EROS GOD OF
Love, Sexual Desire
EROS was the god of love and sexual desire. This page contains general descriptions of the god in his divine role and his appearance as the minion of Aphrodite.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
HYMNS TO EROS
Orphic Hymn 58 to Eros (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To Eros (Love), Fumigation from Aromatics. I call, great Eros, the source of sweet delight, holy and pure, and charming to the sight; darting, and winged, impetuous fierce desire, with Gods and mortals playing, wandering fire : agile and twofold, keeper of the keys of heaven and earth, the air, and spreading seas; of all that earth's fertile realms contains, by which the all parent Goddess life sustains, or dismal Tartaros is doomed to keep, widely extended, or the sounding deep; for thee all nature's various realms obey, who rulest alone, with universal sway. Come, blessed power, regard these mystic fires, and far avert unlawful mad desires."
EROS GOD OF LOVE & MINION OF APHRODITE
The following contains quotes describing Eros as god of love in general terms. Other sections contain more specific descriptions of his appearance as the god of love.
For Eros in myth and cult as the god of love see:--
(1) Eros & the Loves of the Gods (previous page)
(2) Eros & the Loves of Heroes (previous page)
(3) Eros, Aphrodite & the Love of Medea (previous page)
(4) Cult of Eros (next page)
Sappho, Fragment 21 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C6th B.C.) :
"Eros (Love) flies pursuing the young."
Sappho, Fragment 47 (from Maximus of Tyre, Orations) :
"Sokrates (Socrates) [in Plato] says Eros (Love) is a sophist, Sappho calls him a weaver of tales. Sokrates is driven mad for Phaidros by Eros, while Sappho's heart is shaked by Eros like a wind falling on oaks in a mountain. ‘Eros shook my heart like a wind falling on oaks on a mountain.’"
Sappho, Fragment 54 :
"Eros (Love) who had come from heaven clad in a purple mantle."
Sappho, Fragment 130 :
"Once again limb-loosening Eros (Love) makes me tremble, the bitter-sweet, irresistable creature."
Sappho, Fragment 159 :
"My [Aphrodite's] servant Eros."
Alcman, Fragment 58 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C7th B.C.) :
"Aphrodite it is not, but wild Eros playing like the boy he is, coming down over the flower-tips."
Alcman, Fragment 59 :
"At the command of Kypris (Cypris) [Aphrodite], Eros once again pours sweetly down and warms my heart."
Anacreon, Fragment 12 (from Palatine Antholog, on Anacreon) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C6th B.C.) :
"For all your live, old man, was poured out as an offering to these three--the Mousai (Muses), Dionysos and Eros [i.e. music, wine and love]."
Anacreon, Fragment 346 :
"I owe many thanks, Dionysos [Wine], for having escaped Eros' (Love's) bonds completely, bonds made harsh by Aphrodite."
Anacreon, Fragment 357 :
"Lord [Dionysos], with whom Eros (Love) the subduer and the blue-eyed Nymphai (Nymphs), and radiant Aphrodite play, as you haunt the lofty mountain peaks."
Anacreon, Fragment 358 :
"One again golden-haired Eros (Love) strikes me with his purple ball and summons me to play with the girl in the fancy sandals."
Anacreon, Fragment 378 :
"I fly up on light wings to Olympos in search of Eros."
Anacreon, Fragment 413 :
"Once again Eros (Love) has struck me like a smith with a great hammer and dipped me in the wintry torrent."
Anacreon, Fragment 459 :
"Melting Eros (Love)."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 13 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.) :
"Eros urged me to love, but I was a fool and was not persuaded. So he immediately took up his bow and golden quiver and challenged me to a fight. I hung my corslet from my shoulders, like Akhilleus (Achilles), and took my spears and ox-hide shield and began fighting with Eros. He shot and I ran; when he had no arrows left, he was distressed; then he hurled himself for a javelin, pierced the middle of my heart and loosened my limbs. My shield and spears and corslet are useless : why hurl weapons from me when the fight is within me?"
