Ares 101: The Many Faces of Ares

Previously throughout the series, I have discussed Ares in the general sense, simply as a war-god as opposed to a god with a multitude of titles and divine functions. In order to move on to the next topic, constructing prayers and hymns, we need to look at some of the names, titles, and duties of Ares. Some have already been mentioned, but many bear repeating.

Ancient Cult Titles:

Theritas: this cult title comes from Sparta. This was supposedly derived from the name of Ares’ nurse Thero, though when questioned by Pausanias, the locals knew of no Thero. The writer instead concluded the proper title was “beastly”, a throwback to Ares’ brutal nature and monstrous offspring.

Hippios: this cult originated in Olympia, where Ares was worshiped alongside Athene Hippias in the hippodrome. Horsemen and charioteers often invoked Ares Hippios before races and possibly before battle.

Aphneios: this title, meaning “abundant”, was given to Ares at a temple in Tegea. After one of Ares’ mortal lovers died in childbirth, but Ares caused her to nourish the baby nonetheless. This is some of the most significant pieces of evidence of Ares’ cthonic aspects, which are further compounded by another cult title from Anatolia.

Kiddeudas: though I have not found an exact translation for this title (it does not appear on theoi.com), it was found inscribed on an altar to the god in central Asia Minor. Interestingly, this altar pointed to an agricultural cult as, among the standard weapon and armor motifs, the altar was carved with a cornucopia. It is most likely that this particular cult was devoted to ensuring and protecting the chora, or the countryside which was essential to the survival of the population centers.

Epekoos: this title from central Asia Minor meaning “he who hears”, which refers to the Ares that answers oracles.\

Polypalmeros: This is another Anatolian incarnation of the god meaning “many-handed” or “he of many devices”. He is invoked as a generally beneficent god who helps those in need.

Gynaikothoinas: this is a title of Ares from Tegea meaning “feasted by women”. It refers to the god’s intervention on behalf of the Tegean women who fought and won against Sparta’s hoplites. A festival was held every year by the women in which men were not allowed to participate.

Poetic and Dramatic Titles

Brotoloigos, Andreiphontês,Miaiphonos: these titles, bestowed upon Ares in the Iliad, are all closely related in theme; they mean “manslaughtering”, “destroyer of men”, and “bloodstained” respectively. Oft repeated by Homer, these titles are often the first known by most investigating Ares and stain their first experiences with the god. Many other titles like these can be found here, as they are too many and too similar to list out in entirety.

Alloprosallos: this Homeric epithet meaning “double-faced” is meant to be derogatory, calling Ares a liar, though I feel it speaks to Ares’ nature of nurture and destruction.

Sunarogos Themistos: from the Homeric Hymn, it calls Ares the “succoror of Themis”, or ally of Law. A vital part of Aresian theology, this title meshes well with Ares’ Orphic role as guardian of the natural laws of life and the Aeschylian avenger of those who transgress the laws of nature.

Polydakros: another of Aeschylus’ titles for Ares that translates to “bringer of much weeping: or (my favorite) “Father of tears”. The dramatist refers to Ares as “plucking the fairest flowers of a host” during battle (another agricultural reference!).

My favorite title, however, is not one I’ve found the Greek for. It comes from Aeschylus (can you tell I like the guy?) and describes Ares as the “Gold-broker of corpses”. Fun stuff, eh?

 

Hopefully perusing through these titles gives you a better of how and what for Ares is worshiped. If you want to go deeper into Ares’ cult, I suggest staying tuned in. In the next few posts, I will be covering constructing prayers and hymns,  holy days, syncretism,  and more. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, or have any suggestions or comments regarding other titles you use, let everyone know in the comments. Until then, hail Ares!

Prayer to Ares Epekoos

So I’ve reached an impasse in writing this weekend. I realized my book may have to be split in two. The first part–which is very academic and analyzes myth, history, and goes very deep into philosophy–is taking forever to write. Part of that involves ridiculous amounts of research. The portion on Diomedes in book five of the Iliad (which only encompasses about a page and a half) took about three or four hours alone. However, the portion I’ve written on cult and all that is going much more smoothly, and is accruing material at a much faster pace. That part, however, does rely on some of the theological and historic points raised in the other portion of my writing. Thus, I’m stuck, and I’m not quite sure what to do.

