The Story of Cupid and Psyche


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Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The pagan gods…. The Golden Ass , prose narrative of the 2nd century ce by Lucius Apuleius, who called it Metamorphoses. In all probability Apuleius used material from a lost Metamorphoses by Lucius of Patrae, which is cited by some as the source for an extant Greek work on a similar theme, the brief Lucius, …. Venus , ancient Italian goddess associated with cultivated fields and gardens and later identified by the Romans with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

Venus had no worship in Rome in early times, as the scholar…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice.

Cupid and Psyche

Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Help us improve this article! Contact our editors with your feedback. Edit Mode. Tips For Editing. You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered. Unknown to Psyche, throughout these trails, Cupid is constantly at her aid. He instructs ants to help her sort the grains; and then the river god offers her instructions of how to steal the prize fleece from the shepherd. Finally, Psyche is given divine advice on how to surpass the dangers of Hades.

Her failure—foretold by Venus herself—comes when Psyche, greatly upset by the trials she had to overcome, opens the box and is overcome by the Stygian sleep, a sleep so strong she is considered the living dead. By that point, Cupid has had enough of his separation from his wife, and he flies to her rescue, lifting her sleeping form to the heavens, and pleading with the great god Jupiter to talk sense into his mother. Venus lifts her terrible curse from the girl, and once Psyche is awake, she is transformed into an immortal, and is properly wed to the young god of desire.

Apuleius, Lucius. The Golden Ass. Kennedy Penguin: London, Ashliman, D. Accessed July 1, Heiner, Heidi Anne. October Accessed July 5, Read More. Ancient Origins has been quoted by:.

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We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. Skip to main content. Once upon a time Login or Register in order to comment. Related Articles on Ancient-Origins. A team of Greek researchers has unearthed unique jewels, coins and other precious artifacts while excavating tombs near the ruins of the ancient city of Corinth. Experts estimate that the newly found An exquisite onyx and gold ring from about the s AD depicting the god of love Cupid, found by a metal detectorist, will go on display in an English museum.

Eros or Cupid was regarded by some The transported girl awakes to find herself at the edge of a cultivated grove lucus.

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Exploring, she finds a marvelous house with golden columns, a carved ceiling of citrus wood and ivory, silver walls embossed with wild and domesticated animals, and jeweled mosaic floors. A disembodied voice tells her to make herself comfortable, and she is entertained at a feast that serves itself and by singing to an invisible lyre. Although fearful and without sexual experience, she allows herself to be guided to a bedroom, where in the darkness a being she cannot see makes her his wife. She gradually learns to look forward to his visits, though he always departs before sunrise and forbids her to look upon him, and soon she becomes pregnant.

Psyche's family longs for news of her, and after much cajoling, Cupid, still unknown to his bride, permits Zephyr to carry her sisters up for a visit.

Mythology Summary and Analysis of Cupid and Psyche

When they see the splendor in which Psyche lives, they become envious, and undermine her happiness by prodding her to uncover her husband's true identity, since surely as foretold by the oracle she was lying with the vile winged serpent, who would devour her and her child. One night after Cupid falls asleep, Psyche carries out the plan her sisters devised: she brings out a dagger and a lamp she had hidden in the room, in order to see and kill the monster. But when the light instead reveals the most beautiful creature she has ever seen, she is so startled that she wounds herself on one of the arrows in Cupid's cast-aside quiver.

Struck with a feverish passion, she spills hot oil from the lamp and wakes him. He flees, and though she tries to pursue, he flies away and leaves her on the bank of a river. There she is discovered by the wilderness god Pan , who recognizes the signs of passion upon her. She acknowledges his divinity numen , then begins to wander the earth looking for her lost love. Psyche visits first one sister, then the other; both are seized with renewed envy upon learning the identity of Psyche's secret husband. Each sister attempts to offer herself as a replacement by climbing the rocky crag and casting herself upon Zephyr for conveyance, but instead is allowed to fall to a brutal death.

In the course of her wanderings, Psyche comes upon a temple of Demeter , and inside finds a disorder of grain offerings, garlands, and agricultural implements. Recognizing that the proper cultivation of the gods should not be neglected, she puts everything in good order, prompting a theophany of Demeter herself. Although Psyche prays for her aid, and Demeter acknowledges that she deserves it, the goddess is prohibited from helping her against a fellow goddess.

A similar incident occurs at a temple of Hera.

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Psyche realizes that she must serve Venus herself. Venus revels in having the girl under her power, and turns Psyche over to her two handmaids, Worry and Sadness, to be whipped and tortured. Venus tears her clothes and bashes her head into the ground, and mocks her for conceiving a child in a sham marriage. The goddess then throws before her a great mass of mixed wheat, barley, poppyseed, chickpeas, lentils, and beans, demanding that she sort them into separate heaps by dawn.

