A miniature early 2nd-century Roman bronze figurine of Mars.

Mars was the Roman god of war, the son of Juno and either Jupiter or a magical flower. As the word Mars has no Indo-European derivation, it is most likely the Latinized form of the agricultural Etruscan god Maris. Initially the Roman god of fertility and vegetation and a protector of cattle, fields and boundaries, Mars later became associated with battle and identified with the Greek god Ares. He was also a tutelary god of Rome, and as the legendary father of its founder, Romulus, Mars was considered the ancestor of the Roman people.


Mars, unlike his Greek counterpart, Ares, was more widely worshipped than any of the other Roman gods, probably in part because his sons by the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, Romulus and Remus, were said to have founded Rome; the Romans called themselves the sons of Mars. Venus, who was Mars' consort in legends borrowed from the Greek mythos, held similar importance for them because of her relationship to Aeneas. Mars was also one of the three supreme Roman deities of the Archaic Triad, along with Jupiter and Quirinus.

In his agricultural aspect, Mars presided over springtime and crops in major festivals. In his warlike aspect, Mars was offered sacrifices before combat and was said to appear on the battlefield accompanied by Bellona, a warrior goddess variously identified as his wife, sister, daughter or cousin. Mars' wife was also said to be Nerio.

Mars had a succession of festivals in February, March and October, as well as one on June 1. On March 1, the Feriae Marti (loosely "Festivals of Mars") was celebrated. On February 27 and March 14, the horserace of the Equirria were held. On March 23, the Tubilustrium was celebrated by purifying weapons and war-trumpets. On October 19, the Armilustrium was celebrated in Mars' honors, and the weapons of the soldiers were purified and stored. Every five years, the Suovetaurilia was celebrated, consisting of the sacrifice of a pig, sheep and bull—Mars was one of the only three Roman deities, along with Neptune and Apollo, to whom bulls could be sacrificed.

The Campus Martius ("Field of Mars") was dedicated to Mars, and was where soldiers and athletes trained. Mars also had an altar there, the Ara Martis. In the Regia on the Roman Forum, the hastae Martiae ("lances of Mars") were kept in a small chamber. Any movement of the hastae Martiae was seen as an omen of war. If Rome was attacking, the generals moved their lances and repeated Mars vigila ("Awaken, Mars!").

Priests of Mars and Quirinus were called Salii ("jumpers"). They were referred to as jumpers because they jumped down streets and sang the Carmen Saliare. A lone priest of Mars was called a flamen Martialis.

Mars was sometimes associated with Quirinus, a Sabine deity said to be the Spirit of Romulus, the founder of Rome. He was also identified with Celtic gods of war, particularly in Roman Britain, and was commonly considered not only a war-bringer, but also a peaceful protector, healer and tribal god, to the Celts. [1]

Aemilianus. 253 AD. AR Antoninianus (2.37 gm).
IMP CAES AEMILIANVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right
MARTI PACIF, Mars advancing left; holding branch, shield and spear. (Source :

Temples of Mars

The primary temple to Mars, dedicated to Mars Gradivus (referring to Mars' role of preceding the army in battle) was on the northeast side of the Via Appia outside the Porta Capena, between the first and second milestones. As a result of the temple, this district came to be known as ad Martis ("to [the temple] of Mars"). The temple contained a statue of Mars and probably images of wolves. It was vowed during the Gallic invasions, and was dedicated c. June 1, 388 BC. It was also the site where the Roman army gathered before leaving for a war, and was praised upon returning from victorious battles.

Another major temple to Mars, shared with Jupiter and Quirinus, was on the Capitoline Hill. Another, the Temple of Mars Ultor ("Mars the Avenger"), was in the Forum Augustus. It was dedicated in 2 BC by Augustus, and paid tribute to Mars for supposedly aiding Augustus at the Battle of Philippi. Yet another temple, designed by a Greek architect, was built in the Circus Flaminius by Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus, probably after his triumph c. 133 BC. It contained a massive statue of Mars and a naked Venus by Sopas, and the path to the temple was decorated with verses by the poet Lucius Accius. Julius Caesar planned to build a titanic temple to Mars on the Naumachia, a lake used for mock sea battles, but the site was instead used as part of the location of the Pantheon. [2][3][4]

Names and epithets

Mars was called Mavors in some poetry (Virgil VIII, 630), and Mamers was his Oscan name. He was also known as Marmor, Marmar and Maris, the latter from the Etruscan deity Maris.

