|“||The wanton lord of war, insatiate of battle-cry, Ares, who reaps a human harvest in alien fields, destroys this Pelasgian land by fire.||„|
|~ Suppliant Women (about Ares).|
Ares was the Greek god of warfare, specifically the more barbaric parts such as slaughter and bloodlust. His sister (and fellow war-deity) was known as Athena and embodied the more honorable parts of warfare.
Worship and Perception
The ancient Greeks had a love-hate relationship with Ares as they knew he was important yet were also fully aware of the more negative aspects of the said deity. Athens (who primarily worshipped Athena) often wrote him as a psychotic brute and coward, but Sparta worshipped him as their primary deity, as Athens did more trade with the rest of Greece and placed a higher value on diplomacy their outlook on Ares is the one that permeated most of the ancient world. Even among Spartans, Ares was portrayed as violent, but since ancient Sparta was an extreme militant city-state where things like public drafting for those as young as ten, the war-god's traits were seen in a favorable light, emphasizing the importance of the warrior mentality. Like almost all deities Ares is more accurately described as amoral rather than evil as he had both positive and negative traits (much like the concepts he embodied), though his negative traits are shown more often, and a number of people who study Greek mythology believe that Ares is the closest thing the Greek pantheon has to a "god of evil," as he is extremely brutal, even by Olympian standards, blanketing himself in the skins of his victims. For this, and many other reasons, he is greatly loathed by his fellow deities, who often speak negatively of him.
Powers and Abilities
As a god, Ares' powers are technically omnipotent. However, each god has a role which they do not often stray away from. Ares is most often associated with fire, one poem describes a city as bursting into flame merely upon the unsheathing of his blade and numerous plays associate him with fire. Ares is credited as a great warrior of master weapon use, as god of war his technical fighting skills were second to none, but this does not include tactics, something Athena specifically emphasized and he ignored in favor of brute force and personal combat prowess. Ares is portrayed as one of the physically strongest gods, at least of the second generation of Olympians, the likes of Zeus and Poseidon were far, far above any of their children. Ares' favorite ability was turning men against each-other. He rode with the goddess of discord, Eris, by his side constantly. Ares loved Eris as her very presence would cause petty bickering, enraged arguments and would cause lines in the sand to be drawn even between dear friends and family, at which point Ares fanned these arguments even further until both sides of any given disagreement were driven into murderous fervor. This was Ares standard process to sew the seeds of war, have Eris created a base divide between friends and then escalating the disagreements into all out war.
Ares' status as a coward is entirely dependent on which version of stories were told. Ares was stated to be one of the most handsome and beautiful male gods, this trait itself was used by Athenians and Spartans to inform his character in two completely different ways: Athenians attributed Ares' good looks to the fact that he was cowardly and ran from combat the second he personally was endangered leaving the people he incited to die fighting for him; Spartans attributed Ares' good looks to being such a refined warrior that his features remained perfect and unblemished as no one was ever able to lay a single scratch on him. Despite this blatant contradiction between worshippers and detractors virtually all other aspects of Ares were agreed upon but viewed in entirely different lights as being admirable traits/simple quirks or profound cruelty. Ares was an extremely sadistic individual, embracing violence and seeing destruction as ranging from beautiful to hilarious. Despite being a bloodthirsty and dangerous sadist, Ares was actually a sympathetic father, he tried to be to his children, what Zeus had not been for him and was both loving and protective of them. Ares went as far as to kill Poseidon's son Alirrothios for trying to rape his daughter Alkippe. His sons Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror), took it upon themselves to make their father proud by sewing chaos whenever possible, acts greatly appreciated by Ares.
Ares fought with nearly every single one of his family members over something or another, the ancient Greeks used this to emphasize how war disrupts all aspects of life. Ares was Zeus' least favorite son, something which caused mass resentment in Ares and caused him to act out to get his father's attention, which itself was what Zeus disliked about him. As Athena was the daughter of Zeus' first wife, Metis. Hera tried to raise Ares as a better god of war that would do her legacy proud, but when this mentality just lead him to reject Athena's subtler arts of tactics and diplomacy, Hera was left constantly disappointed that the ambitions she tried to instill in him only ended up disgracing her side of the family. Poseidon saw Ares' reliance on mortal armies rather than fighting his battle himself to be a sign of weakness, this dismissive attitude would later become outright scorn after Ares killed Poseidon's son, Alirrothios. Demeter, Dionysus and Artemis saw the environments left devastated in Ares' wake as an extreme annoyance. Apollo saw warfare as a less imaginative art and so as a god of poetry had many verses written on the futility of war. Aphrodite and Ares were lovers and much is made of the primal synchronicity of passion that comes from love and war which is what fueled the relationship, but this also meant Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband and Ares' brother despised him. Hades is not often written about interacting with Ares, but he generally did not like to see mortals arrive in the Underworld prematurely since they were all destined to eventually die anyway and it created a lot of work for him, as a result he likely would not have cared for Ares. Athena is the single most prevalent foe of Ares, the two were the ultimate symbol of war, two siblings with the same station but who were so different they were always ready to fight one another. As Ares represented the brutal aspects of war and Athena it's more strategic ones, the two were used to show that war itself was caught in a feed-back loop with itself. Only two deities actively cared for Ares, not counting Aphrodite who was only interested in sex with him, Eris and Hestia. Eris was goddess of discord and she loved to see simple fights snow-ball into complete wars with Ares' help. Eris followed Ares around as a sycophantic fan of the pain his wars left behind. Hestia cared for all her family and was his only relative who offered him unconditional acceptance, this was despite Hestia herself being a total pacifist.
Due to Hestia being one of his only relatives who showed him unconditional love, Ares decreed that even the most otherwise merciless warlords must never ever harm the priestesses of Hestia, themselves also pacifists, such acts were considered high heresy in ancient Greece. Ares got a rush from seeing armies fight each-other, cheering it on as a sport. This mentality would lead to the Olympic Games as being sacred to Ares, and in fact wars would be put on hold to attend the games, disrupting the games was another act of high-heresy. Spartan mentality shaped how Ares was seen through-out Greece - Spartans required children to be enlisted into the army at least by the age of 12, and trained for it up until then. To create a warrior's mentality Spartans were also required to take on no less than two lovers each among their squadron, this included all such children just drafted. After returning home all men were required by state-law to give up any homosexual preferences instilled in them and have sex with their wives, in order to see to it Sparta's population never decreased, to ease the process Spartan woman would often dress up as men in order to ease their husbands back into heterosexuality. As men would be drafted into the army the City-State of Sparta was left with a high female population and women were the main traders, guards and craft-keepers for it. Because of the pride Sparta earned him, Ares associated homosexuals as being the ultimate in manly men and encouraged women to likewise take on roles normally reserved for men. Ares' endorsement of masculine ideals lead him to in fact become a strong advocate of feminism as well as homosexual equality.
- Though modern Sparta is long passed the stage of worshiping Ares or any of the Greek Pantheon, he is still used as an image of the Spartain people's glory days and is a patriotic symbol.