Mars (Mythology)

For the planet, see Mars.

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Basic Information

Mars is commonly referred to as the Roman version of Ares, but that really doesn't do justice to Mars. Ares was a violent and bloodthirsty figure, and never very popular in Greece. Mars, in contrast, was one of the most important gods of Roman Mythology, especially in the earliest days. Yes, he was a god of war like Ares, but Mars was more focused on courage and discipline, virility and virtue, than mere bloodshed. In addition to borrowing bits of the greek war god, Mars also took on various aspects of Celtic gods, not only of battle but also of the harvest. Whilst Ares represents mostly the aggressive, almost bestial side of man, Mars possessed a more complete masculinity, as a protector and provider as well as a destroyer. He was a complex and multi-layered figure.

His relationships with the gods are vastly different from those of Ares as well. Mars is the child of Juno only, or possibly the child of two goddesses, Juno and Flora. (Flora used a magic flower to impregnate Juno (at the later's request), which may explain why Mars has elements of being a harvest or wilderness deity.) Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus, and thus was considered the father of Rome itself. More prosaically, as the husband - or at least lover - of Venus, he serves as the main male fertility principle for Roman religion.

Mars' weapon is the spear, and his favored animals are the woodpecker, the goose, and the wolf.

Mars was invoked to protect one's weapons and war-trumpets safe from rust, and to ritually purify them before battle or before putting them away at the end of a military campaign.

The priests of Mars were the Salii, which means "jumpers". This is because during processions within Rome the priests would jump and leap the entire length of the parade.

For a bit more about the context of how Mars and Ares became associated with each other, see interpretatio graeca.



Game and Story Use

  • As discussed on the Ares page, in a game where both mythologies exist, and the gods are real, the GM has to decide how to rectify the Mars vs Ares discrepancies.
    • This could be as simple as two different cultures perceiving the same being in different ways, but may also involve Mars' more varied portfolio compared to Ares.
  • The Salii could make interesting characters. They must be in good physical shape. They may get movement bonuses, or feat or edge that gives them better dodging ability. In systems where characters multiclass, the Salii could easily be warrior-priests.
  • PCs who fail to make tribute to Mars might get penalties in combat, or have their weapons rust and corrode.
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