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. 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.
Like Ares who was the son of Zeus and Hera, Mars is usually considered to be the son of Jupiter and Juno. However, in a version of his birth given by Ovid, he was the son of Juno alone. Jupiter had usurped the mother's function when he gave birth to Minerva directly from his forehead (or mind); to restore the balance, Juno sought the advice of the goddess Flora on how to do the same. Flora obtained a magic flower (Latin flos, plural flores, a masculine word) and tested it on a heifer who became fecund at once. She then plucked a flower ritually using her thumb, touched Juno's belly, and impregnated her. Juno withdrew to Thrace and the shore of Marmara for the birth.
Ovid tells this story in the Fasti, his long-form poetic work on the Roman calendar. It may explain why the Matronalia, a festival celebrated by married women in honor of Juno as a goddess of childbirth, occurred on the first day of Mars' month, which is also marked on a calendar from late antiquity as the birthday of Mars. In the earliest Roman calendar, March was the first month, and the god would have been born with the new year. Ovid is the only source for the story. He may be presenting a literary myth of his own invention, or an otherwise unknown archaic Italic tradition; either way, in choosing to include the story, he emphasizes that Mars was connected to plant life and was not alienated from female nurture.
The consort of Mars was Nerio or Neriene, "Valor." She represents the vital force (vis), power (potentia) and majesty (maiestas) of Mars. Her name was regarded as Sabine in origin and is equivalent to Latin virtus, "manly virtue" (from vir, "man"). In the early 3rd century BC, the comic playwright Plautus has a reference to Mars greeting Nerio, his wife. A source from late antiquity says that Mars and Neriene were celebrated together at a festival held on March 23. In the later Roman Empire, Neriene came to be identified with Minerva.
Wall painting (mid-1st century AD) from which the House of Venus and Mars at Pompeii takes its name
The union of Venus and Mars held greater appeal for poets and philosophers, and the couple were a frequent subject of art. In Greek myth, the adultery of Ares and Aphrodite had been exposed to ridicule when her husband Hephaestus (whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan) caught them in the act by means of a magical snare. Although not originally part of the Roman tradition, in 217 BC Venus and Mars were presented as a complementary pair in the lectisternium, a public banquet at which images of twelve major gods of the Roman state were presented on couches as if present and participating.
Scenes of Venus and Mars in Roman art often ignore the adulterous implications of their union, and take pleasure in the good-looking couple attended by Cupid or multiple Loves (amores). Some scenes may imply marriage, and the relationship was romanticized in funerary or domestic art in which husbands and wives had themselves portrayed as the passionate divine couple.
The uniting of deities representing Love and War lent itself to allegory, especially since the lovers were the parents of Concordia. The Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino notes that "only Venus dominates Mars, and he never dominates her". In ancient Roman and Renaissance art, Mars is often shown disarmed and relaxed, or even sleeping, but the extramarital nature of their affair can also suggest that this peace is impermanent.
Virility as a kind of life force (vis) or virtue (virtus) is an essential characteristic of Mars. As an agricultural guardian, he directs his energies toward creating conditions that allow crops to grow, which may include warding off hostile forces of nature. As an embodiment of masculine aggression, he is the force that drives wars – but ideally, war that delivers a secure peace.
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. 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. Mars' character as an agricultural god may derive solely from his role as a defender and protector, or may be inseparable from his warrior nature, as the leaping of his armed priests the Salii was meant to quicken the growth of crops.
It appears that Mars was originally a thunderer or storm deity, which explains some of his mixed traits in regards to fertility. This role was later taken in the Roman pantheon by several other gods, such as Summanus or Jupiter.
The wild animals most sacred to Mars were the woodpecker, the wolf, and the bear, which in the natural lore of the Romans were said always to inhabit the same foothills and woodlands.
Plutarch notes that the woodpecker (picus) is sacred to Mars because "it is a courageous and spirited bird and has a beak so strong that it can overturn oaks by pecking them until it has reached the inmost part of the tree." As the beak of the picus Martius contained the god's power to ward off harm, it was carried as a magic charm to prevent bee stings and leech bites. The bird of Mars also guarded a woodland herb (paeonia) used for treatment of the digestive or female reproductive systems; those who sought to harvest it were advised to do so by night, lest the woodpecker jab out their eyes. The picus Martius seems to have been a particular species, but authorities differ on which one: perhaps Picus viridis or Dryocopus martius.
The woodpecker was revered by the Latin peoples, who abstained from eating its flesh. It was one of the most important birds in Roman and Italic augury, the practice of reading the will of the gods through watching the sky for signs. The mythological figure named Picus had powers of augury that he retained when he was transformed into a woodpecker; in one tradition, Picus was the son of Mars. The Umbriancognatepeiqu also means "woodpecker," and the Italic Picenes were supposed to have derived their name from the picus who served as their guide animal during a ritual migration (ver sacrum) undertaken as a rite of Mars. In the territory of the Aequi, another Italic people, Mars had an oracle of great antiquity where the prophecies were supposed to be spoken by a woodpecker perched on a wooden column.
Mars' association with the wolf is familiar from what may be the most famous of Roman myths, the story of how a she-wolf(lupa) suckled his infant sons when they were exposed by order of King Amulius, who feared them because he had usurped the throne from their grandfather, Numitor. The woodpecker also brought nourishment to the twins.
