Ares, as a god and an archetype, appears to be a contradiction in terms. He is a warrior and lover, a violent and aggressive man yet warm and passionate with women and supportive of friends and family.
In Greek Mythology, Ares was hated by Zeus and was the least respected of the Olympians. His Roman counterpart, Mars, on the other hand, was honoured second only to Jupiter (The Roman Zeus), a position in the Greek pantheon which was given to the far-sighted god Apollo.
Ares was the opposite of Apollo. Known for his aggression, stupidity and impulsive nature, he would tear into battle without any thought of the consequences. His half-sister Athena (the strategist and goddess of wisdom) criticised him by calling him an irrational maniac and a “blockhead.”
The Romans portrayed Mars as a level-headed and gentlemanly which provided him with some of the qualities attributed to Athena in Greek Mythology. Yet Roman myth also sees Minerva, the counterpart of the Greek Athena, rejecting Mars’ amorous advances.
Moreover, the Romans portrayed Mars as a rapist. Rapey gods are a common theme in Greek and Roman mythology, but this act of lust does not parallel with the god’s chivalrous nature – the guise with which the Romans wanted to portray their warriors.
As a matter of fact, Mars’ violation of Rhea Silvia whilst she slept resulted in the births of Romulus and Remus, a story which shares several similarities with various biblical accounts.
To make matters worse, Rhea Silvia was a Vestal Virgin. In Roman traditions, Vestal Virgins were forbidden to have sexual intercourse as it was seen as being disrespectful to the goddess Hestia.
Vestal Virgins that did not honour their oath of celibacy – despite being inaugurated at a young age – were punished by being buried alive or whipped and stoned.
So who is the God Ares, and what does he symbolise?
The Birth of Ares/Mars
Ares is the only son from the marriage of Hera and Zeus. However, there are conflicting accounts.
“Zeus took Hera to be his fresh consort, and she, lying in the arms of the father of gods and mortals, conceived and bore Hebe to him, and Ares, and Eileithyia.” ~ Hesiod, Theogony 921 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.)
In the Roman version, Mars (Ares) is said to have been conceived patheonogenically after Hera acquires a magical herb and impregnates a cow. Her reason for doing this is in retaliation for Zeus giving birth to Athena without her.
“[Flora tells the story of the birth of Mars-Ares :] Mars [Ares] also, you may not know, was formed by my [Flora’s] arts. I pray that Jove [Zeus] stays ignorant of this. Holy Juno [Hera], when Minerva [Athene] sprang unmothered, was hurt that Jove did not need her service. She went to complain to Oceanus of her husband’s deeds. She stopped at our door, tired from the journey. As soon as I saw her, I asked, ‘What’s brought you here, Saturnia [Hera]?’ She reports where she’s going, and cites the cause. I consoled her with friendly words : ‘Words,’ she declares, ‘cannot relieve my pain. If Jove became a father without using a spouse and possesses both titles by himself, why should I not expect a spouseless motherhood, chaste parturition, untouched by a man? I’ll try every drug on the broad earth and empty Oceanus and the hollows of Tartarus.’ Her speech was mid-course; my face was hesitant. ‘You look, Nympha, as thou you can help,’ she says. Three times I wanted to help, three times my tongue stuck : Jupiter’s anger caused massive fear. ‘Please help me,’ she said, ‘my source will be concealed;’ and the divine Styx testifies to this. ‘A flower,’ I said, ‘from the fields of Olenus [in the Peloponnesos] will grant your wish. It’s unique to my gardens. I was told : “Touch a barren cow; she’ll be a mother.” I touched. No delay : she was a mother.’ I quickly plucked the clinging flower with my thumb. Juno feels its touch and at the touch conceives. She bulges, and enters Thrace and west Propontis, and fulfils her wish : Mars [Ares] was created.” ~ Ovid, Fasti 5. 229 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.)
This account mirrors the birth of Hephaestus in Greek Mythology. The god of the forge is subsequently rejected by Hera for his ugliness and deformity. In another accounts, the god of the forge was rejected by Zeus and thrown off Mount Olympus.
Ares As An Archetype
As archetypal energy, Ares surfaces as the intense emotions that rise abruptly to give you physical power, courage, passion and the ability to take immediate action.
However, they can also be the force behind anger, frustration and aggressive acts of violence.
Greek myth portrays Ares as a battle-thirsty and lustful god who was as bold and courageous on the battlefield as he was passionate and spontaneous in the bedroom.
“The Ares archetype, like the god, is present in passionate, intense reactions. With Ares, a surge of emotion is likely to evoke an immediate physical action. This is a reactive, here-and-now archetype. The Ares archetypes unquestionably predisoposes a man (or woman) to be in touch with his feelings and in his body, which can be very positive when it comes to lovemaking. However, when rage and anger rise he reacts instinctively and often gets into situation that are detrimental to him and damaging to others. In either case, not considering to whom he is responding, and what the consequences will be, leads to trouble.” ~ Jean Shinoda Bolen M.D., Gods In Everyman
The positive qualities of Ares provide you with an energy that compels you to take action. When this energy is the dominant force, you are instinctive, bold, and know how to get things done.
