How Did Planet Mars Get Its Name?

The name of Mars is steeped in mythology and reflects the observations and beliefs of ancient civilizations.

Known by its nickname the “Red Planet” because of its distinctive color, Mars has been a point of fascination for millennia. This red color is due to the high concentration of iron oxide on its surface.

The Ancient Romans

The ancient Romans, attributing its reddish hue to the god of war’s blood, named Mars after their god of battle and conflict.

This warrior association carried significance because the planet’s color was reminiscent of the battlefield’s bloodshed, solidifying Mars’ position in Roman lore.

The Ancient Greeks

Ancient Greek culture added another layer to the planet’s namesake as Ares, the Greek counterpart to the Roman Mars, embodied violence and war. Different ancient civilizations also recognized the planet, each ascribing their values and deities to it.

The Babylonians

For the Babylonians, it was Nergal, a deity representing pestilence and war, while the ancient Chinese and Japanese connected the planet to fire, one of the fundamental elements in their philosophy.


In India, Mars was known as Mangala, again reflecting an association with war.

These various interpretations showcase how Mars’ name reflects a rich tapestry of cultural mythology and observation, united by the shared view of the planet as a symbol of conflict and power.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Mars referred to as the Red Planet?

Mars is often called the Red Planet due to its reddish appearance, which is caused by iron oxide, or rust, on its surface.

Which deity in Roman mythology shares its name with Mars, and why?

The planet shares its name with Mars, the Roman god of war, due to the planet’s blood-like color reminiscent of warfare’s association with blood.

What characteristics led to Mars being associated with the Roman god of war?

Mars’s reddish hue in the sky led to the association with the Roman god of war, symbolically reflecting the god’s martial character.

How do the physical features of Mars compare with its mythological namesake?

The physical features of Mars, such as its stark, barren landscape and the presence of the largest volcano and canyon in the solar system, echo the intense and formidable nature of its namesake.