In Greek mythology, Erato (Ἐρατώ) is one of the Greek Muses. The name would mean "lovely" if derived from Eros, as Apollonius of Rhodes playfully suggested in the invocation to Erato that begins Book III of his Argonautica. Erato was named with the other muses in Hesiod's Theogony. She was invoked at the beginning of a lost poem, Rhadine (Ῥαδινή), that was referred to and briefly quoted by Strabo. The love story of Rhadine made her supposed tomb on the island of Samos a pilgrimage site for star-crossed lovers in the time of Pausanias and Erato was linked again with love in Plato's Phaedrus; nevertheless, even in the third century BCE, when Apollonius wrote, the Muses were not yet as inextricably linked to specific types of poetry as they became.
Erato is the Muse of lyric poetry, especially love and erotic poetry. In the Orphic hymn to the Muses, it is Erato who charms the sight. Since the Renaissance she is often shown with a wreath of myrtle and roses, holding a lyre, or a small kithara, a musical instrument that Apollo or she herself invented. In Simon Vouet's representations (illustration), two turtle-doves are eating seeds at her feet. Other representations may show her holding a golden arrow, reminding one of the "eros", the feeling that she inspires in everybody, and at times she is accompanied by the god Eros, holding a torch.
Erato is also invoked at the beginning of Virgil's Aeneid Book 7 (also the beginning of the second half or 'Iliadic' section of the poem). Calliope (epic); even Melpomene (tragedy) or Clio (history) might seem more appropriate. This may express Virgil's love for his native land, but in any case shows the need for a new creative force and a change in the direction of the poem.