Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, the peak of a whole month's celebration I prefer calling "Single Awareness Month." Blame it on the advertisers to magnify the mushiness and literally painting the town red with cut-out hearts, red roses, and all sorts of Valentine's Day related promotion guaranteed to leave who aren't joined at the hip veging at home. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Will it surprise you to know that the personification of this whole overly romanticized celebration isn't who he appears to be? I'm talking about the Roman god of "love": Cupid. He who has been originally portrayed as a robust young man with wings and alternately presented in the last century as a beautiful androgynous youth and nowadays as a toddler with wings. If you remember your literature class in school you would remember that it was the Greek's Aphrodite later turned into the Roman Venus who was the one in charge of romantic love. While her son, the Roman Cupid or more appropriately, the Greek Eros was originally the god of lust. Where do you think we got the word "erotic"? Classical literature relates his mother as Venus with a varied paternal lineage: Hermes (the messenger of Olympus and the patron of thieves), Zeus (leader of the gods of Olympus who's also a big flirt), or Ares (the blood thirsty god of war, as opposed to his sister Athena who's the patroness of the art of fighting), which makes sense given his role as a symbol not of happy achievement but of suffering from a perpetual search. In other words he's not only the the god of lust but also love that borders on obssession. Cupid was the name given by the Romans to the Greek god Eros. In India, Cupid was also adopted and was widely known by Hindus as Kama, the inspiration for the Kama Sutra sex manual. Well, with this guy in charge of the celebration it's hardly surprising seduction is the name of the real game behind this celebration.

* You can read more about the history of this "love god" here at The Classics Pages.

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