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Muses: Nine Goddesses from Greek Mythology

Updated on September 28, 2016
Phyllis Doyle profile image

Mythology is a wonderful world where Phyllis can escape to when the mind needs a rest from normal daily life.

Apollo and the Muses on Mount Helicon ~

Apollo and the Muses on Mount Helicon (Parnassus) (1680) by Claude Lorrain
Apollo and the Muses on Mount Helicon (Parnassus) (1680) by Claude Lorrain | Source

Zeus and Mnemosyne ~

Zeus never had to ponder about what he wanted. He always knew exactly what he wanted and did not hesitate to follow through on his desires, whatever they may be. Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess of memory, was what he wanted to create the nine goddesses of the arts, literature and science - the Muses.

For nine nights Zeus did lay

With Mnemosyne in secrecy

From this union nine they say

Beautiful, lovely the Muses be

— Phyllis Doyle Burns

The Nine Muses in Greek mythology have been an inspiration to artists since antiquity. They are (in alphabetical order): Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania. They are the daughters of Zeus, the Greek father of all gods, and Mnemosyne.

Muses in Raphael's Parnassus, 1511 ~

Greek Muses
Greek Muses | Source

Embodiments of the arts ~

A poet is often heard to say something like, "My Muse inspired me to pick up my pen." People with other artistic talents will make similar statements. What does it mean? What is a Muse and how do they inspire artists?

The Muses are minor goddesses of the Greek pantheon. They are the personification of literary arts, music, visual arts and science. We all have that spark of a Muse within us to aid in our creative endeavors.

Clio, Euterpe and Thalia ~

Clio, Euterpe and Thalia,by Eustache Le Sueur, 1652-55.
Clio, Euterpe and Thalia,by Eustache Le Sueur, 1652-55. | Source

To forget evils of the world ~

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

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), Greek lyric poet, to "carry a mousa" is "to excel in the arts". Mousa is a common Greek noun or goddess. Its meaning is "arts" or "poetry".

The Muses inspire creation. It is believed by many that the inspiration they acquired to write literature, a poem, or any artistic creation was beyond their control, since it came from the Muse they called upon.

Chorus: O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention,

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

— William Shakespeare, Act 1, Prologue of Henry V

A poet, or any artist of today, will often search for inspiration from a Muse, just as this woman does in the 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, titled Inspiration:

Artistic Inspiration ~

Inspiration by William-adolphe Bouguereau, 1898
Inspiration by William-adolphe Bouguereau, 1898 | Source

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 that came from he knows not where - and may be amazed when he reads what was written. Quite often an author is asked, "Where did you get such a great idea for your story?" Well, quite often the answer is, "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, the Muses? Many believe it is the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who open and inspire us.

Inspiration is a burst of creativity usually from the subconscious. The ancient Greeks believed inspiration, or enthusiasm, came from one of the Muses. The Greek Hesiod (c. 750 - 650 BC), who was a simple shepherd, was inspired by the Muses to write Theogony, a famous epic poem still widely read and referred to today by scholars as a major source of Greek mythology. Hesiod was inspired by the Muses.

Domain and Emblems ~

Each Muse was assigned expertise in a particular domain of human abilities. The following chart shows their emblems and attributes.

Muse
Domain
Attributes
Calliope
Epic poetry
Writing tablet
Clio
History
Scrolls
Erato
Lyric Poetry
Cithara (Lyre Family)
Euterpe
Song and elegiac poetry
Aulos (Similar to a Flute)
Melpomene
Tragedy
Tragic Mask
Polyhymnia
Hymns
Veil
Terpsichore
Dance
Lyre
Thalia
Comedy
Comic Mask
Urania
Astronomy
Globe and compass

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 holds laurels in one hand and two Homeric poems in the other.

  • Clio is the protector of history and the guitar. In ancient Greece the name for history was clio (derived from Kleos which was the Greek word for the heroic arts). Clio holds 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 and love arrows with a bow.

  • Euterpe is the protector of song and poetry of death, love, and war. She created several musical instruments and inspires beautiful music. She holds a flute with her other instruments surrounding her.

  • Melpomene is the protector of the Tragedies. She created rhetoric speech and the melodies of tragedy. She holds a theatrical tragedy mask.

  • Polyhymnia is the protector of divine hymns. She created geometry and grammar. She wears a veil as she looks up to the Heavens.

  • Terpsichore is the protector of the dances, which she created. She also created the harp and education. With a wreath of laurels on her head, she holds her harp and dances.

  • Thalia is the opposite of Melpomene. She is the protector of comedy, and the sciences (geometry, architecture,agriculture) and symposiums. She holds the theatrical comedy mask.

  • Urania is the protector of celestial bodies. She created astronomy and is bearing stars, a celestial sphere and a compass.

The Nine Muses ~

Sarcophagus known as the "Muses Sarcophagus", representing the nine Muses and their attributes. Marble, first half of the 2nd century AD, found by the Via Ostiense.
Sarcophagus known as the "Muses Sarcophagus", representing the nine Muses and their attributes. Marble, first half of the 2nd century AD, found by the Via Ostiense. | Source

The Parnassus ~

The Parnassus was painted by Raphael in 1511. It is a fresco in the Palace of the Vatican in Rome. Pope Julius II commissioned four frescoes to represent the four areas of human knowledge, which are philosophy, religion, poetry and law. The Parnassus represents poetry.

Apollo is shown on Mount Parnassus, the place of his dwelling, with nine Muses surrounding him in the center. To Apollo's right are nine poets from antiquity and on his left are nine contemporary poets.

Calliope, seated next to Apollo, is the Muse of epic poetry - she and Apollo are the great inspiration of poets.

The Parnassus ~

Painted by Raphael in 1511.
Painted by Raphael in 1511. | Source

Which Muse is the one you invoke most often?

See results

Note from author ~

I love to write poetry. If I try to force a poem, it just comes out as immature and lacks the spirituality I like to reach. When I center myself and invoke Calliope or Erato, both who have great influence on poetic works, then my poetry feels right to me and it flows out with no effort.

Thank you for reading my hub. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite type articles to read. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

I write on several different subjects, all evergreen articles. You can read more about me and see more articles I wrote by clicking on my name by the small picture of me at the top right of this page.

Blessings and may you always walk in peace and harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor

~ ~ ~ ~

© 2015 Phyllis Doyle Burns

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    • Dip Mtra profile image

      Dip Mtra 24 months ago from World Citizen

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

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 24 months 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

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 24 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

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

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 24 months 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

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 24 months 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.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 24 months ago from Home Sweet Home

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

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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 image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • DWDavisRSL profile image

      DW Davis 24 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 24 months 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 image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 24 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 24 months ago from The Beautiful South

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

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 24 months ago from SW England

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

      Love it!

      Ann

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Sure, Jackie. That is good.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

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

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 24 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • Mark Johann profile image

      Mark Johann 24 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 24 months ago from California

      Loved this Phyllis! Beautiful and interesting!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 24 months 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.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 21 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 21 months 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.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 21 months ago from California

      A beautiful and informative hub!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 21 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Thank you very much, Audrey.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 21 months 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 image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 21 months 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.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 21 months ago from The Great Northwest

      Loved this fascinating topic!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image
      Author

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 21 months 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.

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