Cupid & Psyche : allegorical aspects

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Cupid & Psyche : allegorical aspects

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Jun 18, 2005 11:02 pm

I was just re-reading the Cupid & Psyche story in Apuleius, and I wondered how this assumedly allegorical tale was interpreted in Antiquity by the different schools of philosophy. A search on the internet yielded little. All I found of interest were the following lines in Bulfinch :

"The fable of Cupid and Psyche is usually considered allegorical. The Greek name for a butterfly is Psyche, and the same word means the soul. There is no illustration of the immortality of the soul so striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant wings from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull, grovelling, caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day and feed on the most fragrant and delicate productions of the spring. Psyche, then, is the human soul, which is purified by sufferings and misfortunes, and is thus prepared for the enjoyment of true and pure happiness."

Does anyone have more detailed information on this ?

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Re: Cupid & Psyche : allegorical aspects

Postby M Sempronia Pulla on Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:12 pm

Okay, I know this post is very old, but in art both Roman but also especially medieval and renaissance, Psyche was portrayed with butterfly wings. Artists seemed to have loved the myth as there are numerous paintings inspired by it, especially concerning the trials Psyche is put through by Venus for the sake of experiencing her true love. Whenever Cupid is portrayed in art, it's generally allegorical so it being a reference to the purification of the soul is very plausible, and also very mystical in message. I can't say how it was interpreted in antiquity as medieval sensibilities tended to use Cupid as a symbol of the dangers of lust, among other things. Also, Cupid was allegorically represented as a potential monster in the beginning of the myth...hence part of the reason why Psyche's sisters wanted her to peek on her mysterious lover--just in case he might later eat her. A lot can be drawn from Cupid and Psyche.
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