The Muses: Nine Goddesses From Greek Mythology

Updated on November 8, 2018
Phyllis Doyle profile image

Mythology is a wonderful world that Phyllis can escape to when her mind needs a break from daily life.

The Parnassus painting displays the Muses and Apollo flanked by poets. It was painted by Raphael in 1511.
The Parnassus painting displays the Muses and Apollo flanked by poets. It was painted by Raphael in 1511. | Source

Table of Contents

  1. Who Are the Muses?
  2. The Muses' Domains and Emblems
  3. The Muses' Attributes
  4. The Muses' Origins
  5. The Role of the Muses in Mythology and the Arts
  6. The Muses' Power of Inspiration

Who Are the Muses?

Poets are often known to say, "My Muse inspired me to pick up my pen." People with other artistic talents will make similar statements. What does it mean when people credit a Muse for their creative inspiration? What is a Muse, and how do they inspire artists?

The Muses are minor goddesses of the Greek pantheon. They are the personifications of literary arts, music, visual arts, and science. The Nine Muses in Greek mythology have been an inspiration to artists since antiquity. Each Muse was assigned expertise in a particular domain of the arts. They are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Calliope
  2. Clio
  3. Erato
  4. Euterpe
  5. Melpomene
  6. Polyhymnia
  7. Terpsichore
  8. Thalia
  9. Urania

The Muses' Domains and Emblems

Muse
Domain
Emblems
Calliope
Epic Poetry
Calliope's emblem is a writing tablet.
Clio
History
Clio's emblem is a scroll.
Erato
Lyric Poetry
Erato's emblem is a Cithara (a musical instrument in the lyre family).
Euterpe
Song and Elegiac Poetry
Euterpe's emblem is the aulos (which is a Greek instrument that's similar to a flute).
Melpomene
Tragedy
Melpomene's emblem is a tragic mask.
Polyhymnia
Hymns
Polyhymnia's emblem is a veil.
Terpsichore
Dance
Terpsichore's emblem is a lyre.
Thalia
Comedy
Thalia's emblem is a comedic mask.
Urania
Astronomy
Urania's emblems are a globe and a compass.

The Muses' Attributes

  • Calliope is the superior Muse. She inspired Homer as he wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. She accompanied kings and princes to help them impose justice and serenity. Calliope is the protector of poetic works, the rhetoric arts, music, and writing. Calliope is usually depicted with laurels in one hand and two Homeric poems in the other.
  • Clio is the protector of history. In ancient Greece, the word for "history" was "clio" (which is derived from "Kleos," the Greek word for the heroic arts). Depictions of Clio portray her holding a clarion in her right arm and a book in her left hand.
  • Erato is the protector of lyrical and love poetry. She holds a lyre, love arrows, and a bow.
  • Euterpe is the protector of songs and poetry of death, love, and war. She created several musical instruments and inspires the creation of beautiful music. She is often portrayed with a flute in her hands while her other instruments surround her.
  • Melpomene is the protector of the tragedies. She created rhetoric speech and the melodies of tragedy. She is typically depicted holding a tragic theatrical mask.
  • Polyhymnia is the protector of divine hymns. She created geometry and grammar. She is usually depicted wearing a veil and looking up to the heavens.
  • Terpsichore is the creator and protector of dance. She also created the harp and education. She is usually depicted with a laurel wreath on her head while she holds her harp and dances.
  • Thalia is the opposite of Melpomene. She is the protector of comedy, the sciences (including geometry, architecture, and agriculture,) and symposiums. She typically holds a comedic theatrical mask in her depictions.
  • Urania is the protector of celestial bodies. She created astronomy, and she bears stars, a celestial sphere, and a compass.

The Muses' Origins

We're all familiar with the infamous Greek god, Zeus, and his frequent extramarital dalliances. Zeus never had to think about what he wanted. When it came to choosing a lover, Zeus always knew exactly who he wanted to consort with, and he did not hesitate to follow through on his desires. Zeus wanted to be with Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess of memory. Their union created the nine goddesses of the arts, literature, and science. This is how the Muses came into existence.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This sculpture portrays Zeus, god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice. Zeus fathered the Muses with Mnemosyne.Mnemosyne is the titan goddess of memory and remembrance. She gave birth to the Muses after having an affair with Zeus.
This sculpture portrays Zeus, god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice. Zeus fathered the Muses with Mnemosyne.
This sculpture portrays Zeus, god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice. Zeus fathered the Muses with Mnemosyne. | Source
Mnemosyne is the titan goddess of memory and remembrance. She gave birth to the Muses after having an affair with Zeus.
Mnemosyne is the titan goddess of memory and remembrance. She gave birth to the Muses after having an affair with Zeus. | Source

