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~Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

God Ares/Mars, Venus and Amazons

ARES  (Roman god Mars), the god of war and one of the great Olympian gods of the Greeks. He is represented as the son of Zeus and Hera. (Hom. Il. v. 893, &c.; Hes. Theog. 921; Apollod. i. 3. § 1.) A later tradition, according to which Hera conceived Ares by touching a certain flower, appears to be an imitation of the legend about the birth of Hephaestus (Roman god Vulcan), and is related by Ovid. (Fast. v. 255, &c.)

Athena represents thoughtfulness and wisdom in the affairs of war, and protects men and their habitations during its ravages. Ares, on the other hand, is nothing but the personification of bold force and strength, and not so much the god of war as of its tumult, confusion, and horrors. Ares loves war for its own sake, and delights in the din and roar of battles, in the slaughter of men, and the destruction of towns.

 Mars and Minerva 1773–1780

Homer, Iliad 5. 699 ff :
"[Zeus to Ares:] ‘To me you are the most hateful of all the gods who hold Olympos. Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.’"

Homer, Iliad 2. 401 ff :
"Each man made a sacrifice to some one of the immortal gods, in prayer to escape death and the grind of Ares [war]."
 Bartholomeus Spranger, Mars 

Aeschylus, Fragment 282 (from Papyri Oxyrhynchus) (trans. Lloyd-Jones) :
"Hera has reared a violent son [Ares] whom she has borne to Zeus, a god irascible, hard to govern, an one whose mind knew no respect for others. He shot wayfarers with deadly arrows, and ruthless hacked . . (lacuna) with hooked spears . . he rejoiced and laughed . . evil . . scent of blood."

 Diego Velazquez, Mars

Ares was the god who presided over the emotions that lead to violence: hatred and rage. He was also invoked by those who wished to control their violent impulses.

Homer, Iliad 5. 699 ff :
"Violent Ares, that thing of fury, evil-wrought."

 Roman copy from a Greek original—this is a plaster replica, the original is now stored in the Museum of the Villa.

Tintoretto, Minerva Sending Away Mars from Peace and Prosperity

Ares was the god of manliness and courage and the opposite qualities: fear, terror and cowardice.

Pindar,Pythian Ode 8 str3 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Like Ares shall he be in strength of arm."
Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 749 ff :
"A woman abandoned to herself is nothing. There is no Ares [i.e. manly spirit or courage] in her."

 Mars, Paris

 Jacques-Louis David, The Combat of Mars and Minerva‎

 Joseph-Benoît Suvée, The Combat of Mars and Minerva


The sacred groves of Ares at Thebes in Boiotia (Central Greece) and Kolkhis (on the Black Sea) were both protected by guardian Dracons. The first of these was slain by Cadmus, who had to serve Ares for eight years as penalty. The second protected the Golden Fleece, and was perhaps slain (or simply put to sleep) by Jason and the Argonauts.

Ares portrayed as a standing stern-expression youth, nude, holding a spear and coiled serpent, and crowned with a helm. Late Classical

Ovid, Heroides 12.39 ff :
"The condition is imposed [by King Aeetes] that you [Jason] press the hard necks of the fierce bulls at the unaccustomed plow. To Mars [Ares] the bulls belonged, raging with more than mere horns, for their breathing was of terrible fire; of solid bronze were their feet, wrought round with bronze their nostrils, made black, too, by the blasts of their own breath."

The sacred island sanctuary of Ares founded by the Amazons off the coast of their land in the Black Sea was guarded by a flock of arrow-shooting birds.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 30 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"On the island of Mars [Ares] . . . Birds which shoot their feathers out as arrows."


I) BARN OWL (Greek "aigolios"); EAGLE-OWL (Greek "buas");
VULTURE (Greek "gups"); WOODPECKER (Greek "ipne")

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 21 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus loathed them [the giants Agrios and Oreios] and sent Hermes to punish them . . . But Ares, since the family of Polyphonte [mother of the giants] descended from him, snatched her sons from this fate. With the help of Hermes he changed them into birds. Polyphonte became a small owl whose voice is heard at night. She does not eat or drink and keeps her head turned down and the tips of her feet turned up. She is a portent of war and sedition for mankind. Oreios became an eagle owl, a bird that presages little good to anyone when it appears. Argios was changed into a vulture, the bird most detested by gods and men. These gods gave him an utter craving for human flesh and blood. Their female servant was changed into a woodpecker. As she was changing her shape she prayed to the gods not to become a bird evil for mankind. Hermes and Ares heard her prayer because she had by necessity done what her masters had ordered. This a bird of good omen for someone going hunting or to feasts."

II) SERPENT (Greek "drakon")
The poisonous serpent was sacred to Ares. In ancient art he was often shown holding a serpent, or with a serpent-device on his shield.

