In Greek mythology the nine Muses each represent a different form of writing/literature and the arts, particularly the theatre. The Muses were also the subject of much Renaissance art and literature. The Muse who stood out to me was Erato – the muse of love poetry and erotic writings. Many Greek writers invoked her in their works, including Virgil and Strabo. According to the ancient Grecian love story Rhadine – most of which is now sadly lost to us – Erato’s tomb lies on the island of Samos. As a result Samos became a pilgrimage site for star-crossed lovers.
Erato shows up in a lot of Renaissance art depicted with roses, a lyre and/or two turtle-doves. Sometimes she holds a golden arrow and is shown with Eros, the Greek god of love.
Her name means ‘lovely’ or ‘desired’. She certainly seems an apt muse for romance writers!
Her brightly burnished hair and tawny eyes
have haunted my imaginings, O Muse.
Yet she ignores my agonizing cries
and smiling, fades from view; she will not choose
a common lover. Driven by despair
and pain, and anger at the way she laughed,
I call out now for inspiration rare:
I call upon you, Goddess of my craft.
(Modern version of Virgil’s invocation to Erato, found at thesonnetboard.yuku.com)