The story of Eros and Psyche is told in the Golden Ass of Apuleius (second century A.D.). Sent by his jealous mother Aphrodite to punish the beautiful Psyche (“the soul”) by making her fall in love with some disgusting creature—a motif found again in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Eros himself falls for her, and visits her every night, though without revealing himself to her. He warns her never to look at his face, or she will lose him forever. However, spurred on by her jealous sisters, she does precisely that, and the lovers are parted. To find out how the story continues, and whether it has a happy ending or not, the reader is invited to read Apuleius’s charming text, once described as “Shakespeare’s favourite novel” (Shakespeare also used Apuleius’s device of transformation into an ass). Here is a link to Patricia Lawrence’s page on Eros and Psyche on her Opera Nobilia website.
There are many surviving representations of the lovers in ancient art, including the statuary groups in the Altes Museum, Berlin (illustration, centre) and the Capitoline Museum, Rome (illustration, left), Roman copies of Hellenistic originals. Normally Eros is on the left, but this little first century A.D. terracotta from Olbia on the Black Sea (in the National Museum in Poznań, Poland) has the positions reversed (illustration, right).
The provincial mints that illustrated the embrace of Eros and Psyche were Serdica in Thracia and Patrae in Achaea.
* Serdica in Thracia, coins of Septimius Severus and Caracalla, all of them rare. Although most cataloguers have not made the distinction, there are actually two reverse types: (A) Eros r. and Psyche l. in close embrace, with a burning altar behind Eros, and (B) Eros r. and Psyche l. in an arm’s length embrace. The coin listed by Mionnet (I, 369) could be either.
Æ 31, 1 h, 14.97 g. Obv. AYT K M AYP CEYH ANTΩNEINOC. Laureate bust of Caracalla r. Rev. OYΛΠIAC CEPΔIKHC. Reverse type B (Photos courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., www.cngcoins.com).
Æ 17, 1 h, 3.55 g. Obv. AYT K M AY CEY ANTΩNEINOC or similar. Laureate bust of Caracalla r. Rev. CEPΔΩN. Reverse type B, but with Eros’s bow and quiver behind him.
Æ 20, 1 h, 4.03 g, but with antique silver mount.
For false sightings of butterflies, see Type 04 (“Prusa ad Olympum”) and Type 09 (“Aphrodisias”).
Serdica / Caracalla (type B, large module)
References: Hristova/Jekov 18.104.22.168; Varbanov 2311-12
Serdica / Caracalla (type B, small module)
References: Hristova/Jekov 22.214.171.124; Varbanov 2081
Patrae / Commodus
Reference: RPC IV, 10968