Valentines Day

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Cupid and Eros tied to love

One of the most common images associated with Valentine's Day is that of a young cherub with bow in hand ready to aim an arrow at an unsuspecting sweetheart. This winged perpetrator of matchmaking mischief has become as much a part of Valentine's Day celebrations as chocolate, flowers and other gifts.

The instigator of romantic love goes by two different names, having ties to both ancient Greeks and Romans. This archery expert was known as Cupid by the ancient Romans and as Eros to the ancient Greeks and was the god of love.

Eros'/Cupid's family tree can be confusing. Some Greek mythology experts say Eros was the son of Nyx and Erebus, others Aphrodite and Aries. The Roman Cupid is believed to be the son of Venus and Mars, the goddess of love and god of war, respectively.

Armed with a bow and quiver filled with golden arrows, Eros/Cupid took aim at both mortals and gods. Ancient poetry once portrayed Eros as a handsome immortal who was irresistible to both man and gods. But some time later he was increasingly described as a playful, mischievous child. Cupid was not a major character in mythology, but through time the playful child persona became linked to Valentine's Day, helping to give Cupid/Eros a more noticeable presence.

In the Middle Ages, Eros/Cupid continued to be a popular figure in art. Multiple winged archers, known as "amores or amorini" to Romans and "erotes" to Greeks, can be seen in many paintings of the period. In modern art, many people experienced difficulty distinguishing if the winged child was Cupid himself from mythology or the "putto," a secular figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually naked and sometimes winged. Nowadays, the terms "cupid," "cherub" and "putto" are often used interchangeably to describe the image of a pudgy, winged child.

Eros or Cupid are symbols of Valentine's Day that have endured for centuries.