It’s funny how Valentine’s Day evokes images of Cupid. His cherubic face is a contrast to the mischief he pulls when it comes to classic love stories. And although he may just look like a small baby flying around shooting hopeless souls with a bow and arrow, his story is a lot richer.
This celestial and god-like little being hails from way back in time, long before he was stamped on the front of corny Valentine’s Day cards. When I say long, I mean 700 B.C. long. If you’re still not quite sure who this aerial fella is, here’s a quick synopsis:
Cupid was originally part of the Greek culture, a god named Eros—long before the Romans adopted and renamed him ‘Cupido,’ meaning desire. In Latin he was sometimes called Amor as well. Hesiod was the first author to mention him in his work “Theogony”, but it wasn’t until later that we got hints of his lineage. Was he of Aphrodite and Ares? Nyx and Erebus? Venus and Mars? The connections vary at times. But his work was clear: He either shot mortals and gods with sharp golden arrows (for desire) or blunt lead arrows (for aversion).
Image Via ArtStation
Stories and myths are countless among the gods, but for Eros, there are a few notable ones. In one story, he shot Apollo with a golden arrow so he would fall in love with Daphne. Being his mischievous self, Eros shot Daphne with a lead arrow, leading to her repulsion of Apollo.
In another, Eros’ mother Aphrodite (aka Venus de Milo) was so jealous of Psyche (whose name means ‘soul’ and is depicted as a butterfly) that she ordered Eros to make her fall in love with a monstrous beast. Instead, Eros fell in love with Psyche on the condition that she can’t see his face. Eventually, of course, she peeked and he flew off in anger. In time he returned and granted her immortality anyway. It was believed that Cupid experienced the pain similar of a lead arrow when he was stung by a bee as a child when scouting a hive for fresh honey.
As for the chubby, troublesome baby Cupid, it wasn’t until the Hellenistic period (323-31 BC) that he gained this image that, of course, stuck with us. He was even portrayed as being blindfolded, which Shakespeare explained was due to his being a little boy who always changed his mind. Cupid has often been depicted in literature, but now that you have the story, check out the some of the most gorgeous depictions of Eros in art:
Allegory of Venus and Cupid by Agnolo Bronzino, 1545 / Image Via Steven Art Gallery AB
Seated Cupid by Etienne-Maurice Falconet, 1757 / Image Via Wikipedia
Cupidon by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1891 / Image Via WikiArt
Sleeping Cupid by Caravaggio, 1608 / Image Via Wikipedia
Now that you can impress your friends with mythological facts and stories, don’t forget that this is the little face who’s responsible when you start catching those feelings.