The Role of the Muses in Mythology and the Arts

Zeus brought the Muses to life to celebrate the victory of the Olympian gods over the Titans, and to forget the evils of the world. Their lovely voices and dancing helped to relieve the sorrows of the past. Each Muse had her own domain over a particular artistic discipline. Apollo, the god of music, art, and poetry, is their teacher. Apollo is a complex god, and a very important deity of the Olympian pantheon. Healing, light, the sun, oracles, truth, knowledge, and prophecy were Apollo's domain. He was an oracular god, the patron of Delphi, and the prophetic deity of the Delphi Oracle.

The Muses followed Apollo, sang, and danced joyfully as he wandered through the beauty of nature on Mount Helicon where they lived and worshiped. According to Pindar (c. 522 - 443 BC), a Greek lyric poet, to "carry a mousa " is "to excel in the arts." Mousa is a common Greek noun. It means "arts" or "poetry."

The Muses inspire creation. Many people believe that the inspiration they need to write literature, a poem, or create any artistic expression is beyond their control, and that creative impulses only come from the Muse they call upon.

The Muses in Raphael's Parnassus, 1511.
The Muses in Raphael's Parnassus, 1511. | Source

The Muses' Power of Inspiration

Inspiration is not always there for us when we need it. It is defined as "the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something; especially to do something creative." A spiritual teacher may receive the inspiration to create sacred revelations. A poet is often struck with inspiration to write a poem out of nowhere, and he may be amazed when he reads what he ends up writing. When an author is asked how they developed great story ideas, their answer is usually, "It just came to me out of the blue," or "I had a dream about it."

Do we summon our own inner thoughts and creativity, or does the inspiration truly come from a mystical source like the Muses? Many believe that the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne are the ones who truly inspire us.

The ancient Greeks believed inspiration or enthusiasm only came from one of the Muses. The Greek poet, Hesiod (c. 750 - 650 BC), who was a simple shepherd, was inspired by the Muses to write Theogony, a famous epic poem that's still widely read and referred to today. Scholars regard Theogony as a major source of Greek mythology. It is said that Hesiod was inspired by the Muses.

A marble sarcophagus called the "Muses Sarcophagus," represents the nine Muses and their attributes.
A marble sarcophagus called the "Muses Sarcophagus," represents the nine Muses and their attributes. | Source

Which Muse Do You Invoke Most Often?

See results

Sources and References

Author's Note

Thank you for reading my article about the Muses. I would love to hear from you. Please leave feedback in the comments section below.


Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Phyllis Doyle Burns

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      • profile image

        Dustin long 

        11 days ago

        Im 14 years old and learning about the greek and roman god's and godesses. But i was wondering if the nine muses had any kids I saw where caliope had 2 sons but what about the rest

      • profile image

        Ross 

        3 months ago

        The muses were NOT the daughters of Apollo. They were the daughters of Zeus and were turned over to Apollo to teach. He was their teacher NOT their father, but he brought them up.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Greetings Chuck. Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree: " what we call our "genius" comes from some source beyond our known selves."

      • profile image

        Chuck McCaughan 

        3 months ago

        Thank you for this valuable (and spiritual) information. I have been in "the arts" (actor turned therapist, God help us all) most of my life and consider all of us artists, no matter what our calling . I have used the word muse for a long time but never fully understood its origin, only that it is used to denote a source of inspiration. Whether one of the nine sisters, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, or some other source, I truly believe what we call our "genius" comes from some source beyond our known selves. Everyone would be well advised to reach higher, ask, and receive. It really does work.

      • profile image

        Ms Linda 

        4 months ago

        Loved reading article. Mega thanks!

      • profile image

        JamieboyNamaste Mentzer 

        5 months ago

        I have been enamored with Greek & Roman mythology for over 40 years...started at age 7....

        Love to chat about the Muse brainwave monitor. It is one of the many Biofeedback devices I now use to help others with Pain, anxiety, stress etc

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        7 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muses

        According to Hesiod's Theogony (seventh century BC), they were daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and

        Mnemosyne, Titan goddess of memory.

        http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/nine-muse...

