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THE MYTH OF EROS AND PSYCHE



  


 

Psyche was a Greek princess who was so beautiful that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, grew jealous of her.  The goddess sent her son, the winged god of love Eros, to strike the young princess with one of his arrows, making her fall unhappily in love.  But when Eros saw Psyche, he fell in love with her himself and could not obey his mother.  As a gentle breeze he lifted Psyche and carried her to a secluded palace.  Eros would come to his beloved every night, after dark; he was very kind and loving and she soon returned his feelings, although she was never allowed to see her lover.  The god warned her that he would have to leave her for ever if she sees his face.  Later on, Psyche’s sisters came to visit and convinced her that she must see her lover, as he might turn out to be a dangerous monster.  So Psyche saw Eros’ face by the light of a candle, while he was sleeping, and discovered that he was not the monster she feared but a magnificent god.  After that Eros left her and she was very unhappy.  Desperate to bring him back, Psyche went to Aphrodite to ask for her help, but the goddess remained indifferent to her suffering and gave her impossible tasks to fulfil.  However, Psyche succeeded in all of them, as Eros was secretly watching over her and helping her.  In the end, Zeus decided that the lovers proved their devotion for each other and united them for eternity, granting Psyche immortality.  They lived happily ever after and a beautiful child was born to them, whose name was Voluptas (Pleasure).

This is an alegorical tale with many levels of meaning.  It is about the union between Eros (masculine principle, erotic passion) and Psyche (feminine principle, the soul), that at the end engenders bliss.

There is also a lot of truth about relationships in it.  While they love each other and defend their love, Eros and Psyche grow and develop, becoming more forgiving (Eros), and stronger (Psyche).  Thus, through their relationship they overcome their own weaknesses, evolving into better and complete personalities.  Although Greeks emphasised physical beauty, as a symbol and quintessence of all virtue, the story shows that true love goes beyond the superficiality of physical attraction (Psyche falls in love with Eros without seeing him).  Love requires trust (Psyche is forbidden to see Eros) and once the trust is broken it is difficult to get it back.  In relationships, one should not let other people interfere (such as Psyche’s sisters) but make one’s own decisions.  Where there is love, there is forgiveness also (Eros is still watching over Psyche, after she disobeyed him).  Joint effort can create strength to solve even insurmountable problems (the impossible tasks set by Aphrodite).  To Greeks, romantic love was the single most important ingredient of human happiness - let us remember the choice of Paris, from another myth, who preferred the love of Helena over fame and power.  In their view, true love should be rewarded, so at the end of the story the union of Eros and Psyche is blessed and protected by the gods for eternity.



Sculpture by Antonio Canova, ‘Eros and Psyche’

 

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(C) 2003-2007, Veronica Verai