Eros | God of Love Desire and Carnal Passion in Greek Myth (2024)

In the vast tapestry of Greek mythology, where gods and mortals dance in tales of love, betrayal, and heroism, there’s one figure who stands as the very embodiment of passion: Eros. With a mischievous glint in his eye and arrows that can stir the hearts of gods and humans alike, Eros’s influence is both profound and pervasive.

Eros Key Facts

ParentsAphrodite and Ares or Chaos (varies by source)
PartnersPsyche
SiblingsAnteros, Himeros, Pothos (among others)
OffspringHedone
Roman nameCupid
The God ofLove and Desire
SymbolsBow and Arrow, Lyre, Dolphins

Name and Etymology

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Eros, a name that resonates deeply within the annals of mythology and literature, is derived from the ancient Greek verb “ero,” meaning “to desire.” This nomenclature is no accident; it captures the very essence of a deity who governs love and longing. In the Roman realm, people celebrate him as Cupid, a name that has stood the test of time and inspired modern tales of love and romance. Throughout history, various epithets have adorned Eros, each reflecting a unique aspect of his character and influence.

Eros Origins

The tales of Eros’s birth are as varied as they are captivating. Some narratives place him as the child of Aphrodite, the radiant goddess of love, and Ares, the fierce god of war. This union of love and war, passion and conflict, paints Eros as a deity of dualities. Yet, other tales, particularly the older cosmogonies, suggest he emerged from Chaos, the vast void preceding creation, making him one of the primordial deities. This version positions Eros not just as a god of romantic love, but as a force of attraction that binds the universe together.

His childhood, too, is a tapestry of tales. While often depicted as a perpetually young and mischievous boy, Eros’s actions bear the weight and consequence of a god. He’s not just a child playing with arrows; he’s a powerful deity whose whims and desires shape the fates of both mortals and gods.

In the realm of Greek myth, Eros also holds significance as a Daemone, or spirit. As a Daemone, Eros personifies passionate love and desire, influencing the hearts and actions of gods and mortals. His role is not just that of a god with a bow and arrow, but as an omnipresent force, guiding, shaping, and sometimes even misdirecting the paths of love.

Eros’ Lovers and Relationships

Love, in all its forms, was the playground of Eros. Yet, among the myriad tales of passion and desire, one relationship stands out, both for its tenderness and its trials: his union with Psyche.

Psyche and Eros

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Their love story is one for the ages. Psyche, a mortal of unparalleled beauty, inadvertently invoked the wrath of Aphrodite. Jealous of Psyche’s beauty, Aphrodite sent Eros to make her fall in love with the vilest of men. However, upon seeing her, Eros himself was struck by her beauty and fell deeply in love. Their relationship, though passionate, was fraught with challenges, tests, and separations. Yet, love triumphed, and Psyche was granted immortality to be with Eros, symbolizing the union of the soul (Psyche) with love and desire (Eros).

From his union with Psyche, he had a daughter, symbolizing the culmination of their love.

Hedone

Hedone, whose name means “pleasure,” embodies the bliss and joy born from the union of love and the soul. She stands as a testament to the enduring love between Eros and Psyche and the pleasures that such a union can bring forth.

Depiction And Characteristics

Artists often depict Eros as a young, winged boy who carries a bow and a quiver full of gold-tipped arrows. When these arrows strike, they ignite an insatiable passion in the hearts of both gods and mortals. However, some representations show Eros as a mature figure, symbolizing not only youthful infatuation but also the deeper, lasting facets of love.

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While his actions might seem whimsical or even capricious, Eros’s personality is layered. He embodies both the playful innocence of young love and the depth and intensity of mature passion. His actions, whether causing gods to fall in love or challenging Psyche’s love for him, always serve to highlight the complexities of love and desire.

Eros’ Powers and Symbol

Beyond his famed arrows, Eros possessed the profound power to invoke desire, love, and passion. He made gods bow to mortals, sparked wars over love, and inspired poets and artists for generations. His influence extended beyond romantic love; he also ruled over friendships, familial love, and the fervent chase of ambitions and dreams.