The wolf appears elsewhere in Roman art and literature in masculine form as the animal of Mars. A statue group that stood along the Appian Way showed Mars in the company of wolves. At the Battle of Sentinum in 295 BC, the appearance of the wolf of Mars (Martius lupus) was a sign that Roman victory was to come.
In Roman Gaul, the goose was associated with the Celtic forms of Mars, and archaeologists have found geese buried alongside warriors in graves. The goose was considered a bellicose animal because it is easily provoked to aggression.
Ancient Greek and Roman religion distinguished between animals that were sacred to a deity and those that were prescribed as the correct sacrificial offerings for the god. Wild animals might be viewed as already belonging to the god to whom they were sacred, or at least not owned by human beings and therefore not theirs to give. Since sacrificial meat was eaten at a banquet after the gods received their portion – mainly the entrails (exta) – it follows that the animals sacrificed were most often, though not always, domestic animals normally part of the Roman diet. Gods often received castrated male animals as sacrifices, and the goddesses female victims; Mars, however, regularly received intact males. Mars did receive oxen under a few of his cult titles, such as Mars Grabovius, but the usual offering was the bull, singly, in multiples, or in combination with other animals.
The two most distinctive animal sacrifices made to Mars were the suovetaurilia, a triple offering of a pig (sus), ram (ovis) and bull (taurus), and the October Horse, the only horse sacrifice known to have been carried out in ancient Rome and a rare instance of a victim the Romans considered inedible.
Temples and topography in Rome
The earliest center in Rome for cultivating Mars as a deity was the Altar of Mars (Ara Martis) in the Campus Martius ("Field of Mars") outside the sacred boundary of Rome (pomerium). The Romans thought that this altar had been established by the semi-legendary Numa Pompilius, the peace-loving successor of Romulus. According to Roman tradition, the Campus Martius had been consecrated to Mars by their ancestors to serve as horse pasturage and an equestrian training ground for youths. During the Roman Republic (509–27 BC), the Campus was a largely open expanse. No temple was built at the altar, but from 193 BC a covered walkway connected it to the Porta Fontinalis, near the office and archives of the Roman censors. Newly elected censors placed their curule chairs by the altar, and when they had finished conducting the census, the citizens were collectively purified with a suovetaurilia there. A frieze from the so-called "Altar" of Domitius Ahenobarbus is thought to depict the census, and may show Mars himself standing by the altar as the procession of victims advances.
The main Temple of Mars (Aedes Martis) in the Republican period also lay outside the sacred boundary[where?] and was devoted to the god's warrior aspect. It was built to fulfill a vow (votum) made by a Titus Quinctius in 388 BC during the Gallic siege of Rome. The founding day (dies natalis) was commemorated on June 1, and the temple is attested by several inscriptions and literary sources. The sculpture group of Mars and the wolves was displayed there. Soldiers sometimes assembled at the temple before heading off to war, and it was the point of departure for a major parade of Roman cavalry held annually on July 15.
Augustus chose the Campus Martius as the site of his new Temple to Mars Ultor[clarification needed], a manifestation of Mars he cultivated as the avenger (ultor) of the murder of Julius Caesar and of the military disaster suffered at the Battle of Carrhae. When the legionary standards lost to the Parthians were recovered, they were housed in the new temple. The date of the temple's dedication on May 12 was aligned with the heliacal setting of the constellation Scorpio, the sign of war. The date continued to be marked with circus games as late as the mid-4th century AD.
In Roman art, Mars is depicted as either bearded and mature, or young and clean-shaven. Even nude or seminude, he often wears a helmet or carries a spear as emblems of his warrior nature. Mars was among the deities to appear on the earliest Roman coinage in the late 4th and early 3rd century BC.
On the Altar of Peace (Ara Pacis), built in the last years of the 1st century BC, Mars is a mature man with a "handsome, classicizing" face, and a short curly beard and moustache. His helmet is a plumed neo-Attic-type. He wears a military cloak (paludamentum) and a cuirass ornamented with a gorgoneion. Although the relief is somewhat damaged at this spot, he appears to hold a spear garlanded in laurel, symbolizing a peace that is won by military victory. The 1st-century statue of Mars found in the Forum of Nerva (pictured at top) is similar. In this guise, Mars is presented as the dignified ancestor of the Roman people. The panel of the Ara Pacis on which he appears would have faced the Campus Martius, reminding viewers that Mars was the god whose altar Numa established there, that is, the god of Rome's oldest civic and military institutions.
Particularly in works of art influenced by the Greek tradition, Mars may be portrayed in a manner that resembles Ares, youthful, beardless, and often nude. In the Renaissance, Mars' nudity was thought to represent his lack of fear in facing danger.
The spear of Mars
The spear is the instrument of Mars in the same way that Jupiter wields the lightning bolt, Neptune the trident, and Saturn the scythe or sickle. A relic or fetish called the spear of Mars was kept in a sacrarium at the Regia, the former residence of the Kings of Rome. The spear was said to move, tremble or vibrate at impending war or other danger to the state, as was reported to occur before the assassination of Julius Caesar. When Mars is pictured as a peace-bringer, his spear is wreathed with laurel or other vegetation, as on the Ara Pacis or a coin of Aemilianus.
