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Eros is depicted on this piece of Greek pottery from the 5th century BCE, now in the Archaeological Museum of Florence.

Eros (Greek: Ἔρως, "Intimate Love"), in Greek mythology, was the primordial god of sexual love and beauty. He was also worshipped as a fertility deity. His Roman counterpart was Cupid ("desire"). In the Theogony Hesiod makes him a primordial god, while in some myths, he was the son of the deities Aphrodite and Ares.

Conception

Throughout Greek thought, there appear to be two sides to the conception of Eros. In the first, he is a primeval deity who embodies not only the force of love but also the creative urge of ever-flowing nature, the firstborn Light for the coming into being and ordering of all things in the cosmos. In Hesiod's Theogony, the most famous Greek creation myth, Eros sprang forth from the primordial Chaos together with Gaia, the Earth, and Tartarus, the underworld; according to Aristophanes' play The Birds (c. 414 BCE), he burgeons forth from an egg laid by Nyx (Night) conceived with Erebus (Darkness). In the Eleusinian Mysteries, he was worshiped as Protogonus, the first-born.[1][2]

Worship of Eros was uncommon in early Greece, but eventually became widespread. He was fervently worshiped by a fertility cult in Thespiae, and played an important role in the Eleusinian Mysteries. In Athens, he shared a very popular cult with Aphrodite, and the fourth day of every month was sacred to him.

Primordial god

According to Hesiod (c. 700 BCE), one of the most ancient of all Greek sources, Eros (the god of love) was the fourth god to come into existence, coming after Chaos, Gaia (the Earth), and Tartarus (the Abyss or the Underworld).[3]

Homer does not mention Eros. However, Parmenides (c. 400 BCE), one of the pre-socratic philosophers, makes Eros the first of all the gods to come into existence.[4]

The Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries featured Eros as a very original god, but not quite primordial, since he was the child of Night (Nyx).[5] Aristophanes (c. 400 BCE), 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.[6]

Son of Aphrodite and Ares

In later myths, he was the son of the deities Aphrodite and Ares: it is the Eros of these later myths who is one of the erotes. Eros was associated with athleticism, with statues erected in gymnasia,[7] and "was often regarded as the protector of homosexual love between men."[7] Eros was depicted as often carrying a lyre or bow and arrow. He was also depicted accompanied by dolphins, flutes, roosters, roses, and torches.[7]{

[Hera addresses Athena:] “We must have a word with Aphrodite. Let us go together and ask her to persuade her boy [Eros], if that is possible, to loose an arrow at Aeetes’ daughter, Medea of the many spells, and make her fall in love with Jason . . .” (Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3. 25 ff – a Greek epic of the 3rd century BCE)

"He [Eros] smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms." (Seneca, Phaedra 290 ff.)

"Once, when Venus’ son [Eros] was kissing her, his quiver dangling down, a jutting arrow, unbeknown, had grazed her breast. She pushed the boy away. In fact the wound was deeper than it seemed, though unperceived at first. [And she became] enraptured by the beauty of a man [Adonis]." (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 525 ff.)

"Eros drove Dionysos mad for the girl [Aura] with the delicious wound of his arrow, then curving his wings flew lightly to Olympus. And the god roamed over the hills scourged with a greater fire.” (Nonnus]], Dionysiaca 48. 470 ff – a Greek epic of the 5th century CE)

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 put to print; first seen in Apuleius' Latin novel, The Golden Ass, this is apparent and an interesting intermingling of character roles. The novel itself is picaresque Roman style, yet Psyche and Aphrodite retain their Greek parts. It is only Eros whose role hails from his part in the Roman pantheon.

The story is told as a digression and structural parallel to the main storyline of Apuleius' novel. It tells of the struggle for love and trust between Eros and Psyche. Aphrodite is jealous of the beauty of mortal Psyche, as men are leaving her altars barren to worship a mere human woman instead, and so commands her son Eros to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. Eros falls in love with Psyche himself and spirits her away to his home. Their fragile peace is ruined by a visit of Psyche's jealous sisters, who cause Psyche to betray the trust of her husband. Wounded, Eros departs from his wife and Psyche wanders the earth, looking for her lost love.

In Apuleius's The Golden Ass Psyche bears Eros a daughter, Voluptas or Hedone.

Notes

  1. KHAOS - Protogenos Mythology - Theoi Project © 2000-2008.
  2. Patricia Turner, Charles Russell Coulter, Dictionary of Ancient Deities - Oxford University Press US, 2001, page 122.
  3. Hesiod, Theogony 116–122 in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
  4. "First of all the gods she devised Erōs." (Parmenides, fragment 13.) (The identity of the "she" is unclear, as Parmenides' work has survived only in fragments.
  5. See the article Eros at the Theoi Project.
  6. Aristophanes, Birds, lines 690–699. (Translation by Eugene O'Neill, Jr., Perseus Digital Library; translation modified.)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Conner, p. 132, "Eros"

References

  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Eros"

External links

Wikipedia
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Eros. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
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