Ares’ Best Friend

When people talk of Ares, and especially of his relations with other gods, there are a few words that get thrown around: “passion”, “hatred”, “love”, and “violent”. Yet for some reason, many people skip “friend”. The rivalry with Athene and passion for Aphrodite are common themes in Aresian myth, and yet, we often forget the many myths Ares spends paling around with whom I’d call his best buddy in the divine world. I’m talking, of course, of Hermes.

Hermes is a constant player in Aresian myth. He is the god who helps Ares escape the Aloadai giants, where he had been trapped for a year in a brazen jar. It is into Hermes’ hands that Ares delivers the criminal Sisyphos, who then escorts the petulant king to Haides. It is Hermes who retrieves Ares to his trial upon the Aeropagus, and it is Hermes who delivers Ares into the hands of Dike in his cult in Anatolia.

It should be of no surprise Ares and Hermes show up together in myth and cult. Ares and Hermes are both potent male figures with an erotic bent; Ares is the sexy bad boy where Hermes is the virile youth (ever see a herm?). Both are gods associated with the chora, with Ares as its general guardian and Hermes the guardian of travelers. Speaking of travelers, both are gods of banditry. Ares is alluded to having sat with Hermes at Olympian feasts by Homer. The pairing of Hermes and Ares is a central part of Aeschylean theology, especially in the cult at Syedra in Anatolia (and most likely Biannos on Crete as well). Both were associated with dogs (a trait that is shared with Hekate as well), with Hermes as their god and with Ares as accepting them in sacrifice.

It’s really a wonder we don’t see these gods paired more often in modern Hellenismos. However, they do figure prominently into my personal cult (gotta guide all those dead hippies out of the way :P), especially in the Aresia festivals. So a toast to Hermes:

Hail Hermes, companion of Ares

You who guides both Man and Beast

A toast to you, dear Hermes

Hold fast our friend and hold us in esteem

That we may be blessed as Ares

With kind words from you, swift messenger

6 comments on “Ares’ Best Friend

  1. Brilliant post! Sadly a subject that gets little to know attention these days. In addition to the sources you cite I also came across the pairing of Ares and Hermes as patrons of the gymnasium in a couple texts of the Hellenistic era, including a quite elaborate description of the ritual obligations of the gymnasiarch which shows how different that institution was from our modern gym.

    • pthelms says:

      Of course it doesn’t get any attention. It doesn’t fit the archetypes of Jung. I’ve always kind seen Ares and Hermes in a buddy cop type situation, with Ares playing the over-the-edge cynic and Hermes as the cool-headed, smooth-talking undercover type. Basically a Starsky and Hutch deal (with Dionysos as Huggy Bear).

  2. […] Speaking of communication, Pete Helms introduces us to Ares’ best friend: […]

  3. Cora Post says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I’m devoted to Hermes and thought I was going a bit nuts with having so much Ares energy around.

  4. Cora Post says:

    Reblogged this on The Iconoclastic Domina and commented:
    I’m afraid reading this post has momentarily turned me into a giddy-school girl/blog stalker of the best intentions. My readers know my great love and devotion to Hermes, but what I haven’t spoken of (as much) is that as soon as I made those vows to Hermes that He’s Teh Man, Ares moved right into my life and has set up camp.

    To say that the experience of my realization of the amount of infiltration of Ares has had in my life is “a bit shocking” would be like saying being struck by lightening is “a bit shocking”. I knew these Two are peas in a pod, but to have my UPG verified in such a manner is uplifting (I’m not batshit crazy!) and a reminder of caution (“now, what the hell am I do to??”).

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