- Education and Science»
- Sociology & Anthropology
Eros and Psyche: A Greek Myth
The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful
Once upon a time, a king had three daughters. The youngest of them, Psyche, was far more beautiful than her sisters. In fact, she was considered the most beautiful mortal alive. Everyone who met her said her beauty would rival that of Aphrodite's. And indeed, people traveled from near and far to gaze upon her beauty. As more and more people admired and honored Psyche, however, more and more forgot about Aphrodite. Her temples stood abandoned and falling into disrepair and her statues started to crumble. Angered, Aphrodite turned to her son and told him to take Psyche and make her marry a vile creature. Eros went with his magic bow and arrows meant to make people fall in love when struck with them. But when he saw Psyche, he fell in love with her and was unable to do it.
Unfortunately for Psyche, it looked like Eros was the only male to fall in love with her. While many men came for her beauty, they loved to admire her and honor her before moving on to marry other women. They saw her as a work of art more than a potential bride and even while Psyche's sisters married kings, she was left waiting for a proposal of her own. After her two sisters had married kings, it seemed like all hope was lost for Psyche. Distraught, her father traveled to Delphi to ask the oracle how to find a husband for Psyche. Apollo's prophet told him to dress Psyche in black and leave her at a mountain summit where a horrible beast will take her for a wife.
A Horrible Fate
A crying Psyche was prepared for the summit and delivered. Dressed completely in black with her possessions in tow, she waited to meet her husband. When she was there, she came across a beautiful castle fit for a queen. It was the most majestic building that Psyche had ever seen. The wind whispered in her ear, beckoning her inside.
Psyche went in to find an elegant feast laid out for her and she ate while music played in the air and her spirits started to lift. Perhaps this is my husband's house, she thought. And indeed it was a house that Eros had provided for Psyche because he intended to take her as his own wife instead of marrying her to a monster. But because of Aphrodite's wrath, no one could know, not even Psyche. So he only joined her that night in complete darkness and lulled Psyche to sleep whispering sweet words to her.
Psyche was incredibly happy at her castle. She was free to go anywhere in it and enjoyed every luxury life could bring. She loved her husband and felt loved by him back, even though she had no idea who he was or what he even looked like. But as time went on, sadness and restlessness grew in Psyche. She missed her family and was growing tired and bored. So she asked her husband to grant permission for her two sisters to visit her. Eros readily agreed, wanting to please his new wife.
Psyche and her sisters were all overjoyed to be reunited. They all ate and drank and listened to beautiful music. Her sisters marveled at the splendor in the castle. It was much greater than their own castles and they wondered about who Psyche's mysterious husband was. When they asked her about who he was and what his occupation was, Psyche responded that all she knew was that he was a young hunter.
"There is no way a hunter can afford all this," her sisters said. "This home is fit for a king, and maybe even a god." As the visit wore on, her sisters grew more and more jealous of Psyche's prosperity. As they left, they told her, "I bet he doesn't let you see you because he's a wicked and vile beast and you would be disgusted at the sight of him. Poor girl, I can't believe you sleep with him!"
Psyche grew worried as she thought about what her sisters had said. What if her husband was an ugly creature? She had never seen him, so she didn't know. What if he was an animal, or even a monster? That night she waited until her husband was asleep next to her and turned on the lamp so she could see his face. Instead of seeing a horrible beast, she laid eyes upon the most handsome man she had ever seen. She smiled when she saw him and thanked the gods for blessing her with such a wonderful husband. However, when she was staring at him, a drop of hot oil from the lamp landed on Ero's bare back, waking him up. He sat up and realized Psyche had not trusted him. He got up and left, heartbroken. Psyche followed him outside and heard Eros whisper "Love cannot live without trust" before he took flight and flew into the night. It was only then that Psyche realized her husband was the god of love and she wept for her loss.
More than anything she wanted to get Eros back, so Psyche went to Aphrodite and begged her to help her get her husband back. Aphrodite agreed, but only if Psyche did some tasks for the goddess of love to prove her worthy for her son. If she failed even one task, Eros was lost to Psyche forever. Psyche agreed, not knowing that Aphrodite really wanted Psyche's beauty to fade from hard work.
Aphrodite led Psyche to a hill where there was a giant hill of many different kinds of tiny seeds. "I want you to sort these seeds into different piles by this afternoon," Aphrodite said and then left.
Psyche looked helplessly at the giant pile. It would take her days of constant work to sort through them all. There was no way she could get it done by the afternoon. Salvation came in the form of a colony of ants passing through. Seeing she was upset, they went to help her. It wasn't long before they were at work themselves with sorting the seeds into different piles, which was what the ants knew best. They moved quickly and efficiently and it wasn't long before the big hill of seeds became many different small piles. When Aphrodite came back and saw this, she got very angry. "You are not done with your tasks," she said coldly. That night she made Psyche sleep on the floor.
The next day Aphrodite gave Psyche an empty bottle and took her to a dangerous waterfall in the River Estige. The water cascaded over black, slippery rocks at such a pace that any mortal would quickly meet their death. Aphrodite told Psyche to get some of the water from the waterfall and then left. Psyche knew she couldn't get the water without being killed. No human could ever survive that. But it wasn't long before help came her way. An eagle flew by and snatched the empty bottle from her hands before flying to the waterfall, filling it, and then returning it to her. When Psyche presented Aphrodite with the water, the goddess became even more angry. "Someone must have helped you," she said, snatching the bottle from Psyche's hands. "There was no way you could have done that yourself." Again she made Psyche sleep on the floor, but Psyche didn't care. She still had a chance to be reunited with Eros and as long as that was possible, she would be happy.
On the third day, Aphrodite gave Psyche a box. "Go to the Underworld and ask Queen Persephone to drain a little bit of her beauty into this box," she said. "Don't come back until you have it."
So Psyche went into the Underworld. She bribed the boatman to take her across and guide her to Persephone's palace. The boatman obliged. The queen of the Underworld was happy to serve Aphrodite and she quickly put a little bit of her beauty into the box. Psyche thanked her and left, the boatman guiding her out of the Underworld again.
The goddess of love was filled with rage when she learned that Psyche had completed the third task. She told the girl that she would never see her beloved Eros again and she would remain Aphrodite's servant forever.
Happily Ever After
On Mount Olympus, the gods were starting to talk about Aphrodite's treatment of Psyche. They were fed up with the goddess's jealousy and antics and wanted to show poor Psyche the mercy that Aphrodite wouldn't show her. So they sent Hermes, the messenger god to tell Eros about Psyche's time with Aphrodite.
Eros, stricken with grief, wouldn't leave his room, where he wept over Psyche's betrayal until Hermes visited him. When Hermes described the impossible tasks that Psyche did for him, Eros knew he had to save her. So he flew to his mother's home and found Psyche in the garden, where he swept her up and flew her away.
From then on, they lived happily ever after. Eros and Psyche were very much in love again and living on Mount Olympus. The gods were pleased with the outcome as well. Even Aphrodite was happy because now that Psyche wasn't on Earth anymore, the mortals had gone back to worshipping Aphrodite's beauty and not Psyche's.