Profile of Eros, Greek God of Passion and Lust

Statue of Eros on one foot on top of a building
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Often described as a son of Aphrodite by her lover Ares, the god of war, Eros was a Greek god of lust and primal sexual desire. In fact, the word erotic comes from his name. He is personified in all kinds of love and lust, both heterosexual and homosexual, and was worshiped at the center of a fertility cult that honored both Eros and Aphrodite together.

Did You Know?

  • Offerings were made at Eros' temples, in the form of plants and flowers, vessels filled with sacred oils and wine, beautifully crafted jewelry, and sacrifices.
  • Eros was a Greek god of lust and primal sexual desire.
  • He is considered the protector of same-sex love as well as hetero relationships.

Eros in Mythology

Statue of Eros
Pauws99 / iStock / Getty

There does seem to be some question about Eros' parentage. In later Greek myth he is indicated to be Aphrodite's son, but Hesiod portrays him as merely her servant or attendant. Some stories say Eros is the child of Iris and Zephyrus, and early sources, such as Aristophanes, say he is the offspring of Nyx and Erebus, or Chaos itself, which would make him quite an old god indeed.

During the classical Roman period, Eros evolved into Cupid, portrayed as the chubby cherub that still remains as a popular image today. He is typically shown blindfolded—because, after all, love is blind—and carrying a bow, with which he shot arrows at his intended targets. As Cupid, he is often invoked as a god of pure love during Valentine's Day, but in his original form, Eros was mostly about lust and passion.

Early History and Worship

Eros was honored in a general way across much of the ancient Greek world, but there were also specific temples and cults dedicated to his worship, particularly in the southern and central cities. A poetic description of the statue of Eros that appeared in the temple at Thespeia—the earliest known, and most popular cult site—border on the erotic. The Greek writer Callistratus described a statue of Eros that appeared in the temple at Thespeia, the earliest known, and most popular cult site. Callistratus' summary is extremely poetic... and borders on the erotic.

The Eros, the workmanship of Praxiteles, was Eros himself, a boy in the bloom of youth with wings and bow. Bronze gave expression to him... you might have seen the bronze losing its hardness and becoming marvelously delicate in the direction of plumpness and... the material proving equal to fulfilling all the obligations that were laid upon it. It was supple but without effeminacy; and while it had the proper color of bronze, it looked bright and fresh; and though it was quite devoid of actual motion, it was ready to display motion; for though it was fixed solidly on a pedestal, it deceived one into thinking that it possessed the power to fly...

As a god of lust and passion, and fertility as well, Eros played a major role in courtship. Offerings were made at his temples, in the form of plants and flowers, vessels filled with sacred oils and wine, beautifully crafted jewelry, and sacrifices.

Eros didn't have too many boundaries when it came to making people fall in love, and was considered the protector of same-sex love as well as hetero relationships. Seneca wrote,

This winged god rules ruthlessly throughout the earth and inflames Jove [Zeus] himself, wounded with unquenched fires. Gradivus [Ares], the warrior god, has felt those flames; that god [Hephaestus] has felt them who fashions the three-forked thunderbolts, yea, he who tends the hot furnaces ever raging ‘neath Etna's peaks is inflamed by so mall a fire as this. Nay, Apollo, himself, who guides with sure aim his arrows from the bowstring, a boy of more sure aim pierces with his flying shaft, and flits about, baneful alike to heaven and to earth.

Festivals and Celebrations

Cupid and Psyche
 V Pirozzi / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty

In the city of Athens, Eros was honored side by side at the acropolis with Aphrodite, starting around the fifth century B.C. Every spring, a festival took place honoring Eros. After all, spring is the season of fertility, so what better time to celebrate a god of passion and lust? The Erotidia happened in March or April, and was an event full of sporting events, games, and art.

Interestingly, scholars seem to disagree on whether or not Eros was a god who functioned independently of others, or whether he always appeared complementary to Aphrodite. It is possible that Eros did not appear as an autonomous deity of fecundity and reproduction, but instead as the fertility aspect of Aphrodite's worship.

Modern Worship of Eros

There are still some Hellenic polytheists who honor Eros in their worship today. Appropriate offerings to Eros include fruits like the apple or grapes, or flowers that are representative of love, such as roses. You can also include a bow and arrow, or symbols of them, on your altar. If you're honoring Eros as a deity of fertility, rather than primarily of lust, consider fertility symbols like rabbits and eggs.

Resources and Further Reading

Seneca the Younger. “Phaedra.” Edited by Aaron J Atsma. Translated by Frank Justus Miller, Classical Texts Library, Theoi Project, 2017.

Elder Philostratus, Younger Philostratus, Callistratus. "Descriptions." Edited by Aaron J Atsma. Translated by Arthur Fairbanks, Classical Texts Library, Theoi Project, 2017.