I end this second week of sneak peeks with something a bit different. My Small Child saw the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, London (yes, I know it’s really meant to be Anteros, but everyone calls him Eros!), which is the reason for today’s final choice — along with his mom… or is she?
The Greek God of (sexual) love. He is usually regarded now as the son of Aphrodite by Ares, and familiar to all as a cuddly little cherub with wings and a bow and arrow — but the ancients perceived him very differently. In some early sources, such as Hesiod, he was considered to be one of the three original deities to emerge from Chaos, along with Gaia and Tartarus. The Greeks and Romans recognized and embraced — in a way the Abrahamic religions like to brush pink-cheeked under the carpet — the cardinal importance of sex in the perpetuation of human life and as a generative force. Thus Eros to the Greeks was a handsome, virile, dimple-free young man. It is quite probable that an obscure 4th Century saint, Erotis, is an outright adoption into the saintly fold of a God whom the Church struggled to suppress from the start. Since a major part of its doctrine rests upon sex being classed as a ‘sin’, containing the God of sexual love was always going to be a sticky problem – and slapping a ‘St’ in front may have been one way they dealt with this troublesome Pagan deity that wouldn’t just vanish into a puff of air. Encountered as a genuine given name since the 19th Century.
The Greek Goddess of love needs little introduction. Known to the Romans as Venus, she was identified by the ancients with native Goddesses across the known world, including the Mesopotamian Ishtar, Phoenician Astarte and Egyptian Hathor. Her association with the Evening and Morning Star is likewise very ancient. The traditional etymology of her name is Greek: aphros ‘foam’, considered a reference to her birth from the foam of the sea. However, this is likely to be Greek wishful thinking again when the name was Hellenized. Its true origin is likely to be pre-Greek or to lie in Asia Minor or Mesopotamia. A possible candidate is the Assyrian Bariritu, a Goddess whose name derives from the Akkadian: barārītu ‘dusk’ and ‘twilight’. She is a known manifestation of Ishtar. 19th Century.