When you hear the name Cupid, you probably think of a naked winged toddler flying around shooting the arrow of true love into unsuspecting couples around the world. And why not, this is the image we see on Valentine's Day cards and decorations. The depiction of Cupid as a chubby cherub is a Roman rebrand when they stole the character from the Greeks during the Hellenistic period. In fact, the name Cupid came from the Romans, replacing the Greek god Eros. Cupido is Latin for desire. Eros id the Greek lovechild of Venus and Mars or Nyx and Erebus, or Iris and Zephyrus, or Aphrodite and Ares. Although Eros exact lineage is unclear, it is certain that he came from good stock. Another thing to know about Eros is that symbolically, he was not a toddler. Eros was a wiry winged teenage boy who was known for shooting golden arrows into gods and humans alike creating love and all sorts of other mischief. Eros also traveled with leaded arrows in his quiver that would cause permanent aversion.
The Romans told a great story that illustrates Cupids unique power. The God Apollo fancied a beautiful young woman named Daphne. One day he was boasting that he was a better archer than Cupid. In response, Cupid shot Apollo with a golden arrow of love and then turned to Daphne firing a leaded arrow into her heart. While Apollo was enamored, Daphne was equally averse. If face, Daphne was so freaked out by Apollo's unwanted advances that she asked her dad, Peneus, a river god, to turn her into a bush. Which he did. Yes, the story of Apollo and Daphne is a fascinating tale of love lost and horticulture.
Here's the symbolism as I understand it. Eros and Cupid are both portrayed as young males because both love and young boys are irrational. Both Cupis and Eros are archers shooting their victims with arrows because love often wounds the heart. Ane the pairs wings are thought to represent the flighty and fickle nature of lovers.
As it turns out, the Roman characterization of Cupid outlasted his Greek counterpart Eros and has survived the test of time. Since the Roman rebranding of the god Eros, Cupid has been featured in countless works of art and literature. It seems that all of the greats including Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and the Latin poet Ovid have used the winged boy as a subject. Today Cupis is a common commercial symbol for Valentine's Day. The chubby flying child is featured on everything from cards to heart-shaped boxes of candy during the season of love. It seems odd that a Greek boy-god has survived thousands of years to arrive in modern time as a symbol love right alongside chocolate and flowers. It also seems like we have all but forgotten about the whole leaded arrow part of the story. Maybe we have an aversion to aversion. Or maybe it because we love, love so much? One thing is for sure, it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without Cupid! Happy Valentine's Day from Dad's Tie
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