Mars, we are told, has vast dusty plains. In the dust lies felsite, a reddish mineral. This accounts for the planet's ruddy light. But the ancients saw in the red glow the colour of blood. They linked it with battles and killings. The Romans named the planet Mars after their war god.
They identified many of their gods with Greek deities. Mars was thus Ares in Roman robes. The tales told about the Greek god were also adopted or adapted .
But Ares was not a favourite of the Greeks. Even his parents, Zeus and Hera, did not quite like him. The Romans, however loved and honoured their God. IN fact, Mars was the most Roman of the Roman Gods. To begin with, Mars was not a war God. He was a rustic divinity. His concern was agriculture. He was at that time the god of spring too.
Spring began in the first month of Roman year then. So the month was named March after Mars (The change fro March to January came later). Mars was called upon to protect crops and the people's
health. March was also the month of military campaigns. In time prayers were offered to Mars for protection and victory. This was quite in keeping with the rise of Rome from a farming community to a great power.
Ceres and Liber became the patron deities of agriculture now. But, as before, the feasts of Mars were held in March.
In some of his statues Mars is shown as clean shaven. But he was ideally seen as a handsome, bearded warrior with a helmet and breastplate.