RWC tutor Annie Bautista gives background on Eros, the Greek God of Love.
Cupid, also known as Eros, the Greek God of love, has become a famous symbol for Valentine’s Day. Today, he is recognized in the image of a winged baby shooting arrows at people who become destined to fall in love. Some hopeless romantics who may go looking for his arrows every day, wonder if he gets lost, and fly away develop negative feelings towards him, saying things like: “Cupid is so dumb!”
Or maybe that’s just the South Korean girl group Fifty Fifty... but their song “Cupid” is still quite catchy! But regardless of whatever pop culture references say about Cupid, there is no denying that the story of his origin sparks the interest of many.
Long before he gained this popularized image as Cupid—he existed as the handsome mythological figure Eros. The origins of this Greek God of love date back to 700 B.C. when Hesiod first mentioned Eros in his “Theogony” poem describing the origins of Greek Gods. Hesiod described him as one of the first cosmogonic deities to be made into existence.
“Then Eros (love), fairest of the deathless ones,
Who weakens all the gods and men and stuns
Their prudent judgment.” (Hesiod, lines 133-135).
Hesiod, however, later implies that Eros came into existence as the offspring of other Gods. Hesiod’s speculation of who his parents are extends among four possible pairings of mythological deities: Nyx and Erebus, Aphrodite and Ares, Iris and Zephyrus, or even Aphrodite and Zeus. This last pairing between Aphrodite and Zeus would imply that his grandfather would also be his dad, which is, yes, just a tad unconventional for today’s standards but nothing too out of the ordinary for Greek mythology standards.
It may disappoint some people, but not be shocking to Fifty Fifty, to learn that Eros had a somewhat mischievous reputation when taking advantage of his influence on love to mess with the love lives of other Gods and mortals. Eros wielded his power to manipulate emotions through arrows he shot with a bow. His golden arrows invoked desire, while his leaden arrows invoked hate. In one tale of his mischievous deeds, Eros shot a golden arrow at Apollo, the Sun God, and made him fall in love with a nymph named Daphne. He then hit a leaden arrow at Daphne, so she became repulsed by him.
Perhaps it’s the result of his mischievous deeds that fated Eros to fall in love with someone he was not meant to be with and would then suffer greatly because of him. In another allegory, Eros’s mother, Aphrodite, ordered him to go and make the beautiful mortal Psyche fall in love with a monster out of jealousy over the grand popularity she had gained over her looks. Being the Goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite took great offense to the fact that mortals began comparing her to another mortal and implying that Psyche’s beauty was greater than Aphrodite’s beauty. Although Psyche appeared to be blessed with her looks, she still struggled to find a husband and was very depressed because of it.
After seeking advice on what she was to do, Apollo declared the tragic prophecy that she would be sent to the summit of a mountain top by herself to meet her husband, who was assigned to be a terrible winged serpent. Psyche was devastated but accepted her fate and left her home to live out her life with her assigned husband. As she waited for him to arrive on top of the cold, dark mountain top, some entity she could not see whisked her away and brought her to a meadow full of beautiful flowers and a grand castle. Psyche did not know it at the time, but this entity was Eros.
Eros was in charge of sealing her fate but could not bring himself to complete his task. Upon his arrival, he injured himself with his own arrow and fell in love with Psyche. He decided to marry and care for Psyche under the condition that she could never see his face. It came to a point where Psyche’s curiosity became too strong to hold back, and she decided to steal a glance at Eros’s face, causing him to become upset and leave her. Heartbroken, Psyche prayed to Aphrodite to help her find her husband.
Aphrodite decided to help but was still spiteful and demanded that Psyche complete three harsh tasks to prove herself worthy to be with Eros. Before Psyche could complete them all, Eros became informed of the misfortunes his mother brought upon her with these tasks and decided to take her back. So, in the end, they were reunited, and Psyche was granted immortality.
The mythological Greek origins of Cupid portrayed him as the handsome mischievous God of Love Eros who messed with the love lives of Gods and mortals and even got himself into trouble with his own love life from his clumsy and irresponsible ways. As time progressed and his story continued to be told through poems, his image evolved to reflect his child-like behavior making him more recognizable as the winged baby Cupid today.