Who is Cupid? What is Cupid?


We all know who Cupid is, right? He's our cheeky little cherub of love, pictured right. But has the Cupid we all know and love always been this way? When did he first appear? What's the real history of Cupid? It's time to take a closer look at the curious character and find out all about him.

Cupid depicted in classical art

The legend of Cupid

Cupid is in fact the Roman God of love, desire, eroticism. His mother was Venus and his father was Mars (maybe that's where the battle of the sexes began!). Cupid also has a Greek counterpart in the name of Eros.

The story of Cupid and Psyche

Roman mythology (Apulieus) contains he legend of Cupid and Psyche, and it goes something like this. Venus as we know is the mother of Cupid. Psyche is a beautiful mortal princess, the youngest and most beautiful of three sisters.

So beautiful is she, that the people grow to love Psyche more than Venus herself, causing Venus to become angry and jealous. Venus requests her son to shoot an arrow at Psyche while she sleeps, so that Venus may place a hideous creature before her, so that upon waking Psyche will fall in love with the creature.

Cupid, invisible, flies into Psyche's bedroom, and readies an arrow. But Psyche wakes and looks straight into Cupid's eyes, though iinvisible, which frightens Cupid. In his fright he scratches himself with one of his own arrows, causing him to fall irrevocably in love with Psyche.

Upon hearing of the calamity, Venus is enraged and places a curse on Psyche, preventing her from finding love. Cupid now refuses to shoot any arrows whilst the curse is in place. Thus nobody in the world can fall in love or marry. This drains Venus' power, and eventually she capitulates to Cupid's entreaties, allowing him one demand. Cupid chooses Psyche. Venus agrees on the condition that Cupid rapidly restores love to the world by shooting his arrows quickly - and he dedicates himself to this task.

Meanwhile, Psyche cannot find love - perhaps she is too beautiful for mortal men. Her parents, in desperation, seek advice from an Oracle. The Oracle reveals that Psyche was destined to marry a monster, and that she should taken to the top of a windswept mountain, and left to await her fate. Zephyrus, the wind, carries her from the mountain to a beautiful palace, and there she lives, waited upon by invisible servants. And as prophesied, her new husband came to her by night, and he tells her he will only visit her in the darkness, and that she must never see him.

Cupid and Psyche
Cupid and Psyche

But Psyche cannot resign herself to her empty life of luxury. She persuades her husband to allow a visit from her elder sisters. They in their jealousy poison Psyche against her husband, telling her he is a hideous serpent, and entreat her to kill him. Believing their lies, she visits her husband while he sleeps, and as she lights him with her lamp, realises at last that he is no monster, but in fact the beautiful Cupid. She awakens him accidentally, and he disappears.

Distraught, Psyche wanders the world looking for Cupid, to no avail. At last she comes to Venus, who sets her seemingly impossible tasks to perform, which she passes! Cupid, when he discovers the persecution of Psyche, persaudes his mother to stop, and at long last Cupid and Psyche are married and live happily ever after!

Cupid's arrows

Cupid has been painted and sculpted countless times over the centuries. The popular figure of Cupid shows him as a young boy or even a baby, winged, and armed with a bow and arrow. The arrows are of love, and are capable of producing love in those whom Cupid shoots. In later literature Cupid is sometimes bestowed with two sets of arrows - one will induce love and the other hatred.

Taylor Swift has a beautiful Cupid's Bow
Taylor Swift has a
pronounced Cupid's Bow

Mischievous Cupid

Because of his capricious nature, love of mischief, Cupid is often depicted as a naughty, errant child. It's a metaphor for the fact that love is often fickle and capricious, and strikes us when we least expect - often with someone with whom it is not really appropriate!

Cupid's Bow

Just in case you were wondering, Cupid's Bow isn't really anything to do with Cupid at all but is in fact the name given to the shape of a person's upper lip. A pronounced Cupid's Bow is considered very attractive.

In case you're wondering what that looks like, here's a picture of US singer Taylor Swift who has quite a pronounced Cupid's Bow.

Cupid today

Today Cupid is known all over the world. He is loved for his capricious nature, his winning ways, and his unfaltering dedication to love. He lives eternally in our imaginations, especially on Valentine's day (but that's a whole other story).

We hope you have learned something about Cupid, the legendary cheeky cherub of love, and how he came to be how we know him today. At Cupid.co.uk we are also dedicated to finding love - join us and who knows - perhaps Cupid's arrows will be pointing in your direction next!