The high priest of Mars in Roman public religion was the Flamen Martialis, who was one of the three major priests in the fifteen-member college of flamens. Mars was also served by the Salii, a twelve-member priesthood of patrician youths who dressed as archaic warriors and danced in procession around the city in March. Both priesthoods extend to the earliest periods of Roman history, and patrician birth was required.
Festivals and rituals
The festivals of Mars cluster in his namesake month of March (Latin: Martius), with a few observances in October, the beginning and end of the season for military campaigning and agriculture. Festivals with horse racing took place in the Campus Martius. Some festivals in March retained characteristics of new year festivals, since Martius was originally the first month of the Roman calendar.
Denarius, issued 88 BC, depicting the helmeted head of Mars, with Victory driving a two-horse chariot (biga) on the reverse
Mars was also honored by chariot races at the Robigalia and Consualia, though these festivals are not primarily dedicated to him. From 217 BC onward, Mars was among the gods honored at the lectisternium, a banquet given for deities who were present as images.
Roman hymns (carmina) are rarely preserved, but Mars is invoked in two. The Arval Brothers, or "Brothers of the Fields," chanted a hymn to Mars while performing their three-step dance. The Carmen Saliare was sung by Mars' priests the Salii while they moved twelve sacred shields (ancilia) throughout the city in a procession. In the 1st century AD, Quintilian remarks that the language of the Salian hymn was so archaic that it was no longer fully understood.
The word Mārs (genitive Mārtis), which in Old Latin and poetic usage also appears as Māvors (Māvortis), is cognate with OscanMāmers (Māmertos). The Old Latin form was believed to derive from an Italic*Māworts, but can also be explained as deriving from Maris, the name of an Etruscan child-god; scholars have varying views on whether the two gods are related, and if so how. Latin adjectives from the name of Mars are martius and martialis, from which derive English "martial" (as in "martial arts" or "martial law") and personal names such as "Martin".
In Classical Roman religion, Mars was invoked under several titles, and the first Roman emperor Augustus thoroughly integrated Mars into Imperial cult. The 4th-century Latin historian Ammianus Marcellinus treats Mars as one of several classical Roman deities who remained "cultic realities" up to his own time. Mars, and specifically Mars Ultor, was among the gods who received sacrifices from Julian, the only emperor to reject Christianity after the conversion of Constantine I. In 363 AD, in preparation for the Siege of Ctesiphon, Julian sacrificed ten "very fine" bulls to Mars Ultor. The tenth bull violated ritual protocol by attempting to break free, and when killed and examined, produced ill omens, among the many that were read at the end of Julian's reign. As represented by Ammianus, Julian swore never to make sacrifice to Mars again—a vow kept with his death a month later.
Gradivus was one of the gods by whom a general or soldiers might swear an oath to be valorous in battle. His temple outside the Porta Capena was where armies gathered. The archaic priesthood of Mars Gradivus was the Salii, the "leaping priests" who danced ritually in armor as a prelude to war. His cult title is most often taken to mean "the Strider" or "the Marching God," from gradus, "step, march."
The poet Statius addresses him as "the most implacable of the gods," but Valerius Maximus concludes his history by invoking Mars Gradivus as "author and support of the name 'Roman'": Gradivus is asked – along with Capitoline Jupiter and Vesta, as the keeper of Rome's perpetual flame – to "guard, preserve, and protect" the state of Rome, the peace, and the princeps (the emperor Tiberius at the time).
Mars celebrated as peace-bringer on a Roman coin issued by Aemilianus
Mars Quirinus was the protector of the Quirites ("citizens" or "civilians") as divided into curiae (citizen assemblies), whose oaths were required to make a treaty. As a guarantor of treaties, Mars Quirinus is thus a god of peace: "When he rampages, Mars is called Gradivus, but when he's at peace Quirinus."
Mars is invoked as Grabovius in the Iguvine Tablets, bronze tablets written in Umbrian that record ritual protocols for carrying out public ceremonies on behalf of the city and community of Iguvium. The same title is given to Jupiter and to the Umbrian deity Vofionus. This triad has been compared to the Archaic Triad, with Vofionus equivalent to Quirinus. Tables I and VI describe a complex ritual that took place at the three gates of the city. After the auspices were taken, two groups of three victims were sacrificed at each gate. Mars Grabovius received three oxen.
Venus being seduced by Mars, fresco from Pompeii, 1st century AD
"Father Mars" or "Mars the Father" is the form in which the god is invoked in the agricultural prayer of Cato, and he appears with this title in several other literary texts and inscriptions.Mars Pater is among the several gods invoked in the ritual of devotio, by means of which a general sacrificed himself and the lives of the enemy to secure a Roman victory.
Father Mars is the regular recipient of the suovetaurilia, the sacrifice of a pig (sus), ram (ovis) and bull (taurus), or often a bull alone. To Mars Pater other epithets were sometimes appended, such as Mars Pater Victor ("Father Mars the Victorious"), to whom the Roman army sacrificed a bull on March 1.
Although pater and mater were fairly common as honorifics for a deity, any special claim for Mars as father of the Roman people lies in the mythic genealogy that makes him the divine father of Romulus and Remus.
