The Goddess of Love and Beauty, who beguiled all, gods and men alike; the laughter-loving goddess, who laughed sweetly or mockingly at those her wiles had conquered; the irresistible goddess who stole away even the wits of the wise.
She is the daughter of Zeus and Dione in the Illiad, but in the later poems she is said to have sprung from the foam of the sea, andher name was explained as meaning "the foam-risen." Aphros is foam in Greek. This sea-birth took place near Cythera, from where she was wafted to Cyprus. Bother islands were ever sacred to her, and she was called Cythera or the Cyprian as often as her proper name. In the Illiad she is portrayed as a soft, weak creature, whom a mortal should need not fear to attack. In later poems she is usually shown as treacherous and malicious, exerting a deadly and destructive power over men
In most of the stories she is the wife of Hephaestus(Vulcan), the lame and ugly god of the forge. The myrtle was her tree; the dove her bird--sometimes, too, the sparrow and the swan.
The God of War, son of Zeus and Hera, both of whom, Homer says, detested him. Indeed, he is hateful throughout the Illiad ,poem of war though it is. Occasionally the heroes "rejoice in the delight of Ares' battle," but far oftener in having escpaed "the fury of the ruthless god." Homer calls him murderous, bloodstained, the incarnate curse of mortals; and, strangely, a coward, too, who bellows with pain and runs away when he is wounded. Yet he has a train of attendants on the battlefield which should inspire anyone with confidence. His sister is there, Eris, which means Discord, and Strife, her son. The Goddess of War, Enyo,--in Latin Bellona,--walks beside him, and with her are Terror and Trembling and Pain. As they move, the voice of groaning arises behind them and the earth streams with blood.
The Romans liked Mars better than the Greeks liked Ares. He was never to them the mean whining deity of the Illiad, but magnificent in shining armor, reboubtable, invincible. The warriors of the great Latin heroic poem, the Aeneid, far from rejoicing to escape from him, rejoice when they see that they are to fall "on Mars' field of renown." They "rush on glorious death" and find it "sweet to die in battle."
Ares figures little in mythology. In one story he is the lover of Aphrodite and held up to the contempt of the Olympians by Aphrodite's husband, Hephaestus; but for the most part he is little more than a symbol of war. He is not a distinct personality, like Hermes or Hera or Apollo.
He had no cities where he was worshipped . The Greeks said vaguely that he came from Thrace, home of a rude, fierce people in the northeast of Greece. Appropriately, his bird was the vulture. The dog was wronged by being chosen as his animal.
Zeus and his brothers drew lots for their share of the universe. The sea fell to Poseidon, and the underworld to Hades. Zus became the supreme ruler. He was Lord of the Sky, the Rain-god and the Cloud-gatherer, who wielded the awful thunderbolt. His power was greater than that of all the divinities together.
Nevertheless he was not omnipotent or omniscient, either. He could be opposed and deceived. Poseidon dupes him in the Illiad and so does Hera. Sometimes, too, the mysterious power, Fate, is spoken of as stronger than he. Homer makes Hera ask him scornfully if he proposes to deliver from death a man Fate has doomed.
He is represented as falling in love with one woman after another and descending to all manner of tricks tohide his infidelity from his wife. The explanation why such actions were ascribed to the most majestic of the gods is, the scholars say, that the Zeus of song and story have been made by combining many gods. When his worship spread to a town where there was already a divine ruler the two were slowly fused into one. The wife of the early god was then transferred to Zeus. The result,however, was unfortunate and the later Greeks did not like these endless love affairs.
His breastplate was the aegis, awful to behold; his bird was the eagle, his tree the oak. His oracle was Dodona in the land of oak trees. The god's will was revealed by the rustling of the oak leaves which the priests interpreted.