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EROS

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The god of love among the Greeks. His name does not occur in Homer; but in Hesiod he is the fairest of the deities, who subdues the hearts of all gods and men. He is born from Chaos at the same time as the Earth and Tartarus, and is the comrade of Aphrodite 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. But according to the later and commoner notion, Eros was the youngest of the gods, generally the son of Aphrodite 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 per sonifications 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 Psyche, see PSYCHE.) One of the chief and oldest seats of his worship was Thespiae in Baeotia. 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 was paid special honour and worship in the gymnasia, where his statue generally stood near those of 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 (Eleutheria) was held at Samos in his honour, as the god who bound men and youths together in the struggle for bonour and freedom; and why at Athens he was worshipped as the liberator of the city, in memory of Harmodius and Aristogiton. In works of art Eros was usually represented as a beautiful boy, close upon the age of youth. In later times be 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 master-piece, 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 (fig. 1). The Eros trying his bow, in the Capitoline Museum at Rome, is supposed to be the copy of a work by Lysippus (fig. 2). The Roman god Amor or Cupido was a mere adaptation of the Greek Eros, and was never held in great honour.

Pictures and Media
EROS. Probably as the Genius of Death. Ascribed to the time of Hadrian. Found at Centocelle (Rome, Vatican).
EROS. (Rome, Capito'ne Museum.)
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