- Education and Science
Mars the Military God
Mars, the vital male force in Ancient Rome
Mars is a Soldier's God, bold and brave.
Mars, the Roman warrior god, son of Juno and Jupiter, husband of Bellona, lover of Venus, was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions.
In the great golden city of Rome, Mars was second in importance to the great Jupiter himself! Many believed him to be father of Romulus, the legendary founder of the city, and reasoned that all Romans were descendants of Mars.
Mars is still with us today. Martius, the month of March, is named after him. So is the fourth planet from the sun and a bar of chocolate, but we know him mainly as the God of War.
Whose mighty power can make
The strongest walls from their foundations shake
Mars is definitely a male god, we use the astrological sigil of the planet Mars to represent men and masculine energy. Prominently displaying the arrow of action, it symbolises the male essence, the energy of yang - active and expanding.
As an earlier fertility god, he was Mars Sylvanus, responsible for the shoots of grain which thrust upwards from the soil after planting.
In astrology, Mars is the ruler of Aries and signals the season when everything awakens, grows, rises and sprouts after winter. This is the planetary time of energy and action, with the element of fire bringing the very spark of life.
The Month of Mars is Spring - Time for War
If you lived in ancient Rome, the name of Mars would be as familiar to you as your own, especially at the Springtime of year with all of the holidays and festivals dedicated to the City's favourite son.
You would be choosing your prettiest ribbons, studying the form of the newest racehorse or bargaining for the best seats at a track and field meet.
Or perhaps preparing for war overseas, for Spring was the beginning of the Roman campaign season.
Mars the Father of Rome
Mars was also the Father of Rome. It was said that he was the father of the twins Romulus and Remus, the founders of the Eternal City. . As the father of the men who founded Rome, the Roman men often called themselves "Sons of Mars."
So one of his names is Mars Pater, Father Mars, and like a father, he was the protector of all the people who lived within the gates of Rome.
Mars and the Wolf
Like all deities, certain animals are associated with Mars, in this case the wolf and the woodpecker. His companions are Fuga and Timor, flight and fear.
The moons of Mars are named for these companions.
Are you confused because the Martian Moons are actually called Phobos and Deimos? For some reason, the early astronomers gave the planet a Roman name, Mars, but named the companion moons in Greek. Phobos is the Greek for fear (as in phobia) and Deimos means flight.
The Wolf is the symbol of Rome, and goes back to the story of Romulus and Remus who were raised by a wolf pack and grew to build the great city.
Wolf skins were worn by Standard bearers
Roman Soldier in Wolfskin
In the Roman army, the soldier who carried the standard was titled Signifier and he carried the signum. This was a position of honour and he wore a wolf skin to show he was a true son of Mars.
In this image, a Signifier is standing next to a Cornicen, the soldier who relayed orders from his commander by blowing the cornu. He's also wearing a wolf skin.
Mars and the Woodpecker
Among his sacred animals is the woodpecker (Picus), who was especially associated with fertilisation of the fields with manure.
The woodpecker was also an important bird in augury.
There is a common belief that depictions of Mars show him as a warrior, but look a little closer and you see that he is no savage attacker but a disciplined soldier in regulation battle dress bearing regulation arms.
As Mars Gradivus, he was the patron of the legions and a fitting role model for the highly trained Roman infantryman.
He was the most prominent of the military gods that were worshipped by the Roman legions. The martial Romans considered him second in importance only to Jupiter.
It is his Greek equivalent, Ares, who has the character traits of the wild warrior
The Red Planet
The reddish tinge of Mars in the night sky made our ancestors think of blood, and consequently war, but don't for one moment believe that in modern times we are any more sophisticated.
Even though we know the bloody appearance is caused by soil rich in iron oxide, (old-fashioned rust), the threat of invasion from the Red Planet plagued our imaginations only a couple of generations back.
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Tuesday is for Mars
The third day of the week in Roman times was dedicated to Mars - Martis Dies (Mars' Day) and we still name Tuesday for him. The French have Mardi, the Spanish Martes, and it is Martedi in Italian. Tuesday in English is also named for the God of War.
In English we call this day after Tyr, the boldest of the cold- climate gods. Tyr inspires courage and heroism in battle, and he is the Northern equivalent of Mars.
Tyr has soldier-like qualities as well, he is noble and self-sacrificing. On the day of Ragnarok, he will kill Garm, the guardian of hell, but will himself die from his wounds.
Bring the vitality of Mars into your life
So March is a month for action. Decorate your house with some red blooms and bring a little male energy into your everyday affairs.
Think of the Wolf, a creature with a high sense of loyalty and strength, a friendly social creature. Time to contemplate our own friendships. Are we being true friends?
Think of that woodpecker. When the woodpecker comes tapping into our awareness, it's also a signal to use our heads. Just as the woodpecker uses its head (beak) to hammer out solutions (food, shelter), we too can use our intellect in finding solutions to our own barriers.
© 2008 Susanna Duffy