There are many myths and legends referencing Roman history extolling the virtues held in particularly high regard by the Romans: duty, self-sacrifice, honour, bravery, and truthfulness. These were also characterised in Roman gods, minus the very human weaknesses and vices displayed by the Greek gods, from which most of the Roman gods were poached. Names were changed such as for the twelve Olympian Gods and Goddesses who ruled the universe from atop Greece’s Mount Olympus.
Mars is the ancient mythological Roman God of War (Mars Gradivus), (Ares in Greek myth, Tyr in Norse myth) Depicted as a fearless warrior he was the god of war, murder and bloodshed. He was also the god of spring, god of agriculture, and protector of cattle.
Mars, the son of Juno and a magical flower was the Roman god of fertility and vegetation. Roman soldiers offered sacrifices to Mars before and after combat and it was said he appeared on the battlefield with the warrior goddess Bellona. Mars unlike his Greek parallel, the god Ares, was hold in higher regard than any of the other Roman gods, partly because of the importance of military achievement in the republic and the Roman Empire, conquering Northern Africa and much of Europe and the Middle East. Mars ranked second only to Jupiter, probably because his twin sons Romulus and Remus by Princess Rhea Sylvia were said to have founded Rome. Consequently the Roman people called themselves the Sons of Mars. Together with Jupiter and war god, Sabine Quirinius, he was one of the three great guardians of Rome.
Mars is portrayed as a full battle armoured warrior, sporting a crested helmet and carrying a shield. The planet Mars and the male gender are both represented by ♂, which also represented Mars’ shield and spear. The wolf and the woodpecker are sacred to Mars and he is accompanied by Fuga and Timor, portraying flight and fear. (Phobos and Diemos in Greek mythology –moons of the planet Mars).
The month March originates from Roman month Martius is named after Mars. The Romans honoured him with festivals throughout March, when new growth begins in the fields and military conflicts restarted. March 1, saw the celebration the Feriae Marti (“Festivals of Mars”). On March 14, the annual horse race of the Equirria was held, on the army’s and athlete’s training ground, the Campus Martius (“Field of Mars”). On March 23, the Tubilustrium was celebrated by purifying weapons and war-trumpets. October 19, was the Armilustrium festival celebrated in Mars’ honour, when the weapons of the soldiers were cleansed and stored.
In the Regia on the Roman Forum, the hastae Martiae (“lances of Mars”) were kept in a small chamber. If Rome was heading into conflict, the warlords shook their lances fiercely while repeating the words Mars vigila (“Awaken, Mars!”).
Structures such as statues and temples, associated with Roman gods and myths can be found far from the ancient capital Roman mythology’s influence extending farther and lasting longer than the Roman Empire. In Britain an old mosaic displays the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus. It is a reminder of the days when Rome ruled Britain and a mark of how far Roman mythology spread.