Now, because I have two options (one big volume versus two smaller ones), I’m in a pretty good position for asking an oracle. I thought about asking Sannion, who does a monthly Dionysian oracle. However, I’m late for this month, and in addition, the little voice in my head is telling me I need to get more comfortable doing divination myself. Why? Well first off, Ares does have an oracle in the mountains of southern Anatolia–simply put, it’s part of His cult. Secondly, if I do want to become a priest, I need to become more receptive to the will of my god. So, in pursuit of an answer, I have composed a prayer to Ares Epekoos, he who listens, to grace me with an answer. I do hope it works, and that I can interpret any answer correctly. I don’t do tarot or anything like that, so I’m looking for a dream or a sign (I’m looking for woodpeckers, methinks). Cross your fingers!

Hear me, O Epekoos,

You god who listens to the purple-clad seers.

Listen to me, oh Ares,

I who have given you burnt offerings of young lambs,

I who have raised prayers to you on sweet smoking altars,

Lend me your ear and answer my inquest

Show me, oh giver of good counsel, as I may see,

Whether it is better to give the first course or the second.

Show me, oh Rallier of men, as I may see,

Whether I shall rally in ones or twos.

Pray to thee I do for your token in answer,

A sign as I may see your will,

You who give council to those who raise your banner.

Ares, God of Manliness

So I was poking around Facebook groups the last few days, and I started to get annoyed (go figure). One incident got my attention and incensed me like no other. It was some guy complaining about how some in the group hurt his feelings. Maybe it’s the dangerous amount of testosterone I hide in my beard, but I wanted to tear this guy a new rectum. Why? Because he was breaking what many would call “man code”, an institution so old, women first started the earth’s rotation with a collective eye-roll (and they just altered it reading that just now ;).

All joking aside, what is the man code and why does it matter? Every boy is brought up with models, scenarios, and rules, both spoken and unspoken, about what it means to be a man. This code can sometimes change, but some parts do not, being biological. Ares, as the god of manliness, exemplifies the qualities of manliness that the ancient Greeks ascribed to, as do many people today. Let’s explore some of those qualities, and how they reflect (or do not reflect) some of the same values we hold today.

Number one: A man is responsible for his words and actions.

This sort of thing should be obvious, and is rather understated in the myths of Ares. However, one myth does really call this virtue to the fore: that of the rape of Alkippe. Alkippe was Ares’ daughter, and she was raped (a dubious term for the ancients, so from the context of the myth, we’ll assume it means what it does today) by Poseidon’s son Halirrhothios. Ares caught him in the act, and like any dad could be expected to do, Ares killed him on the spot. Now, killing folks is what Ares does, and as a mortal, no one would have given a damn for Halirrhothios, except he was the son of another god. Well, once Poseidon found out, he demanded retribution. Now, Ares could have blown Poseidon off, but instead went to face the music in Athens (where the offence occurred). In a tribunal of the gods, Ares was acquitted on account of defense of another, and everyone went their merry way (except Poseidon). This is one reason given for the hill being named the Aeropagus, and the Athenians held their most serious trials there for centuries after.

This is not the only bit of wisdom we can draw on. In Plato’s etymologies of the names of the gods, he pondered that Ares is so named for his “hard and unbending nature”. Ares makes decisions that are often of a most permanent nature (death and all that), and thus must live with a decision he makes regardless of the outcome. Unfortunately, modern man has a very hard time with this concept. Politicians of all stripes are notorious flip-floppers. A major problem exists in urban populations, and despite the lamentations of Bill Cosby, it’s not just blacks that abandon their baby-mommas. Public apologies are all the rage today, and the media rarely reports consistency of character (unless it’s bad), and so many young men are given mixed messages in this department. Speaking of mixed messages, this brings us to number two on our list.

Number two: Men are fighters.

It’s pretty easy to see where Ares fits into this one. Almost all of Ares’ mythology is devoted to his war stories. From the Iliad to Aeschylus to modern myths by Sannion, Ares is a fighter. Much of a man’s inclination towards fighting is entirely involuntary, and comes to him though the wonderfully chaotic chemical testosterone.

Despite all the manly and awesome qualities testosterone provides (like aggression, sex drive in men and women, beards, etc.), average testosterone levels around the world are dropping. This is one reason many men these days just don’t seem so manly anymore. Between spending time indoors, dieting too much, becoming obese, and modern sleep patterns, testosterone doesn’t have the opportunity to be made, because all of those ingredients interfere with its production.