The Anacreontea, Fragment 19 :
"The Mousai (Muses) tied Eros with garlands and handed him over to Kalleis (Calleis, Beauty). And now Kythereia (Cytherea) [Aphrodite] brings a ransom and seeks to have him released. But if he is released, he will not leave but will stay: he has learned to be her slave."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 25 :
"Eros (Love) is always weaving his nest in my heart : one Pothos (Desire) is getting his wings, another is still an egg, another is half-hatched already; and there is a continuous shouting from the wide-mouthed chicks; little baby Erotes are fed by bigger ones, and when fully grown they immediately beget others in their turn."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 31 :
"Eros (Love), beating me cruelly with a rod tied round with hyacinths, ordered me to run by his side; and as I ran through fierce torrents and thickets and gullies the sweat distressed me, my heart climbed to my nose and I might have perished; but Eros fanned my brow with his tender wings and said, ‘Can't you love, then?’"
The Anacreontea, Fragment 33 :
"Once in the middle of the night, at the hour when the Bear is already turning by the Ploughman's hand and all the tribes of mortals lie overcome by exhaustion, Eros (Love) stood at my bolted door and began knocking. ‘Who's banging my door?’ I said : ‘You've shattered my drams.’ Eros said, ‘Open up! I'm a baby : don't be afraid. I am getting wet, and I have been wandering about in the moonless night.’ When I heard this I felt sorry for him and immediately lit a lamp and opened the door and saw a baby with bow, wings and quiver. I made him sit by the hearth, warmed his hands in my palms and squeezed the water from his hair. When the cold had relaxed its grip, he said, ‘Come, let's try this bow to see if the sting has been damaged by the rain.’ He drew it and hit me right in the heart, like a stinging gadfly; and he leaped up chuckling and said, ‘Stranger, rejoice with me: my bow is undamaged; but your heart will be sore.’"
The Anacreontea, Fragment 35 :
"Eros (Love) once failed to notice a bee that was sleeping among the roses, and he was wounded: he was struck in the finger, and he howled. He ran and flew to beautiful Kythere (Cytherea) [Aphrodite] and said, ‘I have been killed, mother, killed. I am dying. I was struck by the small winged snake that farmers call the bee.’ She replied, ‘If the bee-sting is painful, what pain, Eros, do you suppose all your victims suffer.’"
The Anacreontea, Fragment 44 :
"Let us mix the Erotes' (Loves') rose with Dionysos [Wine] : let us fasten on our brows the rose with its lovely petals and drink, laughing gently. Rose, finest of flowers, rose, darling of spring, rose, delight of the gods also, rose with which Kythere's (Cytherea's) [Aphrodite's] son [Eros] garlands his lovely curls when he dances with the Kharites."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 57 :
"[Aphrodite] roaming over the waves like sea-lettuce, moving her soft-skinned body in her soft-skinned body in her voyage over the white calm sea, she pulls the breakers along her path. Above her rosy breast and below her soft neck a great wave divides her skin. In the midst of the furrow, like a lily wound among violets, Kypris (Cypris) [Aphrodite] shines out from the calm sea. Over the silver on dancing dolphins ride guileful Eros (Love) and laughing Himeros (Desire), and the chorus of bow-backed fish plunging in the waves sports with Paphis [Aphrodite] where she swims."
The Anacreontea, Fragment 59 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.) :
"Eros (Love) with ill-timed magic urges the girl to betray her coming marriage."
Ibycus, Fragment 284 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C6th B.C.) :
"Unless he [Eros (Love)], going down once to the girl's room, had his melting heart completely tinged by his skilled mother [Aphrodite] with her gift of desire."
Ibycus, Fragment 287 :
"Again Eros (Love), looking at me meltingly from under his dark eyelids, hurls me with his manifold enchantments into the boundless nets of Kypris (Cypris) [Aphrodite]. How I fear his onset."
Aristophanes, Birds 1720 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"Rosy Eros (Love) with the golden wings held the reins and guided the chariot; 'twas he, who presided over the union of Zeus and the fortunate Hera. Oh! Hymen! oh! Hymenaios!"
Plato, Republic 573d (trans. Shorey) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Those whose souls are entirely swayed by the indwelling tyrant Eros (Love)."
