The Roman God Mars: Facts & Mythology Video

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  • 0:03 Background
  • 0:17 Mars In Mythology
  • 1:27 Animals
  • 2:39 Temples
  • 3:00 Art and Festivals
  • 3:57 Lessson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

In this lesson, we will learn about the Roman god, Mars. Together, we'll take a closer look at his history, the myths, and his legacy. We'll also see how Mars was revered in sacrifice, art, and festivals.


Mars was considered by the Romans to be the god of war and was an agricultural guardian. He was one of the most important of military gods and was highly regarded by the Roman army. He was a part of the Archaic Triad with Jupiter and Quirinus.

Mars in Mythology

Mars was the son of Juno, the goddess of childbirth. She was impregnated by Flora pressing a magic flower against Juno's stomach. It is believed in Roman tradition that he was born in March (originally named Martius) and, therefore, the month was named for him.

Mars had numerous lovers. Mars had a relationship with a human priestess, Rhea Silvia, with whom he fathered Romulus, the founder of Rome, and Remus. He was said to have had a love affair with Venus, and scenes of them together are viewed as romantic despite the adulterous implications. The uniting of Venus and Mars (love and war) has often lent itself to allegory in literature. The myths also state that he was to have had a romantic relationship with Nerio (valor). She represented the power and majesty of Mars. The relationship had a great influence on Greek mythology.

Mars is usually depicted with a spear that is said to be kept in a sacrarium in the former residence of the kings of Rome. Myths state that the spear trembles or vibrates during times of impending danger to Rome. The spear was said to do so immediately before the assassination of Julius Caesar.


Two animals are often attributed as having a special connection with Mars: the woodpecker and the wolf. A Greek historian named Plutarch wrote, the woodpecker is sacred to Mars because it is a courageous and spirited bird and has a beak so strong it can overturn oaks by pecking them until it has reached the inmost part of the tree. The woodpecker was also believed to guard an herb that grew in the woods, named paeonia, that was used for treatment of the female reproductive system. The myth said that the herb was to be picked only at night lest the woodpecker poke out the seeker's eyes.

Mars was also aligned with a wolf. The myth said that a wolf found Mars' infant sons in the woods and fed them from her breast. An appearance of a wolf in battle was said to be a sign that Roman victory was imminent.

Regularly sacrificed to Mars was a bull. Often times Romans would sacrifice animals in three to Mars—a pig, a ram, and a bull. Additionally, a horse was, at times, sacrificed to Mars. Mars was the only god to which a horse was sacrificed due to the fact that after the gods received their share, the Romans would eat the rest. The Romans considered the horse edible.

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