Aries Mythology: Golden Fleece & the God of War 

Updated February 8, 2022
warriors in battle sword

Aries mythology can be broken down into very different myths. The first is the mythology behind the magical flying ram with the golden fleece. This myth is quite different from the collection of myths related to Aries or Ares, the Greek god of war.

Aries Mythology and the Golden Fleece

Mythologists agree that Aries mythology relates to the ram whose Golden Fleece was the object of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. The constellation of Aries was named to honor the ram in the epic story.

The Magical Golden Ram

This myth begins when King Athamas of Boeotia marries Ino. His twins, Helle and Pheixus, were children by his deceased first wife, Nephele. Ino hated her new step-children and came up with a devious plot to spread a disease that caused the crops to fail. She then conned a revered oracle into telling the people that the only way to stop the famine was to sacrifice the twins to the gods. The children were spared when their mother Nephele, from the spirit world, begged the gods to save her children and the gods sent a magical golden ram that could fly to save them. Helle and Phrixus climbed onto the ram's back, and it flew the twins out of harm's way. Unfortunately, Helle fell off the ram's back into the sea and perished.

The Sacrifice of the Golden Ram

In gratitude to the gods for saving him, Phrixus sacrificed the ram and presented its golden fleece to his host, King Aeetes of Colchi, who suspended the fleece from a tree in the Grove of Aries (Ares) and charged a dragon serpent to guard it.

The Quest for the Golden Fleece

Jason escapes with Medea and the Golden Fleece

Jason and the Argonauts set out to retrieve the golden fleece in order to reclaim Jason's rightful throne from his uncle, King Pelias. When Jason demands the return of his throne, Pelias asks that Jason first accomplish a difficult task to prove his worth. He then tasks Jason with retrieving the Golden Fleece from the edge of the world in a land called Colchis. Pelias was sure that Jason would either perish on the hazardous journey or be killed by the dragon guarding the fleece. However, with the help of Medea, who had the mighty gift of incantations, Jason successfully put the dragon into a deep slumber. While the monster slept, Jason took the golden fleece and sailed away victorious with Medea.

Ares the Greek God of War Myths

In Greek mythology, Ares was a lover, devoted and loyal father, and a warrior with an unhealthy thirst for bloodletting. He was the son of Zeus and Hera. However, Ares's love of war didn't endear him to anyone, including his parents. Due to his thirst for battle, he chose to live among the warring tribe of Thrace, who was known for constantly battling with other tribes. Still, perhaps the most well-known myth about Ares is his passionate and ongoing love affair with Aphrodite.

Ares and Aphrodite

Aphrodite sculpture in water

Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, passion, and procreation. In Greek mythology, she was married to Ares' half-brother, Hephaestus. Aphrodite was unfaithful to Hephaestus and had an affair with Ares. While Hephaestus worked in his workshop at night, Aphrodite and Ares took advantage of his absence to make love until dawn. A young man named Alectryon always accompanied Ares. His job was to let the couple know when Helios (the sun) appeared on the horizon. However, one day, Alectryon, lost track of time and failed to inform the couple. When Helios saw the couple locked in a passionate embrace, he immediately told Hephaestus. Of course, Hephaestus was hurt and sought revenge. Wanting to catch the illicit couple in the act, he made a nearly invisible net and left it on the bed. This net trapped the lovers locked in a very intimate embrace. Hephaestus then summoned all the Olympian gods and goddesses to view the unfortunate pair, after which, the lovers were set free to go their ways. However, the lovers continued to be together for many years, and both had numerous other lovers.

Ares, Aphrodite, and Adonis

Adonis, the son of the King of Syria and Myrrha, was a remarkably beautiful youth and a master hunter. Aphrodite became smitten with Adonis and cautioned him not to stray too far into the forest during his hunting trips for fear something would happen to him. However, young Adonis didn't heed Aphrodite's warning and walked deep into the woods. Suddenly, he came upon a wild boar that, with one massive heave of its head, pierced the young man with its tusk and killed him. According to myth, the boar that killed Adonis was Ares, the lover of Aphrodite, who disguised himself as a boar and killed Adonis in a jealous rage.

