From a modern standpoint, Cupid is a pretty bizarre representative for Valentine’s Day, but there is a historical explanation for this odd patron of love.
When you think about it, it’s pretty bizarre that a nearly-naked, flying baby is the representative of the holiday of love and relationships. Yeah, he has arrows that can make people fall in love, but why? Why does a baby have that power? How did that come about? In short, where did Cupid come from originally?Read More »
In ancient times, the god of love was portrayed as the handsome god that any Roman woman would pine after. He did have his arrows, although causing people to fall in love wasn’t their only power. His weapon could incite love, but it could also create repulsion, and he used these arrows to create mismatched pairings, usually at the behest of his sometimes vengeful mother.
In one story, he uses his arrows to teach Apollo a lesson. In this story, Apollo may or may not have been questioning the power of love, and to prove a point, Cupid strikes him with his arrow of love. Immediately, Apollo falls in love with Daphne, who happens to be walking by. Unfortunately for Apollo, he’s being taught a lesson, not being set up with a match made in heaven or Olympos. Cupid strikes Daphne with another arrow that causes her to be repulsed by Apollo and all of his advances. Apollo chases her, determined to call her his own, and she begs her father, a river god, to save her. Her father turns her into a laurel tree, breaking Apollo’s heart in the process. If you’re wondering, yes, Apollo admitted the power of love. No, it did not bring back his darling Daphne.
As time went on, Cupid was increasingly portrayed as an infant, which gave rise to the popularized image we all know and love today. He retained his bow, even though it’s questionable to arm an infant, and his wings, which gave birth to the flying baby on every poster and card. During more romantic periods in history, the infant Cupid was slowly transformed into the cherubic image of a smiling, playful baby that can be seen on posters and cards around the world on Valentine’s day.
The diaper was a more recent addition to the popular image of Cupid. In ancient times, Cupid, like many other gods and goddesses, was depicted nude. This depiction was because gods and goddesses were peak examples of the beautiful human form. In the modern day, fully naked men, let alone fully nude babies, are not the most socially acceptable form of a representative, and that’s where the diapers come in.
So, in the end, while a flying baby may not be the best representative for a holiday, at least it kind of makes sense why a flying baby is a representative. Yes, there are better choices. Yes, there are fewer weird choices. Still, Cupid has a history, and that beats out a ‘better’ choice every time. You go Cupid.
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