Web Theoi
POLEMOS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin, Roman Name Translation
Πολεμος Polemos Polemus, Bellum War (polemos)

POLEMOS (or Polemus) was the spirit (daimon) of war and battle. Polemos is quite similar to Ares, the god of war, and the Makhai (Battles). His opposite number was Eirene (Peace).

PARENTS

Nowhere stated

OFFSPRING

ALALA (Pindar Dithyrambs Frag 78)


Pindar, Dithyrambs Fragment 78 (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Harken! O Alala (War-shout), daughter of Polemos (War)! Prelude of spears! To whom soldiers are sacrificed for their city’s sake in the holy sacrifice of death."

Aristophanes, Peace 205 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Comedy in which Polemos, the daimon of war, traps Eirene (Peace) in a pit:]
Hermes: Because of their wrath against the Greeks. They [the gods] have located Polemos (Daimon of War) in the house they occupied themselves [Olympos] and have given him full power to do with you exactly as he pleases; then they went as high up as ever they could, so as to see no more of your fights and to hear no more of your prayers.
Trygaios: What reason have they for treating us so?
Hermes: Because they have afforded you an opportunity for peace more than once, but you have always preferred war. If the Lakonians got the very slightest advantage, they would exclaim, ‘By the Twin Brethren! the Athenians shall smart for this.’ If, on the contrary, the latter triumphed and the Lakonians came with peace proposals, you would say, ‘By Demeter, they want to deceive us. No, by Zeus, we will not hear a word; they will always be coming as long as we hold Pylos.’
Trygaios: Yes, that is quite the style our folk do talk in.
Hermes: So that I don't know whether you will ever see Eirene (Peace) again.
Trygaios: Why, where has she gone to then?
Hermes: Polemos (War) has cast her into a deep pit.
Trygaios: Where?
Hermes: Down there, at the very bottom. And you see what heaps of stones he has piled over the top, so that you should never pull her out again.
Trygaios: Tell me, what is Polemos (War) preparing against us?
Hermes: All I know is that last evening he brought along a huge mortar.
Trygaios: And what is he going to do with his mortar?
Hermes: He wants to pound up all the cities of Greece in it . . . But I must say good-bye, for I think he is coming out; what an uproar he is making! (He departs in haste.)
Trygaios: Ah! great gods let us seek safety; I think I already hear the noise of this fearful war mortar. (He hides.)
Polemos (War) (enters, carrying a huge mortar): Oh! mortals, mortals, wretched mortals, how your jaws will snap!
Trygaios: Oh! divine Apollon! what a prodigious big mortar! Oh, what misery the very sight of Polemos (War) causes me! This then is the foe from whom I fly, who is so cruel, so formidable, so stalwart, so solid on his legs!
Polemos: Oh! Prasiai! thrice wretched, five times, aye, a thousand times wretched! for thou shalt be destroyed this day. (He throws some leeks into the mortar.)
Trygaios (to the audience): This, gentlemen, does not concern us over much; it's only so much the worse for the Lakonians.
Polemos: Oh! Megara! Megara! utterly are you going to be ground up! what fine mincemeat are you to be made into! (He throws in some garlic.)
Trygaios (aside): Alas! alas! what bitter tears there will be among the Megarians!
Polemos (throwing in some cheese): Oh, Sikelia (Sicily)! you too must perish! Your wretched towns shall be grated like this cheese. Now let us pour some Attic honey into the mortar. (He does so.)
Trygaios (aside): Oh! I beseech you! use some other honey; this kind is worth four obols; be careful, oh! be careful of our Attic honey.
Polemos: Hi! Kydoimos (daimon of Tumult), you slave there!
Kydoimos (Cydoemus, Tumult): What do you want?
Polemos: Out upon you! Standing there with folded arms! Take this cuff on the head for your pains.
Kydoimos: Oh! how it stings! Master, have you got garlic in your fist, I wonder?
Polemos: Run and fetch me a pestle.
Kydoimos: But we haven't got one; it was only yesterday we moved.
Polemos: Go and fetch me one from Athens, and hurry, hurry!
Kydoimos: I'll hurry; if I return without one, I shall have no cause for laughing. (He runs off.)
Trygaios (to the audience): Ah! what is to become of us, wretched mortals that we are? See the danger that threatens if he returns with the pestle, for Polemos (War) will quietly amuse himself with pounding all the towns of Hellas to pieces. Ah! Bakkhos! cause this Herald of evil to perish on his road!
Polemos (to the returning Kydoimos): Well?
Kydoimos: Well, what?
Polemos: You have brought back nothing?
Kydoimos: Alas! the Athenians have lost their pestle--the tanner, who ground Greece to powder.
Trygaios: Oh! Athene, venerable mistress! it is well for our city he is dead, and before he could serve us with this hash.
Polemos: Then go and seek one at Sparta and have done with it!
Kydoimos: Aye, aye, master! (He runs off.)
Polemos (shouting after him): Be back as quick as ever you can.
Trygaios (to the audience): What is going to happen, friends? This is the critical hour. Ah! if there is some initiate of Samothrake among you, this is surely the moment to wish this messenger some accident-some sprain or strain.
Kydoimos (returning): Alas! alas! thrice again, alas [Kydoimos is still unable to find a pestle]! . . . [Polemos and Kydoimos depart.]
Trygaios (coming out of his hiding-place): . . . Now, oh Greeks! is the moment when freed of quarrels and fighting, we should rescue sweet Eirene (Peace) and draw her out of this pit, before some other pestle prevents us. Come, labourers, merchants, workmen, artisans, strangers, whether you be domiciled or not, islanders, come here, Greeks of all countries, come hurrying here with picks and levers and ropes! . . .
(The Chorus enters; it consists of labourers and farmers from various Greek states.) . . .
Trygaios: Silence! if Polemos (War) should hear your shouts of joy he would bound forth from his retreat in fury . . . You will work my death if you don't subdue your shouts. Polemos (War) will come running out and trample everything beneath his feet."

