Against the Gods

“Ares” by Hannah Phillips


I was excited to receive a new piece a while back from my friend and artist Hannah Phillips depicting the Greek god Ares.

Though he himself isn’t anything directly meaningful to me, Ares is the god I remember most because he was wounded by Diomedes, the only man in Greek literature to wound two immortal gods in battle and survive, and perhaps my favorite hero from Greek mythos.

It happens in Book V of The Iliad. Diomedes has wounded Aphrodite, who was fighting on behalf of the Trojans, and he’s just attacked Apollo. Apollo angrily calls Ares to battle and Diomedes orders the Greeks to retreat from the god of war, telling Athena:

Goddess, I know you truly and will not hide anything from you. I am following your instructions and retreating for I know that Ares is fighting among the Trojans.

To which Athena replies, encouraging him to stand strong:

Diomedes most dear to my heart, do not fear this immortal or any other god for I will protect you.

Diomedes turns back to the battle and throws his spear at Ares, wounding him and causing him to flee from the battle.

Diomedes. Glyptothek, Munich


Understand that this was rare in Greek mythology and totally unheard of in other world literature. Men do not stand up to gods and live. Yet Diomedes did, and not only that, he actually struck a blow against them. He caused the god of war to run away.

Seeing his statue in Munich a few years ago, I was glad to see that it matched his deeds. Diomedes has been symbol to me of man become god, not literally — Diomedes wasn’t immortal —  but through action that was so daring and so out of bounds from the norm that it took on godlike significance and qualities.