Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second smallest planet in the Solar System, after Mercury. Named after the Roman god of war, it is often described as the “Red Planet” because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth. The rotational period and seasonal cycles of Mars are likewise similar to those of Earth, as is the tilt that produces the seasons. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the second highest known mountain within the Solar System (the tallest on a planet), and of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature. Mars has two known moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Martian trojan asteroid.
Until the first successful Mars flyby in 1965 by Mariner 4, many speculated about the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface. This was based on observed periodic variations in light and dark patches, particularly in the polar latitudes, which appeared to be seas and continents; long, dark striations were interpreted by some as irrigation channels for liquid water. These straight line features were later explained as optical illusions, though geological evidence gathered by unmanned missions suggest that Mars once had large-scale water coverage on its surface. In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice at the poles and at mid-latitudes. The Mars rover Spirit sampled chemical compounds containing water molecules in March 2007. The Phoenix lander directly sampled water ice in shallow Martian soil on July 31, 2008.
Mars is currently host to five functioning spacecraft: three in orbit – the Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – and two on the surface – Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. Defunct spacecraft on the surface include MER-A Spirit and several other inert landers and rovers such as the Phoenix lander, which completed its mission in 2008. Observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars. In 2013, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered that Mars’ soil contains between 1.5% and 3% water by mass (about two pints of water per cubic foot or 33 liters per cubic meter, albeit attached to other compounds and thus not freely accessible).
Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye, as can its reddish coloring. Its apparent magnitude reaches −3.0, which is surpassed only by Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun. Optical ground-based telescopes are typically limited to resolving features about 300 km (186 miles) across when Earth and Mars are closest because of Earth’s atmosphere.
Mars in Mythology
The mythologic Mars was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions.Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. But the character and dignity of Mars differed in fundamental ways from that of his Greek counterpart, who is often treated with contempt and revulsion in Greek literature.Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people.
The spear is the instrument of Mars in the same way that Jupiter wields the lightning bolt, Neptune the trident, and Saturn the scythe or sickle. The fact that Mars wear this weapon is coherent with the Greek deity attribution Athena and the Roman deity attribution, Artemis, which both have the spear as a magical weapon. A relic or fetish called the spear of Mars was kept in the Regia, the former residence of the Kings of Rome. When Mars is pictured as a peace-bringer, his spear is wreathed with laurel or other vegetation, as on the Ara Pacis or a coin of Aemilianus.
Tree of Life Attributions
The planetary correspondence for the fifth path (Héh) of the qabalistic Tree of Life is Mars. The Yetziratic title for this path is “the Constituting Intelligence,” and its astrological attribution is Aries, the sign of the Ram, ruled by Mars, and in which the Sun is exalted. Its attributions are, hence, fiery and martial. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. It is often described as the “Red Planet”, as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance.This is coherent with the color attribution for this path, which is scarlet red. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars.
Kurt A. Raaflaub, War and Peace in the Ancient World (Blackwell, 2007), p. 15.
 See Varro, Antiquitates frg. 254* (Cardauns); Plutarch, Romulus 29.1; Arnobius, Adversus nationes 6.11.
Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Brill, 2009), p. 88.