Fighting today is on odd thing to quantify today. Fewer and fewer boys have ever gotten in a fist fight. Unfortunately (in my opinion), this decrease in physical confrontation leads to a real lack of resolution in peer groups. You often hear of a “bullying epidemic” in the news today. Truth is, bullying has stayed pretty steady over the centuries. The strong pick on the weak until they are no longer weak. Now, however, the culture of non-confrontation (the use-your-words method) means the weak get picked on until a point they either commit suicide or homicide. Coping skills are at an all-time low, and you can see this today in politics, business, and domestic life.

Fighting should not be allowed to run willy-nilly, though. Much of the poets’ disdain for Ares stemmed from his “stab first, ask questions later” attitude. It is important then that Ares was coupled with a passionate yet gentler female influence; hence, Ares is paired with Aphrodite.

Number three: Most of a man’s emotions shouldn’t be public.

Now, it’s a truth that Ares was an extremely passionate character, and that said passion would get him in trouble. In addition, there are a few stories of Ares being quite the softy (saving a baby, yay!), especially when it came to his lovers and children. But there’s a difference you will see in Ares versus many other gods: most folks don’t get to see this. Unlike his own dad, Ares isn’t in the habit of making his affairs public. Other than his rage, Ares doesn’t go around putting his emotional baggage in others’ laps (and I’m sure that’s one reason he distracts himself with his wife).

Part of taking control, whether as a man or a woman, means putting aside emotion in order to do what needs done. People, as much as they might enjoy fighting, usually have a natural distaste for killing, however necessary. Sometimes, the only answer to a solution requires one to disregard that feeling. Man needs to eat, and despite raising the family pig for a year or two, he needs to kill the animal in order to prevent his family from starving. Do you hate your job? A lot of people do, but it needs done. Does this mean you can’t have those feelings, or can’t ever express them? No. What it means though is that you find the appropriate time and place (usually never public) to express that.

The best parable to emphasize this point also relates to Ares as a god of courage, which is seen by the ancients as a manly quality. Courage, as described by Aristotle, is not an absence of fear, but rather the acceptance and refusal to shrink back from fear. The courageous man is therefore afraid, but denies the power of fear despite his holding onto it.

Number four: A man is responsible for, and to, others.

This is a theme that has been running through the last three, especially in relation to Ares. Ares stands behind his children, his lovers, and his order, despite how others feel about him. Though Zeus calls him the most hated god on Olympos, Ares still supports his father (unless he’s supporting his mom). He and his sister Athene may fight, but when they need to, they fight together. He and his buddy Hermes work in tandem bringing criminals to bear. He may not be well-liked, but Ares gets his job done, and never stops even if he fails. His responsibility is to bring war to mankind, and thus mankind shall never find peace. Ares knows what is best for man, even if what’s best for him isn’t good for him or others.

 

We as a society can learn a lot from Ares. From him, we learn it’s okay to fight, but that there’s a time and place. We learn about responsibility in an irresponsible world. We can learn about tough choices, and about never backing down from the challenge. We can learn to deal with our own issues. Most of all, we can learn to make ourselves, and our sons, into good men. Hail Ares!

Ares, the God of D&D?

With the semester having ended, I get to spend time with one of my favorite creative pass-times: Dungeons and Dragons. As I was sitting around crafting a new adventures for my players, I had a very sudden revelation–Ares has to be responsible for creating D&D.

Now, of course this should all sound very silly. I mean, a war-god, arguably the Olympian equivalent of a high school all-star jock, creating the nerdiest of games ever? Well, yes, actually. Ironically, it was a line from Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes that drew me to this conclusion:

Ares, with his dice, determines the outcome of battle.

For those of you who never played the game, it’s important to know a few facts. First, D&D evolved from table-top war-gaming in the 1970s, in order to bring more of a fun, role-playing element to currently available games. Secondly, the most important mechanic of D&D is rolling dice to determine the outcome of certain actions, most notably combat. Add in the fact that Ares is one of the most prolific progenitors of dragons, and bam! A perfect storm of chance, war, and dragons, and a multi-million dollar franchise. The illustration below was in fact  prepared for the D&D v.3.5 Deities and Demigods supplement, which you can see here on page 107 (oh, and before you get your knickers in a twist, read the first paragraph on page 99).

