I have been reading the Iliad in the Penguin Classics edition (translated by Emile Victor Rieu and Martin Hammond), and in the second book, when Homer is naming the groups of Achaeans and Trojans, the translation keeps adding "branch of Ares" to different peoples names, for example:

Polypoites was not alone, but partnered by Leonteus, branch of Ares, son of proudhearted Koronos, Kaineus' son. With them there followed forty black ships.

I can't find anything online that explains this naming. Does it form part of the poem's rhythmic scheme in ancient Greek, in the same way that Athena has descriptors added to her name depending on the position within the verse, or is this a translation specific to this book?

2 Answers 2


“Branch of Ares” is a literal translation of “ὄζος Ἄρηος”, for example in the passage quoted in the question:

οὐκ οἶος, ἅμα τῷ γε Λεοντεὺς ὄζος Ἄρηος
υἱὸς ὑπερθύμοιο Κορώνου Καινεΐδαο:
τοῖς δ᾽ ἅμα τεσσαράκοντα μέλαιναι νῆες ἕποντο.

Homer. The Iliad, book II, lines 745–747. Oxford University Press (1920).

“Branch” here means “descendant”: it is a metaphor of a family tree, with Ares being the trunk and his descendants being boughs, branches, or twigs. Here are some other translations of the phrase:

Nor did he lead them alone, but Leonteus, descendant of Ares,
Aided him, son of Coronos the high-soul’d, offspring of Cœneus:
These then two score dark-hull’d good ships followed in order.

James Inglis Cochrane (1867). Homer’s Iliad, p. 43. Edinburgh.

                                                nor went alone Polypoites:
With him in joint command was Leonteus scion of Ares,
Even Coronus’ son the high-souled offspring of Caineus.
Forty the dark-hulled ships that sailed with these to command them.

Henry Smith Wright (1885). The Iliad of Homer, p. 39. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell.

But Polypœtes was not sole in command, for with him was Leonteus, of the race of Mars, who was son of Coronus, the son of Cæneus. And with these there came forty ships.

Samuel Butler (1898). The Iliad of Homer, pp. 35–36. London: Longmans, Green.

Whether Leonteus is literally descended from Ares, or whether his warlike prowess is such as to give him metaphorical kinship to the god of war, is not clear: we can read the phrase either way.

Homer frequently employs set phrases like “branch of Ares” that fit the rhythm of the poem (dactylic hexameter). In this rhythm, the fifth foot of the line is usually a dactyl and the last foot nearly always a trochee or spondee, so a phrase like “ὄζος Ἄρηος”, which scans as a dactyl and a spondee (“ōzŏs ă-|rēōs”), can be conveniently placed at the end of any line. Repeated phrases fitting the rhythm are known as Homeric epithets, and are characteristic of orally transmitted poetry. In the quoted passage, “ὑπερθύμοιο” meaning “high-sprited, daring” is another such epithet.


For comparison, see Augustus Taber Murray's translation (1924), which also mentions Ares:

[738] And they that held Argissa, and dwelt in Gyrtone, Orthe, and Elone, and the white city of Oloösson, these again had as leader Polypoetes, staunch in fight, son of Peirithous, whom immortal Zeus begat—even him whom glorious Hippodameia conceived to Peirithous on the day when he got him vengeance on the shaggy centaurs, and thrust them forth from Pelium, and drave them to the Aethices. Not alone was he, but with him was Leonteus, scion of Ares, the son of Caenus' son, Coronus, high of heart. And with them there followed forty black ships.

Not every translation mentions Ares in this context. For example, Theodore Alois Buckley's translation (1860) doesn't:

Those who possessed Argissa, and inhabited Gyrtone, and Orthe, and Elone, and the white city Oloosson: these the stout warrior Polypœtes, son of Pirithous, whom immortal Jove begat, commanded. Him renowned Hippodamia brought forth by Pirithous, on the day when he took vengeance on the shaggy Centaurs, and drove them from Mount Pelion, and chased them to the Æthiceans. He was not the only leader; with him commanded warlike Leonteus, son of magnanimous Coronus, the son of Cœneus. With these forty dark ships followed.

Going further back in time, Alexander Pope's translation (1715) does not mention Ares either:

Thy troops, Argissa, Polypœtes leads,
And Eleon, sheltered by Olympus' shades,
Gyrtonè's warriors; and where Orthè lies,
And Oloösson's chalky cliffs arise.
Sprung from Pirithoüs of immortal race,
The fruit of fair Hippodamè's embrace,
That day, when, hurled from Pelion's cloudy head,
To distant dens the shaggy Centaurs fled,
With Polypœtes joined in equal sway,
Leonteus leads, and forty ships obey.

Leonteus is the name of several characters in Greek mythology. The Leonteus in the Iliad is one of the commanders of the Lapiths. One of the kings of the Lapiths was Ixion, who may have been the son of Ares (or of a certain Leonteus according to Hyginus). Wikpedia lists one other Lapith who may have been a son of Ares (or of the Titan Iapetus) namely Dryas.

Neither Leonteus's father Coronus or his grandfather Caeneus are said to be descended from Ares. The reference to Ares is consistent with Ares promise to fight on the side of the Greeks during the Trojan war. (At least that is what he did at the start; he later switched to the Trojan side.)

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