Saturday, November 19, 2011


The god of war, and one of the most prominent and worshipped gods. In early Roman history he was a god of spring, growth in nature, and fertility, and the protector of cattle. Mars is also mentioned as a chthonic god (earth-god) and this could explain why he became a god of death and finally a god of war. He is the son of Jupiter and Juno. According to some sources, Mars is the father of Romulus and Remus by the Vestal Ilia (Rhea Silvia). Because he was the father of these legendary founders of Rome, and thus of the Roman people, the Romans styled themselves 'sons of Mars'.

His main sanctuaries where the temple on the Capitol, which he shared with Jupiter and Quirinus, the temple of Mars Gradivus ("he who precedes the army in battle") where the Roman army gathered before they went to war, and the temple of Mars Ultor ("the avenger"), located on the Forum Augustus. The Campus Martius ("field of Mars"), situated beyond the city walls, was also dedicated to him. Here the army was drilled and athletes were trained. In the Regia on the Forum Romanum, the 'hastae Martiae' ("lances of Mars") were kept. When these lances 'moved', it was seen as a portent of war. The warlord who was to lead the army into battle had to move the lances while saying 'Mars vigila' ("Mars awaken"). As Mars Gradivus, the god preceded the army and led them to victory.

He had several festivals in his honor. On March 1, the Feriae Marti was celebrated. The Armilustrium was held on October 19, and on this day the weapons of the soldiers were ritually purified and stored for winter. Every five years the Suovetaurilia was held. During these fertility and cleansing rites, a pig (sus), a sheep (ovis) and bull (taurus) were sacrificed. The Equirria were on February 27 and March 14, on which horse races were held. The Quinquatrus was on March 19 and the Tubilustrium on March 23, on which weapons and war-trumpets were cleansed. The priests of Mars, who also served Quirinus, were called the Salii ("jumpers"), derived from the procession through the streets of the city which they completed by jumping the entire way and singing the Carmen Saliare. Mars' own priest was called the flamen Martialis.

Mars is portrayed as a warrior in full battle armor, wearing a crested helmet and bearing a shield. His sacred animals are the wolf and the woodpecker, and he is accompanied by Fuga and Timor, the personifications of flight and fear. The month March (Martius) is named after him (wars were often started or renewed in spring). His Greek equivalent is the god Ares.

From: here
Mars (Latin: Mārs, adjectives Martius and Martialis) was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome.[1] He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions. His festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began and ended the season for military campaigning and farming.

Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. But the character and dignity of Mars differed in fundamental ways from that of his Greek counterpart, who is often treated with contempt and revulsion in Greek literature.[2] Mars was a part of the Archaic Triad along with Jupiter and Quirinus, the latter of whom as a guardian of the Roman people had no Greek equivalent. Mars' altar in the Campus Martius, the area of Rome that took its name from him, was supposed to have been dedicated by Numa himself, the peace-loving semi-legendary second king of Rome. Although the center of Mars' worship was originally located outside the pomerium, or sacred boundary of Rome, Augustus brought the god into the center of Roman religion by establishing the Temple of Mars Ultor in his new forum.[3]

Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people.[4] In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome's founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who "founded" Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

The importance of Mars in establishing religious and cultural identity within the Roman Empire is indicated by the vast number of inscriptions identifying him with a local deity, particularly in the Western provinces.


Virility as a kind of life force (vis) or virtue (virtus) is an essential characteristic of Mars.[16] As an agricultural god, he directs his energies toward creating conditions that allow crops to grow, which may include warding off hostile forces of nature.[17] As an embodiment of masculine aggression, he is the force that drives wars — but ideally, war that delivers a secure peace.

