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Culture Mythology Eastern Macedonia and Thrace

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Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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According to the ancient tradition from Homer and on, Ares originated from Thrace. Homer mentions that Ares was born and lived in Thrace because Zeus wanted to keep him away from the other Olympian gods. Herodotus mentions that the Thracians worshipped three divinities, Ares, Dionysus and Artemis, and that for the Scythians, who lived further east, Ares was the most important god and was worshipped as the form of a sword. The Thracians, who were famous for their barbarian and warlike character, worshipped the fierce god of the battles with special honours as well as his equally strong and barbarian descendants, Tereus, Lycurgus and Diomedes. In the Homeric poems, Ares appears to be hated by the other gods and men and also appears to be inferior to Athena, the artful goddess of war.

Ares was the legitimate son of Zeus and Hera. Some versions of the mythological tradition mention that Ares was only son of Hera who conceived him “without intercourse having taken place”, by smelling a certain flower that was given to her by the deity Anthousa (that is why Ares was named “áðÜôùñ”, not having a father, and Athena “áìÞôùñ”, not having a mother). According to other traditions, Ares was a son of Zeus and Enyo, probably the personification of the battle cry characterizing Ares, where the epithet Enyalius derives from.
According to mythology, Ares was born and brought up in Thrace by a Thracian woman named Thero. The Laconians surnamed him Theritas after Thero. According to others, Ares was brought up by Priapus who taught him the orchestral and the war art making him an invincible and strong warrior. Hera had ordered that the tutor would receive as a fee one tenth of the spoils of wars and battles. Other versions of the myth have it that Ares was brought up by Enyo, after whom he was named Enyalius. According to another version, Enyalius was a separate war hero of Thrace that Ares met once, when he was young, and asked him for shelter. Enyalius refused to offer hospitality claiming that Ares was inferior in the art of war. Then Ares challenged him to a fight and killed him with his sword. After this incident, he took the surname Enyalius.
“The vigorous and powerful daemon”, Ares Enyalius represents the unbridled passion, the aggressiveness, the concept of hybris, revenge and justice as well as the blind outbreak of brutal force. His chariot was drawn by two very fierce horses, Deimos and Phobos, while other deities accompanied him into the battle like Boe, Thymos and his sister, Eris. In Hesiod’s Theogony, Deimos and Phobos are children of Ares and Aphrodite. According to Greeks, Ares was softened by the erotic power of Aphrodite who is considered as his legitimate wife in Thebes and Athens. Apart from Deimos and Phobos, the union of these two gods gave birth to Harmonia, while a later version of the myth has it that Eros and Anteros were also children of the couple.
Ares was said to be the inventor of the armour and the battle array; this is why he was the god of the war among the twelve Olympian gods and allegorically considered the inventor of war. In ancient Greek art, he is represented as an armed, fierce and tremendous figure, wearing a helmet on his head, thorax on the chest, a sword hanging on his lap and a spear or a whip in one hand and reins in the other. Sometimes he is represented sitting or standing in his chariot that is drawn by two fierce horses, Deimos and Phobos, whereas Enyo holds the reins, and Dichoneia, Thymos and Boe follow behind. Ares is also represented as an armed foot soldier accompanied into the battles by Deimos, Phobos and Iris, who holds a lighted torch, Enyo, Keres, the daemons that devastated everything in the battlefields, as well as other daemons of War and Disaster.
The cult of Ares began to spread from Thrace to several Greek cities. Ares was worshipped in Boeotia by the inhabitants of the city of Thebes, who, according to the mythological tradition, were descendants of the god. In Crete, a special military festival took place in honour of Ares, named “ekatophonia”, while in Laconia Ares was also worshipped with special honours.