Eros was the Greek god of Love, in some stories he first appears as a primordial god, born from Chaos and in others he is the son of Aphrodite.
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, and 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. 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.
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, Eros 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.
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.
One of the most popular myths about Eros involves his relationship with the mortal princess Psyche. Aphrodite, jealous of Psyche’s beauty as men were leaving her altars barren to worship at the feet of a mortal, 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 Eros and Psyche. 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.”
Another myth tells the story of Apollo ridiculing the skills of Eros as an archer. Thus the latter fired one of his arrows at Apollo and made him fall in love with the nymph Daphne. 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.
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, Eros 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 Eros have known to have appeared in twos and threes, referred to as the Erotes, and they 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).
Other Interesting Facts About Eros
- Eros is known as Cupid in Roman mythology, and 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
- Eros is said to have a brother, Anteros, the God of unrequited and spurned love
- In Greek poetry, Eros 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
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