In the section of his farming book that offers recipes and medical preparations, Cato describes a votum to promote the health of cattle:
Make an offering to Mars Silvanus in the forest (in silva) during the daytime for each head of cattle: 3 pounds of meal, 4½ pounds of bacon, 4½ pounds of meat, and 3 pints of wine. You may place the viands in one vessel, and the wine likewise in one vessel. Either a slave or a free man may make this offering. After the ceremony is over, consume the offering on the spot at once. A woman may not take part in this offering or see how it is performed. You may vow the vow every year if you wish.
Augustus created the cult of "Mars the Avenger" to mark two occasions: his defeat of the assassins of Caesar at Philippi in 42 BC, and the negotiated return of the Roman battle standards that had been lost to the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. The god is depicted wearing a cuirass and helmet and standing in a "martial pose," leaning on a lance he holds in his right hand. He holds a shield in his left hand. The goddess Ultio, a divine personification of vengeance, had an altar and golden statue in his temple.
The Temple of Mars Ultor, dedicated in 2 BC in the center of the Forum of Augustus, gave the god a new place of honor. Some rituals previously conducted within the cult of Capitoline Jupiter were transferred to the new temple, which became the point of departure for magistrates as they left for military campaigns abroad. Augustus required the Senate to meet at the temple when deliberating questions of war and peace. The temple also became the site at which sacrifice was made to conclude the rite of passage of young men assuming the toga virilis ("man's toga") around age 14.
Augustus or Augusta was appended far and wide, "on monuments great and small," to the name of gods or goddesses, including Mars. The honorific marks the affiliation of a deity with Imperial cult. In Hispania, many of the statues and dedications to Mars Augustus were presented by members of the priesthood or sodality called the Sodales Augustales. These vows (vota) were usually fulfilled within a sanctuary of Imperial cult, or in a temple or precinct (templum) consecrated specifically to Mars. As with other deities invoked as Augustus, altars to Mars Augustus might be set up to further the well-being (salus) of the emperor, but some inscriptions suggest personal devotion. An inscription in the Alps records the gratitude of a slave who dedicated a statue to Mars Augustus as conservator corporis sui, the preserver of his own body, said to have been vowed ex iussu numinis ipsius, "by the order of the numen himself".
In addition to his cult titles at Rome, Mars appears in a large number of inscriptions in the provinces of the Roman Empire, and more rarely in literary texts, identified with a local deity by means of an epithet. Mars appears with great frequency in Gaul among the Continental Celts, as well as in Roman Spain and Britain. In Celtic settings, he is often invoked as a healer. The inscriptions indicate that Mars' ability to dispel the enemy on the battlefield was transferred to the sick person's struggle against illness; healing is expressed in terms of warding off and rescue.
Mars is identified with a number of Celtic deities, some of whom are not attested independently.
Votive plaque inscribed to Mars Alator (left), with two votives for Vulcan, from the Barkway hoard, Roman Britain
Mars Albiorix appears in an inscription from modern-day Sablet, in the province of Gallia Narbonensis.Albiorix probably means "King of the Land" or "King of the World", with the first element related to the geographical name Albion and Middle Welshelfydd, "world, land".
Mars Barrex is attested by a single dedicatory inscription found at Carlisle, England.Barrex or Barrecis probably means "Supreme One" (Gaulishbarro-, "head").
Mars Belatucadrus is named in five inscriptions in the area of Hadrian's Wall. The Celtic god Belatucadros, with various spellings, is attested independently in twenty additional inscriptions in northern England.
Mars Braciaca appears in a single votive inscription at Bakewell, Derbyshire. The Celtic epithet may refer to malt or beer, though intoxication in Greco-Roman religion is associated with Dionysus. A reference in Pliny suggests a connection to Mars' agricultural function, with the Gaulish word bracis referring to a type of wheat; a medieval Latin gloss says it was used to make beer.
A bronze Mars from Gaul
Mars Camulus is found in five inscriptions scattered over a fairly wide geographical area. The Celtic god Camulus appears independently in one votive inscription from Rome.
Mars Cocidius is found in five inscriptions from northern England. About twenty dedications in all are known for the Celtic god Cocidius, mainly made by Roman military personnel, and confined to northwest Cumbria and along Hadrian's Wall. He is once identified with Silvanus. He is depicted on two votive plaques as a warrior bearing shield and spear, and on an altar as a huntsman accompanied by a dog and stag.
Mars Condatis occurs in three inscriptions from Roman Britain. The cult title is probably related to the place name Condate, often used in Gaul for settlements at the confluence of rivers. The Celtic god Condatis is thought to have functions pertaining to water and healing.
Mars Corotiacus is an equestrian Mars attested only on a votive from Martlesham in Suffolk. A bronze statuette depicts him as a cavalryman, armed and riding a horse which tramples a prostrate enemy beneath its hooves.
Mars Lenus, or more often Lenus Mars, had a major healing cult at the capital of the Treveri (present-day Trier). Among the votives are images of children offering doves. His consort Ancamna is also found with the Celtic god Smertrios.
