previous next


Ἔρως). The god of love among the Greeks. His name does not occur in Homer; but in Hesiod (Theog. 120 foll.) he is the fairest of the deities, who subdues the hearts of both gods and men. He is born from Chaos at the same time as the Earth and Tartarus, and is the comrade of Aphrodité from the moment of her birth. Hesiod conceives Eros not merely as the god of sensual love, but as a power which forms the world by inner union of the separated elements—an idea very prevalent in antiquity, especially among the philosophers. According to the later and commoner notion, Eros was the youngest of the gods, generally the son of Aphrodité by Ares or Hermes, always a child, thoughtless and capricious. He is as irresistible as fair, and has no pity even for his own mother. Zeus, the father of gods and men, arms him with golden wings, and with bow and unerring arrows, or burning torches. Anteros, the god of mutual love, is his brother, and his companions are Pothos and Himeros, the personifications of longing and desire, with Peitho (Persuasion), the Muses, and the Graces. In later times he is surrounded by a crowd of similar beings, Erotes or Loves. (For the later legend of Eros and Psyché, see Psyché.)

One of the chief and oldest seats of his worship was Thespiae in Boeotia. Here was his most ancient image, a rough, unhewn stone. His festival, the Erotia or Erotidia, continued till the time of the Roman Empire to be celebrated every fifth year with much ceremony, accompanied by gymnastic and musical contests. Besides this he received special honour and worship in the gymnasia, where his statue generally stood near those of

Eros. (Rome, Capitoline Museum.)

Hermes and Heracles. In the gymnasia, Eros was the personification of devoted friendship and love between youths and men; the friendship which proved itself active and helpful in battle and bold adventure. This was the reason why the Spartans and Cretans sacrificed to Eros before a battle, and the sacred band of youths at Thebes was dedicated to him; why a festival of freedom (Ἐλευθέρια) was held at Samos in his honour, as the god who bound men and youths together in the struggle for honour and freedom; and why at Athens he was worshipped as the liberator of the city, in memory of Harmodius and Aristogiton (q.v.).

In works of art Eros was usually represented as a beautiful boy, close upon the age of youth. In later times he also appears as a child with the attributes of a bow and arrows, or burning torches, and in a great variety of situations. The most celebrated statues of this god were by Lysippus, Scopas, and Praxiteles whose Eros at Thespiae was regarded as a masterpiece, and unsurpassable. The famous torso in the Vatican, in which the god wears a dreamy, lovelorn air, is popularly, but probably erroneously, traced to an original by Praxiteles. The Eros trying his bow, in the Capitoline Museum at Rome, is supposed to be the copy of a work by Lysippus (see illustration). The Roman god Amor or Cupido was a mere adaptation of the Greek Eros, and was never held in great esteem. Antĕros was the brother of Eros and punished those who did not requite the love of others (Ovid, Met. xiii. 750).

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: