The term for the role often varied from one polis to another. In Athens, the eromenos was also known as the paidika; in Sparta they used aites (hearer), a term also used in Thessaly; in Crete the boys were known as kleinos (glorious) and if they had fought in battle with their lover, as parastathenes (one who stands beside).
The ideal eromenos - as well as his erastes - was expected to be ruled by the principles of enkrateia, or "self-mastery," which presumed an attitude of moderation and self-restraint in all matters.
The Greeks recognized and valued that time in the life of a boy when he was considered to be ripe for loving; the Greek word used to describe such a boy was hôraios, meaning "in season" or "in bloom". Eromenoi were generally males aged twelve to seventeen. Though the eromenos was valued for his beauty, he was valued even more for his modesty, industriousness and courage. In Plato's Symposium, the character Aristophanes says that the eromenoi who "love men and enjoy lying with men and being embraced by men" are not shameless, but rather "the best of boys and lads, because they are the most manly in their nature" (191e-192a). (Though this may have been a view held by aristocratic Athenians of Plato and Aristophanes' type, the nature of Platonic dialogues makes it uncertain whether it was actually held by either Plato or Aristophanes themselves.)
The eromenos was typically portrayed as undergoing pedagogical training and while he typically was also the object of affection and passion, he was not necessarily sexually engaged. When present, sexual expression is depicted in the iconography as having consisted primarily of fondling and intercrural sex. Anal sex appears to have been less common, yet frequent enough to be a topic of comedy, and of criticism based on the opinion that it was a practice which was shameful and risked feminizing the boys who grew to like it.
Upon reaching the age of maturity (ca. eighteen years), the eromenos would cut his long hair and become eligible for taking on the role of erastes and courting and winning an eromenos of his own.
"Eromenos" is traditionally translated into English as "beloved", although this is not a perfect match for the concept.