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Eros was the Greek god of
love and sexual desire. Some claim that he was one of the first gods to emerge
from primeval Chaos, hatched from the world-egg, and thus is considered to be
one of the eldest gods. They reason that none of the other gods could have been
born without Eros.
There are other theories as to his
parentage: He is held to be the son of Aphrodite and Hermes, or
Aphrodite and Ares, or even Aphrodite and Zeus. A lyrical fancy even
holds that he was the son of Iris, goddess of the Rainbow, and Zephyrus,
the West Wind.
Here is a fragment from Robert
Graves' The Greek Myths:
"But the Orphics say that black-winged Night, a goddess
of whom even Zeus stands in awe, was courted by the Wind and laid a
silver egg in the womb of Darkness; and that Eros, whom some call Phanes,
was hatched from this egg and set the Universe in motion. Eros was
double-sexed and golden-winged and, having four heads, sometimes roared
like a bull or a lion, sometimes hissed like a serpent or bleated like a
ram. Night, who named him Ericepaius and Protogenus Phaethon, lived in a
cave with him, displaying herself in triad: Night, Order and Justice.
Before this cave sat inescapable mother Rhea, playing on a brazen drum,
and compelling man's attention to the oracles of the goddess. Phanes
created earth, sky, sun, and moon, but the triple-goddess ruled the
universe, until her scepter passed to Uranus."
In more recent mythology,
Eros is portrayed as the son of Aphrodite and Ares, and one of the
younger deities. He is represented as a playful, winged boy with a bow
and arrows. He wounds both gods and men with his unerring and
irresistible arrows of desire. His arrows come in two sets: golden
arrows with dove feathers for love, and leaden arrows with owl feathers
for indifference. Eros' brother is Anteros ("returner of love") and his
wife is the mortal Psyche.
In the Dionysian Mysteries, Eros is the
most ancient deity and referred to as protagonus ("the first-born") who
emerged from the cosmic egg of Nyx, the goddess of night. According to
the philosopher Plato, Eros is the striving of mankind to the pure, the
good, the beautiful. Eros' Roman counterpart is Amour/Cupid. His name
Once, these tall and terrible Giants
attacked Mount Olympus, hurling rocks and fire-brands at the palace of
the gods from their mountain tops. There were 24 of these Giants, sons
of Gaea, Mother Earth.
When one of these Giants,
Porphyrion, broke through the Olympians' defenses and tried to strangle
Hera, Eros shot a timely arrow at the monster and wounded him in the
liver. His anger turned to lust and he then attempted to violate the
Queen of the Olympians. This so enraged Zeus, seeing his wife about to
be molested, that he raced up to Porphyrion and struck him down with a
When Hera and Athena were trying to
figure out how best to assist Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for
the Golden Fleece, they approached Aphrodite for help. The goddess of
Love located her mischievous son, who was playing dice with the boy
Ganymede, and cheating at that, and instructed him to go to the palace
at Colchis. There, Eros let fly an arrow at the heart of the witch Medea,
causing her to fall in love with the hero Jason, and consequently
leading to the recovery of the precious Golden Fleece by the Argonauts.
It was also Eros who shot an
arrow of love into the heart of the most beautiful mortal woman, Helen,
making her instantly fall in love with the Trojan prince Paris. This
infatuation led to Paris and Helen running away to Troy, which prompted
the infuriated Greeks to begin the Trojan War in retaliation.
The myth of Eros
(Love) and Psyche (Soul) is perhaps the most famous story involving
Eros. It's told by the great Edith Hamilton, in her excellent book
"Mythology - Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes".
There was once a king who had three daughters, all
lovely maidens, but the youngest Psyche, excelled her sisters so great
that beside them she seemed like a goddess consorting with mere mortals.
The fame of her surpassing beauty spread far and wide and soon many
people came to worship her as though she were a goddess. Venus' temples
lay in filth and her favorite city lay in ruins, for now, all that cared
for Venus cared for Psyche.
Venus grew jealous of Psyche and as always turned to her son Cupid for
help. She told Cupid to go to earth and shoot Psyche with an arrow as to
make her fall in love with the most despicable creature on earth. He
would have done so if he was not first shown Psyche. It was as though
Cupid pierced his own heart with one of his arrows. Venus left Cupid
confident that he would carry out her orders.
What happened next Venus did not count on. Psyche did not fall in love
with a horrible creature and still more strange she did not fall in love
at all. All the men were content in worshiping and admiring her but no
one ever truly loved her. Both her sisters inexpressibly inferior to
her had gotten married to kings and yet she sat sad and solitary, only
to be admired, not loved.
Her father in discourse turned to an oracle of Apollo for advice. The
oracle said that Cupid himself told him to say that Psyche be dressed in
deepest mourning and placed on the summit of a mountain to be taken away
by a winged serpent, stronger than the gods themselves, to make his
Misery came as her father told the family the lamentable news. They
dressed Psyche up as though she was to attend her own funeral and walked
with her to the top of the hill. Though her parents wept grievously, she
kept up her courage and said she was glad the time had come. They went
in despairing grief leaving her helpless on the top of the mountain and
returned to the palace and mourned all their days for her.
As she sat atop the mountain she wept and trembled not knowing what was
to come. Suddenly a warm breath of wind caressed her neck and she felt
herself being lifted up and away until she came down upon a soft meadow
with flowers so fragrant. She had forgotten all her fears here and fell
asleep. As she woke beside a bright river; and on its bank was a stately
mansion that was fit for the gods themselves.
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