A Valentine’s Day fairy tale: Eros and Psyche

Valentine’s Day coming with its dose of romance and sweetness. For some people it is a holiday without any meaning, while for others it represents a great opportunity to celebrate love. The sweets, the photos and many types of gifts that we usually give on Valentine’s Day, often show the image of Cupid. We are used to imagining him as a child who shoots arrows with his bow to make two people fall in love, but long ago someone represented Cupid in a totally different way.

We are talking about Lucio Apuleio Madaurense, better known as Apuleio, a writer, philosopher and rhetorician born around 125 A.D. in Madaura, in the Roman province of Numidia. In his work “The Metamorphoses”, Apuleius tells a mythological story, with a magical flavor and a fabulous atmosphere, entitled “Eros and Psyche”.

It is the story of Psyche, the youngest daughter of a king. She was endowed with extraordinary beauty and therefore courted by many citizens and foreigners. Psyche’s enchanting aspect and the courtship of so many men soon aroused the jealousy not only of her elder sisters, but also of the goddess Venus, who had no intention of sharing her glory with a mortal being.

One day, Venus asked her son, Cupid (Cupid), to make Psyche fall in love with a vile, poor and despised man. Psyche was then taken to an enchanted palace, with wonderful pillars, walls, floors and furnishings. After having dinner accompanied by a choir singing for her, Psyche retired to sleep. Then, in the middle of the night, her possible husband arrived, and won her love in the dark, conceiving with her the seed for a child. During her pregnancy, Psyche began to be tempted to see her beloved husband’s face, who had never shown himself to her, except in the dark.

One night, overwhelmed by her curiosity, while her beloved was lying in their bed, Psyche lit a candle to see the features of the man for whom she would have given her life. She discovered it was Love himself, with his golden hair, pale neck and rosy cheeks. However, “the lamp, whether for an evil treachery or guilty jealousy, whether because it too longed to touch and almost kiss such a body, dropped a drop of boiling oil from its bright flame over the right shoulder of the God”, who naturally woke up and discovered his bride’s betrayal.

Thus, Love, who had married her in secret from her mother to save her from marriage to a vile, poor and despised man, was forced to abandon Psyche. She was desperate, and so brave to face the goddess Venus herself, along with cruel challenges, to win back her beloved husband.

The story of the two graceful lovers also inspired the sculpture with the same name created by the Italian painter and sculptor Antonio Canova between 1790 and 1795. It is possible to admire it at the Louvre museum in Paris, but a copy is also present in the State Hermitage Museum of St.Pietroburgo.

Reading this jewel of Latin literature is recommended not only for lovers, but for anyone who needs to spend a few hours wrapped in the magic of one of the most beautiful and fascinating fairy tales that have ever been written.

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