Home Science Education Mars, God of War: Origin of the Martial Arts

Mars, God of War: Origin of the Martial Arts

mars, god of war

The Arts of Mars

The term “martial” was derived from the name of the Roman god of War approximately around the 1550’s. The name of this god was “Mars.” In Roman literature he is portrayed as a protector of Rome, which was a nation thriving in battle.  Mars was one of the 12 Olympian gods.

‘Marital arts,”  which began as the “Arts of Mars,” refers to a virtually unfathomable number of combat disciplines from every corner of the Earth. Each region, no matter how large or small, has a set of skills that have been developed in specific adaptation to that particular area.


Some of the factors that differentiate fighting styles include geographic layout, resources, size and skills of the indigenous people, opponents, and historical age in which the skills were developed. Every culture has adapted a style of their own. Today, the concept of a set group of fighting techniques is classified as a “martial art” worldwide.

March: Month of War

The month of March was also named after Mars and was typically filled with festivals (Feriae Marti) in his honor. This could have something to do with the fact that wars were often started or renewed in the spring. Under the rule of Augustus Mars was known as “Mars the Avenger,” and became the personal guardian of the emperor. Around 250 A.D. he is said to have become the most prominent of the military gods. His character and history parallels that of the Greek god Ares, who is considered his equivalent.

Mars was the son of Jupiter and Juno. The planet “Mars” fits into the equation easily as it is named for its red color, representing bloodshed and the heat of battle.


Definition of Martial

Dictionary.com defines the term “martial” in the following way:


[mahr-shuh l] Spell Syllables



•Word Origin


1. inclined or disposed to war; warlike:

The ancient Romans were a martial people.

2. of, suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces:

martial music.

3. characteristic of or befitting a warrior:

a martial stride.

Word Origin and History for martial:

late 14c., from L. martialis “of Mars or war,” from Mars (gen. Martis), Roman god of war. Martial law first recorded 1530s.


Modern Marital Arts 

Martial arts were originally defined as a set of techniques used for war because of its ancient ties to Mars of Rome. This definition adapted over time to also encompass self-defense and the mind-state of a warrior.

The majority of today’s martial artists are not actively preparing for a physical battle against an opposing nation, though in the case of military combatives training this may be the case. For the rest of the world’s marital artists it can be said that every day is battle and that one must train mentally and physically to be ready for whatever life may bring.