God of love, lust, desire and sex
Primordial god and personification of Love
|Member of the Primordial Gods and the Erotes|
|Major cult center||Thespiae|
|Symbol||Bow and arrows|
|Parents||None (Hesiod) |
Nyx (Orphic & Eleusinian)
Ares and Aphrodite
|Siblings||Harmonia, Phobos, Deimos, and Anteros|
|Roman equivalent||Cupid, Amor|
|Part of a series on|
|Ancient Greek religion|
In Greek mythology, Eros (UK: / /,, US: / /,; Ancient Greek: Ἔρως, romanized: Érōs, lit. 'Love, Desire') is the Greek god of love and sex. His Roman counterpart was Cupid ("desire"). In the earliest account, he is a primordial god, while in later accounts he is described as one of the children of Aphrodite and Ares and, with some of his siblings, was one of the Erotes, a group of winged love gods.
Cult and depiction
Eros appears in ancient Greek sources under several different guises. In the earliest sources (the cosmogonies, the earliest philosophers, and texts referring to the mystery religions), he is one of the primordial gods involved in the coming into being of the cosmos. In later sources, however, Eros is represented as the son of Aphrodite, whose mischievous interventions in the affairs of gods and mortals cause bonds of love to form, often illicitly. Ultimately, in the later satirical poets, he is represented as a blindfolded child, the precursor to the chubby Renaissance Cupid, whereas in early Greek poetry and art, Eros was depicted as a young adult male who embodies sexual power, and a profound artist.
A cult of Eros existed in pre-classical Greece, but it was much less important than that of Aphrodite. However, in late antiquity, Eros was worshiped by a fertility cult in Thespiae. In Athens, he shared a very popular cult with Aphrodite, and the fourth day of every month was sacred to him (also shared by Herakles, Hermes and Aphrodite).
Eros was one of the Erotes, along with other figures such as Himeros and Pothos, who are sometimes considered patrons of homosexual love between males. Eros is also part of a triad of gods that played roles in homoerotic relationships, along with Heracles and Hermes, who bestowed qualities of beauty (and loyalty), strength, and eloquence, respectively, onto male lovers.
According to Hesiod's Theogony (c. 700 BC), 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).
The Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries featured Eros as a very original god, but not quite primordial, since he was the child of Night (Nyx). Aristophanes (c. 400 BC), influenced by Orphism, relates the birth of Eros:
- At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.
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 depicted as often carrying a lyre or bow and arrow. He was also depicted accompanied by dolphins, flutes, roosters, roses, and torches.[verification needed]
- [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 ...” (Argonautica)
- “He [Eros] smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms.” (Phaedra)
- “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].” (Metamorphoses)
- “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.” (Dionysiaca)
God of friendship and liberty
The Lacedaemonians offered sacrifices to Eros before they went into battle, thinking that safety and victory depend on the friendship of those who stand side by side in the battle. In addition, the Cretans offered sacrifices to Eros in their line of battle.
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 committed to literature in Apuleius' Latin novel, The Golden Ass. The novel itself is written in a picaresque Roman style, yet Psyche retains her Greek name even though Eros and Aphrodite are called by their Latin names (Cupid and Venus). Also, Cupid is depicted as a young adult, rather than a fat winged child (putto amorino).
The story tells of the quest for love and trust between Eros and Psyche. Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of mortal princess Psyche, as men were leaving her altars barren to worship a mere human woman instead, and so she commanded her son Eros, the god of love, to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. But instead, Eros falls in love with Psyche himself and spirits her away to his home. Their fragile peace is ruined by a visit from Psyche's jealous sisters, who cause Psyche to betray the trust of her husband. Wounded, Eros leaves his wife, and Psyche wanders the Earth, looking for her lost love. Eventually, she approaches Aphrodite and asks for her help. Aphrodite imposes a series of difficult tasks on Psyche, which she is able to achieve by means of supernatural assistance.
After successfully completing these tasks, Aphrodite relents and Psyche becomes immortal to live alongside her husband Eros. Together they had a daughter, Voluptas or Hedone (meaning physical pleasure, bliss).
In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings (because psyche was also the Ancient Greek word for "butterfly"). The Greek word psyche literally means "soul, spirit, breath, life, or animating force".
In the Gnostic narrative found in On the Origin of the World, Eros, during the universe's creation, is scattered in all the creatures of Chaos, existing between the midpoint of light and darkness as well as the angels and people. Later, Psyche pours her blood upon him, causing the first rose to sprout up on the Earth, followed by every flower and herb.
