Meet the Roman Love God Cupid Behind the Valentine's Day Cherub

Close-up of Cupid Sculptures. Getty Images

Definition: Cupid is the Roman love god associated with the cherubic archer of Valentine's Day. Cupid is also the fully adult god associated with Psyche in the story of the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, our first record of which comes from the Golden Ass of Apuleius, and was retold in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. The story of Cupid and Psyche has also interested Jungian psychologists, including Erich Newman and Marie-Louise Von Franz.

Cupid is the son of the Roman goddess of love and beauty Venus. The Greek love god is known as Eros.

This god deserves more respect than the cherubic image suggests. Amor or "love" is another Latin name for the Greek god Eros. In Greek mythology, Eros is one of the primordial forces, like Chaos. In Hesiod, Chaos came first and then Earth and Eros came into being.

Apollo, god of intellectual pursuits, was foolish enough to contend with the seemingly harmless Eros, but Apollo had misjudged his young cousin*. The arrows Eros/Cupid/Amor carried were of two sorts, ones that caused mortals to fall in love and another made of iron that caused people to be repulsed. Thus, when Apollo got on the love god's bad side, he was hit with a golden love arrow while the object of his affection was hit with an iron one. The love and hate between the two is told in the story of Daphne, by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.

Daphne was a nymph who was transformed into the laurel tree by her own father to prevent Apollo from ravishing her.

* The parents of Cupid/Eros/Amor are variously described as

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Pronunciation: kjoo-pid

Also Known As: Amor, Eros