The priesthood of the Arval Brothers called on Mars to drive off "rust" (lues), with its double meaning of wheat fungus and the red oxides that affect metal, a threat to both iron farm implements and weaponry. In the surviving text of their hymn, the Arval Brothers invoked Mars as ferus, "savage" or "feral" like a wild animal.[18]

Mars' potential for savagery is expressed in his obscure connections to the wild woodlands, and he may even have originated as a god of the wild, beyond the boundaries set by humans, and thus a force to be propitiated.[19] In his book on farming, Cato invokes Mars Silvanus for a ritual to be carried out in silva, in the woods, an uncultivated place that if not held within bounds can threaten to overtake the fields needed for crops.[20] Mars' character as an agricultural god may derive solely from his role as a defender and protector,[21] or may be inseparable from his warrior nature,[22] as the leaping of his armed priests the Salii was meant to quicken the growth of crops.[23]


The word Mārs (genitive Mārtis),[51] which in Old Latin and poetic usage also appears as Māvors (Māvortis),[52] is cognate with Oscan Māmers (Māmertos).[53] The Old Latin form was believed to derive from an Italic *Māworts, however this name is from Etruscan Maris, originally a god of vegetation and not of war. Adjective forms are martius and martialis, from which derive English "martial" (as in "martial arts" or "martial law") and personal names such as "Martin". The Campus Martius bore his name.

Mars also gave his name to the third month in the Roman calendar, Martius, from which English "March" derives. In the most ancient Roman calendar, Martius was the first month. In many languages Tuesday[54] is named for the planet Mars or the God of War (see "Days of the Week Planetary table"), in Latin Martis Dies (Mars' Day), surviving in Romance languages as Martes (Spanish), Mardi (French), Martedi (Italian), Marţi (Romanian), and Dimarts (Catalan), compare An Mháirt (Irish/Gaelic).


From: Wiki
Hymn to Mars

Oh! Help us, ye Household Gods!
Oh! Help us, ye Household Gods!
Oh! Help us, ye Household Gods!

And let not bane and bale, O Marmor Mars, assail more folk!
And let not bane and bale, O Marmor Mars, assail more folk!
And let not bane and bale, O Marmor Mars, assail more folk!

Be full satisfied, fierce Mars, Leap the Threshold! Hah! Beat the ground!
Be full satisfied, fierce Mars, Leap the Threshold! Hah! Beat the ground!
Be full satisfied,fierce Mars, Leap the Threshold! Hah! Beat the ground!

By turns address ye all the Half-Gods.
By turns address ye all the Half-Gods.
By turns address ye all the Half-Gods.

Oh! Help us, Marmor!
Oh! Help us, Marmor!
Oh! Help us, Marmor!

Bound bound and bound again, bound and bound again!

From: Religo Romana [dot] net
Orphic Hymn to Mars
Thomas Taylor, transl.


Magnanimous, unconquer'd,
boistrous Mars,
In darts rejoicing, and in bloody wars
Fierce and untam'd,
whose mighty pow'r can make
The strongest walls
from their foundations shake:
Mortal-destroying king,
defil'd with gore,
Pleas'd with war's
dreadful and tumultuous roar:
Thee, human blood, and swords,
and spears delight,
And the dire ruin of mad savage fight.
Stay furious contests,
and avenging strife,
Whose works with woe,
embitter human life;
To lovely Venus, and to Bacchus yield,
To Ceres give
the weapons of the field;
Encourage peace,
to gentle works inclin'd,
And give abundance,
with benignant mind.
Mars was the Roman god of war, and is one of the most commonly worshipped deities in ancient Rome. Because of the nature of Roman society, nearly every healthy patrician male had some connection to the military, so it is logical that Mars was highly revered throughout the Empire.

In early incarnations, Mars was a fertility god, and a protector of cattle. As time went on, his role as an earth god expanded to include death and the underworld, and finally battle and war. He is known as the father of twins Romulus and Remus, by the Vestal virgin Rhea Silvia. As the father of the men who later founded the city, Roman citizens often referred to themselves as "sons of Mars."

Before going into battle, Roman soldiers often gathered at the temple of Mars Ultor (the avenger) on the Forum Augustus. The military also had a special training center dedicated to Mars, called the Campus Martius, where soldiers drilled and studied.

