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The Nine Muses of Greek Mythology

Updated on October 4, 2016
The Nine Muses
The Nine Muses

The Nine Muses

Greek Mythology is rich with gods and goddesses but none were as influential as the Nine Muses who were created to give inspiration, knowledge, artistry and music to the ancient world.

The Muses were nine beautiful young women who were the goddesses of the inspiration of Science, Literature and the Arts. They were the source in the ancient culture of orally related knowledge in poetic lyrics and myths. They were considered to be the personification of knowledge and the arts especially Dance, Literature and Music who remembered all things that had come to pass.

The Birth of the Nine Muses

The muses were the nine daughters of Zues (king of the gods) and Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory). Sometimes they are referred to as water nymphs having been born from the four scared springs on Helicon which flowed from the ground after Pegasus, the winged horse, stamped his hooves on the ground.

The “Arts” of the Nine Muses

The “Arts of the Muses” were; Music, Science, Philosophy, Mathematics, Geography, Drama and especially Art. It was felt that the inspiration of the Muses would help people succeed and prosper. Some of the modern words associated with the Muses are amuse, museum, musing and music.

Representations of the Nine Muses

It was not until Renaissance and Neoclassical arts movements that the representation of the Muses was standardised. So that they could be readily identifiable they were shown in sculptures and paintings holding certain props, known as emblems.

Cults of the Nine Muses

Local cults of the Nine Muses were often associated with fountains or springs. Muse worship played host to festivals where poetic recitals were follow by sacrifices to the Muses. There were even attempts in the 18th century to revive the Cult of the Muses by many well know figures of the day.

THE NINE MUSES

Details of the Nine Muses and some information on the "Tenth Muse".

Calliope

Calliope (Kalliope), meaning “beautiful-voiced”, was the Muse of Epic Poetry. She had two sons Orpheus and Linus. She was said to be the wisest and most assertive and the goddess of eloquence. She is usually depicted with a writing tablet in her hand, or carrying a roll of paper, or carrying a book, or wearing a gold crown.

Calliope
Calliope

Clio

Clio (Kleio), meaning “to make famous” or “celebrate”, was the Muse of History. She had one son Hyacinth. She is usually depicted with an open scroll or seated by a set of books.

Clio
Clio

Erato

Erato, meaning the “lovely” or “beloved”, was the Muse of Lyric Poetry, especially love and erotic poetry. She is usually depicted with a wreath of myrtle and roses and holding a Cithara (lyre), or holding a golden arrow. Erato has also been shown with Eros holding a torch.

Erato
Erato

Euterpe

Euterpe, meaning “the giver of much delight”, was the Muse of Music who entertained the Gods on MountOlympus. She inspired poets, authors and dramatists. She is usually depicted holding or playing an Aulos (double flute).

Euterpe
Euterpe

Melpomene

Melpomene, the meaning is a derivative of “to celebrate with dance and song”, was initially the Muse of Singing but later became the Muse of Tragedy. She is usually depicted with a “tragic mask” and wearing the boots traditionally worn by tragic actors, or holding a knife or sword in one hand and the tragic mask in the other. To create beautiful lyrical phrases it was traditional to call on Melpomene for inspiration.

Melpomene
Melpomene

Polyhymnia

Polyhymnia, the meaning is a derivative of “praise” or “hymn”, was the Muse of Sacred Poetry, Sacred Hymn and Eloquence. She is usually depicted as being very serious, in meditation and pensive while holding a finger to her mouth. She features in Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy.

Polyhymnia
Polyhymnia

Terpischore

Terpsichore (Terpsikhore), the meaning is a derivative of “delight in dancing”, was the Muse of Dance and the Dramatic Chorus. She is usually depicted sitting down or standing while holding a Lyre.

Tersichore
Tersichore

Thalia

Thalia, the meaning is a derivative of “rich festivity” and “blooming”, is the Muse of Comedy and Idyllic Poetry. She is usually depicted crowned with ivy and holding a comic mask, or holding a shepherd’s staff.

Thalia
Thalia

Urania

Urania (Ourania), meaning “heavenly” or “of heaven”, is the Muse of Astronomy and Astronomical Writings. She is said to be able to tell the future by the arrangement of the stars. She inherited Zeus’ power and majesty and Mnemosynes’ beauty and grace and is often associated with Universal Love. She is usually depicted dressed in a cloak embroidered with stars with her eyes and attention focused on the Heavens and a celestial globe which she is pointing to with a rod.

Urania
Urania

The Tenth Muse

In later history there was another Muse, the poet Sappho of Lesbos, known as “The Tenth Muse” who was given this title by Plato. The phrase has now become known as an accepted tribute paid to outstanding female poets. Unfortunately, little is known about her life.

Drawing depicting interpretation of Sappho
Drawing depicting interpretation of Sappho

“Origins” of the Muses

There are other traditional tales of the origins of the Muses but I have chosen the most commonly accepted one due to some supposed inconsistencies in other versions. You may prefer other interpretations and chronicles.

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@ 2013 Brian McKechnie (aka WorldEarth)

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