Nathan (vovat) wrote,

The Case Against Mars

Ares, the Greek god of war, does not appear to have been a very well-respected part of the pantheon. He was identified with the chaos and slaughter of war, and according to Homer, even his own father hated him. Myths associated with him sometimes made him out to be an object of ridicule. One story reports how he was trapped in an urn for thirteen months by some giants. He also had a long-standing affair with Aphrodite, who was married to Hephaestus (figures that the hot but ditzy chick would favor the dumb jock over the ugly genius). When the smith god found out, he rigged up a net to trap the two secret lovers, and brought in all of the other gods to laugh at them in their nudity.

The Romans, with their more warlike culture, had much more respect for their own equivalent of Ares, whom they called Mars. He was one of the most popular Roman gods, and the first month of the year was named after him. Yeah, March used to be the first month of the Roman year, until the legendary King Numa Pompilius stuck January and February before it without changing the names of the later months. That's why we have such anomalies as a month called "eighth month" that's actually the tenth. Anyway, there were festivals devoted to Mars in the month they called Martius, and the god's name was also the source for many terms associated with warfare, as well as that of the red planet.

Incidentally, Ares/Mars was regarded as a legitimate child of Zeus and Hera, along with Eris, Hebe, and Hephaestus (although some myths claim that the latter was a result of parthenogenesis on Hera's part). So Zeus's children by his actual wife were a belligerent buffoon, a psycho bitch, a goddess Zeus respected so little that he made her work as a waitress until he could marry her off, and a talented but hideously ugly guy. Was his constant habit of knocking up other women due to the fact that he didn't see much in his legitimate children, or did the Thunderer have less respect for these children because he didn't like their mother that much? Maybe it's a chicken-and-the-egg kind of thing, although that's kind of an outdated expression. We've known for over a century that it was the egg that came first, laid by an animal that wasn't quite the species gallus gallus as we know it today, right? Oh, well. I suppose old metaphors die hard.

If all goes according to plan, we'll take a look next week at a hero born with eight extra digits. For now, though, good afternoon, and happy birthday to chhinnamasta!
Tags: history, mythology

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