Eros features in two Dionysus-related myths. In the first, Eros made Hymnus, a young shepherd, to fall in love with the beautiful Naiad Nicaea. Nicaea never reciprocated Hymnus' affection, and he in desperation asked her to kill him. She fulfilled his wish, but Eros, disgusted with Nicaea's actions, made Dionysus fall in love with her by hitting him with a love arrow. Nicaea rejected Dionysus, so he filled the spring she used to drink from with wine. Intoxicated, Nicaea lay to rest as Dionysus forced himself on her. Afterwards, she sought to find him seeking revenge, but never found him. In the other, one of Artemis' maiden nymphs Aura boasted of being better than her mistress, due to having a virgin's body, as opposed to Artemis' sensuous and lush figure, thereby bringing into question Artemis' virginity. Artemis, angered, asked Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance and retribution, to avenge her, and Nemesis ordered Eros to make Dionysus fall in love with Aura. The tale then continues in the same manner as Nicaea's myth; Dionysus gets Aura drunk and then rapes her.
Eros in music
Eros in art
Statue of Eros sleeping; 3rd–2nd century BC; bronze; 41.9 × 35.6 × 85.2 cm, 124.7 kg, height with base: 45.7 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
The Victory of Eros; by Angelica Kauffman; 1750–1775; oil on canvas; Metropolitan Museum of Art
- A. Corso, Concerning the catalogue of Praxiteles' exhibition held in the Louvre. Conference paper presented at ИНДОЕВРОПЕЙСКОЕ ЯЗЫКОЗНАНИЕ И КЛАССИЧЕСКАЯ ФИЛОЛОГИЯ – 11 June 2007; p. 159
- Hesiod, Theogony 116–122 states that Gaia, Tartarus and Eros come after Chaos, but this does not necessarily mean that they are the offspring of Chaos. Gantz, pp. 4–5 writes that, "[w]ith regard to all three of these figures—Gaia, Tartaros, and Eros—we should note that Hesiod does not say they arose from (as opposed to after) Chaos, although this is often assumed". Hard 2004, p. 23 says that "[a]lthough it is quite often assumed that all three are born out of Chaos as her offspring, this is not stated by Hesiod nor indeed implied, governed by the same verb geneto ('came to be'). Gaia, Tartaros and Eros are best regarded as being primal realities like Chaos that came into existence independently of her". Similarly, Caldwell, pp. 3, 35 says that the Theogony "begins with the spontaneous appearance of Chaos, Gaia, Tartaros, and Eros (116–122). By their emergence from nothing, without sources or parents, these four are separated from everything that follows."
- See the article Eros at the Theoi Project.
- Oxford Learner's Dictionaries: "Eros"
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- Conner, Randy P.; Sparks, David Hatfield; Sparks, Mariya (1998). Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit. UK: Cassell. p. 133. ISBN 0-304-70423-7.
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- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 13.12 - Greek
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 13.12 - English
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.31.3
- Hesiod, Theogony 116–122.
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- Aristophanes, Birds 690–699, translation by Eugene O'Neill Jr., at the Perseus Digital Library.
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- Apollonius of Rhodes. Argonautica. 3. 25 ff. – a Greek epic of the 3rd century BCE
- Seneca. Phaedra. 290 ff.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses. 10. 525 ff.
- Nonnus. Dionysiaca. 48. 470 ff. – a Greek epic of the 5th century CE
- Apuleius. "Cupid and Psyche". The Golden Ass. Penguin Classics.
- Robinson, James M. (2007) [1st publ. 1978]. "On the Origin of the World". The Nag Hammadi Scriptures. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060523787.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca 15.202–16.383
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48.936–992
- Banegas, Fabio (2017). Jose Antonio Bottiroli, Complete Piano Works, Vol. 1 (First ed.). The US Library of Congress: Golden River Music. p. 49. ISMN 9790365524174. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
- "BOTTIROLI, J.A.: Piano Works (Complete), Vol. 2 - Nocturnes (Banegas, George Takei) - GP871".
- Aristophanes, Birds. The Complete Greek Drama. vol. 2. Eugene O'Neill, Jr. New York. Random House. 1938. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
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- Caldwell, Richard, Hesiod's Theogony, Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Company (June 1, 1987). ISBN 978-0-941051-00-2.
- "Eros." Cassells's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Lore, 1997.
- Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes: ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3 (Vol. 2).
- Hard, Robin, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology", Psychology Press, 2004, ISBN 9780415186360. Google Books.
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- Nonnus, Dionysiaca; translated by Rouse, W H D, I Books I-XV. Loeb Classical Library No. 344, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1940. Internet Archive
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca; translated by Rouse, W H D, II Books XVI-XXXV. Loeb Classical Library No. 345, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1940. Internet Archive
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca; translated by Rouse, W H D, III Books XXXVI-XLVIII. Loeb Classical Library No. 346, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1940. Internet Archive.
- The Greek Anthology. with an English Translation by. W. R. Paton. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1916. 1. Full text available at topostext.org.