The month of March is named in his honor, and several festivals each year were dedicated to Mars. Each year the Feriae Marti was held, beginning on the Kalends of March and continuing until the 24th. Dancing priests, called the Salii, performed elaborate rituals over and over again, and a sacred fast took place for the last nine days. The dance of the Salii was complex, and involved a lot of jumping, spinning and chanting. On March 25, the celebration of Mars ended and the fast was broken at the celebration of the Hilaria, in which all the priests partook in an elaborate feast.

During the Suovetaurilia, held every five years, bulls, pigs and sheep were sacrificed in Mars' honor. This was part of an elaborate fertility ritual, designed to bring prosperity to the harvest. Cato the Elder wrote that as the sacrifice was made, the following invocation was called out:

"Father Mars, I pray and beseech thee
that thou be gracious and merciful to me,
my house, and my household;
to which intent I have bidden this suovetaurilia
to be led around my land, my ground, my farm;
that thou keep away, ward off, and remove sickness, seen and unseen,
barrenness and destruction, ruin and unseasonable influence;
and that thou permit my harvests, my grain, my vineyards,
and my plantations to flourish and to come to good issue,
preserve in health my shepherds and my flocks, and
give good health and strength to me, my house, and my household.
To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm,
my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, as I have said,
deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims;
Father Mars, to the same intent deign to accept
the offering of these suckling offering."

As a warrior god, Mars is typically depicted in full battle gear, including a helmet, spear and shield. He is represented by the wolf, and is sometimes accompanied by two spirits known as Timor and Fuga, who personify fear and flight, as his enemies flee before him on the battlefield.

In Greek legend, Mars is known as Ares, but was never as popular with the Greeks as he was with the Romans.

From: here
The suovetaurilia or suovitaurilia was one of the most sacred and traditional rites of Roman religion: the sacrifice of a pig (sus), a ram (ovis) and a bull (taurus) to the deity Mars to bless and purify land (Lustratio).

The ritual is preserved in Cato the Elder's De Re Rustica, "On Agriculture". The first step was to lead the three animals around the boundaries of the land to be blessed, pronouncing the following words:

Cum divis volentibus quodque bene eveniat, mando tibi, Mani, uti illace suovitaurilia fundum agrum terramque meam quota ex parte sive circumagi sive circumferenda censeas, uti cures lustrare.

"That with the good help of the gods success may crown our work, I bid thee, Manius, to take care to purify my farm, my land, my ground with this suovetaurilia, in whatever part thou thinkest best for them to be driven or carried around."

"Manius" in this passage may be an obscure deity, related to the Manes, or may be the equivalent of English John Doe. Then, before the sacrifice is performed, the following prayer to Mars must be made:

Mars pater, te precor quaesoque uti sies volens propitius mihi domo familiaeque nostrae, quoius re ergo agrum terram fundumque meum suovitaurilia circumagi iussi, uti tu morbos visos invisosque, viduertatem vastitudinemque, calamitates intemperiasque prohibessis defendas averruncesque; utique tu fruges, frumenta, vineta virgultaque grandire beneque evenire siris, pastores pecuaque salva servassis duisque bonam salutem valetudinemque mihi domo familiaeque nostrae; harumce rerum ergo, fundi terrae agrique mei lustrandi lustrique faciendi ergo, sicuti dixi, macte hisce suovitaurilibus lactentibus inmolandis esto; Mars pater, eiusdem rei ergo macte hisce suovitaurilibus lactentibus esto

"Father Mars, I pray and beseech thee that thou be gracious and merciful to me, my house, and my household; to which intent I have bidden this suovetaurilia to be led around my land, my ground, my farm; that thou keep away, ward off, and remove sickness, seen and unseen, barrenness and destruction, ruin and unseasonable influence; and that thou permit my harvests, my grain, my vineyards, and my plantations to flourish and to come to good issue, preserve in health my shepherds and my flocks, and give good health and strength to me, my house, and my hPousehold. To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm, my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, as I have said, deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims; Father Mars, to the same intent deign to accept the offering of these suckling offering."

