One of the most culturally-recognized icons of Valentine’s Day is Cupid. Today we view him more often than not as a chubby cherub with a little red bow and arrow. However, the roots of Cupid lie in Greek and Roman mythologies. While “Cupid” is the Roman name, the Greek myths use the name Eros.
Though the Greek mythologies differ from earlier to later, the most common representation of Eros is that he is the son of Aphrodite, who is the goddess of love and beauty. Eros was known for interfering in the romantic lives of gods and mortals alike. Another ancient source, Hesiod, wrote about Eros as a primordial god, rising from the darkness and mating with Chaos in order to create the human race.
The myth most commonly associated with Eros/Cupid is that of Eros and Psyche. Jealous of her beauty, Aphrodite had commanded Eros to make Psyche fall in love with a hideous creature. Instead, Eros is stricken by her beauty and falls in love with her. After a cruel intervention from Psyche’s jealous sisters, Eros leaves her wandering the earth seeking him. She appeals to Aphrodite for help, who gives Psyche a series of challenges to face. After completing them, Psyche is made immortal and she and Eros live together happily and have a daughter, Hedone.
Interestingly enough, the chubby cherub Cupid who we most often see today was not brought into being until the Renaissance, when the mythological figure was adapted to meet the day’s popular artistic trends.
Happy Valentine’s Day.