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Erotes are depicted in this 16th century painting by Caesar van Everdingen.

The erotes are a group of winged gods and demi-gods from Classical mythology, associated with love and sex, and part of Aphrodite's retinue. The collective term ἔρωτες - erotes is simply the plural of ἔρως - eros, or "desire".

Stories of the erotes' mischief or pranks were popular in Hellenistic culture. The figures were common motifs in classical art, often symbolizing various aspects of love. Other depictions include individual erotes as characters, particularly the offspring of Ares and Aphrodite: Eros, Anteros, Himeros and Pothos. The individual erotes are sometimes linked to particular aspects of love, such as unrequited love. In some traditions, erotes have an especial influence over homoerotic love.

General role and attributes

The erotes are a group of winged gods in Classical mythology. They are associated with love and sexual desire, and form part of Aphrodite's retinue. The individual erotes are sometimes linked to particular aspects of love, and are often associated with same-sex desire.[1][2][3][4] Sometimes the erotes are regarded as manifestations of a singular god, Eros.[5]

Stories of the erotes' mischief or pranks were a popular theme in Hellenistic culture, particularly in the 2nd century BCE.[6] Spells to attract or repel erotes were used, in order to induce love or the opposite.[7] Different erotes represented various facets of love or desire, such as unrequited love (Himeros), mutual love (Anteros) or longing (Pothos).[2]

The erotes were usually portrayed as nude, handsome, winged youths.[2] The earliest known sculptured friezes depicting a group of erotes and winged maidens driving chariots pulled by goats, were created to decorate theatres in ancient Greece in the 2nd century BCE.[8] The representation of erotes in such friezes became common, including erotes in hunting scenes.[9] Due to their role in the classical mythological pantheon, the erotes' representation is sometimes purely symbolic (indicating some form of love) or they may be portrayed as individual characters.[10] The presence of erotes in otherwise non-sexual images, such as of two women, has been interpreted to indicate a homoerotic subtext.[10] In the cult of Aphrodite in Anatolia, iconographic images of the goddess with three erotes symbolized the three realms over which she had dominion: the Earth, sky, and water.[11]


Groups of numerous erotes are portrayed in ancient Greek and Roman art. In addition, a number of named gods have been regarded as erotes, sometimes being assigned particular associations with aspects of love.


Originally, Eros was the primordial god of lust, beauty, love, and intercourse; he was also worshipped as a fertility deity. His Roman counterpart was Cupid (desire), also known as Amor, (love).

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,[3] and "was often regarded as the protector of homosexual love between men."[3] Eros was depicted as often carrying a lyre or bow and arrow. He was also depicted accompanied by dolphins, flutes, roosters, roses, and torches.[3]


Anteros (Greek: Ἀντέρως - Antérōs) was the god of requited love, literally "love returned" or "counterpart love". He punished those who scorned love and the advances of others, and was the avenger of unrequited love.[12] Anteros was the son of Ares and Aphrodite in Greek mythology, and given to his brother Eros as a playmate because the latter was lonely. In another version, Anteros arose from mutual feelings between Poseidon and Nerites[13]. Physically, Anteros was depicted as similar to Eros in every way, though sometimes with longer hair and butterfly wings. He has been described as armed with either a golden club or arrows of lead.


Himeros (Greek: Ἵμερος "uncontrollable desire", Latin: Himerus) was another son of Aphrodite and Ares. Like his brothers, he is depicted with a bow and arrows, to create desire and lust in people. Himeros represented sexual desire or unrequited love.[14] Himeros was identified by his carrying a taenia, a colourful headband worn by athletes.[15]


Pothos (Greek: Πόθος) was one of Aphrodite's erotes and brother to Himeros and Eros. In some versions of myth, Pothos is the son of Eros, or is portrayed as an independent aspect of him.[2] Yet others called him son of Zephyrus and Iris.[16] He was part of Aphrodite's retinue, and carried a vine, indicating a connection to wine or the god Dionysus. Pothos represents longing or yearning.[14]

See also


  1. Conner, p. 64, "Aphrodite"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Conner, p. 133, "Erotes"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Conner, p. 132, "Eros"
  4. Conner, p.270, "Pothos"
  5. Younger, p. 45, "Eros/Cupid)
  6. Strong, p. 265
  7. Collins, pp. 100, 167.
  8. Sturgeon, p. 124–25.
  9. Sturgeon, p. 126
  10. 10.0 10.1 Rabinowitz & Auanger, p. 239.
  11. Ridgway, p. 115
  12. Evans, p. 20
  13. Aelian, On Animals, 14. 28
  14. 14.0 14.1 Younger, p. 40, "Desire"
  15. Conner, p. 178, Himerus
  16. Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 47. 340


  • Conner, Randy P.; Sparks, David Hatfield and Sparks, Mariya (1998). Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit. UK: Cassell. ISBN 0304704237. 
  • Sturgeon, Mary Carol (1977). Sculpture: the reliefs from the theater. ASCSA. ISBN 9780876610923. 
  • Collins, Derek. Magic in the Ancient Greek World. 2008: Blackwell Pub.. ISBN 9781405132381. 
  • Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin; Auanger, Lisa (2002). Among women: from the homosocial to the homoerotic in the ancient world. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292771130. 
  • Strong (1911). Roman sculpture from Augustus to Constantine, v. 2. Duckworth and co.. 
  • Ridgway, Brunilde Sismondo (2002). Hellenistic Sculpture: The styles of ca. 100-31 B.C. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299177102. 
  • Evans, Bergen (1970). Dictionary of mythology, mainly classical. Centennial Press. ISBN 9780299177102. 
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Eros"

External links

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