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HISTORY

Greek or Roman? The story behind Cupid, the God of love

He has become one of the most popular symbols for Valentine's Day. But where did this little guy come from?

We all know Cupid from the cute merch and gifts that come out on February 14th for Saint Valentine's day. People portray it as a little winged boy who always carries a bow and arrows with heart-shaped tips, to whom we attribute our most powerful feeling which is love. But where did we get the idea of making him the main character of this festivity? Well, the story may go back all the way to Ancient Greece and Rome.

Eros, the Greek god of love

The birth of Eros in Greek mythology is a bit of a variant. Some authors say that he is the son of Aphrodite (Goddess of beauty) with Zeus (the God of Gods), or Nyx (Goddess of the night) with Erebus (God of Darkness); or even Iris (messenger of the Gods) with Zephyrus (God of the West Wind), but in all versions, his attributes have to do with love and desire. 

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He grew up to become a beautiful, sleek, and perfect-looking God who could influence the romantic feelings of both mortals and immortals with just the strikes of his arrows, some of which were golden (to spark desire) and others were leaden (to spark repulsion). It is said that he was a great archer and that never missed the target of every arrow he shot. 

With his “abilities“, Eros' mission became to direct the primordial force of love and carry it to mortals, including the one believed to be his true love, Psyche. But even still, he wasn't as adored as many other Gods and Goddesses in Olympus.

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Cupid, Eros' Roman adaptation

This little boy who is always depicted as chubby and with wings is said to be the son of Venus (Goddess of love) and Mars (God of War) who was born in Cyprus and that had to be immediately hidden from Jupiter who wanted to kill him because he thought he would be a great danger to the world. 

So Cupid ended up being fed and raised by the wild beasts in the forest, growing as beautiful and bold as his parents. There, he fabricated his bow out of an ash tree and his arrows out of a cypress with which he became a great archer. He was also able to spark desire and repulsion in whoever was arrowed and after his mother gifted him a set of golden arrows, he used those along with some leaden ones to influence others' feelings.

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But in this case, Cupid never seemed to physically grow up until Venus gave birth to another child called Anteros (God of passion) and it is said that when they were together, Cupid was seen as a beautiful man, but when they parted, Cupid came back to be a little blindfolded boy. Hence why he is known to be the representation of blind, naughty love, and it is said that love cannot grow without passion.

As you can see, this love representative wasn't always exactly like the cute little guy we are used to seeing nowadays. In fact, he wasn't even the image of Valentine's day until the 19th century when Victorians wanted to popularize the festivity by adding the romantic element to it. 

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Photos from Unsplash

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