The original Latin of this prayer is crudely metrical and incantatory; even in Old Latin, the prayer contains many rhetorical figures such as alliteration and liberal use of merisms and antithesis. It illustrates the sing-song, metrical, and poetic format of polytheistic prayers. Cakes of bread were sacrificed along with the three animals. At the moment the sacrifices were made, the landowner was to say:

Eiusque rei ergo macte suovitaurilibus inmolandis esto.

"To this intent deign to accept the offering of these victims."

If favourable omens as a response to the sacrifice were not forthcoming, the landowner was instructed to redo the sacrifice and offer a further prayer:

Mars pater, siquid tibi in illisce suovitaurilibus lactentibus neque satisfactum est, te hisce suovitaurilibus piaculo.

"Father Mars, if aught hath not pleased thee in the offering of those sucklings, I make atonement with these victims."

If only one or two of the omens expected after the three sacrifices failed to appear, the landowner was instructed to offer an additional swine, saying:

Mars pater, quod tibi illoc porco neque satisfactum est, te hoc porco piaculo.

"Father Mars, inasmuch as thou wast not pleased by the offering of that pig, I make atonement with this pig."

The nature of the expected omens is not given by Cato. The omens, however, were likely determined by the art of haruspicy, the examination of the entrails, and especially the livers, of sacrificed animals for divinatory signs.

Both public and private suovetaurilias were performed in the Roman religion. Cato describes the ritual performed to purify, or "lustrate", a farm. A private rural suovetaurilia was sacrificed each May on the festival of Ambarvalia, a festival that involved "walking around the fields." Public suovetaurilias were offered at certain state ceremonies, including agricultural festivals, the conclusion of a census, and to atone for any accidental ritual errors. Traditionally, suovetaurilias were performed at five year intervals: this period was called a lustrum, and the purification sought by a suovetaurilia was called lustration.

If a temple were destroyed, the site of the temple must be purified by a suovetaurilia before a new temple could be reconstructed on the site. When the Capitolium was burnt as a result of a struggle for imperial succession in the year 69, a suovetaurilia was performed to reconsecrate the site. A public suovetaurilia was also offered to bless the army before a major military campaign. On Trajan's column, the emperor Trajan is depicted as offering a suovetaurilia to purify the Roman army.

Some religious rites similar to the Roman suovetaurilia were practiced by some other Indo-European peoples, ranging in place from Iberia to India. The Cabeço das Fráguas inscript (found in Portugal) describes a threefold sacrifice practiced by the Lusitanians, an Indo-European tribe believed to have affinities to either the Celts or the Italic peoples, devoting a sheep, a pig and a bull to their local gods(?).[1] In the Indian Sautramani, a ram, a bull and a goat were sacrificed to Indra Sutraman; in Iran ten thousand sheep, a thousand cattle and a hundred stallions were dedicated to Ardvi Sura Anahita. Similar to the above rituals is the Greek trittoíai, the oldest known being described in the Odyssey and dedicated to Poseidon. The Umbrian Iguvine Tables also describe a sacrificial ritual related to the aforementioned rites. There is only scattered archealogical evidence indicating the presence of related rituals amongst other Indo-European groups and it may be attributable to the Etruscans.

From: Wiki

Known as the quintessential IE war-god, Mars was a major Roman god during the Republic and Empire periods. He was also known as Marti, Martis, Mavors, Maris, and Mamers. He was also referred to as Mars pater, Marspiter, Marspiteris, and Maspiter ('Mars the Father' - i.e. 'lord' or 'protector'). Since earliest times he formed part of the Roman sky-god triad along with Jupiter and Quirinus, sharing a main Roman temple with them on the Capitol. He had his own priest, the flamen Martialis, who also served Quirinus, and these two gods had some sort of close relation. War spoils were dedicated in his honor, and soldiers swore oaths in his name.

