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[[File: Ares One.jpg|
200px|thumbnail|left| A statue of Ares]]__NOTOC__
The Greeks had a polytheistic religion and they personified the great forces and powers that shaped and influenced their lives. In this way, they tried to control their world. The Greeks and the Romans believed that they could influence impersonal forces and powers, by sacrifices and rituals. One of the most powerful phenomena in Ancient life was war.
In Greek religion the God Ares was the deity of war, specifically, he embodied the bravery, prowess, and physical force, required in battle. He was an especially important God in the pantheon and in Greek mythology. Ares can teach modern people a great deal about Ancient Greek views on war.
==The origin of the myth of Ares==
==Portrait of the War God==
[[File: Ares Two.jpg|250px|thumbnail|left| An 18th century painting of the fall of Troy]]Ares had a sister named Eris, who was the divine personification of discord and disorder
. The character of Ares was not an attractive one. Another sister was Artemis the virgin Goddess who was also the deity of strategy and generalship. Ares was arrogant and vengeful and loved violence and war. In the myths, he is often shown as angry and his roars were likened to ‘ten thousand men shouting’ <ref>Homer, The Iliad, vi</ref>He had many other half-siblings because of Zeus many adulterous affairs with demi-gods and humans.
During war, Ares always favored those who displayed the greatest courage on the field of battle. Ares usually favored the strongest and was often portrayed as merciless. In one version of the Sisyphus myth, he frees death, because battles were no longer enjoyable if men did not die. Ares support did not always ensure victory, however, as is shown in the surviving corpus of myths<ref>Graves, p 116</ref>. He liked that the other Gods had to accept the commands of Zeus, who in turn was acting in accordance with fate.
Zeus and Hera, the parents of Ares did not like him and the Father of the Gods, told him that he was detestable, because he was so blood-thirsty. This was because he enjoyed battle and bloodshed. The god of war never married but his consort was Aphrodite the Goddess of Love. Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, the god of smiths, metalworkers, and craft persons. They carried out their affair in public, much to the anger of Hephaestus. Ares and Aphrodite had a number of children, one was Eros the God of Sex and erotic love, who embodied the characteristics of both his parents. Another son was Phobos who was the embodiment of fear and terror.
Ares was not faithful to Aphrodite and he had relationships with a long litany of lovers
. They included some of the Muses, a Titan, and even one of the Furies. He had countless children and in some myths’ he was the father of the first Amazon. The Amazons were the race of warrior-women who were probably based on Scythian female warriors and they later took part in the Trojan War.
There are relatively few myths about the war-god, an indication of his unpopularity with the Greeks. He does play a role in the Foundation Myth of Thebes. He created a dragon that terrorized people and it was killed by the hero Cadamus. These grew from the earth and became the first Theban warriors who were as martial as the Spartans. Ares came into conflict with the God of the Sea Poseidon because his son had raped one a daughter of his. This story may be the origin myth of some festival which was marked by a general truce.
In, another story, Ares is humiliated by Hercules, when Athena intervenes on the side of the demi-god. This occurred when Hercules killed Kyknos the son of the God of War. Kynos had been killing pilgrims on the way to the oracles at Delphi and had been building a mountain out of their skills. Ares fought in the war against the giants.
Two of them Otos and Ephialtes plotted revenge against the Olympian gods and they decided to abduct Hera and Artemis. However, they had to remove Ares first and they lured him into a trap and captured him. The giants then stuffed him into a bronze jar for thirteen months (a lunar year). He was rescued by Artemis, who cleverly played off the giants against each other.
==Ares and the Iliad==
This story demonstrated that the values represented by Athena were superior in a battle to those represented by Ares. The Goddess was often shown with Nike, the Goddess of Victory, and Ares was never shown with this deity. All the Ancient Greeks rate strategy and cleverness in war above all, else, especially in battle. The various humiliations inflicted by Athena on Ares demonstrated that in war, strategy and skill were more important than brute force and power.
Moreover, the myths
demonstrate’ the superiority of reason over brute force. Athena represents reason and restraint and Ares unrestrained power and thoughtless violence. It would be wrong to see in the habitual humiliations of Ares in myths as proving that the Greeks despised war, in fact, they saw it as an inevitable part of life <ref>Burkert, p. 119</ref>. The Greeks valued strategy and guile in war and this was one of the reasons why they were able to defeat the Persians and later, enabled Alexander the Great to conquer most of the known world.
==Sparta and Thebes==
The cult of Ares in Sparta and Thebes which were much more militarized societies than Athens was different. This is indicated in the prominence that they bestowed on the God of War in their civil religion. We see here that there was no uniform interpretation of the Greek Gods and their worship varied from state-to-state. While the majority of the Greeks were ambivalent about this deity, there were exceptions.
Sparta was a society that was based on martial principles and the goal of the state was to produce great warriors and invincible armies. Ares was more popular with the Spartans and they regarded him as the ultimate warrior. Spartan citizens were expected to model their conduct in battle on the god, who was the embodiment of war and conflict. It is believed that
Sparta’s worship of Ares was a conscious effort to distinguish themselves from other Hellenes.
==The influence of the Greek War God myth==
Ares was very influential in the development of the Roman God, Mars. As part of the Hellenization of Roman civic religion, Mars was transformed from an agricultural god to the deity of war. Mars assumed many of the characteristics and features of Ares. However, the Romans valued the qualities of Ares more than the Greeks. They appreciated his power and his ruthlessness qualities and they adopted his cult wholesale from Greece. The frequent depictions of Mars in Latin Literature are all based on their interpretation of the Ancient Greek deity. Down the centuries, Mars eclipsed Ares.
However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the Greek god of
War. He has appeared as a character in the animated Disney movie Hercules and in the TV series Xenia. Ares was also the villain in the recent Hollywood blockbuster, Wonder Woman. Interestingly, the modern versions of Ares are largely negative. This may indicate the modern age’s dislike of war and conflict. This is a good example of how ancient myths can be reinterpreted by different societies and represent different values and truths.
Ares represented a specific facet of war. He was the personification of the violence of war and its brutal nature. The Greeks did not regard him highly because they disliked the emotion and irrational forces that he represented. This god never achieved the status of other deities, with the exception of Sparta and Thebes. In the myths told about Ares, he is often humiliated and defeated. This suggested that valor and physical brawn were not enough to ensure success in battle. Ares is often shown as being bested by Athena.
This symbolized for the Greeks the superiority of reason and strategy over courage and brute force. Moreover, the myths of Ares can also provide insights, to modern people, on how to succeed in conflict and even the nature of leadership.