His bow and arrows stand as the most iconic symbols, symbolizing his power to inspire love and desire. The lyre, a musical instrument, represents the harmony and melody of love. Dolphins, recognized for their playful and social nature, symbolize the joy and playfulness of love for Eros.

Roles And Responsibilities

Eros, as the god of love and desire, held a pivotal position in the pantheon of Greek deities.

The Catalyst of Emotion

Eros wielded the power to ignite the flames of passion, not just among mortals but also within the hearts of gods. With a single shot from his golden-tipped arrows, he could make individuals fall deeply in love, or with his lead-tipped arrows, instill aversion. He not only influenced romantic endeavors but also forged friendships, strengthened family bonds, and sparked rivalries.

The Cosmic Force

In some ancient Greek cosmogonies, Eros was viewed as a primordial deity, representing the force of attraction that binds the universe. Beyond the tales of romantic pursuits, he was the essence that brought order to Chaos, making him integral to the very fabric of creation.

Guardian of Relationships

Eros also acted as a protector of relationships. While he might have been the cause of many a tumultuous love affair, he also ensured that genuine love endured challenges. His union with Psyche is a testament to this, symbolizing that true love can overcome even the most insurmountable obstacles.

Eros and Lofn: A Comparative Glimpse

Lofn, in Norse mythology, is a lesser-known goddess associated with forbidden love. While Eros and Lofn hail from different pantheons, their domains overlap in intriguing ways.

  • Similarities: Both deities champion love. Eros, with his arrows, can make anyone fall in love, while Lofn has the special permission of Odin, the Allfather, to bring together lovers, even if their union is forbidden or frowned upon. They both represent the idea that love, in its truest form, knows no bounds and can overcome societal norms and challenges.
  • Differences: Eros is often depicted as a mischievous youth, acting on whims and sometimes causing chaos with his actions. His role is more active, directly influencing the course of love among gods and mortals. Lofn, on the other hand, is more of a benevolent force, quietly ensuring that true love finds its way, especially when societal norms stand in the way. She acts as a gentle protector, ensuring that love, even if forbidden, finds a way.

In essence, while Eros might be the spark that ignites passion, Lofn is the gentle breeze that ensures the flame of love continues to burn, even against the odds.

Eros Games

Play a fun wordsearch game with Eros and other demigods:

If this one was fun, try our other equally fun games! For example, this quiz with Primordial Greek gods!

Myths about Eros

Eros, with his capricious nature and powerful arrows, has been at the heart of many tales in Greek mythology. His influence spans from playful mischief to profound passion, shaping the destinies of both mortals and gods. Here are five myths that beautifully encapsulate the essence of Eros.

Eros and Psyche

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Perhaps the most celebrated of all tales involving Eros is his love story with Psyche. Psyche, a mortal of unparalleled beauty, drew the envy of Aphrodite. In her jealousy, Aphrodite commanded Eros to make Psyche fall in love with the most wretched of men. However, when he saw her, her beauty immediately captivated him, and he fell deeply in love. Their relationship took them through a whirlwind of emotions, facing trials, betrayals, and tests. Aphrodite once set Psyche a series of impossible challenges. However, their love stood strong. After facing numerous challenges, Psyche gained immortality, and they united for eternity.

Eros, Apollo, and Daphne

In a tale that underscores the unpredictable nature of love, Eros once shot two arrows: one golden, which caused intense love, and one leaden, which induced aversion. Apollo, the god of music and prophecy, mocked Eros’s archery skills. In retaliation, Eros shot Apollo with the golden arrow, making him fall hopelessly in love with the nymph Daphne. However, Daphne was shot with the leaden arrow, causing her to despise Apollo. Despite Apollo’s desperate pursuits, Daphne wished to remain untouched and prayed to her father, the river god Peneus, to save her. In response, she was transformed into a laurel tree, forever out of Apollo’s reach.

