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!

Ares Doesn’t Love You

It’s okay though, he doesn’t love me, either. 99% sure on that one. “Well aren’t you just a Negative Nancy?” you may say. Perhaps I am. But why is it so important to us that the gods love us measly little mortals?

People want to be wanted and need to be needed. Cheap Trick were really on to something when they wrote that song. It’s just who we are as social creatures. It only follows that we wish the most powerful being known to us–the Gods– love us. After all, we (well, most of us, you silly atheists) love them. Some of us love them a bit too much, perhaps. But hey, our love of them has spawned some of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring monuments, literature, and even acts on this planet. Granted, it also spawned some lovely, f**ked up stuff, too, but we’ll skip over that for the sake of moving along nicely.

Now, my answer, personally, is that with rare exceptions, the gods couldn’t even be bothered to give a damn. It’s not even that they may harbor any real ill-will towards us (except maybe Ares and Zeus, but more on that later), but running an entire cosmos is busy work, and who really has time to bother with such petty trifles as human love, happiness, or money? But what about their responsibility for human affairs you say? Honestly, after the whole of human history of Athene teaching men to build, or Zeus judging righteousness, that has got to get old.

Remember the flood myth? You know, where Zeus decided everyone was a douche and told humanity to kindly go f**k itself? It’s a really common myth across various cultures. Oh, and remember how Prometheus (who is such a dreadful, self-righteous prat in “Prometheus Bound btw) got punished for helping out humanity in the first place, and then the gods punish man by creating women? If the mythographers and poets are to be even the least bit believed, then it’s pretty clear to me that the gods hold a grudge.

That’s not to say we can’t entertain the gods from time to time. Ares loves war. He is literally called Insatiate of Battle and the Bringer of Tears by Homer and Aeschylus  respectively. And Aeschylus liked Ares!  It really wouldn’t surprise me if Ares sits around Olympus until he gets bored and then goes off to whisper some bloodthirsty nothings in some poor mortal’s ear, who then promptly goes out and kills someone, simply for the amusement of a god. As I’ve said before, and been called as blasphemer for, no less–Ares is a dick sometimes.

Does this lack of love for humanity mean we shouldn’t pay the gods their due honors? Hell no. They are gods, and should receive their due whether they like us or not. I can dislike  my president or governor  (I actually love my governor, he’s awesome) or whatever, but I still pay taxes, because that’s how it works. They are in charge, and that is the pecking order. The gods are at the very top of the cosmic pecking order. Don’t sweat it if you don’t feel Olympic glory raining down on you and filling your butt with sunshine. It’s probably nothing personal. And hey, you’re alive right? That should at least mean none of the gods dislikes you 😉

Ares, Zeus, and Being a Dad

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.

Sibling Rivalries

Well, it’s Friday, which means it’s time for my weekly update. While the previous post was fun, I feel it didn’t have the “umph” to really carry the week out, so I wanted to give you all something more to go on for the weekend. Today I wanted to talk about sibling rivalries, particularly the rivalry between Ares and Athene, and what we can learn about our own lives from looking at their respective cults and mythologies.

The rivalry between Athene and Ares is well-documented in poetry and myth. Homer sets the pair apart from the Iliad onward, always fighting and trying to one-up the other, with Athene coming out on top every time. Based on even the most basic data, it is clear that the ancient Hellenes found Athene vastly more popular as well.  It’s hard not to be rivals when you are given to governing the same forces in the world (war and battle). Yet, like most families, when it came down to the most kosmologically important matters, they came together and made things happen.

In the brutal slaying of men, Ares’ place as the best cannot be challenged. Throughout the Iliad, Homer describes the great fear of both the Greeks and the Trojans have of Ares, who “… made play in his hands with spear gigantic and ranged now in front of Hektor and now behind him.   Diomedes of the great war cry shivered as he saw him”(Homer, Iliad 5. 592 ff). Only the wit and strength of Athene could end Ares’ rampage, as She went to the side of the Greeks and wounded Ares. The best and fiercest warriors of the Iliad are given the titles “scions of Ares”, and other gods, such as Zeus, Dionysos, Aphrodite, and even Athene Herself have Ares’ name as an epithet. Ares is war. Athene is, however, better at the art of war than Ares, and proves this time and again as Her champions best the champions and children of Ares.

Athene and Ares are not always at odds, however. The pair fought together in three separate kosmological wars, and honors were bestowed upon both. During the Titanomachy, Ares was on the ground slaying the monstrous offspring of the Titans whilst Athene aided the defense of Olympos. During the Giant War, Ares again got up-close and personal, slaying Mimas, and Athene threw the whole of Sicily upon Enkelados from the back of her chariot. Both fought against Typoeus, though Ares was forced to flee; Athene stood alone with Zeus against the abomination.

Now, part of this rivalry may be explained ethnographically. Literary evidence, from Homer to Herodotus, has been cited in support of the theory that Ares is not originally a Hellenic god. Mention is often made of Ares as Thracian, and indeed much of his cult was centered in this barbarous, northern land. Indeed, some have interpreted Ares’ support of the Trojans, themselves living near Thrace, as evidence to Ares’ cult being foreign to, or even per-existing in, Hellenic religion. Some have also speculated that Ares is a pre-existing deity native to Greece whose cult diminished as the Hellenes became more civilized.

Athene’s cult, in contrast, is squarely centered in Her chief city of Athens, in the heart of classical Greece, and is much more prominent throughout every city-state, even in place Ares is regularly worshipped. Part of the reason Athene was more popular probably has much to do with the fact Her cult encompassed many more aspects of life and culture than Ares. Whilst most evidence points to Ares being strictly a cut-and-dry war god, we know Athene is a patroness of the arts, a purveyor of wisdom and healing, and the savior and champion of cities. Athene is a people’s goddess, while Ares functions as a destroyer in all but a few cases. Athene is civil, Ares is not, and that made a big difference to the Hellenes, and still does to many today. If Ares is indeed a foreign son, and Athene a native daughter, it makes a great deal of sense, in my eyes, as to why Athene receives better treatment in both myth and cult.

 

Okay, so you may be asking yourself what this means to you. How can we take these stories and facts and apply them to our own lives? Well, first, if you have siblings, you can take a look at that relationship. As the eldest of six children, I understand that not all familial relationships will be great. It’s normal to fight and disagree and compete. Are you the Ares or the Athene of the relationship? Yes, Ares is brutish and mean-spirited, but he can rise to help his family when needed. Can you do more to temper yourself, especially in times of family crisis? Are you more like Athene, the good child? Do you, as Athene has done, chide and egg-on your siblings into further bad behavior, just to see them squirm or get in trouble? Can you come to your least-favorite sibling’s side when he needs it?

Families these day no longer always conform to the traditional nuclear model. Do you resent a sibling who may be adopted? Or did a step-parent bring a child from a previous relationship into the family? Many of us deal with these tensions and disturbances to our “normal” lives every day. With divorce a chilling every-day reality, and an increasing number of couples holding off on child-bearing into less fertile ages, the occurence of adopted and step-siblings will only increase. Can you handle that challenge if faced with it? Will you become an Ares or an Athene? Neither?

Sources:

Theoi Greek Mythology Project

Cults of the Greek States, Vol V, by Lewis Richard Farnell

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert