Ares: Greek Archetype of War, Dance, and Lover
Ares and Aprodite
Ares Was the God of Physical Power
Ares as the god, archetype, and man is a stereotype, masculine image of physical power and movement, a person inclined to intensity and taking action. His heart, mind, and instincts cause him to react quickly with his body, without thinking of the consequences. Ares was the least respected and honored of the twelve Olympians, because they favored actions based only on rational thought. His father Zeus hated Ares, as he devalued a person who was not as cerebral as the other Greek gods. The Romans called Ares Mars, the god of war, and they honored him, because they enjoyed his role of protector of the community, and because he fathered the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Ares is usually portrayed as a virile and vigorous man, bearded, and dressed in fighting armor, complete with sword, shield, helmet, spear, and breastplate.
The Story of Ares' Birth
Ares was the only son of Zeus and Hera. In the Roman story of his birth, Hera conceived Ares through an herb whose touch could make even a sterile person fertile. It is also said she conceived Hephaestus in this manner. Giant twins called Aloadai almost killed Ares as a boy by capturing him and imprisoning him in a bronze jar for thirteen months. He would have perished according to this tale, but Hermes stepped in and freed Ares. This is odd, since as a god, Ares would have been immortal, though apparently he needed help to get out of the jar. Hera chose Priapus, a deformed phallic god to be a tutor for Ares, and Priapus taught Ares to be a wonderful dancer, learning to move with a grace which would later help him to become a very good warrior on the battlefield.
Ares Was Muscular and Good Looking
Ares and Aphrodite Had Four Children Together
Homer’s ideas of Ares in the Iliad have prevailed, as Ares was on the side of the Trojans against the Greeks, and portrayed as a bloodthirsty, contemptible braggart who was often defeated, wounded, insulted, or shamed by his family, particularly his half-sister Athena. He charged onto the battlefield in a very emotional manner when a son of his was killed, and was insulted by his family for his lack of restraint; their virtues, not his.
Ares was drawn to fight in battles for the underdog, who he felt he related to, in either thoughts or blood. Loyalty or retaliation motivated Ares, and overrode other considerations. The other Olympians often treated the Trojan War as a spectator sport, half favoring the Greek side, half the Trojans. Ares did not view this war as a game, and even Homer acknowledged that Ares always came to the aid of the Trojans, accompanied by his sons, Phobos and Deimos (the names of two moons of Mars).
Ares and Aphrodite, goddess of love, were open lovers, even though she was married to Hephaestus. She had several children by Ares: the sons Phobos and Deimos, and a daughter, Harmonia, a name which suggests harmony between great passions, love and war, and Eros, the god of love. Eros has two origins in mythology, one as a son of Ares and Aphrodite, and as a primal, generative force with us from the beginning of time. These two lovers shared what was the most committed affair between any of the Olympians.
Athena knocks Ares down with a stone in the Illiad, and when Aphrodite tried to help him, she was struck by Athena’s fist. When Aphrodite was attracted to Adonis, Ares turned himself into a wild boar, and killed the handsome young man. Aphrodite’s husband Hephaestus, god of the forge, devised a way to trap Ares and Aphrodite in the act of committing adultery. He made an invisible and unbreakable net and draped it over the bedposts and from the rafters. Then he pretended to leave for the forge, the signal for Ares to come into his house and bed. But when the trap was sprung on the lovers, the other gods thought it was very funny and it backfired.
Ares and Aphrodite
Ares Was Idealized by the Romans
Ares fathered almost twenty children in total, offspring from affairs with numerous women. He fathered at least four of Aphrodite’s children, and as the Roman god Mars, fathered Romulus and Remus. Three of his sons were Argonauts, and one of his daughters was the Amazon queen Penthesileia. Ares was a father who loved his children and took action on their behalf whenever they needed help. When one of Poseidon’s sons raped Alcippe, Ares struck him dead on the spot. He avenged his son Ascalaphus’ death in battle, joining in the frey, although Zeus forbid him to take part. Another of his offspring was a sacred snake who guarded the spring at Thebes. When Cadmus killed it, he had to serve Ares for eight years, after which he married Harmonia, Ares and Aphrodite’s daughter, and founded the city of Thebes.
The negative view of Ares is mostly from Homer, because Ares was the most formidable of the deities on the side of the Trojans, who lost the war and the right to its history. But in the Homeric “Hymn to Ares”, his virtues are admired, with lines about his “mighty heart”, “father of victory”, “helper of justice”, and “Ares, leader of men who carries the staff of manhood.” This view is also part of the Greek tradition, and with the Romans’ positive view of the god of war. Ares is the embodiment of aggression, has an impetuous response to battle, and just likes to get into the middle of a battle and strike out with a fist. In mythology, Ares represents the uncontrolled, irrational call of battle, and is intoxicated by tumult. He is the guy who always gets in bar fights. Ares does not get involved in fights for competition or strategy, it is just a reactive response to a provocation.
