Primordial God of Procreation/ Greek God of Love and Sexual Desire
Eros has a few very different origin myths. In one, he first appears as the primordial god of procreation, self born from Chaos at the beginning of time. In others he is one of the two Greek Gods of love, a companion of Aphrodite, or in later myths, a son of Aphrodite. Eventually, the stories evolved into distinctly different characters. One as a mischievous God, another splitting ‘Eros’ into many ‘Erotes’ – winged love gods including Eros, Himeros and Pothos. In different stories, there are between 2 to 6 Erotes named.
There are other obscure myths too. One that mentions Eros as the son of Zephyrus, the West Wind, and Iris, the messenger goddess. Another less common tradition presents him as the offspring of Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness).
Primordial Origins and Role in Creation
In the primordial myths, according to Hesiod, Eros was born from Chaos after Gaia and Tartarus and was involved at the beginning of the creation of the cosmos. He blessed the union of Gaia and Uranus, after which the universe was born.
Homer makes no mention of Eros in his epics; however, Parmenides, a pre-Socratic philosopher, had Eros the first of all the gods to come into existence. Eros was responsible for spurring procreation at the beginning of the cosmos. He plays a crucial role in the formation of the world, bringing order and harmony out of chaos.
Eros’ Association with Aphrodite and Other Gods
Hesiod described the two love gods, Eros and Himeros (Desire), accompanying Aphrodite from her conception from the sea-foam created by the castration of Uranus. Later writers added a third love god Pothos (Passion) and the three ‘Erotes’ are often depicted together in art and sculpture. Across other various myths there are another four Erotes mentioned – Anteros (Love Returned), Hedylogos (Sweet-talk), Hermaphroditus (Hermaphrodite) and Hymenaios (Bridal-Hymn). Each Erote symbolises a different characteristic of the alternative, singular Eros god.
In later sources, Eros is the son of Aphrodite and Ares, whose mischievous meddling in the affairs of gods and mortals caused bonds of love to form and drama to unfold. In early Greek poetry and art, he was depicted as an adult, handsome male carrying a lyre or a bow and arrow. He embodied love, athleticism, sexual power and art. Eros was often regarded as the protector of homosexual love between men. Where Eros is the son of Aphrodite, Anteros is the only other ‘Erote’ mentioned as one of his siblings.
Siblings, Children and Partners
His consort is Psyche, goddess of the soul. A mortal woman whose love story with Eros is one of the most romanticised tales in Greek mythology. Their union produced a daughter, Hedone, symbolizing sensual pleasure.
The Tale of Eros and Psyche
One of the most popular myths about Eros involves his relationship with the mortal princess Psyche. In this myth, Aphrodite became jealous of Psyche’s beauty as men were leaving her altars barren to worship at the feet of this mortal woman. With her nose out of joint, she told her son, Eros, to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. However, Eros fell deeply in love with her and took her to his heavenly home.
Eventually, Psyche’s jealous sisters led Psyche to betray her husband who in turn abandoned her. Psyche wandered the Earth, looking for her lost love and approached Aphrodite for help. Aphrodite created a series of tasks for Psyche which she completed causing the Goddess to concede and reunite her with her husband. The princes gained immortality and with Eros had a daughter, Hedone (meaning bliss).
Psyche was worshipped as the Goddess representing the human soul and was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a Goddess with butterfly wings. Psyche is the Ancient Greek word for butterfly and means the “soul, spirit, breath, life or animating force.”
Apollo and Daphne
Another myth tells the story of Apollo ridiculing the skills of Eros as an archer. Enraged, and to avenge the insult, he fires one of his golden arrows at Apollo to make him fall hopelessly in love with the nymph Daphne. At the same time he strikes Daphne with a lead arrow, causing her to spurn Apollo’s advances.
Direct Influence In Other Myths
Another instance of his meddling was when he made Medea fall in love with the great hero Jason. Eros is also said to have ensured Helen of Troy falling for Paris, the catalyst of the great Trojan War.
Depictions in Greek Art and Literature
In later, satirical works, Eros is depicted as a blindfolded male carrying a bow and arrow with the power to make any human fall in love with the first person they would see. This representation is the precursor to the chubby childlike Renaissance Cupid. As Aphrodite’s son, Eros seems to lose some of his power, wisdom and great age. He becomes more of a companion or an accomplice to his mother. This could be one possible explanation for the evolution of Eros transforming in myth art from a handsome man, to a chubby mischievous child.
Cults and Worship
A cult of Eros existed in pre-classical Greece, but it was of much less importance than the one dedicated to his mother, Aphrodite. In late antiquity; however, he was worshipped by a fertility cult in Thespiae and in Athens he shared popular cult worship with Aphrodite. The fourth day of every month was sacred to Eros.
Figures of this god have known to have appeared in twos and threes, referred to as the Erotes. As mentioned before, these are symbolic of the different forms love can take. They are given individual names to depict these various forms, Eros, Himeros (Desire) and Pothos (Yearning) being the most common.
Symbols and Items Associated with Eros
Eros is commonly represented with a bow and arrows, symbolizing his power to incite love and desire. To create union or division with the ‘love struck’ recipients of his arrows. Other symbols associated with him include torches, indicative of the burning passion he ignites, and wings, representing his swift and unpredictable nature.
The animals sacred to Eros include the hare, a symbol of fertility and abundance. Also the rooster, representing vigilance and the heralding of a new day, much like the dawn of love.
Interesting Facts About Eros Summarized
- Roman Connection: Eros is known as Cupid in Roman mythology. This is where he commonly takes the form of the childlike and chubby baby that is common in modern-day depictions
- Eros wields incredible power: Made clear by Hesiod, describing how no one, deity or mortal could resist his spells of enchantment making him a potent irresistible god
- In Greek poetry: He was often a wilful and incredibly unsympathetic god. Carelessly dispensing the frenzies and agonies of love with his arrow with little regard to the recipients or the consequences.
- Primordial God: He is one of the earliest Greek gods, representing the force of love and desire.
- Son of Aphrodite and Ares: In later myths, he is often depicted as the child of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Ares, the god of war.
- Symbol of Love: Eros is the Greek god of love, lust, desire, and sexual attraction.
- Arrows of Love: He is famously known for his bow and arrows, which he uses to instill love or indifference in his targets.
- Companion of Aphrodite: He is frequently portrayed as a constant companion of his mother, Aphrodite.
- Eros and Psyche: His most famous myth is his love story with Psyche, a mortal woman, symbolizing the soul’s journey to eternal love.
- Multiple Representations: He is depicted both as a handsome youth and a mischievous child in various artistic representations.
- Influence on Gods and Mortals: Eros has the power to influence the emotions of both gods and mortals.
- Part of the Erotes: He is one of the Erotes, a group of winged love gods in Greek mythology.
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