Mt Olympus, the highest peak in Greece (2,917 m) was considered, by the Ancient Greeks to be the abode of the gods and the seat of Zeus. Homer in his epic Odyssey descried the pure upper air at the peak.
Twelve gods were said to reside on Mt Olympus. They are Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon and Zeus. These Gods were worshipped by the humans down below. Human fortunes and misfortunes were considered to be intricately entwined with the moods of these gods.
These gods (some were goddesses) were revered, loved and worshipped over most of Ancient Greece. However the Greek God of War â€“ Ares, stands out as being different.
According to Homer, Ares, son of Zeus and Hera was disliked by humans and immortals alike. Even his parents did not like him.
Ares is the Greek God of the raw brutality, the bloodthirsty and the cruel elements of war. The name Ares (pronounced AR eez) originates from ancient Greek words signifying maleness, ruin and bane. His sister Athena is the Greek Goddess of War. She stands for military strategy, leadership and intelligence. She is far more popular with the people than her violent brother.
Ares is not mentioned much Greek mythology. When he does appear, he is invariably humiliated by other Gods. The twin giants Otus and Ephialtes, imprisoned Ares for a year, till he was rescued by Hermes.
Aphrodite, though married to Hephaestus, was lover to Ares. Hephaestus, making use of clever tricks humiliated the lovers by trapping them naked in bed.
During the Trojan War, Ares fought for Aphrodite under Hector, the Trojan until a Greek soldier guided by Athena, shot him I the side with an arrow. He then retired to Olympus to complain to Zeus about Athena’s violence.
Ares had many children, both mortal and immortal. Along with Aphrodite he sired Eros, Goddess of Love (also known as Cupid). Other offspring include -Harmonia, Goddess of Harmony – Tereus, who inherited many of Ares’ abhorrent qualities – Cycnus, Lycaon and Diomede (enemies of Hercules).
Ares came from Thrace â€“ the home of the fierce people â€“ in North East Greece. Here along with the peace loving Harmony he created his warrior daughters, the Amazons.
Cadmus, slew a dragon that was fathered by Ares. He then sowed some of the dragon’s teeth and fully armed men sprang. Athena kept the remaining teeth which she later gave to Jason up son of Poseidon
According to Homer, Ares had a sister Eris, the Goddess of Discord who was considered as hateful has him. Hebe the Goddess of Youth was also his sister. Ares is also associated with other dreaded war gods like Enyalius and his consort Enyo, Phobo (panic) and Deimos (rout).
Ares appears on the frieze of the Olympian gods on the altar at Pergamum and at Parthenon. Symbols associated with Ares include the spear and helmet, a flaming torch and a chariot. Animals include the dog, vulture and boar.
Ares evolved into the Roman God of War, Mars. This calmer more understanding version of Ares is considered the father of the Roman people.
At Sparta, prisoners of war were sacrificed to Ares. Nocturnal sacrifices of dogs also took place. At the sacred festival at Tegea, a woman would be sacrificed to appease Ares.
Ares the Dark God of the Greeks, humiliated often, defeated in all encounters, is portrayed as a side kick more than a hero. Nevertheless he is one of the 12 original gods, father of and consort to many important Greek mythological characters, precursor of the powerful Mars, all in all a god not to be trivialised.