Cupid, Eros, Amor, The God of Desire & Erotic Love

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Cupid, in Latin Cupido (passionate desire) or Amor (love), is the god of desire, erotic love, affection, and attraction.

He is frequently represented as the child of Mars, the god of battle, and Venus, the goddess of love. Eros is the Greek equivalent of him. He only appears as the major figure in the story of Cupid and Psyche, and when he is hurt by his own weapons, he goes through the trials of love. Although Eros is typically shown in Classical Greek art as a thin, acrobatic youngster, throughout the Hellenistic era, he was frequently shown as a plump kid. During this period, the bow and arrow that stand for his source of power—a human or perhaps a god—became a part of his iconography. A person or even a deity who is struck by Cupid’s arrow is overcome by irrational desire.

Related article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Rome

As the Amores, or amorini in the later nomenclature of art history, the equivalent of the Greek erotes, Cupid frequently manifests himself in multiples in works of art. Roman and subsequent Western art in the classical heritage both frequently use Cupids as a motif. The putto and Cupid imagery begin to resemble one another in the fifteenth century. Cupid is said to be winged and boyish because love is illogical and that lovers are flighty and prone to changing their thoughts. Because love “wounds and inflames the heart,” he chose the arrow and torch as his emblems.

Diana and Cupid, Pompeo Batoni  (1708–1787)
Diana and Cupid, Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787) (source)

One of Cupid’s arrows, or darts, has a pointed tip made of gold, and the other has a dull lead tip. A person struck by a golden arrow experiences unbridled desire, whereas a person struck by a lead arrow experiences repulsion and simply wants to leave. The first book of the Latin poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses has a description of the use of these arrows.

A deity of desire in ancient Rome, Cupid had no temples or rituals apart from other Roman gods like Venus, whom he frequently accompanied as a supporting character in cult sculptures. It is possible to find a figurine of Cupid among the other statuettes for individual devotion at a home shrine, but there is no obvious distinction between statues for veneration and those used for show or adornment.

Featured image: Psyché et l’amour (1626–29) by Simon Vouet: Psyche lifts a lamp to view the sleeping Cupid


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