Mars Loucetius. The Celtic god Loucetios, Latinized as -ius, appears in nine inscriptions in present-day Germany and France and one in Britain, and in three as Leucetius. The Gaulish and Brythonictheonyms likely derive from Proto-Celtic*louk(k)et-, "bright, shining, flashing," hence also "lightning," alluding to either a Celtic commonplace metaphor between battles and thunderstorms (Old Irish torannchless, the "thunder feat"), or the aura of a divinized hero (the lúan of Cú Chulainn). The name is given as an epithet of Mars. The consort of Mars Loucetius is Nemetona, whose name may be understood as pertaining either to "sacred privilege" or to the sacred grove(nemeton), and who is also identified with the goddess Victoria. At the Romano-British site in Bath, a dedication to Mars Loucetius as part of this divine couple was made by a pilgrim who had come from the continental Treveri of Gallia Belgica to seek healing.
Mars Medocius Campesium appears on a bronze plaque at a Romano-Celtic temple at Camulodunum (modern Colchester; see Mars Camulus above). The dedication was made between 222 and 235 AD by a self-identified Caledonian, jointly honoring Mars and the Victoria (Victory) of Severus Alexander. A Celto-Latin name Medocius or Medocus is known, and a link between Mars' epithet and the Irish legendary surgeon Miodhach has been conjectured.Campesium may be an error for Campestrium, "of the Campestres", the divinities who oversaw the parade ground, or "of the Compeses" may refer to a local place name or ethnonym.
Mars Mullo is invoked in two Armorican inscriptions pertaining to Imperial cult. The name of the Celtic god Mullo, which appears in a few additional inscriptions, has been analyzed variously as "mule" and "hill, heap".
Mars Neton or Neto was a Celtiberian god at Acci (modern Guadix). According to Macrobius, he wore a radiant crown like a sun god, because the passion to act with valor was a kind of heat. He may be connected to Irish Neit.
Mars Nodens has a possible connection to the Irish mythological figure Nuada Airgetlám. The Celtic god Nodens was also interpreted as equivalent to several other Roman gods, including Mercury and Neptune. The name may have meant "catcher", hence a fisher or hunter.
Mars Ocelus had an altar dedicated by a junior army officer at Caerwent, and possibly a temple. He may be a local counterpart to Lenus.
Mars Olloudius was depicted in a relief from Roman Britain without armor, in the guise of a Genius carrying a double cornucopia and holding a libation bowl (patera). Olloudius is found also at Ollioules in southern Gaul.
Mars Rigisamus is found in two inscriptions, the earliest most likely the one at Avaricum (present-day Bourges, France) in the territory of the Bituriges. At the site of a villa at West Coker, Somerset, he received a bronze plaque votum. The Gaulish element rig- (very common at the end of names as -rix), found in later Celtic languages as rí, is cognate with Latin rex, "king" or more precisely "ruler". Rigisamos is "supreme ruler" or "king of kings".
Bronze statuette of Mars Balearicus
Mars Rigonemetis ("King of the Sacred Grove"). A dedication to Rigonemetis and the numen (spirit) of the Emperor inscribed on a stone was discovered at Nettleham (Lincolnshire) in 1961. Rigonemetis is only known from this site, and it seems he may have been a god belonging to the tribe of the Corieltauvi.
Mars Segomo. "Mars the Victorious" appears among the Celtic Sequani.
Mars Smertrius. At a site within the territory of the Treveri, Ancamna was the consort of Mars Smertrius.
Mars Teutates. A fusion of Mars with the Celtic god Teutates (Toutatis).
Mars Thincsus. A form of Mars invoked at Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian's Wall, where his name is linked with two goddesses called the Alaisiagae. Anne Ross associated Thincsus with a sculpture, also from the fort, which shows a god flanked by goddesses and accompanied by a goose – a frequent companion of war gods.
Mars Visucius. A fusion of Mars with the Celtic god Visucius.
Mars Vorocius. A Celtic healer-god invoked at the curative spring shrine at Vichy (Allier) as a curer of eye afflictions. On images, the god is depicted as a Celtic warrior.
"Mars Balearicus" is a name used in modern scholarship for small bronze warrior figures from Majorca (one of the Balearic Islands) that are interpreted as representing the local Mars cult. These statuettes have been found within talayotic sanctuaries with extensive evidence of burnt offerings. "Mars" is fashioned as a lean, athletic nude lifting a lance and wearing a helmet, often conical; the genitals are perhaps semi-erect in some examples.
Other bronzes at the sites represent the heads or horns of bulls, but the bones in the ash layers indicate that sheep, goats, and pigs were the sacrificial victims. Bronze horse-hooves were found in one sanctuary. Another site held an imported statue of Imhotep, the legendary Egyptian physician. These sacred precincts were still in active use when the Roman occupation began in 123 BC. They seem to have been astronomically oriented toward the rising or setting of the constellationCentaurus.
Cariocecus, an Iberian war god syncretised with Mars
^Kurt A. Raaflaub, War and Peace in the Ancient World (Blackwell, 2007), p. 15.
^Paul Rehak and John G. Younger, Imperium and Cosmos: Augustus and the Northern Campus Martius (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), pp. 11–12.
^Isidore of Seville calls Mars Romanae gentis auctorem, the originator or founder of the Roman people as a gens (Etymologiae 5.33.5).
^York, Michael. Romulus and Remus, Mars and Quirinus. Journal of Indo-European Studies 16:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1988), 153–172.
