- Attributes: Arts, Science and Literature inspired Goddesses,
- Symbols: Several ones, each Muse has her own symbol
- Place: Greece
The nine Greek Muses were depicted as young and beautiful maidens. Their father is Zeus, king of the Gods and their mother is Mnemosyne, Goddess of the memory.
In the Greek mythology, they are the inspiring Goddesses of arts, science, and literature and they are considered to be the source of knowledge embedded in poetry, music lyrics and in the myths that were transmitted orally for centuries in ancient cultures. Later on they were also adopted by the Romans, becoming part of their pantheon.
It is believed that they dwell above the golden clouds that cover the peaks of two sacred mountains for the Greeks: Mount Olympus and Mount Helicon.
They were also referred to as Mneiai (memoirs), for much of the music and poetry of that time was kept in the memory. The origin of the Muses is attributed to the Greek Gods who, after their victory in the war against the titans, asked themselves these special deities to be brought into existence so that they could celebrate their deeds. Originally, they were the poets and musicians patron nymphs, but their roles diversified over time to include other attributions.
Check below the nine Goddesses in details:
- Clio: Muse of history and writing.Clio loved to tell stories from the past. Patron of theatrical satires, her main symbol is a partially open parchment, but it can also be books and writing feathers.
- Thalia: Muse of comedy and poetry.Patron of theatrical comedy, her main symbol is a comic mask, but it can also be horns or a shepherd’s stick (pulling someone from the stage with the stick is a reference to this Goddess).
- Erato: Muse of eroticism and beauty.Patroness of verses and love poetry. Her main symbol is a Zither, a kind of harp, but it can also be doves or golden arrows. Occasionally she is accompanied by the God Eros, holding a torch.
- Euterpe: Patroness Muse of music.Her main symbol is the Aulos, a kind of flute with two tubes. Her name means “The one who gives pleasure” because music has always been considered one of the greatest pleasures throughout history. Euterpe and the God of the Rivers, Strymon, have a son named Rhesus.
- Calliope: Patroness Muse of epic poetry.She is said to be the wisest Muse among all and Homer’s inspiration to write his poetry. Her main symbol is a writing tablet. Calliope is the mother of Orpheus and Lino.
- Terpsichore: Patroness Muse of the dance and the chorus of voices.Her symbol is a lyre and is she often depicted playing that sitting instrument. She is sometimes considered to be the mother of mermaids.
- Urania: Patroness Muse of astronomy and constellations.Goddess of philosophy, she possesses the gift of prophesying by reading the stars. Her symbols are the globe and the compass and she is often depicted with a mantle encrusted with stars, looking up at the sky.
- Melpomene: Muse of Tragedy.Despite her attribution, this Goddess is a divinity with particularly joyous singing. She is usually depicted with a knife or staff in one hand and a tragic mask in the other. Her main symbol is the tragic mask.
- Polyhymnia: Patroness Muse of religious songs, prayers, and sacred dances.This Goddess is the most serious among all Muses. She is also associated with meditation, and this trait is reflected in her depictions, where she commonly appears bent over a column, apparently in deep reflection. Her main symbol is the veil, which implies to it the features of a virgin priestess.
Although the Muses were often cited as a source of inspiration and help to mortals, they were also too vain, arrogant, and easily resented anyone who questioned their supremacy in the arts. There are some legends about this in Greek mythology, for example, in the Iliad, there was a musician named Thamirys who said he could sing better and louder than the Muses. He competed against them, and being punished for his presumption, he lost sight, his ability to sing and to play the lyre.
The Temple of the Muses
The word “museum”, which brings to mind various art shows, originates from the terms “Museion” or “Musaeum”, which is a temple or altar on which the Muses are honored.
In several Indo-European languages, the term remains, indicating a place of prestige, cultivation, and preservation of the arts and sciences.
The word “music”, as we can see, also derives from the name attributed to these deities. Even today, the word “muse” is used figuratively to refer to a person who serves as an inspiration.
|Muses Dancing with Apollo by Baldassare Peruzzi|