1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eros (god)

EROS, in Greek mythology, the god of love. He is not mentioned in Homer; in Hesiod (Theog. 120) he is one of the oldest and the most beautiful of the gods, whose power neither gods nor men can resist. He also evolves order and harmony out of Chaos by uniting the separated elements. This cosmic Eros, who in Orphic cosmogony sprang from the world-egg which Chronos, or Time, laid in the bosom of Chaos, and which is the origin of all created beings, degenerated in later mythology into the capricious god of sexual passion, the son of Aphrodite and Zeus, Ares or Hermes. He is commonly represented as a mischievous boy, the tormentor of gods and men, even his own mother not being proof against his attacks. His brother is Anteros, the god of mutual love, who punishes those who do not return the love of others, without which Eros could not thrive; he is sometimes described as the opponent of Eros. The chief associates of Eros are Pothos and Himeros (Longing and Desire), Peitho (Persuasion), the Muses and the Graces; he himself is in constant attendance on Aphrodite. Later writers (Euripides being the first) assumed the existence of a number of Erotes (like the Roman Amores and Cupidines) with similar attributes. According to the philosophers, Eros was not only the god of sexual love, but also of the loyal and devoted friendship of men; hence the Theban “Sacred Band” was devoted to him, and the Cretans and Spartans offered sacrifice to him before going into battle (Athenaeus xiii. p. 561). In Alexandrian poetry Eros is at one time the powerful god who conquers all, at another the elfish god of love. For the Roman adaptation of Eros see Cupid, and for the later legend of Cupid and Psyche see Psyche.

In art Eros is represented as a beautiful youth or a winged child. His attributes are the bow and arrows and a burning torch. The rose, the hare, the cock and the goat are frequently associated with him. The most celebrated statue of him was at Thespiae, the work of Praxiteles. Other famous representations are the Vatican torso and Eros trying his bow (in the Capitoline museum).

See J. E. Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903); G. F. Schömann, De Cupidine Cosmogonico (1852); E. Gerhard, Über den Gott Eros (1850); articles in Roscher’s Lexikon der Mythologie, Daremberg and Saglio’s Dictionnaire des antiquités, and Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie.