Throughout history, Cupid has been armed with a romance-inducing bow and arrow. But at one time, he was depicted as a handsome Roman god. So how did he transform into the mischievous, chubby cherub we know today?
The name Cupid comes from the Latin word "cupido," which means desire. In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, and Mars, the god of war and fertility. (In Greek mythology, Cupid goes by the name Eros, and was the son of Aphrodite and Ares.) From the beginning, Cupid was a momma's boy: He would stick humans with his golden, love-poisoned arrows to make them fall in love so that his mother would remain powerful.
Cupid wasn't immune from his powers, though: In Roman philosopher Lucius Apuleius' novel, "The Golden Ass," written in the second century, Cupid falls in love with the mortal Psyche when he accidentally scratches himself with one of his arrows. Their love story has more plot twists than "Lost," but a general summary is that the couple overcame several life-threatening obstacles before Psyche herself became a goddess and the two were allowed to marry and live happily ever after.
Cupid's transformation to a barely clad baby can be attributed to Renaissance painters' depictions of winged cherubs, or baby angels. The Renaissance painters used them to represent innocence and love , and Victorian-era artists later revived the popularity of cherubs, portraying them with bows and arrows. This deconstruction of Cupid as an Adonis-like mythological man to a fat, flying baby stuck over the generations and developed into the character we now see on Valentine's Day cards.
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