O love, invincible in battle! (Sophocles' Antigone, 781)



Eros, the Greek god of love and sexual desire (the word eros, which is found in the Iliad by Homer, is a common noun meaning sexual desire), a force older and more powerful than even the gods. Some myths make him a primordial god, while in other ones, he is the son of either Aphrodite and Ares or Erebus and Nyx.

 

Eros is usually depicted as a young winged boy, with his bow and arrows at the ready, to either shoot into the hearts of gods or mortals which would rouse them to desire. His arrows came in two types: golden with dove feathers which aroused love, or leaden arrows which had owl feathers that caused indifference. Sappho the poet summarized Eros as being bitter sweet, and cruel to his victims, yet he was also charming and very beautiful. Being unscrupulous, and a danger to those around him, Eros would make as much mischief as he possibly could by wounding the hearts of all, but according to one legend he himself fell in love, with a beautiful young mortal woman named Psyche.

 

The Romans borrowed Eros from the Greeks and named him Cupid (Latin cupido meaning desire). Eros has been depicted in art in many ways. The Romans regarded him as a symbol of life after death and decorated sarcophagi with his image. The Greeks regarded him as most beautiful and handsome, the most loved and the most loving. They placed statues of him in gymnasiums (as most athletes were thought to be beautiful). He was depicted on every form of utensil, from drinking vessels to oil flasks, usually showing him ready to fire an arrow into the heart of an unsuspecting victim.

 

Source: Encyclopedia Mythica

Picture: Athens, 2004 | A performer, posing as Eros, descends during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Aug. 13, 2004.



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