5 Minute History Lesson: Eros and Psyche.
Back in the good old days, 700 BC, movies weren't available like they are now-a-days. People looked to their gods and ancient texts for their rom-coms. Eros and Psyche are THE rom-com of Ancient Greece.
Eros, or more commonly known as his Latin persona Cupid. Psyche, meaning 'soul' in Greek.
While undoubtedly Cupid is an extremely widely known figure, he is not a winged-baby. In fact he is regarded as one of the most handsome of Greek Gods, as he is the god of both sexual love and beauty. He is said to be the son of Aphrodite, however, different tales tell different stories. Some say that Eros is Aphrodite's paternal son while others claim he is adopted. Others say he is a primordial god, meaning he was one of the first of the gods and was around for the creation of the universe. Eros was the original sexy-mysterious type.
Psyche was born a mortal princess of great beauty, comparable to that of Eros' -maybe- mother, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. Psyche was what we would now-a-days call a bit of trouble maker. She was so beautiful to the people of her kingdom that instead of making offerings to Aphrodite, their goddess, they made offerings to her. Psyche never asked for any of this, of course, but didn't stop it either.
Psyche Receiving Cupid's First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard.
Their harrowing tale starts with Aphrodite hearing of Psyche's growing popularity among the mortals and getting so jealous of her that she commanded her son Eros, to shoot Psyche with an arrow that would make her fall in love with the next person she saw, whom was to be a retched hermit of some sort. Eros being the devout son that he was, complied with his mothers wishes but accidentally pricked himself with the arrow. The next person he saw was Psyche, meaning Eros fell deeply in love with her on sight.
Eros knew that he could not allow her to fall in love with a hideous hermit on his watch but he also knew he would outrage his mother by defying her, so he did the most logical thing a man in love can do; he devised a plan to kidnap her and hide her from his mother's horrifying reach.
Psyche herself was feeling rather down. Men were happy just to admire her but no one wanted to cuff her. This made Psyche rather unhappy as both her less attractive sisters had scored kings as husbands while she lay single and unloved.
Her parents, anxious that no one would have her, went to the Oracle of Delphi to ask Apollo who would take her as bride, you know, to speed up the process a bit and get her out of their house.
The prophecy was not what they were expecting. Instead of a nice Grecian king with a cool army or maybe a red sports-car, Apollo said that Psyche's husband was to be a winged serpent, more terrible and powerful than the gods themselves.
Psyche and her prophesized new beau's first date was not to be at a coffee shop, instead it was to be the top of a cliff, where Psyche was instructed to wear a simple black dress and wait until her soon-to-be monster husband would come and 'collect her'. Psyche, surprisingly, felt that this was more her funeral than her wedding day. Her family abandoned her at the mercy of her foreseen hubby at the cliff edge, to go home and mourn her whilst she was still alive.
Wingman of all wingmen, Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, took Psyche to his buddy Eros' palace before this 'winged-serpent' could kill her or something cute like that.
Eros thought that if Psyche saw his face she would fall in love with his beauty and not him. So, he would only visit her at night, where they would talk and get to know one another. It is unknown how Psyche felt about this secret relationship but one can imagine it wasn't the most confident of emotions. Keep in mind, Psyche still thought that she had been taken by a 'winged-serpent' monster.
One day Psyche asked a favor of Eros. Now, when you can ask a god for any favor with his compliance guaranteed, what would you ask for? Well, our girl Psyche asked could her sisters come visit during the day time while her husband was gallivanting around Greece.
During her sisters visit, her sisters planted seeds of doubt in her mind that her lover was a monster and that she should trick him into showing her his face somehow. Why? For a rather agreeable reason, as Psyche was heavily pregnant and they wanted her to know what she was giving birth to.
Usually, Psyche's sisters would be all up for their little sis never knowing what her lover, who kidnapped her, truly looked like, along with the high chance that her child would be some kind of deformed monster from the pits of hell. But it is said that Aphrodite- jealous at Psyche taking both her rep of the most beautiful woman on Earth and her devout son- cast a spell on Psyche's sisters to poison their little sister's faith.
Psyche chose to see her sisters side and finally see her baby-daddy for his physical appearance. Being a real mood setter, Psyche lit a candle and brought it to Eros' face while he slept beside her. Some of the wax from the candle dripped onto his shoulder and burnt Eros. He awoke to see that Psyche was looking at his beautiful godly face in shock. Outraged at her infidelity to his one rule, he left his heavily pregnant wife alone.
Doing what anyone would, Psyche asked the gods for help. Low and behold, one such god did answer her prayer, her favorite mother-in-law, Aphrodite. Now, Aphrodite isn't one to be petty, but she thought her son deserved a devout wife, and thus she assigned Psyche, still very pregnant, to complete three unachievable tasks. She's nice like that.
Psyche, desperate to get the love of her life back, agreed to complete the three tasks, even if it killed both her and her unborn child.
The first task Aphrodite assigned to her daughter-in-law: taking Psyche to a hill, full of seeds of varying plants, telling Psyche to separate them -all before the afternoon or else she will have failed. This distressed Psyche. Some nearby ants saw this distress and decided they would separate the seeds for her, angering Aphrodite to an extreme level.
After this Aphrodite took Psyche to a waterfall of black water and told her to fill a bottle with it's waters. Now this seems all too easy when put in short, but the waterfall was so large that no one, not even someone in perfect health could retrieve, let alone someone who is not very physically fit and pregnant.
Thankfully an eagle came to her rescue and retrieved the water for Psyche. This angered Aphrodite even more. Aphrodite had but one opportunity to get rid of her dislikable daughter-in-law for good, and man, was she going to make it killer.
The last task was actually rather simple, all Psyche had to do was: go to the underworld (where no mortal may leave alive), go to the palace of Hades and Persephone, convince Persephone -queen of the underworld, domain of the dead- to extract some of her beauty and put it into a box, and then try and return home, all while heavily pregnant.
Where was Eros? Well, by this time he was busy crying and losing his godly abilities, because he had given his heart to Psyche and his pain was manifesting in the wax spill that was now draining him of all the powers he possessed in his prowess. Fun times all round.
Psyche was a champ. She went to the underworld, got ya girl Persephone's beauty into a box, successfully made it home to Earth without dying and then, Aphrodite has the nerve, to turn around and say that all of it was for naught, as she was going to keep Psyche as a servant forever anyway.
The gods, having been watching this all take place as if it were a soap opera, decided to take action and narrate everything to Eros. After learning of what Psyche had gone through for him healed his wound and returned all of his godly powers.
They held a party to celebrate the revival of their marriage and as a gift Zeus -king of the gods- made Psyche immortal. This appeased Aphrodite as now that Psyche was no longer living among the mortals, they began to worship her again.
They then lived as one happy family forever after.