Ares Khalkeos


Ladies and gents, I am a man possessed. I have a terrible obsession. The object of my obsession? Bronze. I think about it night and day, talk about it with anyone who will listen, and lately, I’ve even dreamed of bronze. But why get all worked up over metal, you may ask. Well, I have two answers to that.

First, Ares is associated with the metal like none other. Two epithets, Χαλκεος (Khalkeos) and Χαλκοκορυστης (Khalkokorustês), describe the god as both bearing bronze arms and as brazen himself. This makes sense, as even though the hoplite battles of antiquity took place well into the iron age, bronze continued to dominate weapons and armor manufacturing for quite some time. Interestingly enough, bronze is actually stronger and tougher than iron. Bronze weapons held a sharper edge for longer periods, were less susceptible to corrosion, and bronze was tough enough yet soft enough to be sculpted into elaborate designs while maintaining its strength. The only this bronze had going against it was its expense. Iron can be plucked from the ground, smelted, and used right away. Bronze is an alloy, meaning you have to find the right ingredients, in this case copper, which was common, and tin, which was not. Besides, get iron dirty during the working process and you might accidentally get steel, which is both harder and lighter than bronze.

Ares is also tied to bronze in a myth where the Aloadai Giants captured him in a bronze jar. This, in my view, brings to mind the brazen bull from the late Hellenistic and early Roman days, which was used as an execution device. Additionally, Ares caused his Spartoi warriors to spring up from the earth fully armed and armored in bronze. I don’t think it would be a stretch to think the Stymphalian birds, who shoot their feathers as arrows, might also be partially brazen.

The second reason I am obsessing over bronze is that I’ve started a new series of projects which will eventually be cast in bronze. One is a plaque depicting a panoply sans greaves and thorax, which I plan to use as a votive down the line. Because it’s being molded in rubber first, I may even be able to make and sell duplicates. The next piece is a copy of a votive statuette found at a temple of Apollon, but was dedicated to Ares/Enyalios instead. I think that one might be the focus of a more martial shrine down the line. The last piece is of course another helmet. However, the real special part of the construction process is the fact I’m creating the alloy myself. See, most bronzes today do not use tin; rather, most modern alloys are copper mixed with either aluminum or silicon. Being the fussy recon that I am, I’m smelting my own alloy using tin and going from there, mostly because I’m fascinated with archaic metalworking technique. Hopefully, Brazen Ares will lend me a hand and I’ll come out with three beautiful pieces I can show off.

 

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