Ares is the Olympian god of war, slaughter and bloodshed. He is the progeny of king and queen of all gods and mortals, the mighty Zeus and the jealous Hera, respectively. It appears that both abhorred him, predominantly because of the debased, inhumane and rudimentarily based characteristics and qualities of human nature he came to epitomize. The Greeks fostered an immense ambivalence towards this Olympian entity throughout the course of Hellenistic history, and ascribed to him a Thracian heritage. It goes without saying that the Greek considered the Thracians barbaric and ruthless in disposition. In contrast to Pallas Athena, who was intimately connected to military strategy, leadership and success, Ares came to represent all that was savage and brutal in war–cold-blooded murder, carnage, Machiavellian and emotionally-discoloured tactics, as well as less-than-honourable motives that might serve as precursors to full-fledged battle.
In scrying the realm of classical mythology, one will discern Ares’ limited role in Olympian affairs. He willingly embarked on an indecent liaison with the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and the consummation of their union spawned six children: Eros, the god of love; Anteros, the god of requited love; Phobos, the god of fear; Deimos, the god of terror; Harmonia, the goddess of harmony and concord; and Adrestia, the goddess of revenge and balance. At one time, Hephaestus, the legitimate companion of Aphrodite, exposed their duplicity by ensnaring the canoodling lovers unawares, reducing them into a miniscule knot and then hauling them to the heavenly mount so that all his fellow Olympians can witness the adulterous act firsthand and pass judgement upon the naked couple. He yields a numinous presence in the Trojan War, but all too often we find the seemingly invincible warrior reduced to the rabble of a grovelling coward. During the furious struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans, Aries is wounded and returns to his father on Olympus beseeching a reprise of compassion and an empathetic shoulder to cry on. Instead, he receives a verbal lashing:
“Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.
And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky."
Appropriately, the ancient Greeks deprived Ares of any notable tribute or reverence. There were never any cult centres or temples built to honour his archetype. Both the scavenging vulture and, perhaps less fittingly, the domesticated dog, were sacred to him. He is usually equated with the Roman Mars.