Two Moons of Mars: Phobos and Deimos
An Ares Man in Our Culture Today
Ares learned to be a dancer from his tutor Priapus before he learned to become a warrior. This fits the pattern of a physical rather than mental man, whose emotions and body work well together. In tribal cultures, warriors are dancers, and before battles they dance with drums and music to encourage good luck in the fight to come. Unfortunately, the Ares archetype is put down by men who exert power from a distance, such as his father, Zeus.
Greeks idealized thinking and rationality, and even today these are the values of the patriarchy. In our culture, an Ares type man is devalued as well. He’s the guy who has a regular middle class job, spends his weekends puttering around the house fixing things, inviting friends to barbecues, and enjoys spending time with his children and wife. He’s not a white collar guy who carries a briefcase to the office, never gets his hands dirty, and plays golf on the weekends, never spending much time with the family. Many men with Ares characteristics feel undervalued because their idealized and successful fathers or brothers are more verbal and mentally quick. But for the lack of support, an Ares man has the satisfaction of living life on his own terms.
A smart person will not attack anyone related to Ares if they don’t want immediate retribution. An example of an Ares man was Bobby Kennedy, with his stubborn streak and passionate battle to fight both the Mafia and corrupt labor unions. Known for loyalty and partisanship, and fathering many children, he was the most Ares of the Kennedy brothers. Ares always joins the battle when someone he cares about is getting attacked. You may recall John Mc Enroe’s tantrums at tennis matches, or Sean Penn beating up photographers when he was married to Madonna. These are all Ares type men, though they seem to have matured now.
Ares Is the Greek God Ruled by Emotions
An Ares man, like the archetype, is passionate and has intense emotions. He immediately acts on those emotions, as he is an in the moment kind of person. He is in touch with his feelings and is comfortable in his own body, a positive aspect as far as lovemaking goes. The relationship between Ares and Aphrodite was a long standing one between two equals. Ares had four children with Aphrodite, and had other lovers that bore more than one child of his.
Most Olympian affairs were one time seductions or rapes, or situations where the woman was overpowered or tricked. Ares’ passionate nature and physical one makes him get caught up in the moment, but his partners always seem to be willing and he does not resort to raping them, as his more cerebral brothers always do. Ares is a lusty and earthy man, who has no qualms about making love and being compared with other lovers of Aphrodite, the most sexually experienced goddess. The relationship between these two is the best kind for a man with an Ares nature.
He and a woman who resembles the goddess of love and beauty are temperamentally suited in their intensity and sensual natures. They are both people who live in the moment. They will have emotional fireworks, flashing anger, and lots of break ups and make ups. But for all of their expressiveness, they can have a rather harmonious relationship, with more mutual tolerance and acceptance than either one could find from another person. Although Aphrodite married Hephaestus, she was not satisfied with him and played him for a fool. Women who have Athena traits and admire men with strategic minds and plans will scorn a man like Ares, who is too emotional and impulsive for her.
Ares Men Like to Work With Their Hands
In our world, which is still patriarchal, Ares is still not always appreciated, so some of his personality traits will be repressed rather than cultivated. He needs to be spontaneous and physically expressive as a young person. If he has a distant father who never wrestles with him or gives him a bear hug, it will be the same as when young Ares was locked in the jar. He’s the kind of guy who will put his arm around his buddy when he’s had a few beers, who loves to dance and move to the music, he loves to join the company bowling league or softball team as he gets older.
An Ares man likes to spend time with his friends in his man cave, hanging around or being competitive. He is not into deep conversations or philosophies. Ares is not self conscious, he is lusty and earthy, and needs to express his feelings. Adolescence is an important time for an Ares type person; as the surge of male hormones magnify his impulsiveness, aggressiveness, emotional makeup, and sexuality. He needs to channel his aggressiveness by playing a sport, and learning its discipline, and in doing so he will receive recognition and admiration. If he disregards authority, he will become anti-social, and may resort to joining a gang or dropping out of school. If he channels that “in the moment” energy in rock climbing or fast cars, music, dance, and romance may be major discoveries that give Ares a lot of pleasure.
Ares does not think or plan ahead, so high school and college offer an early idea of whether he will be a potential failure or success. If he responds to the right opportunity and it beckons him early in life, it could work out well. But he can also hurt himself by cutting short his academic, music, or sports life. Ares is drawn to action and likes to work with tools. He is bored easily and restless, so is not the kind of guy who wants to sit at a desk pushing papers around all day. Occupations which offer an element of risk appeal to him, like joining the military, or becoming a professional athlete.