Aesop, Fables 533 (from Babrius 70) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"The gods were getting married. One after another, they all got hitched, until finally it was time for Polemos (War) to draw his lot, the last of the bachelors. Hybris (Reckless Pride) became his wife, since she was the only one left without a husband. They say Polemos loved Hybris with such abandon that he still follows her everywhere she goes. So do not ever allow Hybris to come upon the nations or cities of mankind, smiling fondly at the crowds, because Polemos (War) will be coming right behind her."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 424 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Many of them [soldiers battling at Troy] dyed the earth red: aye waxed the havoc of death as friends and foes were stricken. O'er the strife shouted for glee Enyo, sister of Polemos (War)."

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 268 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"[Aeneas is guided by the Sibyl on a journey through the Underworld:] On they went dimly, beneath the lonely night amid the gloom, through the empty halls of Dis [Haides] and his phantom realm . . . Just before the entrance, even within the very jaws of Orcus [Haides], Luctus [Penthos, Grief] and avenging Curae (Cares) have set their bed; there pale Morbi [Nosoi, Diseases] dwell, sad Senectus [Geras, Old-Age], and Metus [Phobos, Fear], and Fames [Limos, hunger], temptress to sin, and loathly Egestas [Aporia, Want], shapes terrible to view; and Letum [Thanatos, Death] and Labor [Ponos, Toil]; next, Letum's (Death's) own brother Sopor [Hypnos, Sleep], and Gaudia (the soul's Guilty Joys), and, on the threshold opposite, the death-dealing Bellum [Polemos, War], and the Eumenides' [the Furies'] iron cells, and maddening Discordia [Eris, Strife], her snaky locks entwined with bloody ribbons. In the midst an elm, shadowy and vast, spreads her boughs and aged arms, the whome which, men say, false Somnia [Oneiroi, Dreams] hold, clinging under every leaf."


Sources:

  • Pindar, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
  • Aristophanes, Peace - Greek Comedy C5th-4th B.C.
  • Aesop, Fables - Greek Fables C6th B.C.
  • Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
  • Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.

Other references not currently quoted here: Heraclitus 53; Damascius de Principes 423