Love has always been a driving force in people’s lives. Over the years, artists have been influenced by this strong emotion creating masterpieces that present the audience with remarkable feelings even today. However, in Greek Mythology, love was not only a strong emotion but a God too. God Eros (Cupid in Latin), who fell in love with a mortal, Psyche (meaning Soul).
Let’s unveil one of the most powerful love stories, the myth of Eros & Psyche!
The beauty of Psyche
Psyche was one of the 3 daughters of a royal family. All of them were attractive but Psyche’s beauty was stunning. So stunning, that villagers from all around would visit the kingdom just to admire her. Her charm had men worshiping her like a Goddess, making them forget to worship the Goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite (Venus in Latin). As a consequence, Goddess Aphrodite got very jealous and decided to punish the beautiful, young girl. She ordered her son, Eros, to visit Psyche and throw his arrow to make her fall in love with the ugliest thing on earth. Indeed Eros managed to sneak into her room. Although, when he was about to throw his love arrow, he got distracted by her beauty and pricked himself. He then quickly ran away without completing his mother’s mission.
As the years went by, men continued to admire Psyche, but bedazzled by her beauty, no one was falling in love with her. So unlike her sisters who were already married and had started their families, she was alone. Her parents were very concerned and decided to consult the oracle of Apollo regarding her future.
The ominous oracle
The oracle announced that Psyche is destined to marry a monster that neither god nor mortal can resist. Her parents were advised to leave her on a mountain until her monstrous husband would come. Although they were very sad, they decided to follow the oracle’s advice.
The Wedding of Psyche and Love by François Boucher – 1744, (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen)
Zephyr, the gentle wind, felt sorry for the girl crying alone on the mountain and carried her down to a beautiful field of flowers. In front of her, was a beautiful palace that Eros, her husband, had built for her. It was full of treasures and precious art dedicated to her. Eros came to her that night in the darkness of her bedroom, so that she couldn’t see what he actually looked like. He told her that she would have anything she wished for but she must never try to see what he looks like.
Eros would only visit her at night, not wanting to reveal his face to her. Psyche started to love the sweet but mysterious man, but she was feeling lonely during the day. This is why she asked for her sisters to visit her, and wind Zefyr also brought them to the palace. They envied Psyche’s luxurious palace and started to ask questions about her husband. Followed by their hey reminded her of the prophecy that she would marry a monster. Followed by their spite, they convinced her to see what her husband looked like and try to kill him if he is a monster. All she would have to do was light a candle during the night while he is asleep.
The moment of truth
Influenced by her sister’s advice, Psyche tried to see Eros’ face when he fell asleep by her side. As she illuminated his face with the candle, she saw to her great surprise the beautiful God Eros. But then the lamp tilted to the side and poured hot wax on him. He woke up deceived and flew away immediately. They could no longer be together since she – a mortal – saw the face of an immortal.
Cupid and Psyche, Giuseppe Naria Crespi, 1707, (Uffizi Gallery)
As soon as Psyche understood that her sisters betrayed her, she immediately started to look for Eros everywhere. She ended up in the palace of Aphrodite, where Eros was imprisoned by his mother. Aphrodite was still jealous of the beautiful, young girl. Thus she asked her to prove herself worthy to be Cupid’s wife by completing 3 tests that she thought could never be completed. Psyche completed the first two tasks successfully with the help of Gods and natural creatures. The third test was for her to go to Ades, the underworld, and bring Persephone’s box. This box contained a magic elixir of beauty and Psyche was advised not to open it. However, she could not resist the temptation. Inside the box was Morpheus, the God of sleep who plunged Psyche into a deep sleep.
The happy ending of Eros & Psyche
When Eros learned about his mother’s tricks and how much his beloved one had suffered, he was convinced of her true love for him. He flew directly to Olympus and begged Zeus to save Psyche. Zeus was touched by their love and not only brought her back to life but also made Psyche immortal, allowing them to be united forever.
Throughout the years, the myth of Eros and Psyche has touched various artists, making their love eternal through sculptures, paintings, and poems around the world.