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The God Eros in Greek Mythology

Updated on March 20, 2016
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Eros was a god of Greek mythology, or more probably, Eros was the name given to two distinct gods of the Greek pantheon. One Eros was a Protogenoi, one of the primordial gods, and the second god was a Younger Eros, a god most closely associated with the Roman god Cupid.

Eros the Primordial God

The earliest period of Greek mythology, the period relating to creation, is a confusing one, with many writers from antiquity having their own take on how the universe came into existence.

Today, Hesiod’s Theogony is the source most often quoted for the genealogy of the gods; and Hesiod would state that Eros was the fourth god that came into existence, born from nothingness after Chaos, Gaia and Tartarus.

Orphic tradition would have Eros born from the world egg, an egg laid by Nyx (Aristophanes Birds) or Erbeus and Nyx (Hyginus Preface Cicero de Natura Deorum). In this Oprhic tradition, Eros was normally equated with a god called Phanes.

The Primordial Eros though was the god of Procreation, but the uniting power of Love, also associated with Eros, was said to have brought order the unruliness that had emerged from Chaos. Eros would also play a role in the bringing forth of life, for it was said that he brought together Gaia and Ouranus, from whom most other elements of life emerged.

Chronos and Eros

Johann Heinrich Schönfeld (1609–1684) PD-art-100
Johann Heinrich Schönfeld (1609–1684) PD-art-100 | Source

The Younger Eros

Hesiod would also write of Eros being the son of Aphrodite, and therefore indicates a second god of the same name; this Younger Eros was the god of Love. No father is named for Eros, and the suggestion is that when Aphrodite was born of the appendage of Kronos she was already pregnant.

Aphrodite though, was not just pregnant with Eros, and she also gave birth to one or more additional sons. These additional offspring where known as the Erotes and included the likes of Himeros (Desire), Anteros (Requited Love), and Pothos (Passion); although it was only Eros who had a distinct mythology.

The Younger Eros is normally depicted as a mischievous child, equipped with bow and arrows; Eros, if taken to be Cupid, had two types of arrows though, gold arrows would inspire love, and those made of lead, would cause indifference.

Eros and Anteros

Camillo Procaccini (1555–1629) PD-art-100
Camillo Procaccini (1555–1629) PD-art-100 | Source

The Most Famous Statue of Eros?

Man vyi -  Released into PD - Of course the statue in Picadilly Circus isn't of Eros, but is his brother, Anteros
Man vyi - Released into PD - Of course the statue in Picadilly Circus isn't of Eros, but is his brother, Anteros | Source

Mythological Stories of Eros

Eros was the constant companion of Aphrodite, and was famously in her company when the pair unexpectedly met Typhon. Typhon had gone to war with the gods of Mount Olympus, and as Aphrodite and Cupid travelled through Syria, the pair came across the monster by the River Euphrates. To escape Typhon mother and son transformed themselves into a pair of fish; giving rise the mythology of Pisces.

Eros of course normally appears in stories of love, and it was normal to Eros mentioned in passing whenever deities or mortals fell in love; Eros of course causing the mutual love between partners.

The most famous tale of Eros though, does not see the god making two others fall in love, but tells of his own relationship. Eros’ mother, Aphrodite, charged Eros with making the beautiful mortal Psyche fall in love with a hideous monster; Aphrodite being jealous of the mortal’s beauty.

Eros finds himself unable to carry out the command, as he himself, has fallen in love with Psyche. Eros though cannot reveal himself to Psyche though, as he knows that there would be no happiness for either of them, and so Eros insist only meets his love when the bedroom is in darkness.

Eventually, temptation gets the better of Psyche, and she turns on a lamp, to find out who her lover is. Eros flees, and Psyche searches in vain for the god, whilst Aphrodite torments the mortal. Eros has to ask Zeus for help in the end, and Psyche is turned into a goddess by the supreme god, allowing Eros and Psyche to spend eternity together.

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