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Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
Table of Contents


 

 

ARES, THE GOD OF WAR

[44]

A
RES was the god of war and battle, and cared for almost nothing else. The Greeks believed that the other gods protected them, or helped them in useful ways, and so they loved them. But the only help they could ever expect to get from Ares was that which he might give them when they were at war, and even then he might be on the other side. So, instead of loving him as they did Zeus and Apollo and Athena, they dreaded him, and called him "bloody Ares," and "raging Ares," because of his fierce temper. And although they worshiped him, they did not care to build quite so many temples in his honor as they did for the other gods.

Nothing pleased Ares better than a battle between two great armies. He liked to see the chiefs driving furiously toward each other in their war chariots, with helmets on their heads, and shields on their arms. He liked to see [45] them throw their spears, and shoot their arrows, and strike with their swords at one another. The roar and confusion of the battlefield were delightful to him, and the more men that were killed the better he liked it. Indeed, Ares was so fond of battle that he would often come down from heaven, and take part himself in the fights of men. Then the strongest and bravest of warriors had to give way before him. But although the god was so fond of war, he was not so successful in it as the goddess Athena She used wisdom and cunning to help her in her battles; while Ares never stopped to think, but plunged ahead.

Once during a great war, Ares was fighting against the Greeks, and driving them all before him. When Athena saw this, she went to their aid; for she thought that they had been right in the quarrel which had begun the war, and she did not wish to see them defeated. When Ares saw her upon the Greek side in all her armor, he rushed toward her, and threw his terrible spear against her breast. Athena caught the spear point on her shield, and turned it aside. Then she seized a great rock, and hurled it at Ares. Her aim was so sure that it struck him squarely, and knocked him flat upon his back. He was such an enormous fellow that it was [46] said that his body covered seven acres as he lay there on the ground. Ares was so injured by the blow, that he gave up the fight, and fled to Mount Olympus. Then the Greeks, with the help of Athena, won the victory.

The Greeks loved to tell another story about the way in which Ares was once made prisoner. Long, long ago, they said, two boys were born who were named Otus and Ephialtes. At first they were small and weak, but they grew so rapidly that they soon astonished all men by their size and beauty. When they were yet only nine years old, they had become giants many feet tall, and they were as brave as they were huge. Now, these giants were farmers, and loved to live in peace, and care for their growing grain. But Ares stirred up such constant war among men that their crops were often destroyed, and their fields laid bare.

At last Otus and Ephialtes became very angry at this, and determined to see what they could do to stop it. They were so strong and brave that they had no fear of Ares at all; so they planned and planned, and one day succeeded in taking the war-god prisoner Then, in order to keep him securely, they put him in a great bronze vase. After this, for thirteen months, there were no wars, and their grain [47] fields were undisturbed In spite of all he could do, Ares could not get out; and indeed, he might have had to stay there forever if Hermes had not discovered what had become of him, and set him free.


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