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Photos: The evolution of Cupid

Today we know him as Cupid. But the iconic purveyor of love actually began as the Greek god Eros. He is depicted here on a plate created around 330 B.C. Red-Figure Plate with Eros, attributed to the Ascoli Satriano Painter

For generations, Cupid has been a symbol of Valentine's Day. But that chubby, winged toddler brandishing a bow and arrow started out as someone much different.

Today we know him as Cupid. But the iconic purveyor of love actually began as the Greek god Eros. He is depicted here on a plate created around 330 B.C. Red-Figure Plate with Eros, attributed to the Ascoli Satriano Painter
There are contradictory tales about the origin of Eros. In some versions, he is known as the child of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. In others, he's one of the primeval Greek gods, created asexually. Cupid and Psyche / Antonio Canova
In ancient art, Eros was depicted as a young adult male and the embodiment of sexual power. Medieval Christian myths viewed him as a seductive "demon of fornication." Cupid and Psyche / Francois-Edouard Picot
Eros always sported wings. But his classic image morphed to include a bow and arrows. According to Greek mythology, anyone pricked by these golden arrows would be filled with physical desire. Venus and Cupid / Maerten van Heemskerck
Eros carried two types of arrows. The golden ones sparked romantic passion in those hit. The lead ones filled targets with aversion. Cupid Blindfolded / Piero Della Francesca
Eros wasn't driven to facilitate ideal romantic relationships. He might use arrows to spur illicit affairs. In one myth, he shoots Apollo with a golden arrow, prompting him to fall in love with the nymph Daphne. Eros then hits Daphne with a leaden arrow, leaving her repulsed by Apollo. Cupid with the Soap Bubble / Rembrandt van Rijn
Eros originally appeared as a handsome, heroic young man. But as early as the Hellenistic period, beginning in 323 B.C., he was increasingly depicted as a young child. Seated Cupid / Etienne-Maurice Falconet
The Romans repurposed ancient Greek mythology, transforming Eros into Cupid. The Latin term "cupido" means "desire." And Cupid was the embodiment of desire, attraction and love. Sleeping Cupid / Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
In much of Latin literature, Cupid is simply referred to as the son of Venus. But sometimes he's identified as the offspring of Venus and Mars, the godly representations of love and war. Cupid Complaining to Venus / Lucas Cranach the Elder
Renaissance painters depicted Cupid as a type of baby angel, representing a more innocent type of love. It's the art of this era that solidified Cupid's image as a sweet and chubby cherub, leaving his debaucherous side behind. Venus and Cupid / Giuseppe Cesari
This Valentine depicts the image of Cupid in the early 1900s. According to modern-day mythology, those hit by Cupid's arrows will fall passionately in love with the next person they meet. Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection
The tradition of sending Valentine cards first became popular in the 1700s. Commercially produced cards hit the market in the early 1800s. Due to his long-held connection with love, Cupid quickly became one of the most popular design motifs. Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection
A statue of Eros is perched above central London's Piccadilly Circus. The contemporary Cupid retained a bit of his mischievous nature, occasionally shooting arrows while blindfolded. The message: that love is blind and it's something mere humans can't control. Lefteris Pitarakis / AP

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