On this Valentine's day, it only seems fair that I give due to Eros (Ερως), God of love and sexual desire, eternal companion of Aphrodite and either Her son or self-born into the cosmos before anyone else, as love is the binding and creative force that makes up the universe. Pausanias, for example, in his 'Description of Greece' writes:

"Most men consider Love [Eros] to be the youngest of the gods and the son of Aphrodite. But Olen the Lycian, who composed the oldest Greek hymns, says in a hymn to Eileithyia that she was the mother of Love. Later than Olen, both Pamphos and Orpheus wrote hexameter verse, and composed poems on Love, in order that they might be among those sung by the Lycomidae to accompany the ritual. I read them after conversation with a Torchbearer. Of these things I will make no further mention. Hesiod, or he who wrote the Theogony fathered on Hesiod, writes, I know, that Chaos was born first, and after Chaos, Earth, Tartarus and Love." [9.27.2] 

Oppianos of Apamea was a third century AD author whose surviving work focusses solely on hunting. The Halieutica is made up of four parts of which the fourth seems incomplete. In this fourth part, however, we find a beautiful description of love as it affects Gods, mankind, and animals alike:

"O cruel Love [Eros], crafty of counsel, of all gods fairest to behold with the eyes, of all most grievous when thou dost vex the heart with unforeseen assault, entering the soul like a storm-wind and breathing the bitter menace of fire, with hurricane of anguish and untempered pain. The shedding of tears is for thee a sweet delight and to hear the deep-wrung groan; to inflame a burning redness in the heart and to blight and wither the bloom upon the cheek, to make the eyes hollow and to wrest all the mind to madness. Many thou dost even roll to doom, even those whom thou meetest in wild and wintry sort, fraught with frenzy; for in such festivals is thy delight. 

Whether then thou art the eldest-born among blessed gods and from unsmiling Chaos didst arise with fierce and flaming torch and didst first establish the ordinances of wedded love and order the rites of the marriage-bed; or whether Aphrodite of many counsels, queen of Paphos, bare thee a winged god on soaring pinions, be thou gracious and to us come gentle and with fair weather and in tempered measure; for none refuses the work of Love. 

Everywhere thou bearest sway and everywhere thou art desired at once and greatly feared; and happy is he who cherishes and guards in his breast a temperate Love. Nor doth the race of Heaven suffice thee nor the breed of men; thou rejectest not the wild beasts nor all the brood of the barren air; under the coverts of the nether deep dost thou descend and even among the finny tribes thou dost array thy darkling shafts; that naught may be left ignorant of thy compelling power, not even the fish that swims beneath the waters."

While Cupid is better know nowadays, Eros has much of the same attributes--including His quiver of arrow. Nonnus of Panopolis was a Greek epic poet, wrote in his Dionysiaca about this quiver of arrows, of which twelve were dedicated and meant for Zeus:

"Now Eros the wise, the self-taught, the manager of the ages, knocked at the gloomy gates of primeval Chaos. He took out the divine quiver, in which were kept apart twelve firefed arrows for Zeus, when his desire turned towards one or another of mortal women for a bride. Right on the back of his quiver of lovebolts he had engraved with letters of gold a sentence in verse for each:
"The first takes Cronion to the bend of heifer-fronted Io.”
"The second shall Europa woo for the bold bull abducting.”
"The third to Pluto’s bridal brings the lord of high Olympos.”
"The fourth shall call to Danaë a golden bed-companion.”
"The fifth shall offer Semele a burning fiery wedding.”
"The sixth shall bring the King of heaven an eagle to Aigina.”
"The seventh joins Antiope to a pretended Satyr.”
"The eighth, a swan endowed with mind shall bring to naked Leda.”
"The ninth a noble stallion gives unto Perrhaibid Dia.”
"The tenth three fullmoon nights of bliss gives to Alcmena’s bedmate.”
"The eleventh goes to carry out Laodameia’s bridal.”
"The twelfth draws to Olympias her thrice-encircling husband.”" [110]

Eros has let loose many an arrow on the Gods of Olympos; whenever a God falls for a mortal--or even another God--Eros is involved. He, however, had his own love story as well, described beautifully and lavishly by Apuleius, in 'The Golden Ass', which I will not post here for length. I can summarize the tale, however. 

Psyche (Psykhê, Ψυχη) was once a mortal princess who was so beautiful, men stated worshipping her instead of Aphrodite. Aphrodite commanded Eros make Psyche fall in love with the most hideous of men, but Eros couldn't; He fell in love with her Himself, and carried her away to His secret palace. He commanded Psyche to never look at His face, and hid His true identity, but of course, Psyche eventually was tricked into looking at the God. Quickly, He abandoned her. In her despair, she searched throughout the world for her lost love, and eventually came into the service of Aphrodite. The goddess commanded her perform a series of difficult labours which culminated in a journey to the Underworld. In the end Psykhe was reunited with Eros and the couple wed in a ceremony attended by the Gods.

I hope you have a beautiful Valentine's day with a loved one, friends, or family, and that Eros may bless you richly in life. Like the God of love itself, I wish you love as well, and hope his arrows touch your life, and guide your heart.

Image source: theoi.com