^Pallotino, pp. 29, 30; Hendrik Wagenvoort, "The Origin of the Ludi Saeculares," in Studies in Roman Literature, Culture and Religion (Brill, 1956), p. 219 et passim; John F. Hall III, "The Saeculum Novum of Augustus and its Etruscan Antecedents," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.16.3 (1986), p. 2574.
^ Larissa Bonfante, Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of Etruscan Studies (Wayne State University Press, 1986), p. 226.
^William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), p. 35f., discusses this interpretation in order to question it.
^Carole E. Newlands, Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti (Cornell University Press, 1995), pp. 105–106.
^Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.23. Gellius says the word Nerio or Nerienes is Sabine and is supposed to be the origin of the nameNero as used by the Claudian family, who were Sabine in origin. The Sabines themselves, Gellius says, thought the word was Greek in origin, from νεῦρα (neura), Latin nervi, meaning the sinews and ligaments of the limbs.
^Robert E.A. Palmer, The Archaic Community of the Romans (Cambridge University Press, 1970, 2009), p. 167.
^Porphyrion, Commentum in Horatium Flaccum, on Epistula II.2.209.
^William Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People (London, 1922), p. 150–154; Roger D. Woodard, Indo-European Sacred Space: Vedic and Roman Cult (University of Illinois Press, 2006), pp. 113–114; Gary Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War (University of California Press, 2005), p. 145. The prayer is recorded in the passage on Nerio in Aulus Gellius.
^Robert Schilling, "Venus," in Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992, from the French edition of 1981), p. 147.
^John R. Clarke, The Houses of Roman Italy, 100 B.C.–A.D. 250: Ritual, Space, and Decoration (University of California Press, 1991), pp. 156–157
^Laura Salah Nasrallah, Christian Responses to Roman Art and Architecture: The Second-Century Church amid the Spaces of Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 284–287.
^Ficino, On Love, speech 5, chapter 8, as summarized in the entry on "Mars," The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 564.
^Entry on "Mars" in The Classical Tradition, p. 564.
^R.B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought about the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time and Fate (Cambridge University Press, 1951), pp. 470–471. Onians connects the name of Mars to the Latin mas, maris, "male" (p. 178), as had Isidore of Seville, saying that the month of March (Martius) was named after Mars "because at that time all living things are stirred toward virility (mas, gen. maris) and to the pleasures of sexual intercourse" (eo tempore cuncta animantia agantur ad marem et ad concumbendi voluptatem): Etymologies 5.33.5, translation by Stephen A. Barney, The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 128. In antiquity, vis was thought to be related etymologically to vita, "life." Varro (De lingua latina 5.64, quoting Lucilius) notes that vis is vita: "vis drives us to do everything."
^On the relation of Mars' warrior aspect to his agricultural functions with respect to Dumézil's Trifunctional hypothesis, see Wouter W. Belier, Decayed Gods: Origin and Development of Georges Dumézil's 'idéologie tripartie' (Brill, 1991), pp. 88–91 online.
^Schilling, "Mars," in Roman and European Mythologies, p. 135; Palmer, Archaic Community, pp. 113–114.
^Gary Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome (University of California Press, 2005), p. 127; Fowler, Religious Experience, p. 134.
^Cato, On Agriculture 141. In pre-modern agricultural societies, encroaching woodland or wild growth was a real threat to the food supply, since clearing land for cultivation required intense manual labor with minimal tools and little or no large-scale machinery. Fowler says of Mars, "As he was not localised either on the farm or in the city, I prefer to think that he was originally conceived as a Power outside the boundary in each case, but for that very reason all the more to be propitiated by the settlers within it" (Religious Experience, p. 142).
^Plutarch, Roman Questions 21. Athenaeus lists the woodpecker among delicacies on Greek tables (Deipnosophistae 9.369).
^Plautus, Asinaria 259–261; Pliny, Natural History 10.18. Named also in the Iguvine Tables (6a, 1–7), as Umbrianpeiqu; Schilling, "Roman Divination," in Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 96–97 and 105, note 7.
^John Greppin, entry on "woodpecker," Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), p. 648.
^Dionysius Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities I.14.5, as noted by Mary Emma Armstrong, The Significance of Certain Colors in Roman Ritual (George Banta Publishing, 1917), p. 6.
^The myth of the she-wolf, and the birth of the twins with Mars as their father, is a long and complex tradition that weaves together multiple stories about the founding of Rome. See T.P. Wiseman, Remus: A Roman Myth (Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. xiii, 73ff. et passim.
^Miranda Green, Animals in Celtic Life and Myth (Routledge, 1992), p. 126.
^Nicole Belayche, "Religious Actors in Daily Life: Practices and Related Beliefs," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 283; C. Bennett Pascal, "October Horse," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 85 (1981), pp. 268, 277.
^As did Neptune, Janus and the Genius; John Scheid, "Sacrifices for Gods and Ancestors," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 264.
^Mary Beard, J.A. North, and S.R.F. Price, Religions of Rome: A Sourcebook (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 153.
^C. Bennett Pascal, "October Horse," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 85 (1981), pp. 263, 268, 277.
^Lawrence Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 245.
^Quintilian, Institutiones 1.6.40, as cited by Frances Hickson Hahn, in "Performing the Sacred," in A Companion to Roman Religion, p. 236.
