In Greek mythology, some of the gods had dozens of sons. Their many affairs with goddesses, nymphs, and human women created sprawling family trees.
In contrast, Ares had relatively few children. He was the father of the Amazons, but had at most nine or ten sons.
All of Ares’ sons displayed some aspects of their father’s powers. For some, their violence and connection to warfare made this obvious, while other sons of Ares more subtly reflected their father’s traits.
Some of Ares’ sons were closely associated with their father. Chief among these were the twins Phobos and Deimos.
They were born to Aphrodite, although they inherited none of their mother’s beauty. They were the personifications of fear.
Deimos was the god of terror and dread. Phobos was the god of panic and rout.
The two were daimones, minor gods who personified specific aspects of life. In the case of Deimos and Phobos, they embodied two of the worst emotions of the battlefield.
Deimos and Phobos were their father’s closest companions. They rode into battle with him and, in keeping with his love of battle rather than championing of a cause, led to terror on both sides of battle.
Ares inspired bravery and bravado among fighting men, but his sons had the opposite effect. They could make weak soldiers, or even entire armies, flee from battle or freeze in terror.
Although they were by definition terrifying, Deimos and Phobos did not inspire fear through their appearance. They looked like entirely ordinary soldiers.
This allowed them to move unnoticed through military ranks and strike without warning. Any soldier, no matter how experienced or how well-trained, could fall victim to the terror of the twins.
In some sources, Ares had another son who accompanied him to war. Enyalius was sometimes said to be the son of Ares and his sister, Enyo.
Enyalius was the god of soldiers. Like his father and brothers he did not choose sides, but represented all Greek soldiers equally.
Whether Enyalius was a son of Ares is sometimes disputed, however. The name was often used as an epithet for the god of war himself, making it unclear if a separate deity is being referenced or not.
Many historians believe that the character of Enyalius disappeared over time. In early Greek history, he and Ares were separate deities but he was gradually absorbed into the war god’s identity.
A few sources also claimed that Ares had a son who represented a war-like people. Thrax was the patron god of the Tracians.
Like Enyalius, this name was sometimes used to represent Ares himself. The bloodthirsty god was a powerful force in Greece, but people preferred to associate his barbarity with a foreign culture rather than their own civilization.
Not all of Ares’ sons represented aspects of war, however. Some were gods of the opposite emotions.
Although Ares was belligerent, he was known for his love of Aphrodite. The goddess of beauty had sons that aligned with her powers just as Deimos and Phobos aligned with their father’s.
The most famous of these was Eros. Although he was closely connected to Aphrodite, he was often considered to be the son of Ares.
Many different versions of Eros’ origins existed, however.
Some cults believed that he was a primordial being, since romantic love would have been necessary for the earliest gods to procreate. Some authors said that Eros had made Aphrodite and Ares fall in love to begin with, making it impossible for him to be their son.
A popular story, however, was that Eros had been conceived when Aphrodite was still married to Hephaestus. He embodied the intensity of the love his parents had for one another even though his mother had been married to someone else.
On the surface, Eros had little in common with Deimos and Phobos. On a deeper level, however, all three could be seen as aspects of their parents’ powers.
The god of love could inspire people to the violence his father relished. Similarly, intense love could attract the fears of Deimos and Phobos.
One of those fears was that love would not be reciprocated. This was embodied by another of Aphrodite and Ares’ sons, Anteros.
Anteros was one of the gods of love, or erotes, who served Aphrodite. He represented a type of love, however, that did not inspire positive feelings.
Anteros was the god of unrequited love. He had a decidedly more violent nature than the other erotes.
One of his chief roles was as an avenging god. He punished those who spurned the sincere love of another.
According to some versions of his mythology, Anteros was born to be a counterpart to his brother Eros. Eros could inspire one person to love another, while Anteros made that love worthwhile by ensuring that it was reciprocated.
Like the other gods, Ares also had some sons who were mortal.
