Fathers’ Day having just rounded the corner, I figured I’d write a little on Ares and his father, Zeus. Both are prominent father-figures in mythology, probably the most prominent. They also shared some cultic conflation and an overlapping of cosmic duties.
Let’s look at myths concerning Zeus and Ares first. The most notable regard the pair plus Hera, which I’ve mentioned before; these concern Ares sticking up for his mother against Zeus and the results of his adulterous goings-on. This paints a picture of Zeus and Ares being a constant odds, which is further supported by Homer in the Iliad, who has Zeus call Ares the most hated god on Olympos. Indeed, this may also relate to Zeus’ favorite child, Athene, being the rival and counter-point of Ares.
Besides Ares’ brutal nature, what might Zeus find so detestable about Ares? To discover this, we have to look back to Zeus’ origins. He overthrew his own father in a violent revolution (the Titanomachy), as his father did before him. It was foretold that the same would happen to Zeus himself, and by his son if the pattern holds true. Thus, Zeus may see the worst of himself, and worse yet, his possible usurpation, in the form of his overbearing, violent son Ares. Perhaps it is fear that drives Ares and Zeus apart.
We can of course see parallel to this in the way human men and their children, especially their sons, interact. Zeus, as head of the household, makes the rules. Most dads probably act this way today, even though they definitely share more with their partners than the ancients, or Zeus, ever did. Ares can be seen as the stereotypical rebellious son, always moving contrary to his father’s wishes, if only for spite’s sake. So too do all children rebel, and this frustrates parents to no end. Worse yet, this only reflects to them the same mistakes and silly choices they made as children, further frustrating them against their children.It’s no wonder Zeus “hates” Ares; he is his father’s son.
Speaking of being his father’s son, Ares follows in Zeus’ footsteps by being a pretty awesome dad. Both gods are known for their doting and their fierce, often violent, devotion to their children. Whether it’s Zeus bringing the infant Dionysos to term himself or Ares avenging the rape of Alkippe, both get Father of the Year awards every year.
Their similarities were not limited to the realm of myth, however. Both deities were worshiped in cult as war divinities, Ares under his own name and his father under the name Zeus Areios. Both are mentioned as founder-gods in the Athenian Ephebic Oath, and are worshiped, along with Hera Gamelia, as “Those Gods Who Hold the City” in Anatolia. Both also have connections to Serpents, with Zeus as the agathos daimon and Ares the father of various drakon, as well as having a sacred serpent at a temple on Crete.
There is probably a lot more I could go into, however I think we have enough to ponder on here for the moment. Who knows, maybe with the amount of war and violence in the world, perhaps Ares will succeed his father someday. ‘Til then, hats off to Zeus, Ares, and dads everywhere.