Eros

EROS was the mischievous god of love, a minion and constant companion of the goddess Aphrodite.

Eros playing flute | Athenian red-figure lekythos C5th B.C. | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Eros playing flute, Athenian red-figure lekythos C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

The poet Hesiod first represents him as a primordial deity who emerges self-born at the beginning of time to spur procreation. (See the Protogenos Eros and Phanes for more information.) The same poet later describes two love-gods, Eros and Himeros (Desire), accompanying Aphrodite at the time of her birth from the sea-foam. Some classical writers interpreted this to mean the pair were born of the goddess immediately following her birth or else alongside her from the sea-foam. The scene was particular popular in ancient art where the godlings flutter about the goddess as she reclines inside a conch-shell.Eros playing flute, Athenian red-figure lekythos C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Eventually Eros was multiplied by ancient poets and artists into a host of Erotes (Roman Cupides). The singular Eros, however, remained distinct in myth. It was he who lit the flame of love in the hearts of the gods and men, armed with either a bow and arrows or a flaming torch. Eros was often portrayed as the disobedient but fiercely loyal child of Aphrodite.

In ancient vase painting Eros is depicted as either a handsome youth or child. His attributes were varied–from the usual bow and arrows, to the gifts of a lover such as a hare, sash, or flower. Sculptors preferred the image of the bow-armed boy, whereas mosaic artists favoured the figure of a winged putto(plump baby).

Eros, in Greek religion, god of love. In the Theogony of Hesiod (fl. 700 BCE), Eros was a primeval god, son of Chaos, the original primeval emptiness of the universe, but later tradition made him the son of Aphrodite, goddess of sexual love and beauty, by either Zeus (the king of the gods), Ares (god of war and of battle), or Hermes (divine messenger of the gods). Eros was a god not simply of passion but also of fertility. His brother was Anteros, the god of mutual love, who was sometimes described as his opponent. The chief associates of Eros were Pothos and Himeros (Longing and Desire). Later writers assumed the existence of a number of Erotes (like the several versions of the Roman Amor). In Alexandrian poetry he degenerated into a mischievous child. In Archaic art he was represented as a beautiful winged youth but tended to be made younger and younger until, by the Hellenistic period, he was an infant. His chief cult centre was at Thespiae in Boeotia, where the Erotidia were celebrated. He also shared a sanctuary with Aphrodite on the north wall of the Acropolis at AthensSee also Cupid.

In Greek mythologyEros (UK: /ˈɪərɒsˈɛrɒs/US: /ˈɛrɒsˈɛrs/; GreekἜρως, “Desire”) was the Greek god of sexual attraction. His Roman counterpart was Cupid (“desire”). Some myths make him a primordial god, while in other myths, he is the son of Aphrodite. He was one of the winged love gods, Erotes.

Etymology

The Greek ἔρως, meaning “desire,” comes from ἔραμαι “to desire, love”, of uncertain etymology. R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin.

Primordial god

According to Hesiod (c. 700 BC), one of the most ancient of all Greek sources, Eros (the god of love) was the fourth god to come into existence, coming after ChaosGaia (the Earth), and Tartarus (the Abyss or the Underworld).

Homer does not mention Eros. However, Parmenides (c. 400 BC), one of the pre-socratic philosophers, makes Eros the first of all the gods to come into existence.[9]

The Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries featured Eros as a very original god, but not quite primordial, since he was the child of Night (Nyx). Aristophanes (c. 400 BC), influenced by Orphism, relates the birth of Eros:

At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night (Nyx), Darkness (Erebus), and the Abyss (Tartarus). Earth, the Air and Heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Darkness, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Love (Eros) with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in the deep Abyss with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.

Eros and Psyche

The story of Eros and Psyche has a longstanding tradition as a folktale of the ancient Greco-Roman world long before it was committed to literature in Apuleius‘ Latin novel, The Golden Ass. The novel itself is written in a picaresque Roman style, yet Psyche retains her Greek name. Eros and Aphrodite are called by their Latin names (Cupid and Venus), and Cupid is depicted as a young adult, rather than a child.[12]

The story tells of the struggle for love and trust between Eros and Psyche. Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of mortal princess Psyche, as men were leaving her altars barren to worship a mere human woman instead, and so she commanded her son Eros, the god of love, to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. But instead, Eros falls in love with Psyche himself and spirits her away to his home. Their fragile peace is ruined by a visit from Psyche’s jealous sisters, who cause Psyche to betray the trust of her husband. Wounded, Eros leaves his wife, and Psyche wanders the Earth, looking for her lost love. Eventually she approaches Aphrodite and asks for her help. Aphrodite imposes a series of difficult tasks on Psyche, which she is able to achieve by means of supernatural assistance.

After successfully completing these tasks, Aphrodite relents and Psyche becomes immortal to live alongside her husband Eros. Together they had a daughter, Voluptas or Hedone (meaning physical pleasure, bliss).

In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings (because psyche was also the Ancient Greek word for ‘butterfly’). The Greek word psyche literally means “soul, spirit, breath, life or animating force”.

This Roman Eros once rode a dolphin, a common convention for 1st century AD depictions of the deity. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

 

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