Eros and Anteros

Anteros, often depicted as Eros’s brother, is the god of requited love and the avenger of unrequited love. Legend has it that Anteros was born as a response to Eros’s love for Psyche, symbolizing the mutual love they shared. In some tales, it’s said that Anteros would punish those who rejected love or were indifferent to Eros’s arrows, acting as a counterforce to Eros’s whimsical nature.

Eros and the Creation of the World

In some of the earliest Greek cosmogonies, Eros is perceived as one of the primordial forces of the universe. Born from Chaos, the great void, he represented the force of attraction. He played a crucial role in the creation of the world and the cosmos, bringing order and harmony. His essence bound the world together, making him not just a god of romantic love but a fundamental force of creation.

Eros and Orion

Orion, the great hunter, once boasted that he could defeat any creature on Earth. Gaia, the Earth goddess, sent a scorpion to challenge Orion. As Orion battled the scorpion, Eros watched from the heavens. Seeing an opportunity for mischief, Eros shot his arrow, making the battle intensely personal. The skirmish ended with Orion’s defeat. Both Orion and the scorpion were placed among the stars as constellations, with Eros’s influence ensuring that they never meet in the night sky.

Eros In Ancient Greek Religion

He was revered in ancient Greek religion as a powerful and influential deity. His presence was felt in everyday life, from the blossoming of young love to the deep bonds of friendship.

Several sites and temples across ancient Greece were dedicated to him. One of the most notable is the Sanctuary of Eros in Thespiae, where an annual festival, the Erotidia, was held in his honor.

He was celebrated with fervor and devotion. The Erotidia, held in Thespiae, was a significant festival where devotees gathered to honor the god of love. Songs, dances, and offerings were made, celebrating love in all its forms.

Representations In Art

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Eros has been a favorite subject in art for millennia. From ancient Greek vases depicting his misadventures to Renaissance paintings showcasing his love story with Psyche, the portrayal of Eros captures the myriad emotions associated with love.

Mentions in Ancient Texts

Eros, with his profound influence on love and desire, has been a muse for countless authors and poets throughout history.

Hesiod’s “Theogony” (circa 700 BC)

Hesiod, a revered Greek poet is often considered a contemporary of Homer. He penned the “Theogony,” a foundational work detailing the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods. In this epic, Eros is introduced as one of the primordial deities, born from Chaos.

Quote: “From Chaos came forth Eros and black-winged Night.”

Plato’s “Symposium” (circa 385-370 BC)

Plato, the illustrious philosopher, in his dialogues “Symposium,” delves deep into the nature of love. Through various speakers, Plato explores different facets of love, with Eros being central to the discourse.

Quote: “He is a great spirit (daimon), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.”

Sappho’s Lyric Poems (circa 600 BC)

Sappho, the famed lyric poet from the island of Lesbos, often invoked Eros in her passionate verses. Her poems, though fragmented, capture the raw emotions and tumultuous nature of love, with Eros often being the instigator of such feelings.

Quote: “Eros once again limb-loosener whirls me, sweetbitter, impossible to fight off, creature stealing up.”

Apuleius’s “The Golden Ass” (circa 2nd century AD)

Apuleius, a Latin-language prose writer, narrates the tale of Eros and Psyche in his work “The Golden Ass.” This Roman novel, while not Greek, offers a detailed account of the trials and tribulations of their love.

Quote: “Psyche, seated on the summit of the mountain, was exposed to her fate. Eros, who is no other than Cupid, was stricken with love for Psyche and carried her off to a secret place.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What powers does he possess?

Eros has the power to instill love and desire in the hearts of both gods and mortals using his golden arrows.

Who are his parents?

Depending on the source, Eros is either the child of Aphrodite and Ares or a primordial deity born from Chaos.

Is he the same as Cupid?

In Roman mythology, people know Eros as Cupid, but some Roman stories portray Cupid with a slightly different character.

Did he have any children?

Yes, from his union with Psyche, Eros had a daughter named Hedone, representing pleasure.

Featured Image Credit: Walters Art Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Eros | God of Love Desire and Carnal Passion in Greek Myth (2024)
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