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Be my valentine

Staff writer with excerpts from the Olympus catalogue, 2015.

In celebration of Valentine's Day, here's a little background on the goddess of love, Aprhodite (Venus to the Romans), and her son Eros (a.k.a. Cupid).

Aphrodite, c.150 AD. © Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Inv. no. SK 30. Photographer Johannes Laurentius.

Born out of the foam in the sea, Aphrodite excited passion in the hearts of gods and men alike. The goddess often appears with one of her sons in childlike form: Eros (Cupid to the Romans), known as the Greek personification of love. Today, Cupid remains a symbol of love...expecially around Valentine's Day. Aphrodite gave birth to Eros after her affair with Ares, the god of war. This statue shows Eros as a nude, winged baby, sleeping peacefully after a long day of festivities. 

Statue of sleeping Eros with torch, 50-100 AD. © Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Inv . no SK 148. Photographer Johannes Laurentius.

The love affair between Eros and Psyche (the personification of the soul) is one of the best-known Greek classical myths. According to the story, Eros fell for Psyche, a young princess known around the world for her extraordinary beauty. Eros and Psyche had to overcome many obstacles created by the jealous Aphrodite before Zeus soothed her fury, and she allowed them to live as a loving couple. Both Eros and Psyche are seen as winged figures on this sheet of bronze, once an attachment to a bronze hydria (water jar). Naked, the young Eros leans on a rock while making an erotic gesture towards Psyche, who is usually shown with butterfly wings. Since the Renaissance, the myth of Eros and Psyche has inspired various artists and works, from Raphael to William Blake to the 18th century fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.

Vessel attachment with Eros and Psyche, c. 350-340 BC. © Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin,Inv . no. Misc. 7806. Photographer Johannes Laurentius.