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Fast Facts on: Eros

Greek god of love and passion

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Staue of a sleeping Eros. 2nd c. AD.
greekmythology/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
For a God of Love, Eros is not as well-known as many Greek gods and goddesses. Here is a quick introduction to the son of Aphrodite, Eros.

Appearance:
A small winged boy in later depictions. In early images, the Greek god of love was often shown as a beautifully-formed, full-grown man.

Symbol or Attribute:
His quiver and arrows. He is sometimes shown riding a dolphin or lion.

Eros' Strengths:
He is beautiful and inspiring.

Weaknesses:
Capricious, or at least humans see his arrows as striking somewhat randomly.

Parents:
Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, and Ares, the God of War. Poor kid! But earlier accounts make him one of the oldest gods, active long before either of his parents. He is said to have caused the creation of Okeanos and Tethys, who were also very early Greek deities, giving him a now almost-forgotten connection with the sea.

Spouse:
In his Cupid guise, he is said to have mated with Psyche, whose name means Soul. Poor Psyche ran into major in-law problems - see below.

Children:
By Psyche, Volupta or Pleasure; Nyx (Night). With Chaos he is said to have created all birds.

Some Major Temple Sites:
Eros had a sanctuary on Mount Helion. Some say that the wild party island of similar-sounding Ios should actually be called Eros, but there is no ancient precedent for this... and Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, was quite busy passionately herself.

Basic Story:
Some say there are two Eroses, the elder who is the early god, and the other who is the eternally young son of Aphrodite. The "elder" Eros was the cause of the birth of the race of immortal gods and goddesses. The "younger" Eros is the one depicted as a winged boy, the son of Aphrodite, considered to be both the most beautiful and the youngest of the gods.

But even in this form, kids grow up. Problems ensue when Eros (called Cupid in this story) falls in love with Psyche. His radiance is such that for her own safety, he insists that she must never look upon his face, and he only visits her at night. At first, she's cool with this, but her sisters and family insist that her husband must be a grotesque and dangerous monster. Finally, to shut them up, one night she lights a lamp and sees his glorious beauty, which doesn't blast her but does make her tremble so hard she shakes the lamp. A few drops of hot oil dribble on her beloved, burning him, and he flies away from her in physical pain compounded by the pain of knowing she doubted him.

His mom, Aphrodite, is angry over the injury and over the concealed relationship. While Cupid recovers, Aphrodite hopes to get Psyche out of the way permanently by making life extraordinarily difficult for her daughter-in-law. This takes the form of various potentially deadly tasks such as dropping by to get some beauty lotion from Persephone in the Underworld, and, oh, while you're out, Psyche, could you pick up some bottled water from the River of the Dead (the Styx)?

But Cupid eventually recovers, comes to her rescue, and they marry. As is appropriate, the God of Love gets a happy-ever-after.

Alternate Name:
Sometimes referred to as Cupid by Roman writers and translators.

Interesting Fact:
The word "erotic", meaning sexual love, comes from the name of Eros. However, even in ancient times, his quality of love was thought to be spiritual as well as physical, and was generally believed to be the deity who caused the love of beauty, healing, freedom, and many other good things as well as the love between people.

More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses:

The 12 Olympians - Gods and Goddesses - Greek Gods and Goddesses - Temple Sites - The Titans - Aphrodite - Apollo - Ares - Artemis - Atalanta - Athena - Centaurs - Cyclopes - Demeter- Dionysos - Eros - Gaia - Hades - Helios - Hephaestus - Hera - Hercules - Hermes - Kronos - Medusa - Nike - Pan- Pandora - Pegasus - Persephone - Rhea - Selene - Zeus.

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