^Guiliano Bonfante and Larissa Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction (Manchester University Press, 1983, 2002 rev.ed.), p. 26; Donald Strong and J.M.C. Toynbee, Roman Art (Yale University Press, 1976, 1988), p. 33; Fred S. Kleiner, introduction to A History of Roman Art (Wadsworth, 2007, 2010 "enhanced edition"), p. xl.
^Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008, p. 366.
^Massimo Pallottino, "Religion in Pre-Roman Italy," in Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992, from the French edition of 1981), pp. 29, 30; Hendrik Wagenvoort, "The Origin of the Ludi Saeculares," in Studies in Roman Literature, Culture and Religion (Brill, 1956), p. 219 et passim; John F. Hall III, "The Saeculum Novum of Augustus and its Etruscan Antecedents," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.16.3 (1986), p. 2574; Larissa Bonfante, Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of Etruscan Studies (Wayne State University Press, 1986), p. 226.
^Compare Gradiva. The second-century grammarian Sextus Pompeius Festus offers two other explanations in addition. The name, he says, might also mean the vibration of a spear, for which the Greeks use the word kradainein; others locate the origin of Gradivus in the grass (gramine), because the Grass Crown is the highest military honor; see Carole Newlands, Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti (Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 106. Maurus Servius Honoratus says that grass was sacred to Mars (note to Aeneid 12.119).
^Mars enim cum saevit Gradivus dicitur, cum tranquillus est Quirinus: Maurus Servius Honoratus, note to Aeneid 1.292, at Perseus. At Aeneid 6.860, Servius further notes: "Quirinus is the Mars who presides over peace and whose cult is maintained within the civilian realm, for the Mars of war has his temple outside that realm." See also Belier, Decayed Gods, p. 92: "The identification of the two gods is a reflection of a social process. The men who till the soil as Quirites in times of peace are identical with the men who defend their country as Milites in times of war."
^Palmer, The Archaic Community of the Romans, pp. 165–171. On how Romulus became identified with Mars Quirinus, see the Dumézilian summary of Belier, Decayed Gods, p. 93–94.
^Etymologically, Quirinus is *co-uiri-no, "(the god) of the community of men (viri)," and Vofionus is *leudhyo-no, "(the god) of the people": Oliver de Cazanove, "Pre-Roman Italy, Before and Under the Romans," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 49. It has also been argued that Vofionus corresponds to Janus, because an entry in Sextus Pompeius Festus (204, edition of Lindsay) indicates there was a Roman triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Janus, each having quirinus as a title; C. Scott Littleton, The New Comparative Mythology (University of California Press, 1966, 1973), p. 178, citing Vsevolod Basanoff, Les dieux Romains (1942).
^Votum pro bubus, uti valeant, sic facito. Marti Silvano in silva interdius in capita singula boum votum facito. Farris L. III et lardi P.39 IIII S et pulpae P. IIII S, vini S.40 III, id in unum vas liceto coicere, et vinum item in unum vas liceto coicere. Eam rem divinam vel servus vel liber licebit faciat. Ubi res divina facta erit, statim ibidem consumito. Mulier ad eam rem divinam ne adsit neve videat quo modo fiat. Hoc votum in annos singulos, si voles, licebit vovere.Cato the Elder, On Farming 83, English translation from the Loeb Classical Library, Bill Thayer's edition at LacusCurtius.
^Robert Schilling, "Silvanus," in Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992, from the French edition of 1981), p. 146; Peter F. Dorcey, The Cult of Silvanus: A Study in Roman Folk Religion (Brill, 1992), pp. 8–9, 49.
^Robert Schilling, "Mars," Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992, from the French edition of 1981), p. 135; Mary Beard, J.A. North, and S.R.F. Price, Religions of Rome: A Sourcebook (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 80.
^For instance, during the Republic, the dictator was charged with the ritual clavi figendi causa, driving a nail into the wall of the Capitoline temple. According to Cassius Dio (55.10.4, as cited by Lipka, Roman Gods, p. 108), this duty was transferred to a censor under Augustus, and the ritual moved to the Temple of Mars Ultor.
^CIL VI.1, no. 2086 (edition of Bormann and Henzen, 1876), as translated and cited by Charlotte R. Long, The Twelve Gods of Greece and Rome (Brill, 1987), pp. 130–131.
^Keith Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves (Cambridge University Press, 1978), p. 230.
^A.E. Cooley, "Beyond Rome and Latium: Roman Religion in the Age of Augustus," in Religion in Republican Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 247; Duncan Fishwick, The imperial cult in the Latin West (Brill, 2005), passim.
^Jonathan Edmondson, "The Cult of Mars Augustus and Roman Imperial Power at Augusta Emerita (Lusitania) in the Third Century A.D.: A New Votive Dedication," in Culto imperial: politica y poder («L'Erma» di Bretschneider, 2007), p. 562. These include an inscription that was later built into the castle walls at Sines, Portugal; dedications at Ipagrum (Aguilar de la Frontera, in the modern province of Córdoba) and at Conobaria (Las Cabezas de San Juan in the province of Seville) in Baetica; and a statue at Isturgi (CIL II. 2121 = ILS II2/7, 56). A magister of the "Lares of Augustus" made a dedication to Mars Augustus (CIL II. 2013 = ILS II2/5, 773) at Singili(a) Barba (Cerro del Castillón, Antequera).