Mars was depicted with a crested helmet and shield. His totemic animals were the wolf and woodpecker. His bellicose epithets included Gradivus ('vanguard of the army in battle') and Ultor ('the Avenger', given by Augustus after Philippi). His attendants were Fuga and Timur, the personifications of flight and fear. His wife was the minor goddess Nerio, whose name is derived from IE and Latin words for 'strenght, valor', and so on. His main festivals were on March 1 (the feriae Marti) and October 19 (the Armilustrium) were linked to the campaigning season. These were the dates when weapons were ritually taken out of storage for the summer and purified and stored for winter. Every five years the Souvetarurilia was held, when the fertility ad cleansing rites included the sacrifice of a pig (sus), a sheep (ovis), and bull (taurus).

Although an indigenous god, Mars was largely synchronized with Ares' character and Greek myths. These included his love affair with Venus, which mirrored that of Homer's Ares and Aphrodite. The same is true of his heritage, with his mother Juno assuming the role of Ares' mother Hera in Greek myth. Strangely, Juno was said to have born Mars parthenogenically with only the aid of Flora. In Roman myth, Mars was said to have been the father of Romulus and Remus by the Vestal Ilia (Rhea Silvia), and so the Romans thought of him as their primogenitor.

Despite his martial character and job description, Mars also had agricultural functions that predated his war-god role. In fact, it seems Mars' original character as a guardian of the fields was the origin of this war-god (> Lat marra, 'hoe', and marga, 'a kind of earth'?). After all, the IE 'clear-sky' gods with whom Mars must be equated were all, it seems, originally protector-gods. In early Roman history he was a god of spring growth, fertility, and the protector of cattle. Ovid also called him the 'god of husbandy, of shepherds and seers'. His character in the countryside, where the agrarian Italians looked to him to protect their fields more than to defeat foreign enemies in battle, supports this theory. So do his festivals, which are grouped mostly in spring. Only in the capital did he lose this agrarian role, except that his function as the protector of fields and pastures was transferred to the city and later the state of Rome.

Mars entered history as a rural deity who protected fields and pastures. This explains his early association with Silvanus, the forest-god. As Rome urbanized his protective role became martial in nature as the Romans lost their agrarian roots, they became involved in foreign wars, and they became exposed to Greek culture and thus Ares. His month Mars heralded not only spring and the renewal of growth, but it marked the start of new campaigning seasons. Thus Mars developed at the expense of Tutans, who was probably the original Roman representative of the western IE 'Tues' god of clear skies equating to the Celtic and Norse war-gods Teutates and Tyr, respectively. Name origin

The meaning of Mars' name is obscure. Linguists do not support derivation of his name from the Latin mors, 'death'. The Marsians and Marrucini tribes of central Italy also claimed descent from him, and the Sabines, Hernici, Aequiculi, and other inland Italian tribes also worshipped him. There was also a Celtic or German Marsi and Marsaci tribes in Germany and Gallia Belgica, respectively, and the Marsigni, a part of the Suevi confederation of Germany. Thus this name may have a very ancient IE meaning.

We have identified the IE war-gods as deriving from the pan-IE protector-god indentified with clear skies and daylight (See The Sky-God Triad). In the west, however, this god is identified as Teutates in Gaul, Tyr in Scandinavia, Anglo-Saxon Tiv (> Eng Tuesday), and Tutans in Rome. So, we would hope that his name could be related to words related to 'light, shine, bright, daylight'. About the only possibility is mar-, 'gleam'; Skt marikis, 'beam of light'.

However, his name could have been a contraction of his eponym Mavors or Mavortis, his archaic and poetic name. This name might have been derived from mah, magh, 'to cut', and vor-, 'swallow up, overwhelm, destroy, ruin', etc. (> Eng voracious, devour). However, this decidedly war-god meaning does not lend itself to the earlier protector-god of fields. A possible Etruscan cognate might have been mavu, though this does not seem related to the Etruscan names Marte, Marte, Martes, and Mamar, Mari, and Maris.
While all these names appear to be cognates with the various names of the Roman Mars, there was no Etruscan god with a similar name. Mamer was the Oscan name for Mars, so identifying Mars' name in Tuscan seem hazardous. It seems the Etruscan name similarities are coincidental or borrowed from Italian languages? Another possibility takes us to Latvia, where Martins was the god who protected horses and cattle during the winter, releasing them to the pastures in spring (= Eng, etc. marshall, 'horse groom'?). His festival on November 1 marked the start of the winter season similar to Mars' on October 19. This is interesting because Matins' twin brother was Usins, a sword-wielding equestrian god of summer. Together they represent the Latvian version of the IE solar 'divine twin' solar horse-gods.

