The use of these arrows is described by the Latin poet Ovid in the first book of his Metamorphoses.
When Apollo taunts Cupid as the lesser archer, Cupid shoots him with the golden arrow, but strikes the object of his desire, the nymph Daphne, with the lead.
In other contexts, Cupid with a dolphin recurs as a playful motif, as in garden statuary at Pompeii that shows a dolphin rescuing Cupid from an octopus, or Cupid holding a dolphin.
Trapped by Apollo's unwanted advances, Daphne prays to her father, the river god Peneus, who turns her into a laurel, the tree sacred to Apollo.
It is the first of several unsuccessful or tragic love affairs for Apollo.
Cupid continued to be a popular figure in the Middle Ages, when under Christian influence he often had a dual nature as Heavenly and Earthly love.
In the Renaissance, a renewed interest in classical philosophy endowed him with complex allegorical meanings.
Venus laughs, and points out the poetic justice: he too is small, and yet delivers the sting of love.
The story was first told about Eros in the Idylls of Theocritus (3rd century BC). The untiring deceiver concocted another battle-plan: he lurked beneath the carnations and roses and when a maiden came to pick them, he flew out as a bee and stung her.
Cupid carries two kinds of arrows, or darts, one with a sharp golden point, and the other with a blunt tip of lead.
A person wounded by the golden arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire, but the one struck by the lead feels aversion and desires only to flee.
Although Eros is generally portrayed as a slender winged youth in Classical Greek art, during the Hellenistic period, he was increasingly portrayed as a chubby boy.
During this time, his iconography acquired the bow and arrow that represent his source of power: a person, or even a deity, who is shot by Cupid's arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire.
His symbols are the arrow and torch, "because love wounds and inflames the heart." These attributes and their interpretation were established by late antiquity, as summarized by Isidore of Seville (d. Cupid is also sometimes depicted blindfolded and described as blind, not so much in the sense of sightless—since the sight of the beloved can be a spur to love—as blinkered and arbitrary.