Happy St. Valentines’ Day! Everyone’s heard of Cupid, right? (Eros to the Greeks.) He might have been a god of love, but he still sucked as a boyfriend. Psyche and Eros/Cupid are one of the exceptionally rare Greek/Roman romances that didn’t end horribly, which may be another reason they’re not so popular. Either way, their story is a truly mythological tale, filled with all the requisite pettiness and stupidity.
Mortal Psyche was so beautiful some people started worshiping her instead of Aphrodite/Venus. In a mature and logical response to this, Aphrodite/Venus sent her son, Eros/Cupid, to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest man he could find.
This plan backfired when Eros/Cupid stabbed himself with the arrow meant for her.
Through some divine trickery, Eros/Cupid arranged a sort of marriage where Psyche lived in a magnificent house with invisible servants and he stopped by to visit her only at night, never letting her see his face. (I guess he had to keep it secret from his mother or something.) Eventually, Psyche’s curiosity won over and she lit a lamp while he slept. Stunned at finding the most beautiful man she’d ever seen, she then proceeded to dump hot wax all over him.
Extra crispy Eros/Cupid then flew screaming to his mother (literally) and abandoned Psyche to wander the earth. While Eros/Cupid was healing at his mother’s house, Psyche had the brilliant idea of asking Aphrodite/Venus for help finding him.
Ever the ideal mother-in-law, Aphrodite/Venus agreed to help find Eros/Cupid if Psyche could complete four impossible tasks.
First, Psyche had to sort a giant pile of mixed seeds before dawn (did I mention she was now pregnant?). Luckily, an ant assembled an army of insects in aid. Aphrodite/Venus next demanded that she fetch golden fleece from homicidal sheep. Psyche gathered wool caught on briers. Now fairly frothing, Aphrodite/Venus ordered Psyche to collect black waters from the rivers of Styx and Cocytus. This time, Zeus/Jupiter actually showed some decency for once and sent his eagle to do the task for her.
The final task was to obtain a dose of the beauty of Persephone/Proserpina. Upon success, Psyche was filled with curiosity (again) and opened the box containing Persephone/Proserpina’s beauty, but instead found that it was filled with Stygian sleep.
Now healed from his flambéing, Eros/Cupid decided he might have overreacted to the whole scorching thing. He drew the Stygian sleep from Psyche’s face then took his case to Zeus/Jupiter. Zeus/Jupiter blessed Eros/Cupid and Psyche’s union, made Psyche immortal, and ordered Aphrodite/Venus to back off. In exchange, Eros/Cupid would help should Zeus/Jupiter ever want to woo a woman (because what else would Zeus/Jupiter want?).
And there you have it. The story ends with Eros/Cupid spending eternity in love with Psyche, but I still think he sucked as a boyfriend. He really doesn’t do anything but make Psyche work to get him back. I see lots of parallels to this and the Loki/Sigyn story—total tool loved by girl who’s way too good for him—but that’s mythology for you.
Let’s hope Eros/Cupid makes a better husband.