We think of Valentine’s Day as a Christian holiday, but the truth is that the roots for the holiday and many of its symbols were borrowed from the Romans, and they borrowed most of their ideas and stories from the Greeks.
Two of the most easily recognized symbols of Valentine’s Day are the heart shape and Cupid.
Both of these have their roots squarely planted in Ancient Greece.
Beyond the symbols of Valentine’s Day, Greece embodies many of the ideals of love, romance, long life with the ones we love, and great food.
From laurels and arrows to olives and wine, Greece is a place where lovers can live and grow old together in comfort and good health.
It is no coincidence that one of the five places in the world with the longest life expectancy is in Greece.
Greek food is far healthier than the foods in many other nations, and the Greeks are known for reducing stress and enjoying life.
Two of Greece’s biggest contributions to the culinary world are figs and olives, two healthy foods that help ensure the longevity of the people who enjoy them.
The Origins of Cupid
Cupid is the name of the little angelic cherub that inspires love by striking two people with his arrows of love.
Although we have come to think of Cupid as a little child with pinch-able cheeks, the original Cupid was a Roman God.
And the Romans plucked him straight out of Greek Mythology, leaving his story intact and just renaming him.
The origins for Cupid are in the Greek god Eros, the son of Aphrodite.
The original fated-lovers story began with a human woman named Psyche. She was beautiful and men began to worship her beauty, neglecting the altar of Aphrodite.
Angered that humans would neglect her for a mere mortal, Aphrodite ordered her son, Eros, to cause Psyche to fall in love with the vilest thing he could find.
Upon seeing the woman, Eros fell in love with her.
Unable or unwilling to curse her as his mother wanted, Eros chose Psyche for his wife, but he told her that she would never be able to look at him nor ask his identity.
She agreed, not knowing who he was.
Eros hid her in a place his mother would not find her, but Psyche was allowed to see her family, a kindness he allowed since she could not see him.
Since they could only spend time together at night, Psyche invited her sisters to visit during the day.
Of course, they were jealous of her life and convinced her to break her husband’s trust by looking at him.
Eros fled after Psyche’s betrayal.
Full of regret for having listened to her sisters, Psyche finally sought out Aphrodite to ask her to reunite her with Eros.
Aphrodite had not forgiven Psyche for attracting men away from the temples of Aphrodite and was even further angered by the fact that Eros had also defied her.
Instead of helping Psyche, Aphrodite gave her four seemingly impossible tasks. The last one was a trap, and Psyche sprung it as Aphrodite knew she would.
Psyche was then trapped in the realm of Hades. When Eros learned what had happened to her, he sought the help of Zeus to bring Psyche back from the dead.
Unwilling to let anything else bad befall her, Eros brought Psyche back to Mount Olympus where she was bestowed immortality as his wife.
Eventually, Aphrodite relented, and the couple was one of the few examples of lovers finally finding a happy ending in Greek Mythology.
It is a story that has survived through the millennia, transcending many empires and changes to be a part of the world of romance today.
Why the heart shape?
The term heart shaped conjures up almost the exactly the same image the world over, but the curious things is that the heart shape looks almost nothing like an actual heart.
There are many theories about where the heart shape originated, but the shape began to gain popularity around the time that Chaucer began to change the perception of St. Valentine’s (which helped make it the Valentine’s Day holiday that we know today).
However, the idea of the heart has long been associated with love.
Even before the Greek philosopher Aristotle, Greeks tied the idea of love to the human heart.
It was believed that the human heart contained all of the memories about love.
Even today, we believe that the heart skips a beat when we see the one we love.
We may know that the brain contains all of the memories and thoughts that we have about the people we love, but our emotions are in our hearts.
It is even common to hear people talk about the heart and head as if they were in direct opposition to each other, and it is the heart that is the one that longs for someone or something out of love, even when we know that it may not be in our own best interests.
Greek City Times wishes a Happy Valentine’s Day to all lovers.