        According to the Greek Myths, God Zeus bewildered the young woman Mnemosyne and slept with her for nine

        consecutive nights. The result of their encounter was the Nine Muses, who were similar to everything.

        Μnemosyne gave the babies to Nymph Eufime and God Apollo. When they grew up they showed their tendency to

        the arts, taught by God Apollo himself.

        https://www.greekmythology.com/Olympians/Apollo/ap...

        https://www.britannica.com/topic/Apollo-Greek-myth...

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo

        Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto. He was the leader of the Muses.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        7 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Group.

      • profile image

        Sol 

        7 months ago

        Actually the muses were daughters of Apollo not Zeus nice try though.

      • profile image

        Jacob Kasmarski 

        7 months ago

        is muse a group or a goddess

      • profile image

        Andrew White 

        8 months ago

        Hi, thank you for this. Very interesting. However, I am a little confused by...

        "Clio is the protector of history and the guitar"

        Did the predictive text get in the way?

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        9 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Salena. Writing is something we cannot force if we we want to be creative. Creativity will happen when your your heart and soul is open to it. Be patient and it will all come back to you. Thanks for the visit, I appreciate it.

      • profile image

        Salena-Shakti-7 

        9 months ago

        I have not been able to write since 2010, that year I had Muses with me for sure and the year before but whoever they really were I miss them now. I wrote amazing pieces of poetry and it was like automatic writing and I still marvel at it and wonder where it all came from, amazing really and if any one of the Muses above was with me it was Polyhymnia but who really knows I just want the inspiration back.

      • profile image

        lydia eneote 

        11 months ago

        it a good article i enjoyed it

      • profile image

        student 

        12 months ago

        thank you for this helpful article;)

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        13 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Katerina. You are most welcome. Glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • profile image

        Katerina 

        13 months ago

        I received an e-mail yesterday where there's a prayer "Oh, great Muses,..." and I had never heard before the word or the story of the Muses. Now reading this concise article found out the origin of some of my family names like my aunty Urania, maternal Grand-Ma called short Talia, Aunty Melpomeni. THis is amazing plus I's blocked in my writing and this came along for a reason. Thank YOU for sharing your passion and knowledge.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        14 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        You are most welcome, Lucia. Thank you for visiting.

      • profile image

        Lucia Samson 

        14 months ago

        Thanks for your concise article on the Nine Muse.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        14 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Thank you, Gary, for reading and commenting.

      • profile image

        Gary L. Green 

        14 months ago

        All of the Muses touch every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. They enter our hearts, minds and bodies when we least expect it, but they know when we need them and will always come to us, even without our asking.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Good - glad you love the topic. The Muses are very lovely and mysterious. Thanks for reading and commenting, Izetti.

      • izettl profile image

        Laura Izett 

        3 years ago from The Great Northwest

        Loved this fascinating topic!

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        OMGosh, poetryman, the horror of thinking there might be a Muse for Reality TV shows is just too much to ponder on. Some scary thoughts you have there.

        Thanks anyway for your visit - I appreciate it.

      • poetryman6969 profile image

        poetryman6969 

        3 years ago

        One of the things I find interesting is the number of times poetry and the arts comes up in the muses. Scary to think that these days we would have a muse of Reality TV. It's enough to make one recoil in horror.

        Some horror genres almost seem to have a muse that inspires them toward greater depths of fear and depravity. Another scary thought. That same muse moonlights inspiring violent video games.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Thank you very much, Audrey.

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        3 years ago from California

        A beautiful and informative hub!

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Thanks, Au fait - that is really kind of you with the votes, pin and share. Glad you enjoyed the hub and photos.

      • Au fait profile image

        C E Clark 

        3 years ago from North Texas

        I've often heard about the muses over the years but never really understood what was meant. Now I do. Good to see such a well organized clear article on this subject, and I learned a lot. Great photos too.

        Voted up and BAUI, also pinned to Awesome HubPages and shared.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Audrey, so good to hear from you. Thank you for that very kind comment. I am glad you love it.

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        3 years ago from California

        Loved this Phyllis! Beautiful and interesting!

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Mark. Yes, Calliope is the superior Muse. I am so glad you enjoy the hub - it is fun to learn about the Muses.

        Hahaha - It is not that Zeus is attractive - he is the father of all gods in the Olympian pantheon and does what he wants.

        Thank you so much, Mark, for reading and commenting.

      • Mark Johann profile image

        Mark Johann 

        3 years ago from Italy

        Calliope is the best of them all. Thanks for this hub. I am having fun reading the muses.

