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Eros


Eros (Love) was the son of Aphrodite and Ares who also gave birth to Anteros (Reciprocal or Answering Love), Deimus and Phobus (Terror and Fear), and Harmonia, who later became the wife of Cadmus of Thebes.

(The story of Psyche and Eros legend is continued from Psyche.)

Eros became the invisible husband of Psyche. His mother, Aphrodite, became jealous of Psyche and sought her son to inspire the girl to fall in love with an ugly and miserable man. But, when Eros approached Psyche he saw her beauty and wanted her for his wife. Knowing Psyche was destined to be given to a monster, Eros arranged other plans. Zephyrus, the West Wind, gently carried the girl from atop of a rock where her parents abandoned her to a flowery bank where she fell asleep and woke finding herself in a beautiful garden. In front of her was a palace into which she entered as she was commanded to do by invisible voices. The voices told her to bathe, and then a banquet was set before her to feast upon while other voices sang and instrument played. After the banquet was over she was led to a chamber where she lied on a prepared bed. When the room was completely dark she sensed a presence beside her, she knew it was her husband of whom the oracle had spoken, but he seemed neither monstrous nor as terrible as she had feared even though she could not see him.

As time continued, her husband visited her in the dark of night, each morning he flew away. In the daytime the invisible servants cared for her needs and offered her endless distractions. For a while she was happy, but eventually she began missing her family. Her husband warned her of the danger of her nostalgia, and told her that her sisters whom she wanted to visit her could be fatal to them. But at her insistence Eros finally conceded wanting to please his wife and had Zephyrus bring her two sisters. When her two sisters arrived, upon seeing the wonderful palace that their sister live in, they were bitterly jealous of their sister's happiness. Meanwhile Eros kept warning her that she must never try to see him, nor yield to her curiosity to do so, or their happiness would not last.

The sisters left only to return again. This time they told Psyche that they feared she had married a monster, which was why her husband kept her from seeing him. They told her she must act to defend herself. Their terrible advice to her was that she was to hide a lamp in the room, and when he was asleep she was to kill him with a sharp knife.

The next night she acted upon the monstrous plan. Once lighting the lamp she saw the most beautiful adolescent with two wings of quivering down. When recognizing Eros her hand trembled and a drop of boiling oil from the lamp dropped on him and woke him up. He awoke with a start, immediately realizing he was betrayed, he immediately flew out of reach. "Psyche," he told her, "you wished to see me. You know who I am. Now I must leave you; you will never see me again." Psyche wept and fainted, but her husband was gone.

Psyche decided to search for her husband. But, first she wished to punish her sisters by telling them Eros wished to see them, so they threw themselves from atop of the rock where Zephyrus usually met them and were dashed to pieces in the ravine below. Then she searched the whole world looking for Eros. No deity wished to help her fearing the wrath of Aphrodite. Finally Psyche could do nothing but surrender herself to her enemy. Aphrodite tortured her by placing many difficult tasks on her including that of descending into the underworld to ask Persephone for a small box containing a beautiful ointment. Aphrodite specified that under no circumstances was the box to be opened. But Psyche's curiosity won out, causing her to open the container, and she breathed a vapor of sleep that made her lose consciousness.

However, Eros still loved her, and when seeing her in that magic sleep he flew towards her, and awakened her. Then he flew to Olympus to ask Zeus' permission to marry this mortal; a permission that Zeus willingly gave. Aphrodite and Psyche were reconciled. The child of Eros and Psyche was named Voluptuousness. A.G.H.


Sources:

Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 173-175