Ares D&D

Casting Day!

As the semester is ramping up to finish, my sculpture class finally got out to do our castings. It was pretty awesome, and my Ares Andreiphontes turned out to be one of the best pieces in the lot, having no unintentional flaws like some folks’ pieces. The owner of the joint also threw in a free scrap piece of Italian marble for me to use as a base. Now I just have to clean up the bronze and drill the base to hold the statue  and carve the inscription and it should be ready to dedicate.

The actual pouring was awesome. The metal was almost as thin as water in consistency, but of course was about 2400 degrees and heavy as all get-out. When poured, it was the color of a blood orange and had a silvery, metallic sheen, even as a liquid. Check out a few of the photos below or catch the video on the Facebook page to see what I mean. Make sure you have the volume off, because the audio is loud and garbled due to the machinery and wind.

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The City of Ares

I like my hometown, Livonia, MI. It’s quiet, safe, and has plenty to do if you aren’t an idiot kid. Unfortunately, it is located mere miles from Detroit, a place dominated by fear, murder, and sorrow. It is a city of Ares Andrephontes, the slayer of men. It’s really quite sad how low the city has sunk, considering its great past.

Detroit, I’m told, used to be a beautiful place. The Western center of automotive manufacturing, Detroit was a busy, prosperous city only 40 years ago. Of course, under that gilded exterior, the foundations of the city began to rot under corrupt politicians, unions in bed with the mafia, and the ever-increasing strain of race relations. Now, we have a burnt-out shell of a city and a whopping 298 homicides just this year, many of them children. This is home of Ares the Man-slayer. This is not new, however; Detroit has always been a refuge for the Bringer of Weeping.

 

Detroit was founded as a military fort and missionary outpost in 1701 by the French. It was responsible for guarding the Detroit River and surrounding areas from native raids and bandits. The French ruled Detroit for only 59 years before surrendering it to the British in 1760 during the bloody French and Indian War. Only three years later, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa would lay siege to the fort during Pontiac’s Rebellion.

Later, Detroit would become a major staging area for the War of 1812 between the young United States and the British Empire. The battle over and for the Detroit River would continue in spats, and the British would eventually take Detroit with only two wounded, even though they were outnumbered by approximately 50%. & Americans lost their lives to British Cannon, making the siege one of the least bloody in history.

During the period of the American Civil War, Detroit served as a major stop on the underground railroad, where slaves would jump ship to nearby Windsor. Before being promoted to general, Ulysses Grant would be stationed at Detroit, and another famous officer, George Custer, lead the Michigan Brigade from Detroit. Detroit would also produce the 24th MI Infantry Regiment, which suffered over 80% casualties at Gettysburg . It was also during this time, in 1863, that Detroit would experience its first race riot, which left at least two dead and 35 buildings completely destroyed.

The World War II era would bring more war and violence to Detroit. In response to Hitler and Emperor Hirohito, Detroit would shift its great manufacturing capability to wartime use, earning it the nickname “The Arsenal of Democracy”. The Ford Motor Company would convert the Willow Run plant into a bomber factory, churning out a whopping one B-24 Liberator an hour, with pilots taking off to deliver the aircraft straight from the assembly line. In 1943, Detroit would hold yet another race riot, leaving 34 people dead; the Army was deployed to end the riot.

In 1967, Detroit would see its worst race riots yet. With 43 death, almost 500 injured, and over 2000 buildings destroyed, it stands as the third-worst riot in US history. You can still travel down the streets of the city and see the shells of the buildings left untouched even 40 years after the riots. It is after this point that Detroit became polarized, and self-segregation has led to Detroit becoming one of the most racially-tense cities in the US to this day.

 

It is this long, 300-year history that has led to me declaring Detroit a city of Ares. Violence has plagued the city since its founding, and there is no end in sight. Now, with very few, under-equipped police officers, dwindling city budgets and revenue, and the unwillingness of the residents to accept outside help, it looks like this grand city may soon die. Gone will be the city one hailed as the Western Paris. Gone will be the second-oldest Roman Catholic parish in the US. I love Ares, but it seems his influence will choke the life from the city I was born in. What a sad time to live in…

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.