Ares, Aphrodite, and Eos

Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Ares, and like with so many others, Ares couldn't resist the beauty of Eos. Ares and Eos had a very brief love affair, and during the affair, Ares took care that his most famous love, Aphrodite, would not find out. Ares and Eos would hide in the woods. Of course, Aphrodite was suspicious and wanted to find Ares. Unable to find him herself, she went to see if he was planning war strategies with his sister Athena. Wanting to help Aphrodite, Athena told her to follow her pet owl, who would lead her to Ares. Aphrodite found Ares and Eos holding hands on a cliff-side. Angry, jealous, and out for vengeance, Aphrodite cast a curse upon Eos that bequeathed her to be perpetually in love and have insatiable sexual desires.

Ares and the Twin Giants

Otus and Ephialtes were the giant twin sons of the god of the sea, Poseidon, and Iphidemia, a mortal. The twin brothers grew enormous at a young age and were very aggressive hunters. According to the myth, the giant twins planned to take over Mt. Olympus, the home of the gods, by piling up three mountains, one on top of the other. Their motive was to gain access to goddesses, Artemis and Hera. It seems Otus desired Artemis, and Ephialtes desired Hera. When Ares tried to stop them, he was defeated and imprisoned inside a bronze urn for thirteen months on the island of Naxos. This could have been the end of Ares if Eriboea, the stepmother of the giants, hadn't informed the messenger of the gods, Hermes, who then rescued him. The attempt to storm Mt. Olympus was unsuccessful. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, transformed herself into a beautiful stag and raced between the two giants, who hurled their spears at the stag, missed the stag, and instead killed each other.

Ares and Hercules

Hercules, the divine hero and a demigod in Greek mythology, was on his way to the Oracle of Delphi when he came across Cycnus, a blood-thirsty killer and a son of Ares. When they met, Cycnus challenged Hercules to a wrestling duel, then threw his spear at Hercules' shield, failing to penetrate it. Then Hercules drove his spear through Cycnus' neck and killed him. When Ares found out about the death of his son, Cycnus, he was enraged and attacked Hercules with his spear. However, Athena, Ares's half-sister, and the protector goddess of Hercules stepped in and turned Ares's spear away. After that, Ares drew his sword and moved to strike Hercules. However, Hercules found an opening and thrust his spear into Ares's thigh. After the battle, Ares' sons, Phobos and Deimos, carried the injured Ares to safety.

Ares and Sisyphus

In this myth, Ares's father, Zeus, takes the form of an eagle and abducts a nymph named Aegina. King Sisyphus of Corinth knew about this abduction and revealed where she was to her father, the river god Asopus, who caused a spring to flow on the Corinthian acropolis. Infuriated, Zeus ordered Thanatos, the personification of death, to throw Sisyphus into a deep abyss where the wicked received divine punishment known as Tartarus. However, Sisyphus tricked Thanatos into chaining himself and held him captive. Due to the chaining of Thanatos, no one on earth died. This caused a problem for Ares because no human or monster could be killed in battle. When Ares figured out the problem, he rescued Thanatos and turned King Sisyphus over to him. As a punishment for his trickery in cheating death, Zeus sent Sisyphus to Tartarus, where he would eternally roll a massive boulder up a steep hill.

Ares's and His Half-Sister Athena

Athena statue

In all of Greek Mythology, no two gods hold a worse grudge against one another than the deities Athena and Ares. It isn't surprising that Aries was often at odds with his half-sister, Athena, the goddess of warfare, strategy, and wisdom. Athena was a strategist who saw the value of bargaining for peace to end a war. On the other hand, her brother would charge on with the war, never wanting an end to the bloodshed. Their mythological rivalry was so powerful that it spilled over into the real world - the rivalry between the Greek cities, Sparta and Athens. Each of these cities was entirely shaped by their chosen god: Sparta's values were built upon the worship of Ares, the god of war. Athens's society revolved around the civil code of Athena, the goddess of strategy and wisdom.

Aries in Greek Mythology

Astrology and myth are deeply interconnected. The zodiac signs and many other astrological concepts have roots in Greek Mythology. Ancient Greeks were fascinated by the constellations in the night sky. They gave significant meaning to each and aligned each zodiac sign with a god or goddess. The cardinal fire sign, Aries that's ruled by Mars, was aligned with the Greek god of war, Ares.

Aries Mythology: Golden Fleece & the God of War