Early Times

BEFORE 1500 (the first observations of Mars)

In the earliest days of Mars observation, all that was known about it was that it appeared to be a fiery red and followed a strange loop in the sky, unlike any other.

The Babylonians studied astronomy as early as 400 BC, and developed advanced methods for predicting astronomical events such as eclipses. They made careful observations for their calendars and religious reasons, but never attempted to explain the phenomena they witnessed. The Babylonians called Mars Nergal - the great hero, the king of conflicts.

The Egyptians were the first to notice that the stars seem "fixed" and that the sun moves relative to the stars. They also noticed five bright objects in the sky (Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn) that seemed to move in a similar manner. They called Mars Har Decher - the Red One.

Greeks called the planet Ares after their god of war, while the Romans called it Mars. Its sign is thought to be the shield and sword of Mars.

Historical Perspective...

Mars, the God of War
(Mars, the God of War)

Greek and Roman mythology tells of the god of war, the son of Zeus and Hera, who was despised by his parents. The Greeks called him Ares, and the Romans called him Mars. The Greeks portrayed him as hateful and murderous, yet a coward, as shown in Homer's Illiad. The Romans, who glorified war, and considered him a mighty warrior. Some Romans worshipped him, even leaving sacrifices at his altar.

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