Mars was a very ancient Italian god of agriculture, the protector of fields and boundaries; in the old Roman calendar, the new year began with his month, March. When he became identified with the Greek god Ares during the early Republic, he took on the role of god of war and thus served as a major deity in the pantheon of the Romans, who were so proud of their military prowess. Mar had his own special priest among the ancient order of Roman priests called flamines; the flamen Martialis was one of the three major flamines, who were required to be patricians.

Indeed, Roman legend made Mars the founder of the Roman race with the story that the god had impregnated the vestal Rhea Silvia, who gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus. In mythology, Mars was the lover of the goddess Venus, who as the mother of Aeneas was also associated with the legendary origins of Rome. In the Forum of Augustus in Rome, the emperor Augustus built a Temple of Mars Ultor (“Mars the Avenger”) to commemorate his victory over those who had assassinated his adoptive father, Julius Caesar; you can visit this temple in Region VIII of VRoma.

This second-century CE Roman bronze statuette of Mars shows the god wearing elaborate, Greek-style armor.