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Anacreon (c. 570—478 bc) Greek lyric poet


Hesiod (c. 700 bc) Greek poet

Parmenides (b. c. 515 bc)

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God of love. Eros personified does not occur in Homer, but the Homeric passages in which the word ĕrōs is used give a clear idea of the original significance. It is the violent physical desire that drives Paris to Helen, Zeus to Hera, and shakes the limbs of the suitors of Penelope. A more refined conception of this Eros who affects mind and body appears in the Archaic lyric poets. Because his power brings peril, he is cunning, unmanageable, cruel; in Anacreon he smites the lovestruck one with an axe or a whip. He comes suddenly like a wind. Eros is playful, but plays with frenzies and confusion. He symbolizes all attractions which provoke love. He is young and beautiful, he walks over flowers, and the roses are ‘a plant of Eros’ of which he makes his crown. He is sweet and warms the heart.

Eros is a constant companion of Aphrodite, although he can appear with any god, whenever a love story is involved. Hesiod seems to have transformed the Homeric conception of Eros. Although he describes Eros in terms almost identical with Homer as the god who ‘loosens the limbs and damages the mind’, he also makes him, together with Earth and Tartarus, the oldest of all gods, all‐powerful over gods and men. With Eros as a cosmic principle, Parmenides found a place for him, perhaps as the power which reconciles opposites. This philosophic conception contributed to the Euripidean picture of omnipotent Eros, took abstruse mythological shape in Orphic cosmogonies (see orphic literature; orphism), and formed the background for Plato's discussions of Eros in Symposium and Phaedrus.

Hellenistic poets continue the more playful conception of Anacreon, the tricks Eros plays on mortals, the tribulations of those who try to resist him, and the punishments he receives for his misdeeds. His bow and arrows, first mentioned by Euripides, play a big part in these accounts. Often a plurality of Erotĕs is introduced because both love and the god who symbolized it could multiply.

Eros had some ancient cults and much individual worship. He was always the god of love directed towards male as well as female beauty. Hence his images in the gymnasia and his cult among the Sacred Band in Thebes.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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