In Greek mythology, Eros was the god of erotic, or sexual, love. The Romans called him Amor or Cupid, from the words amor meaning "love" and cupido meaning "desire." His role in mythology changed over time, as did images of him in sculpture and other works of art.

Many different accounts of Eros's birth exist. One of the oldest is found in the Theogony (History of the Gods), written by the Greek Hesiod * around 700 B . C . Hesiod claimed that Eros, like Gaia the earth goddess, was one of the offspring of the primeval emptiness called Chaos. He believed Eros to be one of the first powers in the universe, representing the force of attraction and harmony that filled all of creation.

In later times, the Greeks spoke of Eros as the son of Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love, and Ares (Mars) * . Eros became specifically identified with passionate love and fertility. The Greeks portrayed him as a handsome young man with a bow and arrow. The people he struck with his arrows were bound to fall in love. Eros himself fell in love with a beautiful human woman named Psyche.

primeval from the earliest times

Hellenistic term referring to the Greek-influenced culture of the Mediterranean world and the Near East during the three centuries after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B . C .

During Hellenistic times, another image of Eros became popular—that of a mischievous, chubby, winged boy or infant. He was often seen holding his bow and arrow and wearing a blindfold to show that he shot his arrows at random. Artists sometimes multiplied him into many small winged figures. After the rise of Christianity, these little cupids became identified with baby angels. Eros appears throughout literature in works such as the Aeneid by Virgil * and the Metamorphoses by Ovid * as well as in the poems Endymion and Ode to Psyche by the English poet John Keats.

See also Aphrodite ; Greek Mythology ; Psyche ; Venus .

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