Cupid, or Eros, was originally a primeval force. It was with time that he was
transformed into the bow-wielding cherub we see today.
There are two myths explaining the birth of Eros. The first suggests that he
came into existence from the power of love1 at the beginning of the world. The
other myth claims that the world was produced from the mating of Eros and Chaos.
Other sources claim he was born of Chaos. So originally, all of existence was,
completely or partially, owed to Eros.
The passing of time witnessed the creation of myths around individual gods. Although
Eros had been born of love, it was Aphrodite that become the personification
of love. However, Eros' following was well established and he was not to be
pushed aside in matters of love. The myths around Aphrodite expanded to include
a son, Eros. Aphrodite was allowed representation over feminine love and Eros
represented the masculine counterpart. Everyone was happy.
Then came Zeus. Over time this god's status grew. Zeus became increasingly
powerful. Aphrodite and Eros could no longer be allowed their usual stature.
So Aphrodite was reduced to a daughter of Zeus. Eros, merely her son, was further
reduced in stature.
Finally the Romans entered the scene and Eros became Cupid 2.Under the Romans,
Cupid was even less impressive. With the status of a son and therefore a lesser
god, Cupid became a mere child; chubby, mischievous and whimsical, but always
1. perpetuated by the poet Hesiod.
2. Cupid is a variation on the Latin Cupido (desire). This god was also
known by the name Amor (love)
Littleton, C. Scott (ed) (2002) Mythology: the illustrated anthology of world myth and storytelling, Duncan Baird Publishers
Kerenyi, C. (1976) The Gods of the Greeks, Thames and Hudson
Graves, R. (1992) The Greek Myths Complete Edition, Penguin Books