Though Ares, according to Greek mythology, was the god of war, aggression, rage and all other chaotic emotions that come from battle and bloodlust, he suffered a very embarrassing incident. This ancient mythological tough-guy was overwhelmed and stuffed in a bronze jar by two young brothers (possibly only nine-year-olds) named Otus and Ephialtes.
To be fair, these were no ordinary brothers, and they were far from human. Otus and Ephialtes were immensely powerful giants born to Poseidon and Iphimedeia. By ‘immensely powerful,’ I mean they were virtually indestructible—Hercules (strong enough to harm and embarrass multiple gods) could not place a scratch on the giant brothers and even Zeus’ feared lightning bolts had no effect.
As the story goes, Otus and Ephialtes plotted to march against Olympus and usurp power from Zeus and the gods. Along with their longing for world dominance, Otus lusted after the goddess, Artemis, and Ephialtes felt the same emotion for Zeus’ wife, Hera. Therefore, when they were not trying to break into Olympus, the giant brothers would call out for the goddesses they desired.
Ares, the god of war, charged out of Olympus to defeat the threat to the gods, but was quickly humbled by the giants. Otus and Ephialtes scooped up Ares, as if he were nothing, wrapped him in chains, and stuffed him in a bronze jar. Meanwhile, Artemis answered the call of the giants and appeared before them. After the brothers saw her, she turned into a white doe (other stories claim Apollo sent the doe), and ran in-between the two giants. The brothers, trying to incapacitate or kill Artemis, simultaneously threw spears at the doe, but missed—instead of hitting the doe, they skewered each other. Though Otus and Ephialtes were invulnerable to the attacks of gods and man, they proved to be their own weakness, because they died from their wounds.
Ares, whose only achievement during the giant brothers’ reign of terror was to be captured and imprisoned in a jar, remained in his bronze prison for thirteen months. The god of war was nearing his last breaths when Hermes (one of the most under-appreciated and underestimated of the gods) was informed of Ares’ predicament. Hermes quickly found, and saved, Ares and brought the god of war back to Olympus, where Artemis was being celebrated for her wit and valor. Ares, on the other hand, only gained from the ordeal a tale he wished everyone would forget.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu and edited by Peter Jones. New York: Penguin Classics, 2014.