Ares: The Greek God of War and Violence

Votive relief with Ares and Aphrodite
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI / Getty Images

Ares is a war god and god of violence in Greek mythology. He was not well-liked or trusted by the ancient Greeks and there are few tales in which he plays a major role. Cults of Ares are found mainly in Crete and the Peloponnese where the militaristic Spartans honored him. Athena is also a war goddess, but was well-respected, as a polis protector and goddess of strategy instead of Ares' forte, mayhem, and destruction.

Ares appears in what one might call bit parts, overshadowed by heroes or other gods, and in many battle scenes in Greek mythology. In the Iliad, Ares is wounded, treated, and returns to the fray.

The Family of Ares

Thracian-born Ares is usually counted the son of Zeus and Hera, although Ovid has Hera produce him parthenogenically (like Hephaestus). Harmonia (whose necklace turns up in stories of Cadmus and the founding of Thebes), the goddess of harmony, and the Amazons Penthesilea and Hippolyte were daughters of Ares. Through Cadmus' marriage to Harmonia and the dragon Ares sired that produced the sown men (Spartoi), Ares is the mythological ancestor of the Thebans.

Mates and Children of Ares

Famous People in the House of Thebes:

Roman Equivalent

Ares was called Mars by the Romans, although the Roman god Mars was much more important to the Romans than Ares was to the Greeks.


Ares has no unique attributes but is described as strong, harnessed in bronze, and golden helmeted. He rides a war chariot. The serpent, owls, vultures, and woodpecker are sacred to him. Ares had unsavory companions like Phobos ("Fear") and Deimos ("Terror"), Eris ("Strife") and Enyo ("Horror"). Early depictions show him as a mature, bearded man. Later representations show him as a youth or ephebe (like Apollo). Ares is a god of warfare and murder.

Some Myths Involving Ares

  • AdonisAres rather than Artemis is sometimes said to have been responsible for the death of Adonis. He either sent a boar or was himself one. [Source: Carlos Parada]
  • Aphrodite and AresOne of the most famous stories involving Ares is his being caught in flagrante delicto with Aphrodite. Although the lovers were caught in a net in a compromising position, the gods watching envied Ares.
  • Ares and the Giants: Ephialtes and Otos, sons of the Giant Aloeus, put Ares in chains and into a cauldron where he was stuck until Hermes rescued him. In the war against the giants, Ares slew the giant Mimas (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 1227 ff)
  • Cadmus and the founding of ThebesCadmus slew the dragon of Ares and, on the advice of Athena, planted its teeth. From the sown teeth armed men sprang up ready to fight. All were killed but five who were known as the sown men or Spartoi. Apollodorus says Cadmus served as a laborer for Ares for a "year" as atonement for the killing.
  • Halirrhothios Murdered by Ares
  • Dionysus and the Return of Hephaestus (The Failure of Ares)

Homeric Hymn to Ares:

The Homeric Hymn to Ares reveals the attributes (strong, chariot-riding, goldern-helmeted, shield-bearer, etc.) and powers (savior of cities) attributed by the Greeks to Ares. The hymn also places Mars among the planets. The following translation, by Evelyn-White, is in the public domain.

VIII. To Ares
(17 lines)
(ll. 1-17) 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, O defence of Olympus, father of warlike Victory, ally of Themis, stern governor of the rebellious, leader of righteous men, sceptred King of manliness, who whirl your fiery sphere among the planets in their sevenfold courses through the aether wherein your blazing steeds ever bear you above the third firmament of heaven; hear me, helper of men, giver of dauntless youth! Shed down a kindly ray from above upon my life, and strength of war, that I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful impulses of my soul. Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife. Rather, O blessed one, give you me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death.
Homeric Hymn to Ares


  • Ancient sources for Ares include Apollodorus, Apollonius Rhodius, Callimachus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Diodorus Siculus, Euripides, Hesiod, Homer, Hyginus, Nonnius, Ovid, Pausanias, Plutarch, Vergil, Statius, and Strabo.