The Muses

The Greek goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences. They inspired all artists, especially poets, philosophers, and musicians. The Muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory.

The original number of muses and their names varies in earlier times as their evolution blossomed in Greek mythology. At first, three muses were worshipped on Mount Helicon in Boeotia: Melete ("meditation"), Mneme ("memory"), and Aoede ("song"). Another three were worshipped at Delphi and their names represented the names of the strings of a lyre: Nete, Mese, and Hypate. Several other versions were worshipped until the Greeks finally established the nine muses in mythology as: Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania.

Their companions are the Charities, the Horae, Eros, Dionysus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Harmonia, and Himerus (Desire). Apollo is the leader of the choir of the Muses and consequently he has the surname Musagetes. Athena caught and tamed the winged horse Pegasus and gave him to the Muses. Some of their disciples included the Sphinx who learned her riddle from the Muses, Aristaeus, who learned the arts of healing and prophecy from them, and Echo, who was taught by them to play music.

Many places were dedicated to the Muses such as the famous Valley of the Muses - Thespies on the eastern slopes of Mt. Helikon began its “Mouseai” festivals in the 6th c. B.C. It was organized every 5 years by the Thespians. Poets and musicians from all over Greece also participated in various games (epic, poetry, rapsodia, kithara, aulos, satyric poetry, tragedy and comedy). It was common for ancient schools to have a shrine to the Muses called mouseion, the source of the modern word ‘museum.’ The famous Museum of Alexandria, founded by Ptolemy I, was a temple dedicated to the Muses. Before poets or storytellers recited their work, it was customary for them to invoke the inspiration and protection of the Muses.

Calliope (????????), the “Fair Voiced” and the eldest Muse, is the muse of epic poetry and is seen holding a writing tablet in hand, sometimes seen with a roll of paper or a book, and crowned in gold. Calliope is known for taking a fancy to Achilles and taught him how to cheer his friends by singing at banquets. She also was called by Zeus to mediate the quarrel between Aphrodite and Persephone over possession of Adonis. She settled the dispute by giving them equal time, providing Adonis some sorely needed free time to himself. By Apollo, she bore Linus, who was slain by Hercules, and Orpheus.

Clio (?????), the “Proclaimer” is the muse of history and is often seen sitting with a scroll and accompanied by a chest of books. She has been credited with introducing the Phoenician alphabet into Greece. Clio had teased Aphrodite’s love of Adonis, and in consequence of her wrath, Clio fell in love with Pierius, the son of Magnes and the king of Macedonia. By Pierus, she bore Hyacinth.

Erato (?????), the “Lovely” is the muse of love poetry and mimicry, and is seen with a lyre and sometimes wears a crown of roses.

Euterpe (???????), the “Giver of Pleasure” is the muse of music and is represented with a flute. It has been said she is the inventor of the double flute. By the river Strymon, she bore Rhesus who was slain at Troy.

Melpomene (?????????), the “Songstress” is the muse of tragedy in spite of her joyous singing and is represented by the tragic mask. She is sometimes seen with garland, a club and a sword. She is often seen wearing cothurnes, boots traditionally worn by tragic actors, and a crown of cypress.

Polymnia (????????), “She of Many Hymns,” is the muse of Sacred Poetry and is seen with a pensive look upon her face. She brings distinction to writers whose works have won them immortal fame. She has also been called the Muse of geometry, mime, meditation and agriculture. Polyhymnia is often veiled.

Terpsichore (?????????), the “Whirler” is the muse of dancing and is often seen dancing with her lyre and a plectrum, an instrument used for plucking stringed instruments. By the river god Achelous, she bore the Sirens.

Thalia (??????), the “Flourishing” is the muse of comedy and of playful and idyllic poetry, and is seen with a comic mask. She is sometimes seen with a crown of ivy and a crook. By Apollo, Thalia had the Corybantes, priests who castrated themselves in identification with the goddess, Cybele.

Urania (???????), the “Heavenly” is the muse of astronomy and is represented by a staff pointed at a celestial globe. She foretells the future by the position of the stars.