Psyche (Gr. , breath, or the soul), a character of Greek romance, generally accepted as a personification of the human soul. A certain king, says Apuleius, had three daughters, of whom the youngest, named Psyche, was a marvel of beauty, and altars were consecrated to her that properly belonged to Venus. The anger of that goddess was excited, and she commanded her son Cupid to inspire Psyche with a passion for some frightful monster; but he himself fell in love with her, and bore her away to a delightful place, where she was visited every night by the young god, who left her at dawn. Her sisters persuaded her that he who came to her every night, and whom she had never seen, must be a loathsome creature, and urged her to destroy him while he slept; but when she brought a lamp and beheld his beauty, her joy deprived her of the power of motion, and while she stood a drop of hot oil falling from her lamp upon his shoulder awoke him. With a few words of reproach he fled. Psyche now endeavored to destroy herself, but nothing in nature would injure her. At length she came to the temple of Venus, who made her a slave.
Cupid finally delivered her, and, being now sufficiently purified through suffering, she was united to her beloved by Jupiter himself. In works of art Psyche is represented with the wings of a butterfly.