Olympos: Ares was really a brave god?

Ares_villa_HadrianaStudio Tablinum: Last month, I have talk  about the good and generous Hephaestus, this month I will talk about the intemperate, quarrelsome Ares.

There are intresting tales about his birth. Infact Ares and his sister Eris were born thanks to a magic flower, without lying with Zeus the Father of Gods.

Ares is connected with the worship of blood and violence, especially during the battlefield. Greeks distrusted this God due to his bad temper:  Ares was the Patron of barbarian and violent people like Thracians. After his  adultery with Aphrodite, trying to to hide him from a raging  Hephaestus he was just hidden by the Thraces.

erisThe bearswild boar, the dog and the vulture were  consecrated to him. During the battlefield, where the human being performs the worst atrocities, he was accompanied by his sister Eris, Goddess of Discord.

They worked togheter in order to fill the world with barbarity and depredations.

But, as he  was  a famous blabbermouth: a barking dog that never bites. The God of War was a winner only in few fights: usually the reasons of  other Gods or demi-Gods defeated  his brute force and it was not uncommon that he took refuge in Olympus after having touched on the defeat.

We can read one of the most famous example in Omero’s Iliad: during the battle between greeces and troyans under the walls of Troy, he supported Ettore against the greek Diomedes.

Also during the battle within Olympus deities, aimed to supporting one of the human parties, he was  defeated by Athena, Goddess of righteous though.

amazzoniThe worship of the God of War, in the Ancient Greece, wasn’t very popular. We know that in Sparta was invoked before the battle; always in Sparta, in his temple, his statue depicting him in chains as a symbol of the fact that the Spartans, who lived for the war, needed his presence constantly.
In “Argonautiche” of Apollonio Rodio we could read a special story : the birds sacred to Ares, moving in circle around his temple, built, according to legend, by the people of the Amazon, his daughters, on the shores of the Euxine, threw their feathers, pointed as darts, to any person who was trying to enter.

ares e il suo cocchioAccording to his “rowdy” nature,  Ares liked to be surrounded himself with divinity similar to him. His own children, born from Aphrodite, Deimos and Phobos,  were the God of Terror and the God of Fear; the sister of Ares and Enio -worthy companion-, Goddess of Bloodshed and finally the children of Styx and the Titan Pallas Bia, Goddess of Violence and Cratos, God of power.

This group of divinity spread death and destruction on the battlefields around the world. Usually Ares appears on the battlefield in a chariot drawn by four immortal horses with fiery breath; his armor was bronze and was easily distinguishable due to the shine, as weapon had a spear used to pierce his rivals.

Zeus himself tried to come down this so warlike son, but the Father of the Gods could not done something against the violent nature of Ares. He also addressed him with harsh words, such as:

ares e alirozio“Do not come to cry on, treacherous! You are to me the most hateful of the Gods of Olympus. You love only strife, wars and battles. You have the intolerable wrath of Hera, your mother, that I hardly brake with my words. But I do not want to punish you too much , because at the end –unfortunately- you’re my son. And thank you to be so, otherwise I would have sent you in the bowels of the earth, further down than Titans.”

It was even judged by a court overridden by all the Olympians. Due to the murder of the son of Poseidon, Alirozio. At the slopes of the Areopagus -the Court of Athens where are judged the crimes of religious nature- there is a source. Ares saw at this source Alirozio flirting with her daughter Alcippe. Without thinking twice Ares killed him. He was absolved of that crime by the Olympians or more likely, for the umpteenth time was pardoned  by his father Zeus.

When , Cadmus, one of the Theban cicle’s eroes, in order to fulfill the destiny predicted for him by the oracle, slew the dragon that guarded the spring of Ares, he was punished. Infacft, the monster was son of Ares.
Unfortunatly Cadmus was sentenced to remedy his act by serving that god for eight long years.

At the end of that unhappy period, the other gods, especially athena rewarded him with the Throne of Thebes, and with his marriage to Harmony, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
The marriage was celebrated with great festivities by all the Olympians who, descending on earth, brought lavish gifts to the couple.

cadmoAnother bizare legend tells that two Giants captured Ares during one of his lowly firms and imprisoned the god in a bronze jar for thirteen months. The god, with his unmanly whining, attracted the attention of the Olympians until  and finally Hermes decided to release him.

The God of War was all that violence and arrogance, and even men, borrowing from the god this prerogative, embody all that is violent considerto own masculinity.
Next month we will discuss the story of Poseidon, God of the Sea.

Alessandro Cerioli

 

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