Plato, Phaedrus :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : Well, and is not Eros (Love) the son of Aphrodite, a god?"
Plato, Phaedrus :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : The divine madness was subdivided into four kinds, prophetic, initiatory, poetic, erotic, having four gods presiding over them; the first was the inspiration of Apollon, the second that of Dionysos, the third that of the Mousai (Muses), the fourth that of Aphrodite and Eros (Love). In the description of the last kind of madness, which was also said to be the best, we spoke of the affection of love in a figure, into which we introduced a tolerably credible and possibly true though partly erring myth, which was also a hymn in honour of Eros, who is your lord and also mine, Phaidros (Phaedrus), and the guardian of fair children, and to him we sung the hymn in measured and solemn strain."
Plato, Symposium 178 :
"On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros (Expediency), who is the son of Metis (Wisdom), was one of the guests. When the feast was over, Penia (Poverty), as the manner is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Poros who was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep, and Penia considering her own straitened circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived Eros (Love), who partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first place he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in-the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist."
Aelian, On Animals 14. 28 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"[The sea-god Nerites loved by Aphrodite,] was permitted to grow wings : this, I imagine, was a gift from Aphrodite. But even this favour he counted as nothing [i.e. when he refused to follow her to Olympos]. And so the daughter of Zeus was moved to anger and transformed his shape into a shell, and of her own accord chose in his place for her attendant and servant Eros (Love), who also was young and beautiful, and to him she gave the wings of Nerites."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 12 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting :] The lofty promontory gives a suggestion of the following tale : A boy and girl, both beautiful and under the tutelage of the same teacher, burned with love for each other; and since they were not free to embrace each other, they determined to die at this very rock, and leaped into the sea in their first and last embrace. Eros (Love) on the rock stretches out his hand toward the sea, the painter's symbolic suggestion of the tale."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 1 :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] An Aphrodite, made of ivory, delicate maidens are hymning in delicate myrtle groves . . . Eros (Love), tilting up the centre of his bow, lightly strikes the string for them and the bow-string resounds with a full harmony and asserts that it possesses all the notes of a lyre; and swift are the eyes of the god as they recall, I fancy, some particular measure."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 9 :
"[From a painting of the historical Pantheia, wife of Abradates, who killed herself after her husband died in battle :] Desire (himeros), the companion of love (eros), so suffuses the eyes that it seems clearly to drip from them. Eros (Love) also is represented in the picture, as a part of the narrative of the deed; so also is the Lydian woman, catching the blood, as you see, in a fold of her golden robe."
Oppian, Halieutica 4. 10 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"O cruel Eros (Love), crafty of counsel, of all gods fairest to behold with the eyes, of all most grievous when thou dost vex the heart with unforseen assault, entering the soul like a storm-wind and breathing the bitter menace of fire, with hurricane of anguish and untempered pain. The shedding of tears is for thee a sweet delight and to hear the deep-wrung groan; to inflame a burning redness in the heart and to blight and wither the bloom upon the cheek, to make the eyes hollow and to wrest all the mind to madness. Many thou doest even roll to doom even those whom thou meetest in wild and wintry sort, fraught with frenzy; for in such festivals is thy delight. Whether then thou art the eldest-born among the blessed gods and from unsmiling Khaeos (Chaos) didst arise with fierce and flaming torch and didst first establish the ordinances of wedded love and order the rites of the marriage-bed; or whether Aphrodite of many counsels, queen of Paphos, bare thee a winged god on soaring pinions, be thou gracious and to us come gentle and with fair weather and in tempered measure; for none refuses the work of Eros (Love). Nor doth the race of Heaven suffice thee nor the breed of men; thou rejectest not the wild beasts nor all the brood of the barren air; under the coverts of the nether deep dost thou descend and even among the finny tribes thou dost array thy darkling shafts; that naught may be left ignorant of thy compelling power, not even the fish that swims beneath the waters."
