Mars and the Tale of Two Goddesses

by Erin on March 29, 2012

It’s still March, so let’s have a story about the Roman god Mars to end the month, shall we?

Mars was closely associated with the Greek god of war, Ares, in mythology. For this reason, there are few distinctly Roman tales about this important figure. One of the main exceptions is the story of Mars and Anna Perenna. A tale about a god and a goddess? It must be a romance! Okay, well, actually it’s sort of a romance, and sort of not. Read on and I’ll tell you more about this legendary liaison.

Our source for this tale is the Fasti of Ovid. Yet again, good old Ovid offers us the inside information about myth. You see, Mars developed a passion for the goddess Minerva. Now Minerva (who you may recognize better by her Greek name Athena) was a chaste goddess. She refused suitors and admitted no man - or god - to her bed. However, gods can be persuasive and persistent. This is where Anna Perenna enters the story.

Anna Perenna was selected by Mars as a sort of intermediary between himself and Minerva. For one thing, she was older and perhaps wiser. And definitely not a young and eternally beautiful goddess like the object of his affection. Anna Perenna understood the situation, and quickly realized that Minerva would not succumb to the charms of Mars. So she devised a plan.

All was arranged. The time came for Mars to visit his beloved Minerva. You can bet that the god of war was excited to be united with the lovely goddess. When Mars sauntered over to claim his prize, he was more than shocked to see that his bride to be was not Minerva, but instead - surprise! - Anna Perenna. Clever Anna had fooled Mars, and foiled his plans to wed Minerva. In turn, this ruse was thought to be an explanation for some of the more colorful aspects of the Festival held in Anna’s honor.

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