Likewise, the warrior energy of Ares gives you the strength and the power to defend yourself, a loved one, a friend or a course. The defence does not have to be violent but can surface as passion and motivation to fight for something that you believe in.
However, Greek Mythology also warns us to use this energy wisely. As the Romans perceived, the warrior archetype needs to be reined in with a strategy. When you charge into a situation without thought of the consequences, the outcome is less likely to be favourable.
For example, when Ares learns about the death of his son Kyknos by the hands of Herakles, Ares attacks the hero but is knocked to the ground. He is often rebuked by his half-sister Athena for being a “maniac”, and Zeus reprimanded him for his irrational behaviour during the Battle of Troy.
The god Ares corresponds with the warrior archetype presented by modern psychology. There is also some crossover with the hero, seeker and outlaw archetypes also. The qualities of all four are courage and motivation.
Warrior energy is the aspect of consciousness that compels you to face your fears regardless of how nervous or anxious you are. It is the part of you that compels you to face the challenges of the world, to overcome your addictions, motivates you to get out of bed when you’re in a state of inertia and urges you to try again whenever you fail.
It is the warrior archetype in its fullness that enables you to achieve your life goals. However, if you only develop the attributes of Ares in his role as warrior, you open yourself up to trouble.
“For Ares, lord of strife,
Who doth the swaying scales of battle hold,
War’s money-changer, giving dust for gold,
Sends back, to hearts that held them dear,
Scant ash of warriors, wept with many a tear,
Light to the hand, but heavy to the soul;
Yea, fills the light urn full
With what survived the flame—
Death’s dusty measure of a hero’s frame!”
― Aeschylus, Agamemnon
When the Ares archetype is strong in the psyche of an individual, they are easily provoked and will typically lash out uncontrollably; sometimes irrationally.
Ares the god had a habit of bombing on to the battlefield without a plan and would be subsequently defeated and humiliated. Athena would make fun of his stupidity.
We also see the negative aspect of the Athena archetype in the warrior here too. The shadow aspect of Athena’s warrior nature is critical and demeaning – traits that will make a man with a dominant Ares energy lash out with his fists.
If Ares is a dominant quality in you, you need to acquire the mental capacity for a strategy like Athena, the gift of foresight like Apollo, or the ability to talk yourself into seeing situations from a different perspective like Hermes.
The Shadow Warrior
In their book, King, Warrior, Magician Lover, Robert Moore, Douglas Gillette show the shadow side of the warrior surfaces as ‘The Grandstander Bully’, ‘The Sadistic Warrior’ and ‘The Masochist.’
All three energies are abusive; the former to others and the latter two to yourself. The shadow warrior emerges as a compulsive behaviour that hides anxiety.
“We all know these people. They are the managers who stay at the office long after everyone else has gone home…In the process, they really do a lot of harm….they mercilessly abuse themselves.” ~ Robert Moore, Douglas Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician Lover
The shadow side of the warrior is often found in people that had an authoritarian father like Zeus, mother or sibling as we find in Athena.
Children that are criticised for their behaviour by someone they regard as an authority can grow into adulthood fearing authority or feel resentment towards it.
Subsequently, when they find themselves in a position when they feel they are losing their personal power they instinctively lash out to defend themselves.
When the Ares archetype is suppressed, it can surface as frustration or erupt in anger. It will ignite instinctive behaviour that throws you into the thick of things without thought of the consequences. If an individual is so disposed, they will experience episodes of violent outbursts; either with their tongue or with their fists.
Unless you recognise and acknowledge such destructive behaviours do not serve your best interests, the shadow side of the warrior will continue to thrust you into chaotic situations you do not know how to handle.
Archetypal energy that appears in the shadow aspect of the warrior may also be a willingness to fight for the wrong cause. This can lead you to defend your values or opinion even when you are wrong. Whether you see you are wrong or not is beside the point.
Likewise, people with a shadow warrior might try to remain loyal to someone even when the facts and motivations are not in your best interests or contribute to the greater good.
The hero-warrior, although having outgrown the immaturity of the child, is often still undeveloped until you are able to nurture the qualities of other archetypes that bring the warrior archetype to its full glory.
Moreover, the warrior in its fullness is central to personal development and your capacity to live a rich and fulfilling life. An underdeveloped warrior will prompt you to shy away from opportunities and challenges or lose your nerve when victory is in sight.
This is the result of lacking trust in yourself because you were reprimanded for expressing yourself as a child, or being called “stupid” when you thought you were being brave.
This shadow energy also surfaces because you were never praised for your achievements – which dented your confidence. To rebuild your self-worth and heroic status as an adult, you are prone to pushing yourself to the limit without thinking the consequences through.
When you look to establish a sense of Self, you are on the path to expressing uniqueness. If there is a lingering feeling that you have to prove yourself and leave a mark on the world, the warrior can help you achieve your goals but unless the positive aspects of this energy are developed, the warrior archetype is destructive and harmful.
Symbols can be used as a powerful tool to help guide you through life and make important decisions with confidence. Our self-development courses use esoteric symbolism to demonstrate how you can expand conscious awareness and improve the quality of your human experience just by observing your unconscious mind and understanding your true nature.