Ares was the god of war, battle lust, courage and civil order. In ancient Greek art he was depicted as either a mature, bearded warrior armed for battle, or a nude, beardless youth with a helm and spear.

Residence: Mount Olympus
Symbols: Sword, spear, shield, helmet, chariot, flaming torch, dog, boar and vulture
Parents: Zeus and Hera
Siblings: Aeacus, Angelos, AphroditeApolloArtemisAthenaDionysusIlithyiaEnyoEris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, HephaestusHeraclesHermes, Minos, Pandia, PersephonePerseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses and the Moirae
Consort: Aphrodite
Children: Erotes (Eros and Anterus), PhobusDeimus, Phlegyas, Harmonia, Enyalius, Thrax, Oenomaus, Amazons and Adrestia
Roman equivalent: Mars

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Statue of Ares from Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli. (c) Jastrow

Foundation of Thebes

One of the roles of Ares was expressed in mainland Greece as the founding myth of Thebes: Ares was the progenitor of the water-dragon slain by Cadmus, for the dragon’s teeth were sown into the ground as if a crop and sprang up as the fully armoured autochthonic Spartoi. To propitiate Ares, Cadmus took as a bride Harmonia, a daughter of Ares’s union with Aphrodite. In this way, Cadmus harmonized all strife and founded the city of Thebes.

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Cadmus and the dragon, black-figured amphora from Euboea, 560–50 BC, Louvre.

Ares and Aphrodite

The Sun-god Helius once spied Ares and Aphrodite enjoying each other secretly in the hall of Hephaestus, her husband. He reported the incident to Hephaestus. Contriving to catch the illicit couple in the act, Hephaestus fashioned a finely-knitted and nearly invisible net with which to snare them. At the appropriate time, this net was sprung, and trapped Ares and Aphrodite locked in a very private embrace.

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Ares and Aphrodite snared by Hephaestus, painting by Alexandre Charles Guillemot.

But Hephaestus was not satisfied with his revenge, so he invited the Olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair. For the sake of modesty, the goddesses demurred, but the male gods went to witness the sight. Some commented on the beauty of Aphrodite, others remarked that they would eagerly trade places with Ares, but all who were present mocked the two. Once the couple was released, the embarrassed Ares returned to his homeland, Thrace, and Aphrodite went to Paphos.

The Ludovisi Ares, Roman version of a Greek original, c. 320 BC.
Votive relief of Ares and Aphrodite, 5th c. BC. Venice National Museum. (c) Ilya Shurygin

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