^ILS 3160; Rudolf Haensch, "Inscriptions as Sources of Knowledge for Religions and Cults in the Roman World of Imperial Times," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 182.
^William Van Andringa, "Religions and the Integration of Cities in the Empire in the Second Century AD: The Creation of a Common Religious Language," A Companion to Roman Religion, p. 86.
^Edmondson, "The Cult of Mars Augustus," pp. 541–575.
^Ittai Gradel, Emperor Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 238, note 11, citing Victor Ehrenberg and Arnold H.M. Jones, Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius (Oxford University Press, 1955), no. 43.
^The chief priest of the three Dacian provinces dedicated an altar pro salute, for the wellbeing of Gordian III, at an imperial cult center sometime between 238 and 244 AD; Edmondson, "The Cult of Mars Augustus," p. 562.
^Miranda Green, Animals in Celtic Life and Myth (Routledge, 1992), p. 198.
^Ton Derks, Gods, Temples, and Ritual Practices: The Transformation of Religious Ideas and Values in Roman Gaul (Amsterdam University Press, 1998), p. 79.
^RIB 1055, as cited by Bernhard Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture (Boydell & Brewer, 1997, originally published in German 1994), p. 11.
^RIB 218, as cited by Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 11.
^Phillips, E.J. (1977). Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani, Great Britain, Volume I, Fascicule 1. Hadrian's Wall East of the North Tyne (p. 66). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN0-19-725954-5.
^Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 11.
^Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 32.
^Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (Éditions Errance, 2003), p. 68.
^RIB 918, 948, 970, 1784, 2044, as cited by Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 33.
^Miranda Alhouse-Green, "Gallo-British Deities and Their Shrines," in A Companion to Roman Britain (Blackwell, 2004), p. 215.
^Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 33.
^RIB 278, as cited by Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, pp. 42–43.
^Eric Birley, "The Deities of Roman Britain," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.18.1 (1986), pp. 43, 68; Delamarre, entry on bracis, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, p. 85. In discussing the Celtiberian Mars Neto, Macrobius associates Mars and Liber, a Roman deity identified with Dionysus (Saturnalia 1.19).
^Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (Éditions Errance, 2003), 2nd edition, p. 200.
^Gaulishnemeton was originally a sacred grove or space defined for religious purposes, and later a building: Bernhard Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture (Boydell Press, 1997, 2000, originally published 1994 in German), p. 207.
^Helmut Birkham, entry on "Loucetius," in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, edited by John Koch (ABC-Clio, 2006), p. 1192.
^RIB 191: DEO MARTI MEDOCIO CAMPESIVM ET VICTORIE ALEXANDRI PII FELICIS AVGVSTI NOSI DONVM LOSSIO VEDA DE SVO POSVIT NEPOS VEPOGENI CALEDO ("To the god of the battlefields Mars Medocius, and to the victory of [Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus] Alexander Pius Felix Augustus, Lossius Veda the grandson of Vepogenus Caledos, placed [this] offering out of his own [funds]").
^Martin Henig, Religion in Roman Britain (Taylor & Francis, 1984, 2005), p. 61.
^Duncan Fishwick, "Imperial Cult in Britain," Phoenix 15.4 (1961), p. 219.
^A Saint Medocus is recorded in the early 16th century as the eponym for St. Madoes in Gowrie; Molly Miller, "Matriliny by Treaty: The Pictish Foundation-Legend," in Ireland in Early Mediaeval Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 159.
^John Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire (Cornell University Press, 1970, 1985), p. 212.
^Perhaps related to Campesie Fells in Stirlingshire; Fishwick, "Imperial Cult in Britain," p. 219.
^CIL 13.3148 and 3149 at Rennes; Paganism and Christianity, 100–425 C.E.: A Sourcebook, edited by Ramsay MacMullen and Eugene N. Lane (Augsburg Fortress, 1992), pp. 76–77.
^CIL 13.3096 (Craon), CIL 13.3101 and 3102, at Nantes, ILTG 343–345 (Allones); Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 200.
^Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.19; David Rankin, Celts and the Classical World (Routledge, 1987), p. 260.
^Maier, Dictionary of Celtic Religion and Culture, p. 209.
^John Wacher, The Towns of Roman Britain (University of California Press, 1974), p. 384.
^Green, Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art, p. 115.
^CIL 1190 = ILS 4581; E. Birley, "Deities of Roman Britain," p. 48.
^Anthony Birley, The People of Roman Britain (University of California Press, 1979), p. 141.
^Delamarre, entry on rix,Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, pp. 260–261; Green, Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art, p. 113.
^Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins, Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (Facts on File, 1994, 2004), p. 297.
^Miranda Green, Celtic Myths (University of Texas Press, 1993, 1998), p. 42.
^G. Llompart, "Mars Balearicus," Boletín del Seminario de Estudios de Arte y Arqueología 26 (1960) 101–128; "Estatuillas de bronce de Mallorca: Mars Balearicus," in Bronces y religión romana: actas del XI Congreso Internacional de Bronces Antiguos, Madrid, mayo-junio, 1990 (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1993), p. 57ff.
^Jaume García Rosselló, Joan Fornés Bisquerra, and Michael Hoskin, "Orientations of the Talayotic Sanctuaries of Mallorca," Journal of History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement 31 (2000), pp. 58–64 (especially note 10) pdf.