bear you above the third firmament of heaven; hear me, helper of men, giver of dauntless youth! Shed down a kindly ray from above upon my life, and strength of war, that I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful impulses of my soul. Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife. Rather, O blessed one, give you me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death."
Orphic Hymn 65 to Ares (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) 
"To Ares, Fumigation from Frankincense. Magnanimous, unconquered, boisterous Ares, in darts rejoicing, and in bloody wars; fierce and untamed, whose mighty power can make the strongest walls from their foundations shake: mortal-destroying king, defiled with gore, pleased with war’s dreadful and tumultuous roar. Thee human blood, and swords, and spears delight, and the dire ruin of mad savage fight. Stay furious contests, and avenging strife, whose works with woe embitter human life; to lovely Kyrpis [Aphrodite] and to Lyaios [Dionysos] yield, for arms exchange the labours of the field; encourage peace, to gentle works inclined, and give abundance, with benignant mind."

Other accounts

The Ludovisi Ares, Roman version of a Greek original ca. 320 BC, with 17th-century restorations by Bernini

In the tale sung by the bard in the hall of Alcinous,[40] the Sun-god Helios once spied Ares and Aphrodite enjoying each other secretly in the hall of Hephaestus, and he promptly reported the incident to Aphrodite's Olympian consort. Hephaestus contrived to catch the couple in the act, and so he fashioned a finely-knitted and nearly invisible net with which to snare the illicit lovers. At the appropriate time, this net was sprung, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite locked in very private embrace. But Hephaestus was not yet satisfied with his revenge — he invited the Olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair. For the sake of modesty, the goddesses demurred, but the male gods went to witness the sight. Some commented on the beauty of Aphrodite, others remarked that they would eagerly trade places with Ares, but all who were present mocked the two. Once the couple were loosed, Ares, embarrassed, returned to his homeland, Thrace.[41]

In a much later interpolated detail, Ares put the youth Alectryon by his door to warn them of Helios' arrival, as Helios would tell Hephaestus of Aphrodite's infidelity if the two were discovered, but Alectryon fell asleep. Helios discovered the two and alerted Hephaestus. Ares was furious and turned Alectryon into a rooster, which now never forgets to announce the arrival of the sun in the morning.

Ares and the giants

In one archaic myth related only in the Iliad by the goddess Dione to her daughter Aphrodite, two chthonic giants, the Aloadae, named Otus and Ephialtes, threw Ares into chains and put him in a bronze urn, where he remained for thirteen months, a lunar year. "And that would have been the end of Ares and his appetite for war, if the beautiful Eriboea, the young giants' stepmother, had not told Hermes what they had done," she related.[42] "In this one suspects a festival of licence which is unleashed in the thirteenth month."[43] Ares remained screaming and howling in the urn until Hermes rescued him and Artemis tricked the Aloadae into slaying each other. In Nonnus' Dionysiaca[44] Ares also killed Ekhidnades, the giant son of Echidna and a great enemy of the gods; it is not clear whether the nameless Ekhidnades ("of Echidna's lineage") was entirely Nonnus' invention or not.

The Iliad

In the Iliad,[45] Homer represented Ares as having no fixed allegiances, rewarding courage on both sides: he promised Athena and Hera that he would fight on the side of the Achaeans (Iliad V.830–834, XXI.410–414), but Aphrodite was able to persuade Ares to side with the Trojans. During the war, Diomedes fought with Hector and saw Ares fighting on the Trojans' side. Diomedes called for his soldiers to fall back slowly (V.590–605). Hera, Ares's mother, saw his interference and asked Zeus, his father, for permission to drive Ares away from the battlefield, which Zeus granted (V.711–769). Hera and Athena encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares (V.780–834). Diomedes thrust with his spear at Ares, with Athena driving it home, and Ares' cries made Achaeans and Trojans alike tremble (V.855–864). Ares fled to Mt. Olympus, forcing the Trojans to fall back.

When Hera during a conversation with Zeus mentioned that Ares' son Ascalaphus was killed, Ares wanted to again join the fight on the side of the Achaeans disregarding Zeus' order that no Olympic god should enter the battle, but Athena stopped him (XV.110–128). Later, when Zeus allowed the gods to fight in the war again (XX.20–29), Ares was the first to act, attacking Athena to avenge himself for his previous injury, but Athena managed to overpower him by striking Ares with a boulder (XXI.391–408).


In Renaissance and Neoclassical works of art, Ares' symbols are a spear and helmet, his animal is a dog, and his bird is the vulture. In literary works of these eras, Ares is replaced by the Roman Mars, a romantic emblem of manly valor rather than the cruel and blood-thirsty god of Greek mythology.

Popular culture

Ares figures in war-themed video games and in popular fictions. Ares is also the name of NASA's transport ship replacing the Space Shuttle, an extension of NASA's uses of Saturn for manned rockets, Mercury for a satellite program, and the Apollo program, rather than as any reflection of the intrinsic nature of the war god.