Like other major Roman deities, Mars had a large number of epithets representing his different roles and aspects. Many of Mars' epithets resulted from mythological syncretism between Mars and foreign gods. The most common and significant of these included:

  • Mars Alator, a fusion of Mars with the Celtic deity Alator (possibly meaning "Huntsman" or "Cherisher"), known from inscription found in England, on an altar at South Shields and a silver-gilt votive plaque at Barkway, Hertfordshire. [5][6]
  • Mars Albiorix, a fusion of Mars with the ancient Celtic deity Toutatis, using the epithet Albiorix ("King of the World"). Mars Albiorix was worshiped as protector of the Albici tribe of southern France, and was regarded as a mountain god. Another epithet of Toutatis, Caturix ("King of Combat"), was used in the combination Mars Caturix, which was worshiped in Gaul, possibly as the tribal god of the Caturiges.[1]
  • Mars Barrex, from Barrex or Barrecis (probably meaning "Supreme One"), a Celtic god known only from a dedicatory inscription found at Carlisle, England.[6]
  • Mars Belatucadrus, an epithet found in five inscriptions in the area of Hadrian's Wall in England, based on equating the Celtic deity Belatu-Cadros with Mars.
  • Mars Braciaca, a synthesis of Mars with the Celtic god Braciaca. This deity is only known from a single inscription at Bakewell, England.[6]
  • Mars Camulos, from the Celtic war god Camulus.
  • Mars Capriociegus, from an Iberian god who was linked to Mars. He is invoked in two inscriptions in the Pontevedra region of northwest Spain.
  • Mars Cocidius, a combination of Mars with the Celtic woodland hunting god Cocidius. He is referenced around northwest Cumbria and Hadrian's Wall, and was chiefly a war god only in instances where he was equated with Mars.
  • Mars Condatis, from the Celtic god of the confluence of rivers, Condatis. Mars Condatis, who oversaw water and healing, is known from inscriptions near Hadrian's Wall, at Piercebridge, Bowes and Chester-le-Street.[6][7]


The name of the third month of the year, March, is derived from Mars via the Roman month Martius, which was considered a lucky time to go to war.

The blood-red fourth planet in the Solar System, Mars, was also named after Mars; an adjective form of Mars, Martian (from Martianus), is most commonly used in reference to the planet. Another adjective form of Mars, Martial (from Martialis), is instead associated with war, as in martial law. Martial, along with another adjectival form, Martin (from Martinus), is a common name.

The planet Mars and the male sex are both commonly represented by the astronomical or gender symbol ♂, which originally represented the shield and spear of Mars and was popularized as the alchemical symbol for iron.

See also


  1. ↑ a b Green, Miranda J. (1992). Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend (pp. 140–144). London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0500015163.
  2. ↑ Richardson, L. (1992). A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (pp. 244–245). Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801843006.
  3. ↑ Scullard, H.H. (1981). Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (p. 127). London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0801414024.
  4. ↑ Steinby, E. (Ed.) (1993). Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae Volume I, A–C (p. 222–223). Rome: Quasar. ISBN 8870970191.
  5. ↑ 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. ISBN 0197259545.
  6. ↑ a b c d Ross, Anne (1967). Pagan Celtic Britain. Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0902357034.
  7. ↑ Jones, Barri & Mattingly, David (1990). An Atlas of Roman Britain (p. 275). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 1842170678.


Mars in Roman Religion

Roman mythology series

Major deities

Apollo | Ceres | Diana | Juno | Jupiter | Mars | Mercury | Minerva | Venus | Vulcan

Divus Augustus | Divus Julius | Fortuna | Lares | Pluto | Quirinus | Sol | Vesta

Retrieved from ""

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Dictionary of Greek Mythology

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M

N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z