But when Venus withdraws to attend a wedding feast, a kind ant takes pity on Psyche, and assembles a fleet of insects to accomplish the task. Venus is furious when she returns drunk from the feast, and only tosses Psyche a crust of bread. At this point in the story, it is revealed that Cupid is also in the house of Venus, languishing from his injury.

At dawn, Venus sets a second task for Psyche. She is to cross a river and fetch golden wool from violent sheep who graze on the other side. These sheep are elsewhere identified as belonging to the Helios. For Psyche's third task, she is given a crystal vessel in which to collect the black water spewed by the source of the rivers Styx and Cocytus.


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Climbing the cliff from which it issues, she is daunted by the foreboding air of the place and dragons slithering through the rocks, and falls into despair. Zeus himself takes pity on her, and sends his eagle to battle the dragons and retrieve the water for her. The last trial Venus imposes on Psyche is a quest to the underworld itself. She is to take a box pyxis and obtain in it a dose of the beauty of Proserpina , queen of the underworld.

Venus claims her own beauty has faded through tending her ailing son, and she needs this remedy in order to attend the theatre of the gods theatrum deorum. Once again despairing of her task, Psyche climbs a tower, planning to throw herself off. The tower, however, suddenly breaks into speech, and advises her to travel to Lacedaemon , Greece, and to seek out the place called Taenarus , where she will find the entrance to the underworld.

The tower offers instructions for navigating the underworld :. The airway of Dis is there, and through the yawning gates the pathless route is revealed. Once you cross the threshold, you are committed to the unswerving course that takes you to the very Regia of Orcus. The speaking tower warns her to maintain silence as she passes by several ominous figures: a lame man driving a mule loaded with sticks, a dead man swimming in the river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead, and old women weaving.

These, the tower warns, will seek to divert her by pleading for her help: she must ignore them. The cakes are treats for distracting Cerberus , the three-headed watchdog of Orcus, and the two coins for Charon the ferryman , so she can make a return trip.


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Everything comes to pass according to plan, and Proserpina grants Psyche's humble entreaty. As soon as she reenters the light of day, however, Psyche is overcome by a bold curiosity, and can't resist opening the box in the hope of enhancing her own beauty. She finds nothing inside but an "infernal and Stygian sleep," which sends her into a deep and unmoving torpor.

Meanwhile, Cupid's wound has healed into a scar, and he escapes his mother's house by flying out of a window. When he finds Psyche, he draws the sleep from her face and replaces it in the box, then pricks her with an arrow that does no harm. He lifts her into the air, and takes her to present the box to Venus. He then takes his case to Zeus , who gives his consent in return for Cupid's future help whenever a choice maiden catches his eye.

Who is Cupid?

Zeus has Hermes convene an assembly of the gods in the theater of heaven, where he makes a public statement of approval, warns Venus to back off, and gives Psyche ambrosia , the drink of immortality, [15] so the couple can be united in marriage as equals. Their union, he says, will redeem Cupid from his history of provoking adultery and sordid liaisons. With its happy marriage and resolution of conflicts, the tale ends in the manner of classic comedy [17] or Greek romances such as Daphnis and Chloe.

The assembly of the gods has been a popular subject for both visual and performing arts, with the wedding banquet of Cupid and Psyche a particularly rich occasion. With the wedding of Peleus and Thetis , this is the most common setting for a " Feast of the Gods " scene in art. Apuleius describes the scene in terms of a festive Roman dinner party cena. Cupid, now a husband, reclines in the place of honor the "top" couch and embraces Psyche in his lap. Zeus and Hera situate themselves likewise, and all the other gods are arranged in order. The cupbearer of Jove Zeus's other Roman name serves him with nectar, the "wine of the gods"; Apuleius refers to the cupbearer only as ille rusticus puer , "that country boy," and not as Ganymede.

Liber , the Roman god of wine, serves the rest of the company. Vulcan , the god of fire, cooks the food; the Horae "Seasons" or "Hours" adorn, or more literally "empurple," everything with roses and other flowers; the Graces suffuse the setting with the scent of balsam , and the Muses with melodic singing. Apollo sings to his lyre , and Venus takes the starring role in dancing at the wedding, with the Muses as her chorus girls, a satyr blowing the aulos tibia in Latin , and a young Pan expressing himself through the pan pipes fistula.

The wedding provides closure for the narrative structure as well as for the love story: the mysteriously provided pleasures Psyche enjoyed in the domus of Cupid at the beginning of her odyssey, when she entered into a false marriage preceded by funereal rites, are reimagined in the hall of the gods following correct ritual procedure for a real marriage.

The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
The Story of Cupid and Psyche The Story of Cupid and Psyche
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