Who was Ares?
Ares was the Greek god of war, violence and bloodshed. As such he often represents the physical and violent aspects of conflict and can be seen as the personification of war’s brutal nature.
One of the Twelve Olympians, Ares’ parents are the God Zeus and his sister-Goddess Hera. As a result of his father’s numerous adulterous relationships as well as his parent’s marriage he had numerous siblings, including Aeacus, Angelos, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Enyo, Eris, Ersa, the Graces, Hebe, Helen of Troy, Hephaestus, Heracles, Hermes, the Horae, the Litae, Minos, the Moirai, the Muses, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus and Rhadamanthus. Ares main consort was his sister-Goddess Aphrodite, although he did have numerous other consorts too, and his relationships resulted in a range of children including Eros, Anteros, Phobos, Deimos, Phlegyas, Harmonia, Enyalios, Thrax, Oenomaus, Amazons and Adrestia.
Ancient Greeks were largely ambivalent toward Ares as, whilst he did embody the physical valor which they saw as necessary to succeed in battle, he still represented a dangerous force. His me was seen as an overwhelming character, destructive and with an insatiable appetite for battle and slaughter. In Homer’s epic poem ‘The Iliad’ even his own father Zeus is depicted telling Ares that he is the god most hateful to him. This resulted in any link to Ares giving places, people and objects qualities such as danger, savagery, militarism and violence. Even his worth as the God of War is doubted by some given that he was on the losing side against the victorious Greeks during the Trojan War, unlike his sister Athena.
Aries symbols included the sword, spear, shield, helmet, chariot and flaming torch. He was also associated with sacred animals the dog, the boar and the vulture. When depicted in art Ares is usually stood wearing a helmet and carrying weaponry such as a sword, spear and shield.
As a result of his qualities occupations associated with Ares include service in the armed forces, boxing, wrestling, fighting, bodyguards, gym instructor, sports coach, athletes, firefighter and police officer. Ares also appears quite regularly in modern culture, notably in Greece where there are called Aris (a Greek variant of Ares), the most famous being is Aris Thessaloniki with the God Ares as its emblem. Ares was also the name the NASA transport ship which replaced the Space Shuttle, and the name has appeared for characters in numerous works of literature, TV, film and even video games.
Similar deities to Ares which are found in other cultures include the Roman God Mars, Etruscan God Maris, the Egyptian God Horus, Norse God Týr and the Hindu God Kartikeya.
The Ares Archetype
The resulting Ares archetype is one of a warrior who lives for combat, thus being courageous (sometimes overly so), demonstrating both determination and discipline in pursuit of his identified goals. The Ares is willing to take what he wants by force, a stereotypical man who acts first and thinks later unless it relates to combat strategy. Sometimes willing to disregard even his own morality of ethics in order to secure victory, the archetypal Ares can be so focused on victory that they are determined to win whatever the cost, resulting in them ignoring the needs and feelings of those around them. They can appear as a result to lack empathy or be arrogant and are certainly much better at acting as individuals than as members of a team.
Despite this the archetypal Ares has many positive qualities too. They are people of action and instinct, willing to go the extra mile for the things that matter to them. The are capable of demonstrating great loyalty, strength and courage. When they really care about something their determination and fighting spirit makes them capable of achieving real change for the better, not just for themselves but for society as a whole. Their emotional intensity and passion means that people can relate to them and can be inspired to lead where they follow in issues which really matter.
The archetypal Ares likes to function in a partnership and appreciates the value of those who matter to them, whilst they may not always be capable of showing it to its fullest. Their romantic relationships are motivated by genuine feeling rather than sexual desire, though he is still capable of genuine passion too in established partnership with others. The archetypal Ares is also a capable strategist, able to plan ahead with vision, rationality and logic despite his normally instinctive and passionate reactionism when it comes to achieving his goals in life.
However, the Ares archetype can also represent the undervalued in society, those whose positive qualities are not appreciated by those around them, whose passion is mistaken for danger and who can be alienated from society as a result.
A contemporary example of the archetypal Ares was Bobby Kennedy, US Attorney General and brother of President John F Kennedy. Bobby was an extremely capable campaign strategist in his own right, stage managing his brother’s successful electoral campaigns to Senate and the Presidency and, had he not been assassinated, would very likely have been elected President himself. He was also a determined advocate and fighter for social justice, actively campaigning against organized crime (possibly to the extent of losing his own life) in his time as Attorney General), for worker’s rights and for the Civil Rights movement. He was a devoted family man, married with 11 children, although he did indulge in a number of affairs with women such as Marilyn Monroe and was clearly attractive to the opposite sex. Despite this, family was central to his life and he only reluctantly took his job as Attorney General, knowing what it would cost him in time away from them.
Characteristics of the Ares archetype
- Lack empathy
- Single minded
“For Ares, lord of strife,
Who doth the swaying scales of battle hold,
War’s money-changer, giving dust for gold,
Sends back, to hearts that held them dear,
Scant ash of warriors, wept with many a tear,
Light to the hand, but heavy to the soul;
Yea, fills the light urn full
With what survived the flame—
Death’s dusty measure of a hero’s frame!”
― Aeschylus, Agamemnon
“Ares, exceeding in strength, chariot-rider, golden-helmed, doughty in heart, shield-bearer, Saviour of cities, harnessed in bronze, strong of arm, unwearying, mighty with the spear.”
― Homeric Hymn 8 to Ares (Greek epic B.C.)
“Magnanimous, unconquered, boisterous Ares, in darts rejoicing, and in bloody wars; fierce and untamed, whose mighty power can make the strongest walls from their foundations shake: mortal-destroying king, defiled with gore, pleased with war’s dreadful and tumultuous roar. Thee human blood, and swords, and spears delight, and the dire ruin of mad savage fight. Stay furious contests, and avenging strife, whose works with woe embitter human life.”
― Orphic Hymn 65 to Ares (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.)