Often his deepest connections have been made in combat or some other kind of conflict, as a soldier, on a team, or in a gang, where he had to be aggressive and it was valued. In this type of situation his aggression is appreciated. Here he can cry and nobody will think anything of it. Construction sites and oil fields are careers that draw many Ares type men to them. His success depends partly on luck, because Ares does not have a long term plan. He will have issues with authority, but if his life goes well, he has learned to reign himself in and hold his temper.
The Ares Man and Family Life
Ares men don’t either plan for marriage or avoid it. He just gets intensely involved to a point where he is already in it for the long haul. He’s normally the kind of guy who marries young, gets a job right away, and may have to get married due to an unplanned pregnancy. But if he loves the woman, can still go out with his buddies, and the wife is content with this lifestyle, they can have a successful marriage.
If Ares is not able to hold a job, or the woman changes and decides she wants a more upwardly mobile man, problems will arise. Also, the Ares man may discover he values his intellect more as he gets older, and this woman who once attracted him may seem too limited, he may outgrow her. They may be able to work it out if they still have physical chemistry, but otherwise the stress may come between them. The god Ares was a lover, not a husband. Zeus hated the way Ares behaved, and Ares lacks the qualities and drive that lead easily to a career and marriage.
He just must be careful he does not fall for a woman who tries to “remake” him. If jealousy is a problem for the partner of an Ares man, their relationship will be very difficult. Fidelity for him is a hard won achievement that grows from love and loyalty, not something that just comes to him. He isn’t one to account for every moment of his time. This is just his nature, he gets lost in the moment, and just forgets to call to say he will be home late. If the woman can deal with this, it should not be an issue.
Ares men in later years are usually content more than at other times in their lives. A working class family man looks forward to a happy retirement, enjoying his family, picking up old hobbies, socializing with old friends. Ares is the guy who builds a house at the lake because he likes to putter around there on the weekends, and may decide to retire there. He is a person who remains true to himself, so at an older age he will not find himself in a situation not of his liking, even though it appeared he was not thinking ahead. He was not doing things that went against the grain during his younger years, he always had a clear sense of who he was and where he came from.
Ares Can Gain Insight From Other God's Archetypes
A man with only Ares as an archetype may be a bundle of impulsive reactions, becoming a street fighter or the type of guy always looking for trouble. You must be careful not to push his buttons. Just as an abused Ares child will turn into an abuser, he must uncover the victim in himself so he does not feel inadequate and rage on in behalf of his inner child. Ares can also be hurt if he was always the outsider and not accepted into the group as a young kid. He’s the one who experiences the most sibling rivalry in the family. He must learn not to let others egg him on, as he does not want to inflict these behaviors on his own family when he has children of his own.
As with other gods, all the archetypes are present, and most people are a blend of two or three of them. Hermes came to the rescue of Ares when he was locked in the jar. Hermes is a great communicator who can think on his feet, so he can invent clever ways to help get Ares out of a destructive situation. If someone is trying to goad Ares into anger, he can draw on Hermes and learn how to talk himself out of having a fight with someone.
Academic life or playing a sport takes emotional distance, self control, and discipline. These are all Apollo traits that Ares can draw upon, as he learns to use his intellect more effectively. Athena is also an archetype which urges one to take a moment for reflection, listen to the inner voice, and wait to take action. Ares can learn to listen for this inner voice as a sort of counselor within himself. It can help him to be more rational in his dealings. So Ares can use active imagination to call upon any of these archetypes when he needs to understand a problem without acting rashly and doing the wrong thing.
Ares, the battle lusting Greek god of war evolved in time, and in another culture, into the Roman Mars, and in the transition became the respected protector of the community. So every Ares man has the capacity to change and evolve. When he loved many women and fought every battle, he may not have seen himself as the kind of guy to settle down. But most Ares type men do. If he was brought up with the right parents who understood and accepted him for who he was, he can be a happily married family man who really enjoys the company of his wife and children. He is a natural protector, and will fight or do anything necessary to help any of his children, and he will make his wife feel emotionally secure and safe. When he grows older, he is the type of man who will become more involved in his community and be willing to fight for the rights and safety of others.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda M.D. 1989 Gods in Everyman Harper Collins, NY Part 3 The Generation of the Sons Chapter 8 Ares, God of War--Warrior, Dancer, Lover pgs 192-218
Campbell, Joseph 1964 Occidental Mythology The Masks of God Penguin Group NY Hellenism: 331 B.C.--324 A.D. Ares pg 275 Great Rome pgs. 321-323
Campbell, Joseph 1904 The Hero With A Thousand Faces New World Library Novato, CA Ares The Crossing of the First Threshold pg 67
© 2011 Jean Bakula