        Is Zeus that attractive?

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Catherine. Thank you for reading and commenting. Calliope does fit well for this community of writers and poets. Thanks for the votes and sharing.

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 

        3 years ago from Orlando Florida

        This is absolutely excellent. I love the pictures you choose and the way you completely explained everything about the muses. I suppose that Calliope is the muse for HubPages as we strive to write so well are words may pass for poetry and to make every hub truly "epic." . Voting up and more and sharing.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        You are welcome, Ann. I keep the Muse list handy to refer to often.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Sure, Jackie. That is good.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        3 years ago from SW England

        Good, that's ok then. I'll bear all three in mind. Thanks for clarifying.

        Love it!

        Ann

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        3 years ago from The Beautiful South

        I may email you on that if you don't mind?

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Ann. Calliope inspired Homer as he wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. Erato and Euterpe are both good choices, too, for prose. Thank you so much for your comment and votes.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        3 years ago from SW England

        So interesting and so useful. I knew of the Muses of course but not individually. I sometimes write poetry, so I guess those two apply to me sometimes, but more often it's prose for which I need inspiration. Where do I find a muse for that?!

        Brilliant hub which I must have on my laptop 'desktop' for reference. Up etc and shared.

        Ann

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Thank you very much, Jackie. The box with verse is "callout" . It is one of the options we have when adding a capsule. It is really easy to use. When you choose the callout capsule, you have a choice of a quote or just text. I did not like it at first, but do now.

        That is good to hear about the date being soon. It is so hard to wait. Hope you found all the information you needed for the type surgery.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        3 years ago from The Beautiful South

        Beautifully done Phyllis. I notice others too using the box with verse

        "....... Do you do that yourself or pick it up somewhere? Curious, lol. Up and shared.

        Oh, went to dr today and didn't get a date yet cause I have a cold but he said real soon.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi DW. Thank you so much for sharing about your sixth grade students and lessons. You are most welcome to share my article with just them if you would like to. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • DWDavisRSL profile image

        DW Davis 

        3 years ago from Eastern NC

        What a timely post for me. I am just wrapping up our study of Greek History and Mythology with my sixth grade Social Studies students and a lesson on the muses would make a great addition to their knowledge. Thank you for such an informative and interesting hub.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Peachy. You are most welcome. So glad you enjoyed reading about the Muses. I love Greek mythology and when others enjoy it, too, I am happy. Thank you very much.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Mary, I always enjoy hearing from you. So glad you found my hub so interesting. I follow and really enjoy your stories and wonder if one of the Muses has touched you with inspiration for your creativity. Thank you so much for such a very kind comment, and votes.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Nell - you and me both on the Muses Clio and Calliope. Your hubs always show great inspiration. Hesiod, that shepherd, was just amazing. Thank you so much, Nell, for the visit , votes and share. So glad you liked reading about the Muses.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Devika and thank you very much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your visit and votes. Have a great evening.

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Frank, you are such a dear heart, bless you. Thank you so much for your support and ever wonderful comments. I so appreciate you.

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 

        3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

        thanks for the story, never knew of muses, a rare treat

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        3 years ago from New York

        I have never considered the muses personally but must admit this was tremendously interesting. Knowing their history coupled with the beautiful pictures you've chosen certainly gives me much to think about. Another top notch hub about mythology Phyllis!

        Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        3 years ago from England

        Its got to be Clio or Calliope with me! lol! I can sit and stare at the screen for ages and nothing appears in front of me! this was great Phyllis! I love Muses and it fascinates me how people back then believed thats where our talents came from, and that shepherd, wow! voted up and shared, nell

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        A very interesting hub on Greek Mythology.I like the photos and the topic idea. Voted up, interesting and useful.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 

        3 years ago from Shelton

        many other divine and semi-divine figures from Ancient Greece.. includes your nine goddesses.. These hubs as I said before are so entertaining and I think they should be hubs of the day..Phyllis you always do them with proven research bless you

      • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

        Phyllis Doyle Burns 

        3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

        Hi Dip. Ah! Yes, the theatre and classical tragedies, comedies. Thank you so much for your visit, comment and vote. I appreciate it. Hope all is well with you and yours.

      • Dip Mtra profile image

        Dip Mtra 

        3 years ago from World Citizen

        I guess Melpomene and Thalia are my muses, mostly. Thanks for enlightening. Voted up.

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