Oppian, Halieutica 1. 499 ff :
"There is much Passion (Aphrodite) among fishes and Oistros (Desire) and Zelos (Rivalry), that grievous god, and all that hot Eros (Love) brings forth, when he stirs fierce tumult in the heart."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 452 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"You [Cupid-Eros] and your loves! You have your torch to light them . . . Your bow, Phoebus, may vanquish all, but mine [Cupid-Eros'] shall vanquish you . . . and from his quiver's laden armoury he drew two arrows of opposing power, one shaft that rouses love and one that routs it. The first gleams bright with piercing point of gold; the other, dull and blunt is tipped with lead."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 757 ff :
"To his heart he [Perseus] took Andromeda, undowered, she herself his valour's prize. With waving torches Amor (Love) [Eros] and Hymenaeus lead the wedding, full and fat the perfumed fires of incense burn and garlands deck the beams."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 311 ff :
"Cupidos (Love) [Eros] himself denies his arrows hurt Myrrha [i.e. the girl who fell in love with her own father] and clears his torch of that offence [and blamed it on the Erinyes (Furies)]."
Ovid, Heroides 4. 11 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[From the love letter of Phaedra to Hippolytus :] Wherever modesty may attend on love, love should not lack in it; with me, what modesty forbade to say, love has commanded me to write. Whatever Amor (Love) [Eros] commands, it is not safe to hold for naught; his throne and law are over even the gods who are lords of all. 'Twas he who spoke to me when first I doubted if to write or no."
Ovid, Heroides 4. 147 ff :
"Only, away with tarrying, and make haste to bind our bond--so may Amor (Love) be merciful to you, who is bitter to me now!"
Ovid, Heroides 7. 31 ff :
"[From the love letter of Dido to Aeneas :] Spare, O Venus [Aphrodite], the bride of thy son; lay hold of thy hard-hearted brother, O brother Amor (Love) [Eros], and make him to serve in thy camp! Or make him to whom I have let my love go forth--I first, and with never shame for it--yield me himself, the object of my care!"
Ovid, Heroides 7. 160 ff :
"[From the love letter of Dido to Aeneas :] Do you only, by your mother [Venus-Aphrodite] I pray, and by the weapons of your brother [Amor-Eros], his arrows."
Ovid, Heroides 15. 166 ff :
"[In the love letter Sappho to Phaon the heroine says she will leap from the Leucadian Rock to relieve the pain of love :] Phoebus [Apollon] from on high looks down on the whole wide stretch of sea--of Actium, the people call it, and Leucadian. From here Deucalion, inflamed with love for Pyrrha, cast himself down, and struck the waters with body all unharmed. Without delay, his passion was turned from him, and fled from his tenacious breast, and Deucalion was freed from the fires of love. This is the law of yonder place. Go straightway seek the high Leucadian cliff, nor from it fear to leap! . . . I shall go, O nymph, to seek out the cliff thou toldst of; away with fear--my maddening passion casts it out. Whatever shall be, better 'twill be than now! Breeze, come--bear me up; my limbs have no great weight. Do thou, too, tender Amor (Love) [Eros], place thy pinions beneath me, lest I die and bring reproach on the Leucadian wave! Then will I consecrate to Phoebus my shell, our common boon." [N.B. There are many other references to the leap from Leukadian Rock as a cure for love in classical literature. However the god Eros is not mentioned elsewhere.]
Ovid, Heroides 15. 213 ff :
"[Sappho writes to her love the ferryman Phaon :] Venus [Aphrodite] who rose from the sea makes way on the sea for he lover. The wind will speed you on your course; do you but weigh anchor! Cupidos (Love) [Eros] himself will be helmsman, sitting upon the stern; himself with tender hand will spread and furl the sail. But if your pleasure be to fly afar from Pelasgian Sappho--and yet you will find no cause for flying from me--ah, at least let a cruel letter tell me this in my misery, that I may seek my fate in the Leucadian wave!" [N.B. For the Leucadian rock see the quote above.]
Ovid, Heroides 16. 16 ff :
"[Paris addresses Helen in a love letter :] What the mother of Amor (Love) [i.e. Venus-Aphrodite], who persuaded me to this journey, has fixed upon, I deeply hope may be, and that she has not promised you to me in vain."
