Other Religions Paganism and Wicca Mars, Roman God of War Share Flipboard Email Print Walter Bibikow / Getty Images Paganism and Wicca Wicca Gods Basics Rituals and Ceremonies Sabbats and Holidays Herbalism Wicca Traditions Wicca Resources for Parents By Patti Wigington Paganism Expert B.A., History, Ohio University Patti Wigington is a pagan author, educator, and licensed clergy. She is the author of Daily Spellbook for the Good Witch, Wicca Practical Magic and The Daily Spell Journal. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Patti Wigington Updated December 10, 2018 Mars is the Roman god of war, and scholars say he was one of the most commonly worshiped deities in ancient Rome. Because of the nature of Roman society, nearly every healthy patrician male had some connection to the military, so it is logical that Mars was highly revered throughout the Empire. Did You Know? Mars was one of the most commonly worshiped gods in the Roman Empire, in part because every adult Roman male had some connection to the military.The month of March is named in his honor, and several festivals each year were dedicated to Mars, including the Feriae Marti.Because early Roman writers associated Mars with not only warrior prowess, but virility and power, he is often tied to the planting season and agricultural bounty. Early History and Worship In early incarnations, Mars was a fertility god, and a protector of cattle. As time went on, his role as an earth god expanded to include death and the underworld, and finally battle and war. He is known as the father of twins Romulus and Remus, by the Vestal virgin Rhea Silvia. As the father of the men who later founded the city, Roman citizens often referred to themselves as "sons of Mars." Before going into battle, Roman soldiers often gathered at the temple of Mars Ultor (the avenger) on the Forum Augustus. The military also had a special training center dedicated to Mars, called the Campus Martius, where soldiers drilled and studied. Great horseraces were held at the Campus Martius, and after it was over, one of the horses of the winning team was sacrificed in Mars' honor. The head was removed, and became a coveted prize among the spectators. Festivals and Celebrations Loop Images/Nigel Kirby / Getty Images The month of March is named in his honor, and several festivals each year were dedicated to Mars. Each year the Feriae Marti was held, beginning on the Kalends of March and continuing until the 24th. Dancing priests, called the Salii, performed elaborate rituals over and over again, and a sacred fast took place for the last nine days. The dance of the Salii was complex, and involved a lot of jumping, spinning and chanting. On March 25, the celebration of Mars ended and the fast was broken at the celebration of the Hilaria, in which all the priests partook in an elaborate feast. During the Suovetaurilia, held every five years, bulls, pigs and sheep were sacrificed in Mars' honor. This was part of an elaborate fertility ritual, designed to bring prosperity to the harvest. Cato the Elder wrote that as the sacrifice was made, the following invocation was called out: "Father Mars, I pray and beseech theethat thou be gracious and merciful to me,my house, and my household;to which intent I have bidden this suovetauriliato be led around my land, my ground, my farm;that thou keep away, ward off, and remove sickness, seen and unseen,barrenness and destruction, ruin and unseasonable influence;and that thou permit my harvests, my grain, my vineyards,and my plantations to flourish and to come to good issue,preserve in health my shepherds and my flocks, andgive good health and strength to me, my house, and my household.To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm,my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, as I have said,deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims;Father Mars, to the same intent deign to acceptthe offering of these suckling offering." Mars the Warrior Mihaela Muntean / Getty Images As a warrior god, Mars is typically depicted in full battle gear, including a helmet, spear and shield. He is represented by the wolf, and is sometimes accompanied by two spirits known as Timor and Fuga, who personify fear and flight, as his enemies flee before him on the battlefield. Early Roman writers associated Mars with not only warrior prowess, but virility and power. Because of this, he sometimes is tied to the planting season and agricultural bounty. It is possible that Cato's invocation above connects the more wild and frenzied aspects of Mars with the need to tame, control and defend the agricultural environment. In Greek legend, Mars is known as Ares, but was never as popular with the Greeks as he was with the Romans. The third month of the calendar year, March, was named for Mars, and important ceremonies and festivals, especially those related to military campaigns, were held this month in his honor. Mark Cartwright of Ancient History Encyclopedia says, "These rites may also have been connected to agriculture but the nature of Mars' role in this area of Roman life is disputed by scholars."