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Mars

(also Mavors, Mamers). After Iupiter the principal deity of the inhabitants of Italy, and therefore honoured with particular reverence by the Latins and Romans from the very earliest times, especially as the latter regarded him as the father of Romulus, the founder of Rome. He was held to be the son of Iuno, who bore him in consequence of touching a wonderful spring-flower, and the husband of Nerio or Neriené, a goddess of strength. Through the emphasizing of one of his attributes he gradually came to be considered as, above all, the god of war; for originally he was at the same time one of the mightiest gods of nature, the Vedic Marut, who accords fertility and protection to fields and herds.

The first month of the old Roman year was dedicated to him as the fertilizing god of spring; in the very ancient chant of the Arval Brothers (see Fratres Arvales), at the May-day festival of the Dea Dia, the help and protection of Mars were demanded. In earlier times he was also invoked at the hallowing of the fields (see Ambarvalia), that he might bless the family, the field, and the cattle, and keep off sickness, bad weather, and all else that did harm. (Cf. Robigus.) In later times the names of Ceres and Bacchus were substituted for his on this particular occasion. At the festival on 15th October a horse was sacrificed to him to insure the fair growth of the seed that had been sown. As god of war (cf. Quirinus), his symbols were the ravenous wolf, the prophetic and warlike woodpecker, and the lance. When war broke out, the general solemnly invoked his aid, by smiting his holy lance and the holy shields (ancilia; see Salii) with the cry, “Mars, awake!” (Mars vigila!) Many sacrifices were also offered to him during the campaign and before battle; and in his name military honours were conferred. The Field of Mars (Campus Martius) was dedicated to him as the patron god of warlike exercises; contests with battle-steeds, called Equirria, were there held in his honour on the 27th February, 14th March, and 15th October. On the last-mentioned day the horse on the right of the victorious team was sacrificed on his altar in the Field of Mars; it was known as the horse of October (October equus), and its blood was collected and preserved in the temple of Vesta, and used at the Palilia for purposes of purification. The cult of Mars was entrusted to a special priest, the flamen Martialis (see Flamen), and the college of the Salii (q.v.), which worshipped him more particularly as god of war. His principal festival was in March, the month sacred to him. As early as the time of King Tullus Hostilius, Pavor and Pallor (Fear and Pallor) are said to have been worshipped as his companions in the fight, in sanctuaries of their own. Augustus caused him to be honoured in a new form, as Mars Ultor (the avenger of Caesar), in the magnificent temple in the Forum Augusti, consecrated B.C. 2, where statues of him and of Venus, as the two divine ancestors of the Julian family, were set up. In later times he was identified completely with the Greek Ares. See Ares.

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