Ovid, Heroides 16. 39 ff :
"[Paris addresses Helen in a love letter :] Yet it is not strange if I am prey to love, as 'tis fitting I should be, stricken by darts [of Amor (Love)] that were sped from far. Thus have the fates decreed."
Ovid, Heroides 16. 113 ff :
"[Paris builds a ship to sail to Sparta in his quest of Helene :] We add the yards, and the sails that hang to the mast; the hook-shaped stern, too, receives its painted gods; on the one which carries me stands painted--and, with her, tiny Cupidos (Love)--the goddess [Venus-Aphrodite] who is sponsor for your wedding me."
Ovid, Heroides 20. 27 ff :
"[In a love letter from Acontius to Cydippe :] It was ingenious Amor (Love) who bound you to me, with words--if I, indeed, have gained aught--that I myself drew up. In words dictated by him I made our betrothal bond; Amor (Love) was the lawyer that taught me knavery. Let wiles be the name you give my deed, and let me be called crafty--if only the wish to possess what one loves be craft!" [N.B Akontios wrote a pledge of marriage on an apple and cast it before Kydippe in the temple of Artemis. She read the words aloud and inadvertedly pledged herself to him in the sight of the goddess.]
Ovid, Heroides 20. 45 ff :
"[Acontius addresses Cydippe in a love letter :] The issue rests with the gods, but you will be taken [i.e. for his bride] none the less. You may evade a part, but you will not escape all the nets which Amor (Love), in greater number than you think, has stretched for you." [N.B. "Nets" because Akontios has tricked her into pledging marriage before the gods.]
Ovid, Heroides 20. 226 ff :
"I am bound to you by Amor (Love)."
Seneca, Phaedra 184 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Passion has conquered and now rules supreme, and, a mighty god [Amor-Eros], lords it o'er all my soul. This winged god rules ruthlessly throughout the earth and inflames Jove [Zeus] himself, wounded with unquenched fires. Gradivus [Ares], the warrior god, has felt those flames; that god [Vulcan-Hephaistos] has felt them who fashions the three-forked thunderbolts, yea, he who tends the hot furnaces ever raging 'neath Aetna's (Etna's) peaks is inflamed by so mall a fire as this. Nay, Phoebus [Apollon], himself, who guides with sure aim his arrows from the bowstring, a boy of more sure aim pierces with his flying shaft, and flits about, baneful alike to heaven and to earth.
'Tis base and sin-mad lust that has made love into a god and, to enjoy more liberty, as given to passion the title of an unreal divinity. Erycina (Goddess of Eryx) [Venus-Aphrodite] sends her son, forsooth, wandering through all lands, and he, flying through heaven's void, wields wanton weapons in his boyish hands, and, though least of gods, still holds such mighty empire! 'Tis love-mad souls that have adopted these vain conceits and have feigned Venus' divinity and a god's archery."
Seneca, Phaedra 274 ff :
"Thou goddess [Venus-Aphrodite], born of the cruel sea, who art called mother of both Cupides (Loves) [ i.e. Eros and Anteros], that wanton, smiling boy of thine, reckless alike with torches and with arrows, with how sure bow doth he aim his shafts! His madness steals to the inmost marrow, while with creeping fire he ravages the veins. The wound he deals has no broad front, but it eats its way deep into the hidden marrow. There is no open peace with that boy of thine; throughout the world nimbly he scatters his flying shafts. The shore that beholds the new-born sun and the shore that lies at this far western goal, the land lying beneath the burning Crab and the cold region of the Arcadian Bear, which sustains its ever-wandering husbandmen, all know these fires of his. He kindles the fierce flames of youth and in worn-out age he wakes again the extinguished fires; he smites maids' breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms."