Unlike Zeus and Poseidon, Ares had relatively few affairs with mortal women. As a result, he had far fewer children who were not divine.
One of Ares’ human sons was named Phlegyas. He was a legendary king of the Lapiths, a tribe from Thessaly.
According to legend, Phlegyas had a beautiful daughter named Coronis. She was loved by Apollo and became pregnant with his son, Asclepius.
While pregnant, however, Coronis had an affair with a human man. Apollo loved her too much to hurt her himself, so Artemis stepped in to punish Coronis for her unfaithfulness.
Phlegyas was furious with Apollo for causing his daughter’s death, however. In his anger, he burned the temple at Delphi and declared his hatred for both Apollo and Artemis.
Phlegyas was punished for this. Virgil and others claimed that he was chained in Tartarus for the crime of despising the gods.
Another of Ares’ sons was King Oenomaus of Pisa.
Warned by an oracle that he would be killed by his son-in-law, Oenomaus vowed never to let his daughter Hippodamia marry. When she came of age, eighteen suitors competed against him in chariot races to win her hand.
Oenomaus defeated all eighteen men and had them killed immediately after the race. As a macabre monument to his victories, he had their heads mounted on the columns of his palace.
Oenomaus was eventually defeated by Pelops. The Lydian prince had once been a lover of Poseidon and invoked the god of the sea and horses for help.
To further ensure his victory, Pelops and Hippodamia also sabotaged her father’s chariot. When it reached top speed it fell apart and Ares’ son was dragged to his death.
The most notorious human son of Ares was Cycnus. In one of the legends of Heracles, the hero encountered Ares and his son as he traveled through Thessaly.
Cycnus had inherited his father’s bloodthirsty nature, so he challenged every visitor to his lands to single combat. He had never lost a fight, so he had killed everyone who had ever met him.
Athena warned Heracles that if he defeated Cycnus, he could not take the wicked man’s armor and weapons as spoiled. Ares would almost certainly attack if he tried in an effort to avenge his son.
As she predicted, Heracles easily defeated Cycnus but was quickly attacked by Ares. Athena attempted to intervene, but her brother’s fury was too great for her to convince him to end his assault.
Athena turned away Ares’ blows, given Heracles an opportunity to strike the god of war in the thigh. Phobos and Deimos appeared to carry their father to safety before he could be injured any further.
Cycnus was killed by Heracles, but the gods were still angry at him for his violent offenses against the laws of hospitality. Apollo was so disgusted that he sent a flood to wash away Cycnus’ tomb, erasing all traces of Ares’ son.
The human sons of Ares lived in different parts of the world, but all were marked by their cruelty. In their actions, they violated some of the most sacred and fundamental laws of Greek culture.
Two of his three human sons, in fact, seem to have little connection to Ares beyond their violent tendencies. Only in the story of Cycnus did the god of war play a significant role.
It seems possible that in at least some of these cases, the connection to Ares was added later. Characters like Oenemaus were named as sons of Ares to give a reason for their violent, unlawful behavior.
Ares had fewer sons than many of the other Greek gods. While Zeus and Poseidon may have had hundreds of children, Ares had under a dozen sons.
The most closely aligned with his powers were the gods of warfare. Deimos and Phobos were twin gods of fear born to Ares and Aphrodite.
They also had two sons who more closely reflected their mother’s domain. Eros and Anteros were gods of love.
These four gods were seemingly different, but all reflected the powers of Ares in some way. They all represented intense, overwhelming, and potentially violent emotions.
Ares only had three commonly-named human sons. All three were known for their cruelty and their violations of natural laws.
Each of the human sons of Ares ended up being punished in some way for their actions. Two died at the hands of people they tried to make victims while the third was eternally punished by the gods.
The mortal sons of Ares were not great heroes or demigods who reflected their father’s divine nature. Instead, they represented Ares’ violence and a rejection of natural law and order.