Ares, the Greek God of War: Facts & Mythology

Instructor: Eve Levinson

Eve has taught various courses of high school history and has a master's degree in education.

In the pantheon of Greek gods, Ares was the god of war and courage. Because of his violent personality he was disliked, but still worshipped when it came time to go to battle.

Olympus and the Greek Gods

Imagine what it would be like to have all of your brothers and sisters, as well as all of your children and their children living in the same home. You would hope that everyone would share the chores evenly, but you might also expect that all of your relatives would occasionally argue over how best to manage each other's chores.

In the ancient Greek religion, the center of everything was atop Mount Olympus where the twelve major gods resided and ruled. Like the family members they were, each was responsible for a different aspect of human existence. Zeus (sky), the ruler of the gods, sat alongside his brothers Poseidon (sea) and Hades (underworld) and sisters Hestia (hearth/home) and Hera (marriage), who was also his wife. Many of Zeus' children also lived on Mount Olympus - Athena (city & agriculture), Apollo (music, light, and truth), Aphrodite (love & beauty), Hermes (messenger), Artemis (animals & the hunt), Hephaestus (fire & metal), and Ares (war).

The God of War

Statue of Ares
Statue of Ares

Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, though he was disliked by both for his aggression and embarrassments. When he was a child, they paid so little attention to him that he was captured by twin giants and held in a bronze jar for a period of time. It was not until the giants' stepmother found him that he was released by his brother, Hermes, and saved from insanity. As recounted in Homer's epic poem, The Iliad, Ares ultimately favored the Trojans instead of the Greeks, which put him both on the losing side of the war and at odds with his family. His sister, Athena, taunted him for his decision, which of course angered the fiery Ares. When he charged at her, she threw a rock at his head to subdue him. Further causing trouble, he had an affair with another of his sisters, Aphrodite, who was married to Hephaestus. Their union resulted in the creation of numerous gods, including Eros (love).

He was also not the most popular amongst the Greeks themselves, who considered him a more accurate representation of their barbarous neighbors the Thracians. Still, they believed in the god's power and made sacrifices to him when they went off to war. It was said that when Ares went to war, he brought his sons Deimos (terror) and Phobos (fear) and daughters Eris (discord) and Enyo (bloodshed).

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