Hi! I'm writing a story about Ares in modern day! I've read that Ares was often viewed ambivalently or even negatively in Greece, but was more celebrated as his Roman counterpart Mars. Could you explain or direct me to a source that goes deeper into this change? Was it more regional or universal? Any later myths/worship practices would be appreciated. (Hope this makes sense!)
So it can be hard to pinpoint where the differences between some Greek and Roman gods come from as so many scholars for quite a long time sort of just shrugged and went “Guess the Romans copied the Greeks.”
That said, I’m super excited about this ask :)
The first way to think about the difference between Ares and Mars is to think about the difference in literature. Ancient Greek myths rely heavily on description, while Roman relies on action. So when you extend that cultural sense to the gods, you find that Greek gods are the embodiment of ideals, concepts, and abstracts; while Roman gods are the embodiment of actions and concrete ideas.
So what does that mean for Ares vs Mars?
Well, Ares was a violent god, a bully, the prelude to peace, and intimately connected to fertility and childbirth. He was disliked because he is seen as insatiable and driven by a baser nature (as opposed to Athena who was a strategist and relied on logic and skill).
Mars, on the other hand, was the Father of Rome, a protector, a defender, and the embodiment of military virtues. He was honoured whenever a new city (or even a new building) was founded, and was seen as defending against not only enemies in war, but also enemies at home (such as pests and vermin which might harm harvests). He was linked with agriculture rather than fertility/childbirth.
It’s actually kind of cool to look at how Mars was conflated with various Celtic gods (where he becomes a healer [especially of eye illnesses], a god of mountains, and a protector). There is an entire study of how interacting cultures exchange, translate, and interpret their own cultures and those of another culture. Way back when there wasn’t a big push to be the only religion, and so when places like Greece and Rome interacted, they attempted to find common ground–often by using their deities.
So while Ares and Mars were very different deities, you are sort of continuing a long tradition of interpretation and translation if you use bits and pieces from both to depict your version of Ares.
And if you want a quick and easy distinction–Ares was the embodiment of the violence of war, while Mars was the embodiment of taking up arms to defend your home.
Let me know if you have any further questions!