See also

Related Greek Deities
Children by Aphrodite
Friends and Counselors
  • Achlys (Death)
  • Androktasiai (Slaughter)
  • Alala (War Cry)
  • Eris (Strife)
  • Enyo (Violence)
  • Hebe (Life)
  • Homados (Battle Din)
  • Hysminai (Combat)
  • Kydoimos (Confusion)
  • Keres (Death Spirits)
  • Makhai (Spirits of Battle)
  • Palioxis (Backrush)
  • Polemos (War)
  • Proioxis (Onrush)
Similar Deities in Non-Greek Cultures
Archetype Characteristics


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 921 (Loeb Classical Library numbering); Iliad, 5.890–896. By contrast, Ares' Roman counterpart Mars was born from Juno alone, according to Ovid (Fasti 5.229–260).
  2. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (Blackwell, 1985, 2004 reprint, originally published 1977 in German), pp. 141; William Hansen, Classical Mythology: A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 113.
  3. ^ a b Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 169.
  4. ^ Burkert, Greek Religion, p.169.
  5. ^ Iliad 5.890–891.
  6. ^ Hansen, Classical Mythology, pp. 114–115.
  7. ^ Burkert, Greek Religion,p. 169.
  8. ^ Hansen, Classical Mythology, pp. 113–114; Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 169.
  9. ^ Hansen, Classical Mythology, pp. 113–114. See for instance Ares and the giants below.
  10. ^ In the Iliad, however, the wife of Hephaestus is Charis, "Grace," as noted by Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 168.
  11. ^ Odyssey 8.266–366; Hansen, Classical Mythology, pp. 113–114.
  12. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary; Are, Georg Autenrieth, A Homeric Dictionary, at Perseus; Are, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
  13. ^ Marnamai, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
  14. ^ Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
  15. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (Harvard) 1985:pt III.2.12 p 169.
  16. ^ Iliad, Book 5, lines 798–891, 895–898 in the translation of Richmond Lattimore.
  17. ^ Iliad 13.301; Ovid, Ars Amatoria, II.10.
  18. ^ Homer Odyssey viii. 361; for Ares/Mars and Thrace, see Ovid, Ars Amatoria, book ii.part xi.585, which tells the same tale: "Their captive bodies are, with difficulty, freed, at your plea, Neptune: Venus runs to Paphos: Mars heads for Thrace."; for Ares/Mars and Thrace, see also Statius, Thebaid vii. 42; Herodotus, iv. 59, 62.
  19. ^ Athens, NM 3851 quoted in Andrew Stewart, One Hundred Greek Sculptors: Their Careers and Extant Works, Introduction: I. "The Sources"
  20. ^ Argonautica (ii.382ff and 1031ff; Hyginus, Fabulae 30.
  21. ^ a b Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 170.
  22. ^ "Here each company of youths sacrifices a puppy to Enyalius, holding that the most valiant of tame animals is an acceptable victim to the most valiant of the gods. I know of no other Greeks who are accustomed to sacrifice puppies except the people of Colophon; these too sacrifice a puppy, a black bitch, to the Wayside Goddess." Pausanias, 3.14.9.
  23. ^ "Opposite this temple [the temple of Hipposthenes] is an old image of Enyalius in fetters. The idea the Lacedaemonians express by this image is the same as the Athenians express by their Wingless Victory; the former think that Enyalius will never run away from them, being bound in the fetters, while the Athenians think that Victory, having no wings, will always remain where she is." Pausanias, 3.15.7.
  24. ^ Iliad 4.436f, and 13.299f' Hesiodic Shield of Heracles 191, 460; Quintus Smyrnaeus, 10.51, etc.
  25. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 934f.
  26. ^ Eustathius on Homer 944
  27. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3. 19. 7 - 8
  28. ^ Burkert, Greek Religion, p.169.
  29. ^ Berens, E.M.: Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, page 113. Project Gutenberg, 2007.
  30. ^ Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 2. 5. 11 & 2. 7. 7
  31. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 3. 2
  32. ^ Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 2. 5. 8
  33. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 499: Thrace was said to have been called Crestone after her.
  34. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 19. 1
  35. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 159
  36. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 2. 946
  37. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 7. 5
  38. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 173
  39. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories, 23
  40. ^ Odyssey 8.300
  41. ^ "Odyssey, 8.295".;query=card%3D%2371;layout=;loc=8.333. "In Robert Fagles' translation ""…and the two lovers, free of the bonds that overwhelmed them so, sprang up and away at once, and the Wargod sped Thrace, while Love with her telltale laughter sped to Paphos…"." 
  42. ^ Iliad 5.385–391.
  43. ^ Burkert (1985). Greek Religion. pp. 169. 
  44. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18. 274 ff;, "Ekhidnades".
  45. ^ References to Ares' appearance in the Iliad are collected and quoted at Ares Myths 2

External links

Greek deities series
Primordial deities | Titans | Aquatic deities | Chthonic deities
Twelve Olympians
Aphrodite | Apollo | Ares | Artemis | Athena | Demeter
Dionysus | Hephaestus | Hera | Hermes | Hestia | Poseidon | Zeus
Chthonic deities
Hades | Persephone | Gaia | Demeter | Hecate | Iacchus | Trophonius | Triptolemus | Erinyes

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