Seneca, Phaedra 327 ff :
"'Tis an accursed fire [of Amor-Eros (Love)] (believe those who have suffered) and all too powerful. Where the land is encircled by the briny deep, where the bright stars course through heaven itself, over these realms the pitiless boy holds sovereignty, whose shafts are felt in the lowest depths by the sea-blue throng of Nereides, nor can they ease their heat by ocean's waters. These fires the race of winged creatures feel. Goaded on by love, the bold bull undertakes battle for the whole herd; if they feel that their mates are in danger, timid stags challenge to war. At such a time swart India holds striped tigers in especial fear; at such a time the boar whets his death-dealing tusks and his jaws are covered all with foam; African lions toss their manes and by their roarings give token of their engendered passion. When Amor (Love) has roused them, then the forest groans with their grim uproar. Amor sways the monsters of the raging sea, sways Lucanian bulls, claims as his own all nature; nothing is exempt, and hate perishes at the command of Amor. Old grudges yield unto his fires. Why tell of more? Love's cares o'erwhelm harsh stepmothers."
Seneca, Phaedra 574 ff :
"Oft-times does Amor (Love) [Eros] put curb on stubborn hearts and change their hate. Look at [the Amazones] . . . those warlike women feel the yoke of Venus [Aphrodite]."
Statius, Silvae 1. 2. 19 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Nor do winsome Amor (Love) [Eros] and Gratia (Grace) [Kharis] grow weary in scattering countless blossoms and cloudy perfumes [during the wedding] o'er thee [the bridegroom] and as thou holdest close-locked the snow-white limbs of thy longed-for bride. And now roses, now lilies mixed with violets dost thou receive upon thy brow, as thou shieldest the fair face of thy mistress."
Statius, Silvae 1. 2. 51 ff :
"Once on a time, where the milky region is set in a tranquil heaven, lay kindly Venus [Aphrodite] in her bower, whence night had but lately fled, faint in the rough embrace of her Getic lord [Mars-Ares]. About the posts and pillows of her couch swarm a troop of tender Amores (Loves) [Erotes], begging her make sign where she bids them bear her torches, what hearts they shall transfix; whether to wreak their cruelty on land or sea, to set gods at variance or yet once more to vex the Thunderer [Zeus]. Herself she has yet no purpose, no certain will of pleasure. Weary she lies upon her cushions, where once the Lemnian chains [of Vulcan-Hephaistos] crept over the bed and held it fast, learning its guilty secret. Then a boy of that winged crowd, whose mouth was fieriest and whose deft hand ne'er sent his arrow amiss, from the midst of the troop thus called to her in his sweet boyish voice--his quivered brethren held their peace.
‘Mother,’ says he, ‘thou knowest how no warfare finds my right hand idle; whomsoe'er of gods or men thou dost assign me, he feels the smart. Yet once, O mother, suffer us to be moved by the tears and suppliant hands, by the bows and prayers of men; for not of steely adamant are we born, but are all thy offspring. There is a youth of famous Latin family . . . him ere now have I plied relentlessly--such was thy pleasure--with all my quiver's armoury, and pierced him to his dismay with a thick hail of darts; and for all he is much sought by Ausonian matrons as a son-in-law, I have quelled and mastered him, and bidden him bear a noble lady's yoke and spend long years in hoping. But her we spared--such was thy command--and did but lightly graze with the flame's tip and loose-strung bow. Since then I can bear marvelling witness what fires the heart-sick youth is smothering, what strong urgency of mine he suffers night and day. None ever, mother, have I so fiercely pressed, thrusting home oft-repeated wounds. And yet I saw eager Hippomenes run the cruel course, but even at the very goat he was not so pale; and I saw the youth of Abydos [Leander], whose arms did vie with oars, and praised his skill and often shone before him as he swam : yet less was that heat wherewith the savage sea grew warm; thou, O youth, has surpassed those loves of old. I myself, amazed that thou couldest endure such gusts of passion, have strengthened with resolve and wiped thy streaming eyes with soothing plumes. How oft has Apollo complained to me of his poet's grief! Grant him at last, O Mother, the bride of his desire. Our comrade is he, and loyally he bears our standard ... [he does not sing of War] but his quill is dedicate to thee and he prefers to walk in gentle poethood and twine our myrtle with bay. The follies of lovers are his theme, and his own or others' wounds; O Mother what reverence hath he for thy Paphian godhead! 'twas he that bewailed the death of our poor dove.’
