Who is Cupid?

Diane Goettel

Cupid, one of the gods in Roman mythology, is the force that controls erotic love. He is the Roman counterpart to the Greek god Eros. His name comes from the Latin word cupido, which translates to “passion, desire, yearning, wanting, or longing.” However, in Latin, Cupid is known as Amor. The Latin word means “love, infatuation, or passion.”

In the U.S., cupid is considered a symbol of love and romance.
In the U.S., cupid is considered a symbol of love and romance.

One of the few ancient gods that is still a popular part of modern society, Cupid is not regarded in quite the same way that he was in Greek and Roman times. He is widely accepted as a symbol of love, however. Currently, in Western culture, he is sort of the commercial spokesperson for Valentines day and all things romantic.

The Latin word for "cupid" means "love" or "infatuation."
The Latin word for "cupid" means "love" or "infatuation."

Icons of Cupid picture him shooting a bow. It is understood that the person who is struck by his arrow will be inspired to fall in love. This piece of mythology is so well known that a heart pierced by an arrow has become another symbol for love and romance.

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Someone struck by cupid's arrow will be inspired to fall in love.
Someone struck by cupid's arrow will be inspired to fall in love.

There is some debate within mythological texts about Cupid’s lineage. The ancient poet Hesiod explains in his text Theogony that he was created by both the god Chaos and the Earth, working together. In other lineages and tales, Cupid is assigned Jupiter and Venus as parents. In yet another version of the god’s lineage, he is labeled as the son of Nyx and Erebus.

Although in modern times, Cupid is most often portrayed as a cherubic fairy devoted to the spread of love and romance, he did not have such a squeaky clean reputation among the ancients. Rather, he was believed to be a bad boy, a trouble maker. In addition to being playful, in Greek and roman mythology, he was also quite fickle and perverse. Furthermore, his ability to inspire love, it was believed, was coupled with his ability to inspire hatred. Therefore, in many paintings of Cupid, he carries two quivers of arrows, one for each purpose.

The most common mythological tale involving the god is the tale of Cupid and Psyche. The goddess Venus, jealous of Psyche, a beautiful mortal woman, asks Cupid to use one of his arrows to make Psyche fall in love with the most hideous man on earth. In the tale, Cupid accidentally pricks himself with the arrow and falls in love with Psyche, thus thwarting Venus’ plan.

Cupid is often associated with affection and intimacy.
Cupid is often associated with affection and intimacy.

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Discussion Comments

anon185110

One thing I don't understand about the story of Cupid and Psyche: Why wouldn't he reveal himself to her after he was visiting her at night? If he'd been pricked by his own arrow, and it had the usual effect on him, then wouldn't his love and infatuation overcome him and make him want to share everything with Psyche?

anon118841

is cupid related to apollo?

anon51798

im sitting in class and this has really helped me out. thanks.

mendocino

The best that we can tell, there is no human culture that does not know of romantic love. Scientists are trying to figure out what actually happens in the human brain, or what are some biological changes that occur, when two people fall in love.

This appears to be a complicated process, and I do not think we have found the answer yet. In the meantime we will let the mischievous, cherubic little Cupid shoot his arrows at unsuspecting future lovers.

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