* Irene's Country Corner * - Eros & Psyche


Eros & Psyche

 The Abduction of Psyche (1895) - painting by William Adolphe Bourguereau (1825-1905)

 Eros, in Greek mythology, is known as the god of love, the personification of love in all its manifestations, including physical passion at its strongest, tender, romantic or playful love. According to some legends he was one of the oldest of the gods, born from Chaos and personifying creative power and harmony. In most legends he is believed to be the son of Aphrodite and Ares and is represented as a winged youth carrying a bow and arrows. In Greek poetry Eros was often a willful and unsympathetic god. At Thespiae and at Athens he was worshiped as a god of fertility. In Hellenistic and Roman myth, he was represented as a naked, winged child, the son of Venus - the Roman goddess of love - and this association between him and Venus was quite popular in myth, poetry, literature and art. To the Romans he was Cupid, a variation on Cupido ("desire"), or Amor ("love"). Cupid fell in love with a mortal girl called Psyche.

Psyche, in Greek mythology, is the personification of the human soul. The Greek name for butterfly is Psyche, and the same words also means the soul. In some works of art, Psyche is depicted as a maiden with the wings of a butterfly.

Psyche was the youngest daughter of a king. She was so beautiful that strangers worshiped her like a godess, which made Venus (Aphrodite), the real goddess, very jeallous of her. Venus took notice of this insult of being overthrown in popularity by a mere mortal, so the goddess decided to punish her rival. The goddess commanded her son Cupid (Eros) to use his powers as the god of desire to make Psyche fall in love with the most horrible being on earth. But while trying to complete his task, Cupid confused himself, and was wounded by his own arrow, falling in love with Psyche.

Although Psyche had many admires, neither a royal youth, nor a plebeian asked her in marriage. Afraid that they had unwittingly incurred the anger of the gods, her parents consulted the oracle of Apollo, and were told that her future husband was a monster who was waiting for her on the top of a mountain.

Accepting her fate, she asked to be led to that mountain. There, she was kept in a beautiful, but isolated castle. She had not yet seen the face of her husband. Cupid forbade her to look at him. He did not want her to adore him only because he was a god, but to love him as an equal. Then, he came only in the hours of darkness and fled before the dawn of morning, but his accents were full of love, and Psyche fell in love with a husband she had never seen. Although she felt a sort or passion for her husband, she often begged him to stay and let her behold him.

In the beginning, Psyche felt quite happy, but then she began to feel her palace was nothing but a beautiful prison. One night, she told Cupid her distress, and he consented that her sisters should be brought to see her.

But her sisters influenced her with the suspicious that Cupid was not a handsome youth, but a horrible beast instead. Her curiosity was too strong for her to resist, so after her sisters were gone, she decided to follow her sisters' advice and provide herself with a lamp and a sharp knife and see for herself whether what they said was true or not. If it was true, she would have to brave enough not to hesitate and cut off the monster's head in order to recover her liberty. But, instead of a monster, she beheld the most charming and beautiful of the gods.

Seeing that Psyche had disobbeyed him and believing that love could not live with suspicion, Cupid flew away. He decided not to inflict any punishment on her, but leave her forever.

But Psyche never ceased to search for her loving husband. One day, advised by the holy Ceres (Dememter), she tried to speak to Venus with hopes of winning her forgiviness and being reunited with Cupid. Venus received her with anger and imposed her difficult and dangerous tasks in order to prove herself useful. But with the help of Cupid and the river god, she succeeded in the first two. Knowing that is was not for Psyche's own doings that she accomplish the previous tasks, Venus imposed her one more. She asked her to take a box and go to the infernal shades, where she should handle it to Proserpine (Persephone) and ask her to put a little of her beauty in the box and bring it back to Venus. Knowing this was a very dangerous task and there was no hope for her, she went to the top of a high tower and was almost giving up when a voice told her how to reach the realms of Pluto (Hades), avoiding the dangers of the road and coming back in safety. Then, the voice warned her not to open the box under any circunstances. But Psyche couldn't resist and carefully opened the box, but found nothing but an infernal sleep, which being set free from its prison, took possession of her, and she fell the road asleep.

But Cupid, no longer able to bear the absence of Psyche, flew towards her. Gathering up the sleep from her body, he closed it again in the box and waked her.

Then, Cupid presented himself before Jupiter in the heights of heaven, who pleaded the cause of the lovers so earnestly with Venus that he won her consent. Jupiter then sent Mercury (Hermes) to bring Psyche up to the heavenly assembly, where she was made immortal and lived happily with her beloved ever after. Cupid and Psyche had a daughter whose name was Pleasure.

Eros and Psyche (1793) - marble statue by Antonio Canova (1757-1822).

Eros and Psyche (1793) - marble statue by Antonio Canova (1757-1822).
I took this picture at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1999.



 © Olli. Not for download. Please, visit Country Patch Collections.

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This page was created on: February 3rd 2003.
Information obtained at Encyclopedia.com and BULFINCH, Thomas. 1855 - Bulfinch's Mythology, The Age of Fable.

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