Myths of The Moons: Deimos and Phobos (Mars)

The Roman gods tended to be variants of Greek deities. Thus, Zeus becomes Jupiter, Aphrodite becomes Venus, and Aries, the god of war, becomes Mars. Only, while the Greeks grudgingly respected Aries, the Romans elevated Mars to far greater heights. After all, Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, where his children (through Venus). But for the Greeks, Aries was not so beloved, even by Zeus, his own father:

Then looking at him darkly, Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to him:
“Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympus.
Forever quarreling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.

And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky

(Iliad, Book 5).

The reason I’m spending time with Aries/Mars is that Phobos and Demos, the two cataloged moons of Mars, don’t really have myths of their own. To put it in modern parlance, they don’t have any speaking lines. Instead, they are essentially personifications of the feelings associated with violent battle (Aries’ brutal aspects must be emphasized – his sister Athena is also a warrior, but she is a tactician, a general, a wise leader. Aries loves war for the sake of war).

So who are Deimos and Phobos, and what do they represent? First, they are twin brothers, born of Aries and Aphrodite (War and Love, making them brothers of Romulus and Remus). Second, they typically ride with Aries into war, along with Eris (Strife/Chaos) and Enyo, Aries’ sister/lover.

Deimos is Trembling, Fear, Dread and Panic. Emphasis on Dread.

Phobos is Fear. Often depicted with a lion’s head, consider the word: Phobos=fear. This is where the word phobia, and all its related forms, comes from.

Not very pleasant names but fitting for the two moons of Mars (it should be noted that these are their Greek, not Roman, names – but in 1877, American astronomer Asaph Hall choose them over their Roman cognates, and there’s at least one great thing about discovery: naming rights).

So, the next time someone tries to sell you a war, read the fine print. Chances are you, you might be buying more than you bargained for, because War doesn’t ride alone. He comes flanked with Strife, Dread and Fear, and more often than not, he tends to outstay his stated visit…

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