Ares, the Greek god of war, was one of the twelve major Olympian deities. While Mount Olympus was their seat of power, however, not all of the gods chose to live there.
Many made their homes elsewhere because of the duties they performed. Hades, for example, rarely left the Underworld because that was his domain.
As the god of war, Ares was not tied to a single place. The Greek, however, had a very clear idea about where Ares lived.
In mythology, Ares spends most of his time in Thrace. The region to the north of Greece was considered barbaric and dangerous, the perfect home for a god associated with destruction and unfocused violence.
Ares was one of the god of the Olympic pantheon. As the son of Hera and Zeus, he had most likely been born on Mount Olympus.
This was the home of the gods and their seat of power. While many deities maintained homes elsewhere, they were ruled from Olympus.
Ares was one of the gods who was said to have lived somewhere other than Olympus.
This was unusual because most gods with separate homes lived away from Olympus by virtue of their duties. Poseidon, for example, had a palace beneath the sea while Helios lived over the western horizon where the sun set each evening.
Although his position as the god of war did not tie him to any specific realm or region, Ares was usually shown away from Olympus. The people of Greece most often associated the god of war not with their own land, but with the country of Thrace.
Thrace was a region to the north of Greece. While some people there spoke Greek for trade or political purposes, most people in the assorted tribes of the north were not Greek-speakers.
To the people of Greece, this made the Thracians barbarians. Their languages and customs were entirely foreign and the only god they were said to recognize was Ares himself.
Thrace was usually depicted in Greek literature as a wild land where savage men did not follow the rules of the gods. As barbarians, they were considered to be culturally and morally inferior to the civilized people of the Peloponnesian.
Ares, however, spent much of his time there according to many Greek writers. After this discovery of his affair with Aphrodite, for example, Ares fled to Thrace to avoid Hephaestus’s revenge and escape from his humiliation.
While some gods were said to favor Asia Minor or North Africa, these were not considered as foreign in many ways as Thrace. The Mediterranean cultures worshipped the same gods and had a shared history, at least according to the Greeks.
Thrace was a wild and dangerous land that was considered distinctly non-Greek. So why was one of the gods of Olympus associated with that country?
While Ares was the son of Hera and Zeus, he was not well-loved by either the gods or the people of Greece.
The god of war was violent, brutal, and merciless. Unlike the other Olympians, he did not use violence as a means of punishment or in the service of a just cause, but instead he loved destruction and warfare for their own sake.
In the Iliad Zeus himself, Ares’s own father, described him as the most hateful god of all the Olympians. Only the fact that he was Zeus’s son kept him from being completely rejected by most other gods.
The people of Greece were largely ambivalent toward Ares as well. With the exception of Sparta, which was well-known for its highly militarized culture, there were few cults dedicated to the god of war.
The Greek people were almost universally familiar with the destruction and chaos brought by Ares. Because the city-states of Greece often feuded with one another, the citizens of the cities often found themselves at war with close neighbors.
While wars occurred on the borders of many other lands, the shifting alliances of Greek states meant that the residents of almost any city could face an opposing army at any time. Archaeological records show the impact war had on ancient Greece, with many sites showing signs of large-scale destruction every few decades or less.
The Greeks had reason to dislike war and the god that represented it. But while the destruction of war was a near-constant threat in Greek life, they saw it as antithetical to the ideals of their culture.
To associate Ares with a specific place in Greece itself would be to admit that the careless destruction of war was a part of their own culture. Worse, it might imply that the god of war would favor his home territory over the cities and lands of other Greek-speaking people.
The Greeks therefore placed Ares’s home away from their own lands, in a region that they already considered to be barbaric and violent.
Writers claimed that Ares was the only god the people of Thrace recognized. While this was certainly untrue, the Greeks preferred to think of the god of war as living in a place that shared his love of violence and brutality rather than as a part of their own culture.
As the son of Hera and Zeus, Ares was one of the gods of Mount Olympus. Like many gods, he could have been expected to keep his home there.
Ares largely avoided the mountain of the gods, however. He was usually said to make his home far away, in the barbarous northern lands of Thrace.
In mythology, the gods were probably relieved to have Ares removed from their company. Ares was called the most hateful of all the gods by Zeus because of his love for destruction and brutality.
The people of Greece as well preferred to think of the god of war as being far away. While Ares represented a destructive force that was often present in the lives of the Greeks, they did not like to think of him as belonging to their culture.
Ares lived in Thrace to keep him both physically and culturally removed from Greece itself. By associating him with a distant land of barbarians and foreign customs, the Greeks could mentally remove war from their own culture and awareness as well.