In Greek mythology Ares, the son of Zeus* and Hera*, waged battle as the god of war. The Romans identified him with their own war god, Mars, although the two gods were quite different in character.
Generally described as bloodthirsty, cruel, and a troublemaker, Ares was not a popular god. In Homer's epic the Iliad *, Zeus tells Ares, You are to me the most hateful of the gods. . . . For dear to you always are strife and wars and battles." However, another ancient text, the Hymn to Ares, offers a different view of the god:
Shed down a kindly ray from above upon my life, and strength of war, that I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful impulses of my soul. .. . O blessed one, give me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death.
Although Ares was not a major figure in Greek mythology, some stories tell of his love affairs with the goddess Aphrodite* and with human women. Some of his sons became kings, warriors, and in one case a bandit. In one myth Poseidon's* son raped a daughter of Ares, and Ares struck the youth dead. Poseidon insisted that the gods try Ares for murder at the place where the rape and the killing had occurred, on a hill outside the city of Athens. The gods found Ares not guilty. From that time on, Athenians referred to the hill outside their city as the Areopagus, "Ares' hill."
epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style
Vultures, who feed on the flesh of the dead on battlefields, were regarded as Ares' sacred birds. Ares liked to storm around the battle-fields accompanied by his sister Eris, the goddess of discord; Enyo, a war goddess; and his twin sons Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror). Despite Ares' fierce behavior, however, the goddess Athena* often defeated him in battle.