Ares was the God of War in Greek Mythology, and one of the powerful Olympian Gods. Treated with ambivalence by ancient Greeks, and despised by Zeus, Ares represents a neccessary but unwelcome aspect of humanity.
Who was Ares?
Ares is the Greek god of war or rather the representation of the unpleasant aspects of war. These are violence, and one might even say blood-lust. He is almost opposite to his sister Athena, who is represented as logical and strategic.
Ares is one of twelve other Olympians who ruled different aspects of life and death for the ancient Greeks. Born the son of Zeus and Hera he was said to be hated by both his mother and father. Ares was also unpopular with the other gods and people. Apart from Aphrodite that is, with whom he had an affair and numerous children.
There are different versions of Ares and his personality, depending on the source material. For example, in Homer’s Iliad, he is shown in a less than positive light, literally running back home when he is injured on the battle field!
In this account during the time of the Trojan War, Ares took the side of Aphrodite (his lover and Goddess of Love) and fought for Hector on the side of the Trojans. However, he was wounded by a spear guided by Athena (the Goddess of War), hurled at him by the hero Diomedes.
He promptly left the battlefield to go to complain to his father Zeus about Athena’s violence toward him!
Most scholars however, think this was put in for comic effect rather than as a representation of how Ares was thought about. For the most part, he is described as brutal, quick to anger, violent and eager to fight. He perhaps represents battle rage more than anything else.
Ares in Greek Mythology
Although Ares does not often appear in many of the Greek tales of the gods, when he does, he usually found to suffer some form of humiliation.
In one well-known story, Aphrodite and Ares are captured naked in bed by Aphrodite’s husband Hephaestus (the God of Fire) who crafted an unbreakable golden chain-link net so tiny as to be invisible. Then Hephaestus called all of the Olympians to ridicule and shame them.
What powers and skills does he have?
Ares had a varied array of talents and skills. He was the master of conflict but more in a physical sense that a tactical one. Although he was the God of War, he was not the strongest of the Gods. Athena defeated him on several occasions, and also Hercules bested him.
In classical art, Ares is shown to be a fully dressed warrior, wearing a helmet, armour, and carrying shield and spear. This armour was not able to protect him from being injured though, as both Athena and Hercules drew blood from the God.
What interesting children did he have?
Ares fathered many notable children, especially due to his affair with Aphrodite. Their children seemed to aptly represent their parents. Eros and Harmonia took on characteristics of their mother, whilst Deimos and Phobos inherited characteristics from their father.
Some of Ares’ offspring crop up in other tales of Greek Mythology, especially the tales of Hercules. One example, is that the race of Amazons could trace their lineage back to Ares and Harmony. Hercules then went on to kill the Amazon Queen Hippolyte.
Hercules also killed several other sons of Ares including Kyknos who was killing people on their way to Delphi. Enraged, Ares then fought with Hercules but was defeated and injured by the hero of the Twelve Labours.
Ares fathered more mortal children than those of his immortal offspring. His children were kings and queens of many kingdoms throughout Greece and parts of Italy. They created many noble houses and royal lines such as Melanippos who founded the ancient town of Triteia in Southern Greece and was the son of Ares and Triteia.
Ares was also indirectly responsible for the founding of Thebes. Although the hero Cadmus slew a dragon said to be descended from Ares, he then married one of Ares daughters to populate the city.
What role does Ares play in the Percy Jackson books?
Ares appears in The Percy Jackson book series writing by Rick Riordan. In the ‘The Lightning Thief’ Ares appears to be a friend to Percy, Grover, and Annabeth when he first comes on the scene. At this point, he pays for their meals along with giving Percy a backpack with money, clothing for himself and his friends, a pouch of golden drachmas, and later we are to discover that the backpack is a sheath for the Master Lightning Bolt.
Over time, we discover that Ares has more mischievous and deadly plans at work. After Percy, Annabeth and Grover survive their journey into the underworld Ares is waiting to kill them. He reveals that he orchestrated this whole plot to have Poseidon declare war on Hades.
Following a battle with Ares’ giant boar, Percy’s challenges Ares to a duel. After an intense fight, Percy is victorious over Ares, who is defeated and enraged by the whole ordeal. He warns Percy that he has made a grave mistake in angering him and threatened that his weapon would eventually fail him.
Ares has a brief cameo in “The Sea of Monsters”. Sending his daughter Clasisse La Rue off to kill Percy and his friends but is eventually thwarted in her attempts as Percy, Annabeth and Tyson escape.
Throughout the Percy Jackson series, Ares appears from time to time, but none are as important as his original attempt to create a great war between the gods in The Lighting Thief.
Temples dedicated to Ares
Ares would have been honoured by armies going to war, but had very few temples dedicated in his honour. If he had a cult site in Greece, it would have been Sparta. Unsurprisingly the Spartans deified him as having qualities they sought in their own warriors.
One area in Athens named after Ares is the Areopagus hill, located just beneath the Acropolis. The ancient Athenians used this as a place for trials. Its name means hill of Ares, and is connected with a myth concerning Ares and Poseidon’s son. In later years, Paul the Apostle preached from the very same place.
You can find out more about Ares and the Areopagus by taking a Greek Mythology Tour in Athens. Our passionate and knowledgeable guides combine tales from Greek Mythology with the sites of ancient Greece to provide the most unique insights to the past.