1: BACK AT THAT TIME

Greek mythology began as an oral tradition during the Bronze Age, which was somewhere between 3300 and 1200 B.C. So the Greeks didn’t really have a book they could pass out at airports or leave in hotel rooms. Because the stories evolved over thousands of years, and people didn’t think to start writing them all down until they’d already been circulating for centuries. According to History, Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey in the eighth century B.C., and in the seventh century B.C. a poet called Hesiod wrote down the origin story. The written tradition really started to take off in the fifth century, when playwrights like Euripides and Sophocles began developing the gods and other mythological figures for the stage. Then in the first century B.C. a Roman historian named Gaius Julius Hyginus finally wrote the major myths down in a compilation meant to be read by average people. Remember that this was more than a thousand years after the first myths started circulating verbally, so they were likely pretty evolved by then and probably bore little resemblance to the originals.

2: EROS_CUPID

Cupid was a chubby baby who helped people fall in love. Valentine’s Day is associated with Cupid. Even though Valentine was a Christian saint, said to have performed secret marriages after Emperor Claudius II outlawed the practice for young men. So how did Cupid get mixed up in all this? He was the Roman version of Eros, the Greek god of love.

On Valentine’s Day, Cupid/Eros is usually depicted as a chubby baby with wings. However in the Greek stories he was kind of sinister, and also not a cute, chubby baby but a blindfolded adult male. According to History, instead of helping young lovers connect, Eros preferred to mess with people’s heads. which really is a much more realistic interpretation of how love usually unfolds. Eros had two quivers — one with golden arrows, which made the recipient fall in love, and the other with lead arrows, which made the recipient roll his or her eyes in disgust and unfriend the person who was on the receiving end of the golden arrow. So maybe his transformation from adult male giver-of-misery to cute, chubby baby with wings makes a certain amount of sense. We’ve already got sadistic gods of war, children-eating Titans, and jam-covered evil spirits to be afraid of. We don’t need to be tormented by the god of love, too.