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For the dialogue by Lucian, see Amores (Lucian).
Anteros, popularly called Eros, by Alfred Gilbert, 1885; from the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus.

The Erotes (/əˈrtz/) are a collective of winged gods associated with love and sex in Greek mythology. They are part of Aphrodite's retinue. Erotes (Greek ἔρωτες) is the plural of Eros ("Love, Desire"), who as a singular deity has a more complex mythology.

Other named Erotes are Anteros ("Love Returned"),[1] Himeros ("Impetuous Love" or "Pressing Desire") and Pothos ("Desire, Longing," especially for one who is absent).[2] In some traditions, erotes have an especial influence over homoërotic love.

The Erotes became a motif of Hellenistic art, and may appear in Roman art in the alternate form of multiple Cupids or Cupids and Psyches. In the later tradition of Western art, erotes become indistinguishable from figures also known as Cupids, amorini, or amoretti.[3]

General role and attributes[edit]

Hermaphroditos and the erotes, Onyx cameo, Alexandria, 1st century BCE

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.[4][5][6][7] Sometimes the erotes are regarded as manifestations of a singular god, Eros.[8]

Stories of the erotes' mischief or pranks were a popular theme in Hellenistic culture, particularly in the 2nd century BCE.[9] Spells to attract or repel erotes were used, in order to induce love or the opposite.[10] Different erotes represented various facets of love or desire, such as unrequited love (Himeros), mutual love (Anteros) or longing (Pothos).[5]

The erotes were usually portrayed as nude, handsome, winged youths.[5] 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.[11] The representation of erotes in such friezes became common, including erotes in hunting scenes.[12] 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.[13] The presence of erotes in otherwise non-sexual images, such as of two women, has been interpreted to indicate a homoerotic subtext.[13] 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.[14]


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.


Main article: Eros
Eros. Attic red-figure bobbin, ca. 470–450 BCE.

Originally, Eros was the primordial god of lust, beauty, love, and intercourse; he was also worshiped 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,[6] and "was often regarded as the protector of homosexual love between men."[6] Eros was depicted as often carrying a lyre or bow and arrow. He was also depicted accompanied by dolphins, flutes, roosters, roses, and torches.[6]


Main article: Anteros

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.[15] 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.[16] Physically, Anteros was depicted as similar to Eros in every way, though sometimes with longer hair and butterfly wings.[citation needed] He has been described as armed with either a golden club or arrows of lead.[citation needed]


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.[17] Himeros was identified by his carrying a taenia, a colourful headband worn by athletes.[18]


Statue of Pothos at the Centrale Montemartini

Pothos (Greek: Πόθος "yearning") 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.[5] Yet others called him son of Zephyrus and Iris.[19] 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.[17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Emma Stafford, "From the Gymnasium to the Wedding: Eros in Athenian Art and Cult," in Erôs in Ancient Greece (Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 196.
  2. ^ Claude Calame, The Poetics of Eros in Ancient Greece (Princeton University Press, 1999, originally published 1992 in Italian), pp. 30–32.
  3. ^ John Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire (Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 145; Leonard Barkan, Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (Yale University Press, 1999), p. 138.
  4. ^ Conner, p. 64, "Aphrodite"
  5. ^ a b c d Conner, p. 133, "Erotes"
  6. ^ a b c d Conner, p. 132, "Eros"
  7. ^ Conner, p.270, "Pothos"
  8. ^ Younger, p. 45, "Eros/Cupid)
  9. ^ Strong, p. 265
  10. ^ Collins, pp. 100, 167.
  11. ^ Sturgeon, p. 124–25.
  12. ^ Sturgeon, p. 126
  13. ^ a b Rabinowitz & Auanger, p. 239.
  14. ^ Ridgway, p. 115
  15. ^ Evans, p. 20
  16. ^ Aelian, On Animals, 14. 28
  17. ^ a b Younger, p. 40, "Desire"
  18. ^ Conner, p. 178, Himerus
  19. ^ 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 0-304-70423-7. 
  • Sturgeon, Mary Carol (1977). Sculpture: the reliefs from the theater. ASCSA. ISBN 978-0-87661-092-3. 
  • Collins, Derek. Magic in the Ancient Greek World. 2008: Blackwell Pub. ISBN 978-1-4051-3238-1. 
  • Rabinowitz, Nancy Sorkin; Auanger, Lisa (2002). Among women: from the homosocial to the homoerotic in the ancient world. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-77113-0. 
  • 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 978-0-299-17710-2. 
  • Evans, Bergen (1970). Dictionary of mythology, mainly classical. Centennial Press. ISBN 978-0-299-17710-2. 
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Eros"

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