The Muses: Nine Goddesses From Greek Mythology - Owlcation - Education
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The Muses: Nine Goddesses From Greek Mythology

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.

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

MuseDomainEmblems

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.

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.

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.

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.


© 2015 Phyllis Doyle Burns

Comments

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on August 24, 2020:

Hi Victoria and thank you for reading and commenting on the Muses. In ancient Greek mythology, there are various sources that name Sirens. Some say the mother was a Muse, either Caliope. or Terpsichore. Others claim that Gaia was the mother, which is more probable in my thoughts.

Victoria McGee on August 23, 2020:

Phyllis, thank you for this succinct article! I'm wondering if you know about the relationship between the muses and the sirens? I read that they are daughters of the muses, but also that they are enemies. Complicated mother-daughter relationships?

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on August 04, 2020:

Hi Priya. Thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad my article helped you to learn more about the Muses.

Priya Barua on August 03, 2020:

This information is always scattered across the internet, and I love the way you've condensed it within one article. I only knew about Thalia, informed on the others, also.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on August 03, 2020:

Hi Melpomeni. Thank you for reading and sharing. I appreciate it.

Melpomeni Sethares on August 03, 2020:

My name is Melpomeni and i am Greek. Although my Goddess' name is inspirational to literature of Tragedy, i have been blessed with the love of music and dancing all my life. Dancing with beautiful music brings joy and excitement to my emotions and heart !

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 29, 2020:

Hi Hannah. Frankly, I would not give it a go. Thamyris was so proud of his skill and boasted that he could outsing the Muses. When he competed with the goddesses in singing, he was defeated and as punishment for his presumption, they blinded him by slashing out his eyes. They also took away his ability to make poetry and to play the lyre.

Count Hannah on July 28, 2020:

Hello, what happens to you when you challenge the muses and lose...

Like Thamyris?

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on June 23, 2020:

Hi Philip. You are most welcome. Glad you enjoyed the article and glad I could help. Thank you.

Philip on June 23, 2020:

I have tried to remember the 9 Muses for a long time. For some reason their memory has felt very real to me. Thank you for you explanation and interest.

Philip Wilce.

Martin Nash on June 10, 2020:

interesting site

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 04, 2020:

Hi Inspiration girl and thank you for reading. I love Greek mythology, too. I have several articles published here on Greek mythology. Browse through my articles and you will find them. Thanks again.

Inspiration girl on May 04, 2020:

You should really do one on all the gods and goddesses in Olympus, I love Greek mythology!!!!!!!!

Kelly on March 18, 2020:

wonderfully informative & insightful. great read. shine BRIGHT.

Tamaitai on March 18, 2020:

Thank you so much for this peice, im attempting to call upon Calliope as i feel as if she resonates with me as well as Euterpe so im torn between the two. Thank you for this. Ase

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 10, 2020:

Hi Nurfer. You are most welcome. Thank you for reading and for the nice comment.

Nurfer on March 10, 2020:

I appreciate that your article is so useful. It includes brief information. I am interested in Philosophy Of Music

Many Thanks

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 16, 2020:

Hi Lynda and thank you for the compliment. I love mythology and I am glad you enjoyed the article.

Lynda on January 15, 2020:

A fascinating page.

I'm currently listening to Stephen Fry's 'Mythos' and love it. I have always been intrigued by words and their origins and knew many originated from Greek and Latin.

Greek & Roman mythology, history of all kinds and language are my great loves and now, in retirement, I can indulge myself.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on November 28, 2019:

Hi Glenn. Thank you very much.

glennartist589@gmail.com on November 23, 2019:

great piece

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 09, 2019:

Hi J. You are referring to a movie. My article is about Greek mythology. The movie has nothing to do with my article.

J on July 03, 2019:

About Keira from Xanadu:

I would beg to differ. In both cases in the movie, she inspired song and dance, this would seem to mean she's actually Terpsichore. To further evidence this, the name she gave to Sonny is likely just a random name she used for him specifically. If that weren't the case, I would imagine that Danny would have recognized her immediately, and questioned how she hadn't aged at all, since the two of them met years prior.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on June 29, 2019:

Hi Raulito. Keira is not related.

RaulitoPollito007 on June 16, 2019:

Is Keira from Xanadu a Created Musa for the Movie or is she somehow related to the real Daughters of the Greek god. ???

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 31, 2019:

Thanks,Bella. Whose children are you asking about? There are nine Muses.

Bella on May 28, 2019:

Thanks for the help! This is a really useful article, but can you try to find out more about her children? I know she had some with multiple people, but all the websites I turn up have differing account. Obviously this is to be expected, with different versions of an old tale, but there are a lot of very dissimilar accounts?

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 07, 2019:

Not that I know of, chy.

chy on May 01, 2019:

hey ya do any of the muses have any kids?

Paul Herman on March 19, 2019:

Hiya Phyllis,

I am wondering if Thalia really is the most invoked or if she is the one we choose because of the absence of a more appropriate one. Namely: the visual arts. I see that she is attributed architecture, oddly, along with comic theatre.

Is there really no muse for painting & sculpture?

Karma on March 13, 2019:

I’m 15 years old and I was learning about greek and Roman myths and I was wondering about the nine muses and if they live together or they have kids

Fay on March 13, 2019:

Good for kids to look up mythology stuff

Dustin long on December 07, 2018:

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

Ross on September 18, 2018:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on September 04, 2018:

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

Chuck McCaughan on September 03, 2018:

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.

Ms Linda on July 30, 2018:

Loved reading article. Mega thanks!

JamieboyNamaste Mentzer on June 28, 2018:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 06, 2018:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 06, 2018:

Group.

Sol on May 02, 2018:

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

Jacob Kasmarski on May 01, 2018:

is muse a group or a goddess

Andrew White on April 01, 2018:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 18, 2018:

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.

Salena-Shakti-7 on March 18, 2018:

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.

lydia eneote on January 22, 2018:

it a good article i enjoyed it

student on December 07, 2017:

thank you for this helpful article;)

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on November 01, 2017:

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

Katerina on October 29, 2017:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 24, 2017:

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

Lucia Samson on October 21, 2017:

Thanks for your concise article on the Nine Muse.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on October 13, 2017:

Thank you, Gary, for reading and commenting.

Gary L. Green on October 11, 2017:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 22, 2015:

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

Laura Izett-Irwin from The Great Northwest on April 22, 2015:

Loved this fascinating topic!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 22, 2015:

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 on April 22, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 21, 2015:

Thank you very much, Audrey.

Audrey Howitt from California on April 21, 2015:

A beautiful and informative hub!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 21, 2015:

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

C E Clark from North Texas on April 21, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on February 03, 2015:

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

Audrey Howitt from California on February 03, 2015:

Loved this Phyllis! Beautiful and interesting!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 28, 2015:

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 from New Zealand on January 27, 2015:

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

Is Zeus that attractive?

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 27, 2015:

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.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 27, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 27, 2015:

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

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 27, 2015:

Sure, Jackie. That is good.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 27, 2015:

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

Love it!

Ann

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 27, 2015:

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

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 27, 2015:

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.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 27, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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 from the beautiful south on January 26, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on January 26, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 26, 2015:

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

Mary Craig from New York on January 26, 2015:

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 from England on January 26, 2015:

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

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 26, 2015:

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

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on January 26, 2015:

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 Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on January 26, 2015:

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 from World Citizen on January 26, 2015:

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