That this pair apparently disappeared in Roman myth is not surprising. Horses are also conspicuously muted in Greek myth because the indigenous populations in both areas did not have them and because both peoples were decidedly not equestrian by nature. Indeed, throughout their entire history the Romans never cared to master horsemanship, relying instead on the skills of their subject peoples. Still, given that the twins Romulus and Remus were the sons of Mars could suggest that they were originally the Roman version of the IE 'divine twins', un-mounted after the incoming early Italians lost or gave up their horses in Italy. Even so, Mars' holidays known as the Equirria were held on February 27 and March 14 where rites were made to horses. One the Ides of October (15th), horse races were held on the Campus Martius, where a horse from the leading team was sacrificed. This seems to recall the importance of the horse to the pan-IE 'clear-sky god' if not the 'divine twins'.

Another possibility are IE words for 'boundary, border', and so on: Goth marka, OE maere, Lat margo, Skt maryada, Av maraza, Hitt mark, etc. Thus Mars could have been so-named because he was the guardian of the field boundaries. In the old Roman calendar March was the first month of the year, and thus demarcated the calendar. boundaries of the fields and pastures, marked by his boundary stones just as the year was marked by his month. This protective role was later transferred to the boundaries of the state. Whether marching or riding, the boundaries were his to defend, whether against the elements, pests, invaders, or other threats to the welfare of the people.

We might also note that rivers have always made convenient boundaries. Thus mar in Thracian meant 'river', and various rivers with this root include the ancient Marsyas in Anatolia, the Margis or Margas in Moesia, the Marus in Dacia (now the March or Morana), the Maritsa in Bulgaria, and so on. These seem related to Latin margo, 'edge, border, margin, boundary, shore' (< PIE *mara, 'sea', and > Eng marsh?). We should also note in passing that another common word for 'boundary', PIE *gran-, was found in ancient Anatolia as the river Granicus.

From: here

Also see:

Wiki -- has more info than what was quoted, epithets, sacred animals, iconography, etc. -- has some info
Some info
More info
Short summary
Mars on Roman coins -- info and images
Some myths
Nova Roma entry
Deities associated with Mars
Quirinus and Mars

Prayer to Mars
Info on Mars
Temple of Mars Ultor
Stories of the Months and Days: Chapter III. March--The Month of Mars
Short summary
Modern hymn -- Mars

Gaulish aspects and syncretisms:
Lenus: a Gaulish god, also known as Mars Lenus, Mars Laenus (Healer of [infected] wounds)
Lenumius: a Gaulish god, also known as Mars Lenumius, Mars Lenumio (He who binds [and heals] the...
Latobius: a Gaulish god, also known as Mars Latobius Marmocius (He who is Most Adent, the Large...
Medocius: a Brythonic God, also known as Mars Medocius (Mead-harrower, War-harrower)
Ocelus: a Brythonic God, also known as Ocaere (The Harrower)
Belado: a Gaulis god (He of Death)
Vellaunus: a Gaulish god (God of Libation)
Mars Braciaca

For more see these search results at

Roman Altar found in Caerwent: To The God Mars Ocelus
Aedes Martis (temple of Mars)
Ara Martis (altar of Mars)

On MW:
Quirinus {God of the Week} -- part of the old Capitoline Triad with Jupiter and Mars
Ares [God of the Week]
The founding Of Rome [Myth Of The Week]
Venus {Goddess of the Week} - lover

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