The Symbols of Ares

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The image of Ares is easily recognizable among the other ancient Greek gods, since he’s almost always wearing his armor with a matching helmet and carries his weapon of choice, which is a spear, and a shield. The armor of Ares, depending on the author, was either made of bronze (meaning that it was solid and practical) or entirely made of gold – which would make Ares a bit of a fancy boy, like all the other gods. But at least his golden armor proves of some use in battle, as it shines in the light and blinds his enemies.

The chariot Ares drove was, without a doubt, made of gold, and was pulled by four immortal stallions, which were breathing fire and attacking left and right, with the same courage as their master.

There are no plants among the main symbols of Ares, but reptiles were sacred to him, especially poisonous snakes. Well, in fact, dragons should have been sacred to the god of war, because it was said that one such creature was guarding his shrine – but, since the ancient Greeks probably had a hard time finding enough dragons, poisonous snakes had to do.

Same thing happened with the birds: the birds of Ares were mythical creatures, with darts instead of feathers, which they shot at anybody entering their territory. In temples, however, the birds sacred to Ares were woodpeckers, vultures (because they fed on the corpses left on battlefields, thus sharing in the “offerings” made to the god of war) and a type of large owl, also called eagle owl – which was different from the one, much more famous, sacred to Athena. The owl of Ares symbolizes bad omens – which is interesting because his other bird, the woodpecker, was a symbol of good luck, so these two were balancing each other out.

Under his roman name, of Mars, Ares received a famous graphical symbol which is still in use today. It was associated with the planet Mars, and later, in the Middle Ages, it was widely used by alchemists to indicate iron. Today, the symbol of Mars is used simply to depict the male gender (which I’m sure Ares appreciates) in various situations, sometimes even on toilet doors (not so sure he likes the joke here).  


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