The Ancient Greeks (who lived from about 700 to 400 B.C.) believed in many gods (male) and goddesses (female). These gods and goddesses lived at the top of Mount Olympus. Each god had a different role and Zeus was the king of them all. There were also nymphs, who were female gods but not major ones.
Cupid and Psyche is one of the best loved stories from Ancient Greece. Cupid, son of Venus, threw arrows at people in order to hit their heart and make them fall in love. Psyche, a beautiful maiden, is a symbol of the human soul.
The Story of Cupid and Psyche
In Ancient Greece, there was a royal family which had three beautiful princesses. The most beautiful princess was Psyche. The people loved the princess. In fact, the people loved Psyche so much that they forget about the gods and goddesses when they said their prayers. They abandoned the temples of Venus, the goddess of beauty. Her altars were covered empty and the sculptors would make no more statues of her. The fame of Psyche’s beauty spread throughout the kingdom and men kept coming to her palace to admire and worship her. When they saw her, they said that she was even more beautiful than Venus.
Venus, who lived with the other gods on Mount Olympus, was enraged. She felt so jealous! When she heard men say that Psyche, was more beautiful than her, she lost her temper and promised herself: “I will kill this horrible little human!”
In her bitter envy, Venus made a plan. She made the royal family see a vision. In the vision, a messenger said, “Send Psyche to the dark palace at the bottom of Mount Olympus. If Psyche goes there, she will find her true love. Her true love is a god.”
Psyche’s family thought it would be wonderful for their human daughter to marry a god, so they told her about the vision they had seen and gave her instructions. “Go towards Mount Olympus. Enter a dark palace with no light.” Psyche obeyed and went to the dark palace. Inside, there were no lamps and no ray of light entered through the windows, which were covered with thick curtains. It was dangerous and dark, but Psyche was excited, because she expected to meet her true love. She was enjoying this unusual experience; she was hoping to feel great joy when she met her true love.
Venus was a goddess, so she could watch what humans were doing from the top of Mount Olympus. She was pleased that her plan was working. “Ha ha! What a stupid human!” she said. Venus turned to her son, who was called Cupid. “My son, go down from Mount Olympus. Go to this princess, Psyche. People say she is so beautiful and they do not pay attention to me. Go and kill this human.” Cupid had no choice but to obey his mother’s order.
Cupid was handsome and he was romantic like his mother, Venus. When he saw Psyche, he gasped. She was the most beautiful princess he had ever seen and he immediately fell deeply in love with her. Cupid felt that one of his own arrows had hit his heart. Psyche, though, did not see Cupid because he was invisible in the dark.
“Beautiful princess, sleep and relax,” whispered Cupid softly to her. Psyche obeyed. She was so curious about him and asked, “Can I see you?”
“No, you cannot see me”, replied Cupid. “If you see me, I will have to return to Mount Olympus. You must trust me. Love cannot last without trust. I want to be with you. I glanced at you for just a split second and immediately I fell in love with you. I couldn’t help it. Be my princess, be my true love forever!” What Cupid said was beautiful and romantic. Psyche remained silent but she knew that she had fallen in love with Cupid, too.
So, Cupid and Psyche got married and lived together in the dark palace. Day after day, Cupid said, “I love you, my beautiful Psyche.” Psyche closed her eyes whenever he said this. Cupid’s romantic words made Psyche’s heart jump every time. She didn’t care that Cupid was invisible. She loved him deeply, and they were very happy.
One day, however, terrible things happened. Venus was waiting for her son to return. She guessed that he had fallen in love with Psyche. She got even more enraged and sent another vision to Psyche’s family. When her mother, father and sisters saw the vision, they panicked and rushed to the dark palace. “Psyche, Psyche! You must come back with us”, they said. “This dark palace is terrible and the person you love… is a monster.”
“A monster? No, that’s not true! His name is Cupid and he is my true love,” she said passionately.
“Are you certain? You cannot even see him!” they said.
Psyche hesitated. Cupid was invisible, so she had never seen what he really looked like. Was it possible that he was, in fact, a monster? Could she trust him, even though she had never even seen him?
“Take this lamp”, said Psyche’s sister. “When Cupid is asleep, look at his face, and you will discover the truth for yourself!” She passed Psyche a lamp.
While Cupid was fast asleep, Psyche went up to him with the lamp and shined light on him. She saw his beautiful face. He was incredibly handsome. Why did her family call him a monster? She felt stupid. Cupid opened his eyes and saw what Psyche was doing. He was deeply hurt. “Don’t you trust me?” he cried. “Now my mother will find me and take me back to Olympus. What have you done? You have betrayed me!”
Venus had been desperately looking for her son from Mount Olympus. She still wanted him to kill Psyche and come back to her. When Psyche shined the light, Venus saw Cupid grow angry. “Now, he will kill her”, she said hopefully, and laughed a horrible laugh. But Cupid couldn’t do that to his true love. He was confused, so he got up and flew away. Venus chased after him and she was faster. When she caught him, she forced Cupid to return to Mount Olympus.
Psyche cried bitter tears when she realized that she had betrayed her true love. But she couldn’t accept being separated from him. She loved Cupid so much that she decided to go up Mount Olympus. Of course, she knew that Venus wanted to kill her, but she could not bear living without her true love. “I may die, but I have to see him again,” she told herself.
And so, Psyche climbed the great mountain alone. When she got to the top, Venus was waiting for her. “Venus, I want to see Cupid. You can kill me, but you cannot kill our love,” said Psyche calmly.
“Ha ha, you are a stupid creature! Cupid is my son. He is a god. You are just a human. Do you want to become a god? Do you want to be as beautiful as me? That is impossible!” Venus’s jealousy knew no limit. Venus made Psyche pick up a magic box. When Psyche opened the box, she closed her eyes and fell fast asleep. “Ha ha, Psyche will sleep forever! Now I am the most beautiful!” boasted Venus.
Cupid was watching and when he saw Psyche arrive, his heart jumped. He immediately forgave her for shining the light on him. Knowing that she was in terrible danger, he flew as fast as he could to Zeus. “Oh Zeus, king of all the gods! My true love has fallen asleep forever. I beg of you, please help me!”
Zeus admired Cupid’s romantic heart. “Well, I would like to help you. I will visit Venus. There must be a way to satisfy everyone.”
Soon Zeus was standing in front of the goddess of beauty. “Venus, your son loves Psyche. If you love your son, you cannot torture him like this. You must let them be together. I have a plan.” Zeus forced Venus to go along with his plan. Zeus helped Venus to make Psyche immortal. Now, Psyche was a goddess, too. Psyche and Cupid were married in front of all the gods and they could stay on Mount Olympus forever.
In the end, love triumphed. Cupid and Psyche were blissfully happy forever. Venus loved her son, and because he was happy with Psyche, Venus had to accept her. And something made Venus very happy indeed. Now Psyche was living with the gods on Mount Olympus, so the humans below forgot all about the beautiful princess and started worshiping her, the goddess of beauty, again. The sculptors started making new statues of her, and the temple altars were now covered with offerings.