Ancient Greek legends are full of destructive battles and raging wars. Some of the most important stories in Greek mythology revolve around major conflicts. Take, for example, the Trojan War and the Titanomachy. Both shaped the mythos and left a lasting impression that prevails today.
When most people think of the aggressive nature of war, they imagine the Olympian god Ares. Known for his violent tendencies and insatiable lust for war, Ares was an unbeatable force in mythology. But, he wasn’t the only war god to exist.
According to many accounts, lesser gods help the spirit of Ares. They, too, led men into battle and thrived in the bloodshed of war. One example is Enyalius.
Stories of Enyalius are few and far between. He’s considered a minor god or spirit. Very few texts exist of this figure. His presence in Greek mythology is so small that it’s unclear if he existed at all or if his brief mentions refer to more recognization entities. The truth behind Enyalius is lost to the sands of time, but he’s still a studied part of the mythology thanks to his famous lineage.
The Origins of Enyalius
There’s a lot of confusion involving the existence of Enyalius. However, those living in Mycenaean times regarded Enyalius as an individual entity. He was a minor spirit of war, supporting more prominent figures in their endeavors.
The most commonly accepted story of Enyalius’ lineage is that he was the progeny of Ares and Enyo. Ares was, of course, one of the Twelve Olympians. He sat on Mount Olympus and ruled the world alongside his many siblings.
Ares was one of the most feared figures in Greek mythology. He was a skilled warrior who could dominate any mortal or immortal who dared challenge him. Known for his brutal approach to battle, the deity was a legendary figure who put violence at the help.
Enyalius’ mother was Enyo, a goddess of war responsible for orchestrating the destruction of cities. She’s most known for her actions during the fall of Troy, the war of the Seven Against the Thebes, and Dionysus‘ war with the Indians. She frequently accompanied Ares into battle, leading to a brief affair. According to “The Theogony” by Hesiod, Enyalius was her only child.
Of course, Enyalius was not the only son of Ares. The god of war had many children. Many of them would play much more prominent roles in Greek mythology than Enyalius. Some of Ares’ most famous children, and Enyalius’ siblings, include Phobos, Deimos, the Erotes, the Amazons, and Harmonia.
Some versions of the short tale say that Enyalius is actually the son of Cronus and Rhea. However, that connection would make him a Titan and create conflict with the relationship with Ares.
There are a couple of other potential explanations for Enyalius. While more than one scholar wrote about Enyalius as a person, some think that the term was used for other purposes.
One was to describe members of the Ares cult. In this case, Enyalius is viewed as the god of warriors and soldiers.
Another theory is that Enyalius simply got lost in translation. It may be an Anatolian loanword with a translation that got lost or mixed up during retellings of the mythology.
Enyalius as Ares
The biggest source of confusion comes in the differing viewpoints of who Enyalius was. Some authors even switched back and forth. One of the most famous sources of Greek mythology, “The Illiad” by Homer, mentions Enyalius a mere nine times. But, four of those occasions utilize the same naming formula as Homer’s description of Meriones, a war leader from Crete. Yet again, Homer uses the name “Enyalius” as an epithet of Ares.
Interestingly enough, it’s not only Homer that adds to the confusion.
Later, Apollonius Rhodius used the name Enyalius sporadically throughout his work. It appears most often in “Argonautica.” There, he uses both Ares and Enyalius in the same sentence! Some scholars theorize that it was the Alexandrian author’s attempt at infusing some Homeric details into his work. Essentially, he was copying Homer’s naming scheme.
Scholars believe that Alcman, an early choral lyric poet, used Ares and Enyalius interchangeably. He used Enyalius to describe Ares, but he also differentiated the two names as two separate figures.
In “Anabasis,” the Xenophon of Athens used the Enyalius name a little differently. The Athenian military leader and philosopher said that Greek mercenaries used it as a war cry as they charged the Persian army. However, whether they used it as a cry to the minor god Enyalius, a call to the Olympian Ares, or a new chant is not clear.
Eventually, using both Ares and Enyalius together became the norm. Take, for example, “Moralia” by Plutarch. In this work, Plutarch talks about the brave women of Argos who survived attacks by the kings of Sparta. Survivors of the attack built a temple to “Ares Enyalius.”
Some writers, such as Aristophanes, continued to envision Ares and Enyalius as separate figures. But, those examples started to dwindle. With every new generation of retellers, the story of Enyalius merged into that of Ares. It went from using the two names in the same sentence to using Enyalius as a byname for Ares!
Notable examples include work by Pausanias. He states that Lacedaemonians believed that chaining up Enyalius would prevent the god from leaving Sparta, granting them power for battle.
Later, the first-century historian Josephus briefly mentions Enyalius when he talks about the Tower of Babel. In a short passage, he describes priests who took the sacred vessels of Zeus and Enyalius. As a minor god, it’s unlikely that Zeus and Enyalius would interact. As a result, most scholars agree that this instance is using Enyalius as a name for Ares.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to talk about in terms of Enyalius’ staying power in Greek mythology. We still don’t know for sure if Enyalius was the son of Ares, the name of a minor god, or just a nickname of the all-powerful god of War.
It’s easier to envision Enyalius as a separate entity. But the truth is that the surviving texts simply don’t cover enough of Enyalius and his place in ancient Greek history.
If he was a minor god or war spirit, we don’t know about his adventures or times in battle. There’s no information about his family life beyond his supposed lineage. As a result, we can’t say for sure that he got married, died early, or had children.
There’s no artwork depicting his physical appearance, either. Any works of art attributed to Enyalius are usually modelled after Ares, only cementing the confusion further.
The story of Enyalius is essentially non-existence. The only thing to survive that passing of time is his name.
Enyalius was also known as “Enyalius.”
He is a minor god or spirit of war.
Enyalius is the son of Ares, the god of war, and Enyo, the goddess of war.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether Enyalius was a separate entity or simply another title of Ares.
Enyalius is mentioned several times in works by Homer, Aristophanes, Apollonius Rhodius, Plutarch, and more.
He was largely considered a separate figure during Mycenaean times. However, Enyalius and Ares slowly merged into one figure with time.
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