Some of the more famous myths featuring the god include:-

His adulterous affair with Aphrodite in which the pair were trapped in a net laid by her husband Hephaestus;
The slaying of Adonis, his rival for the love of Aphrodite, in the guise of a boar;
The transformation of Cadmus of Thebes and his wife Harmonia into serpents;
The murder of Hallirhothios to avenge his daughter's rape and his subsequent trial in the court of the Areiopagos;
The arrest of Sisyphos, an impious man who kidnapped the god Death;
The battle of Heracles and Kyknos in which the god intervened in support of his son;
His support of the Amazons, warrior daughters of the god;
His capture by the Aloadai giants who imprisoned him in a bronze jar;
The Trojan War in which he was wounded by Diomedes in battle with the help of Athena.


The Anacreontea, Fragment 28 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.) :
"One day Ares came in from the battlefield brandishing a strong spear and began to make fun of Eros’ weapon. Eros said ‘This one is heavy: try it and you will see.’ Ares took the javelin, while Aphrodite smiled quietly; and with a groan he said, ‘It is heavy: take it back.’ ‘Keep it,’ said Eros [and so perhaps bound Ares and Aphrodite in love.]."

 Mars and Cupid by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Museo Thorvaldsen, Copenhagen

Jacques-Louis David, Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces

 Paulo Veronese,  Mars and Venus United by Love 

 Paris Bordone, Venus and Mars with Cupid

 Rubens, Allegory on the Blessings of Peace


After his birth, Hera cast the crippled Hephaestus from heaven in disgust. When he grew up, he sent gifts to Olympus, including a golden throne for Hera. But when the goddess sat upon it she was bound fast. Hera offered the hand of Aphrodite in marriage to the god who could release her. Ares attempted to bring him Hephaestus back to Olympus by force, but was driven back by a flaming volley of metal shards. Dionysus later suggested that Hephaestus return willingly and claim the prize of Aphrodite for himself.
Neither Ares nor Aphrodite were pleased with this outcome, and were forced to engage in their famous adulterous affair.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 148 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Vulcan [Hephaestus] knew that Venus [Aphrodite] was secretly lying with Mars [Ares], and that he could not oppose his strength, he made a chain of adamant and put it around the bed to catch Mars by cleverness. When Mars came to the rendezvous, the together with Venus fell into the snare so that he could not extricate himself. When Sol [Helios the sun] reported this to Vulcan , he saw them lying there naked, and summoned all the gods who saw. As a result, shame frightened Mars so that he did not do this. From their embrace Harmonia was born, and to her Minerva [Athena] and Vulcan [Hephaestus] gave a robe ‘dipped in crimes’ as a gift. Because of this, their descendants are clearly marked as ill-fated."

 Joachim Wtewael, Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan. 

 Tintoretto, Venus, Mars, and Vulcan 

 Luca Giordano, Mars and Venus Caught by Vulcan

Luca Giordano, Venus, Cupid, and Mars

Rubens, Venus, Mars and Cupid 

Ares was identified with the Roman god Mars, the Egyptian god Anhuris-Onuris, and the war-god of the Scythians.
Ares was also one of the three major gods of Thrace, the others two being Sabazios (a god identified with Zeus and Dionysus) and Bendis (a goddess identified with Artemis, Selene and Hecate). Unlike these there was little apparent difference between the Greek and Thracian Ares.

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 989 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"The Amazons of the Doiantian plain were by no means gentle, well-conducted folk; they were brutal and aggressive, and their main concern in life was war. War, indeed, was in their blood, daughters of Ares as they were and of the Nymph Harmonia, who lay with the god in the depths of the Akmonion Wood and bore him girls who fell in love with fighting."

Penthesilea or Penthesileia was an Amazonian queen in Greek mythology, the daughter of Ares and Otrera and the sister of Hippolyta, Antiope and Melanippe. Penthesilea had killed Hippolyta with a spear when they were hunting deer; this accident caused Penthesilea so much grief that she wished only to die, but, as a warrior and an Amazon, she had to do so honorably and in battle. She therefore was easily convinced to join in the Trojan War, fighting on the side of Troy's defenders.

 Penthesilea (1862), by Gabriel-Vital Dubray (1813-1892). East façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris

 "Penthesilea accidentally killed her sister Hippolyte while hunting", by Emil Wolff at the Hermitage.

In the Pseudo-Apollodorus Epitome of the Bibliotheke she is said to have been killed by Achilles, "who fell in love with the Amazon after her death and slew Thersites for jeering at him". The common interpretation of this has been that Achilles was romantically enamored of Penthesilea (a view that appears to be supported by Pausanias, who noted that the throne of Zeus at Olympia bore Panaenus' painted image of the dying Penthesilea being supported by Achilles). Twelfth-century Byzantine scholar Eustathius of Thessalonica postulated a more brutal and literalist reading of the term loved, however, maintaining that Achilles actually committed an act of necrophilia on her corpse as a final insult to her.

 Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, Achilles and Penthesilea

 Rubens, Battle of the Amazons 

 Franz von Stuck, Wounded Amazon

 Franz von Stuck, Amazon and Centaur