He made an end, and from his mother's soft neck hung persuasive, making her bosom warm with his covering wings. With a look that scorned not his petition she replied : ‘A large request and rarely granted e'en to lovers that I myself have proved, this of Pieria's young votary! . . . The youth whom thou favourest, my son, my chiefest power, shall have his will, though many a time she refuse with tears to bear the yoke of a second wedlock . . .’
With these words she raised her starry limbs, and passing the proud threshold of her chamber called to the rain her Amyclaean doves. Amor (Love) [Eros] harnesses them, and seated on the jewelled car bears his mother rejoicing through the clouds."
Colluthus, Rape of Helen 28 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poetry C5th to 6th A.D.) :
"Nor did the queen of harmony herself, even Aphrodite, loiter in coming to the groves of the Kentauros [Kheiron (Chiron)] [i.e. to attend the wedding of Peleus and Thetis]. Came also Peitho (Persuasion), having fashioned a bridal wreath, carrying the quiver of archer Eros (Love)."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 3. 84 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Some bird, perched under the delicate shadow of a gray olive-tree,--it was a crow, she opened her loud beak inspired, and reproached the young man [the hero Kadmos (Cadmus)] for a laggard, that the bridegroom walked to his bride Harmonia with dawdling foot. She flapt her wings and rallied him soundly : ‘So Kadmos is a baby, or only a novice in love! Eros (Love) is a quick one, and knows nothing of slow bride-grooms! Forgive me, Peitho (Persuasion)--your Kadmos dallies, Aphrodite is in haste! Hot Eros calls you, bridegroom--you plod along like a laggard, and why? . . . Peitho is your guide, not Artemis, Peitho the friend of marriage, the nurse of the baby Erotes (Loves).’"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 4. 238 ff :
"That sailor looks like Eros (Love) himself! And no wonder that Aphrodite of the sea has a mariner son. But Eros carried bow and arrow and lifts a firebrand, he's a little one with wings on him . . . be gracious, mother of Eros!"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 7. 1 ff :
"[After the Great Deluge :] Already Eros (Love), love's plowman, had plowed the seedless world, and mixt the man's seed of generation in the woman's furrow, with the fruit of everflowing life again renewed. Nature the nurse of the offspring took root again; earth mingling with fire and water interwoven with air shaped the human race with its fourfold bonds [i.e. the four elements]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 7. 7 ff :
"Lutes cannot comfort a heavy heart : but Eros (Love) himself stops the dance and throws away the bridal torch, if he sees a wedding without joy."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 19. 225 ff :
"[In the contest between Dionysos and his wine against Aristaios (Aristaeus) and his honey-mead :] Like another Hermes with golden wings, lovely Eros (LOve) himself came forward to preside in the ring, holding in one hand both ivy and an olive-branch. He offered to Bakkhos the flowering ivy, to Aristaios the olive-branch like the garlands of Pisa, the holy ornament of Pallas . . . And Eros the ever-out-of-reach, the conductor of the game, drunken himself, crowned the hair of Lyaios (Lyaeus) [i.e. Dionysos, who was awarded victory in the contest,] with a vine-and-ivy garland."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 24. 261 ff :
"[When Aphrodite competed with Athena in a contest of weaving she neglected her duties in love :] Weddings went all astray in human life . . . Eros (Love) unhonoured loosed his fiery bowstring, when he saw the world's furrow unplowed and unfruitful."
See also Eros, Aphrodite & the Love of Medea (previous page)
EROS PLAYMATE OF GANYMEDES
Ganymedes was sometimes regarded as one of the Erotes and portrayed as a playmate of Eros.
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 82 8 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Aphrodite] set out, and after searching up and down Olympos for her boy [Eros (Love)], found him far away in the fruit-laden orchard of Zeus. With him was Ganymede, whose beauty had so captivated Zeus that he took him up to heaven to live with the immortals. The two lads, who had much in common, were playing with golden knuckle-bones. Eros, the greedy boy, was standing there with a whole handful of them clutched to his breast and a happy flush of mantling his cheeks. Near by sat Ganymede, hunched up, silent and disconsolate with only two left. He threw these for what they were worth in quick succession and was furious when Eros laughed. Of course he lost them both immediately--they joined the rest. So he went off in despair with empty hands and did not notice the goddess's approach. Aphrodite came up to her boy, took his chin in her hand and said : ‘Why this triumphant smile, you rascal? I do believe you won the game unfairly be cheating a beginner.’"
Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 8 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting depicting the scene from Apollonius' Argonautica quoted above :] Boys at Play. The boys who are playing the palace of Zeus are, I suppose, Eros (Love) and Ganymede, if the one may be known by his tiara and the other identified by his bow and his wings. They are playing with dice; and Eros is represented as taunting the other insolently and as shaking the fold of his garment, full as it is of his winnings, while his companion is represented as having lost one of the two dice left to him and as throwing the other no better hope. His cheek is downcast and the glance of his eye, albeit a beautiful eye, indicates by its despondency his vexation."
For MORE information on the god see GANYMEDES
EROS PLAYMATE OF HYMENAEUS
Hymenaios (Hymenaeus) was the god of weddings who was represented as a winged love-god similar to Eros. The pair were sometimes depicted together in Athenian vase painting.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 33. 4 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"She [the Kharis (Charis) Pasithea] found him [Eros (Love)] on the golden top of Olympos, shooting the nectar-drops from a cup [i.e. playing cottabus and game in which wine was thrown out of cups at a mark]. Beside him stood Hymenaios (Hymenaeus), his fair-haired playfellow in the dainty game. He had put up as a prize for the victor something clever made by his haughty mother [the Mousa (Muse)] Ourania, who knew all the courses of the stars, a revolving globe like the speckled form of Argos; winged Eros had taken and put up a round golden necklace which belonged to his mother sea-born Aphrodite, a shining glorious work of art, as a prize of victory. A large silver basin stood for their game, and the shooting mark before them was a statue of Hebe shown in the middle pouring the wine. The umpire in the game was Ganymedes, cupbearer of Kronides (Cronides) [Zeus], holding the garland. Lots were cast for the shots of unmixed wine, with varied movements of the fingers [i.e. this was a finger game in which one quickly opens and closes some of his finger and the other has to say at once how many he had held out, used to determine who would go first] : these they held out, these they pressed upon the root of the hand closely joined together. A charming match it was between them.
Daintyhair Hymenaios drew the first try. He took the cup, and shot the flying nectar-drop high in the air over the basin; but he offered no prayer then to his mother the Mousa : darting from the cup the dew went scattering high through the air, but the leaping drops turned aside and swerved fell back about the face of the statue so as to touch the top of the head without a sound. Second, crafty Eros took hold of the lovely cup in a masterly way, and secretly in his heart prayed to Kyprogeneia (Cyprogenea) [Aphrodite]; then with a steady eye on the mark, he shot the liquid into the distance--the dewy nectar went straight, unswerving, and curved round until it fell from the air upon the forehead above the temple with a loud plop. The elegant statue rang, and the basin echoed the sound of victory for the golden son of Kyprogeneia. Ganymedes laughing handed the dainty garland to Eros. Quickly he picked up the beautiful necklace and lifted the globe, and kept the two prizes of their cleverdrop game. Bold Eros went skipping and dancing for joy and turned a somersault, and tried often to pull his rival's hands from his sorrowful face.
Now Aglaia (Aglaea) stood by him, and she received the prizes from the hands of the prince of heart's delight."
For MORE information on this god see HYMENAIOS
- Greek Lyric I Alcman, Fragments - Greek Lyric C7th B.C.
- Greek Lyric I Alcaeus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric I Sappho, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric II Anacreon, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric II Anacreontea, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th - 4th B.C.
- Greek Lyric III Ibycus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric III Simonides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th - 5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Plato, Phaedrus - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Republic - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Symposium - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus the Younger, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Oppian, Halieutica - Greek Poetry C3rd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Colluthus, The Rape of Helen - Greek Epic C5th - 6th A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Heroides - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Phaedra - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.