The nine Muses were a source of inspiration to poets, dramatists and authors, such as Homer, who lived in Ancient Greece.
Information about the Nine Muses
The Muses were depicted as nine young, beautiful maidens who became the representatives of poetry, the arts, the sciences and sources of inspiration. The father of the nine Muses was Zeus, the king of the gods and their mother was Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. The Nine Muses were believed to reside above the golden clouds that covered two sacred Greek mountain peaks of Mount Olympus and Mount Helicon. According to a passage in Plutarch, the Muses were also referred to as Mneiai (Memories), much of the poetry of the time was committed to memory, rather than written. With regard to the origin of the Nine Muses, it is said that they were introduced by Zeus in answer to a request by the Olympian gods, after their victory in the War with the Titans. The victorious Olympians requested that these special divinities should be called into existence, in order to commemorate, in words and song, the glorious deeds of the Olympian gods. They were originally the patron goddesses of poets and musicians. Their roles extended over time to include comedy, tragedy, history, poetry, music, dancing, singing, rhetoric, sacred hymns, and harmony. The word museum derives from the Muses. The god Apollo, in his role as the god of music, poetry, and dance was sometimes said to be their leader.
list of the Nine Muses in Greek Mythology
The names of the nine Muses were Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania and Melpomene. Each represented and were patrons of different sections of the arts and sciences. Information including the roles, patronage and symbols of the Nine Muses mentioned in Greek Mythology are detailed in the following list:
Clio was the Muse who was the patron of history and writing. Clio enjoyed telling stories of the past. In Greek the word 'history' is derived from kleos, meaning heroic acts. In Ancient Greek drama there were three types of plays: Comedies tragedies and satyres that were based on legends and real people from history. Her symbol was a parchment scroll, or a set of tablets.
Thalia was the Muse who was the joyful patron of comedy and pastoral poetry. Her symbol was a comic mask but she is also depicted with a bugle and a trumpet or occasionally a shepherd’s staff. Thalia and Apollo were the parents of 6 sons, the Corybantes, who were armed and crested dancers.
Erato was the beautiful, passionate and erotic Muse who was the patron of lyric and love poetry. Her symbol was a Cithara , a type of lyre, but she was also depicted with turtle doves and golden arrows. Occasionally she is accompanied by the god Eros, holding a torch.
Euterpe was the Muse who was the patron of music. Her symbol was the the Aulos, a type of double flute. Her name was derived from the Greek words meaning the "giver of much delight." She had a son called Rhesus with the river-god Strymon.
Calliope was the Muse who was the patron of epic poetry. Her symbol is writing tablet but she is also depicted carrying a scroll or a book or as wearing a golden crown. She was said to be the wisest of all the Muses and said to be the inspiration of Homer. Calliope was the mother of Orpheus and Linus
Terpsichore was the Muse who was the patron of dance and the Greek chorus. Her symbol is a lyre and she is often depicted playing this instrument in a seated position. She is sometimes said to be the mother of the Sirens by Achelous.
Urania was the philosophical Muse who was the patron of astronomy and the constellations. She possessed the gift of prophecy by reading the stars. Her name derives from the Greek word for 'heavenly'. Her symbols are the globe and the compass and she is usually depicted with in a cloak embroidered with stars, staring at the Heavens.
Melpomene was the Muse who was first represented song and then became the patron of tragedy. Her name was derived from the Greek words meaning "to celebrate with dance and song." She is often represented with a tragic mask and wearing the cothurnus, boots traditionally worn by actors in tragedies.
Polyhymnia was the serious, eloquent Muse who was the patron of religious hymns, prayer and sacred dance. Her symbol is a veil which implies the traits of a virgin priestess. She is and also associated with meditation and this is reflected by depictions of her leaning on a column apparently in deep thought
Invocations to the Muses
According to the traditions and beliefs of the Ancient Greeks, people would invoke the aid of the Muses to guide and assist them in their compositions, work, singing and dancing. The invocation took the form of a prayer for divine inspiration from the goddesses. The Muses were occasionally depicted with Eros, the god of Love. The Mouseia (meaning of the Muses) was ancient festival and competition that was held every five years in honor of the Muses. The festival also include athletic games in honour of Eros that including a torch race (the symbol of Eros). The Mouseia offered prizes not only for music but also for athletic events.
Nine Muses in Greek Mythology and Legends
Although the Muses were generally believed to be a source of inspiration and help to mortals they were also vain and arrogant and severely resented any mortals who questioned their supremacy in the arts. The stories and legends of the Muses in ancient Greek Mythology told of such disputes between the Muses and mortals. The ancient myth detailed in the Iliad is about a poet called Thamyris and tells of how he boasted that he could out-sing the Muses. He competed against them and lost. and as a punishment for his presumption the Muses blinded him, and took away his ability to make poetry and to play the lyre. Another contest involving the Muses tells of the Pierides, nine sisters who challenged the Muses to a contest. The Muses won and then turned the Pierides into chattering birds. Read the story of The Muses and Comatas and the Myth of Bellerophon for myths about the Muses.
The Attributes & Symbols of the Nine Muses
Each of the Nine Muses were recognised by the ancient Greeks when they were depicted with their symbols and their attributes. Some of these symbols are displayed in the pictures of the nine Muses.
Clio was the Muse who represented history and is depicted with her symbol of scrolls
Thalia was the Muse who represented comedy and pastoral poetry and is depicted with her symbol of the comic mask
Erato was the Muse who represented lyric and love poetry and is depicted with her symbol of the Cithara which was an ancient Greek musical instrument in the lyre family
Euterpe was the Muse who represented music (or the flute) and is depicted with her symbol of of the Aulos which was an ancient Greek musical instrument in the flute family
Polyhymnia was the Muse who represented singing, mime and sacred dance and is depicted with her symbol of a veil
Calliope was the Muse who represented epic poetry and her symbol was a writing tablet
Terpsichore was the Muse who represented dance and of choral song and is depicted with her symbol of a lyre
Urania the Muse who represented astronomy and is depicted with her symbol of a globe and compass
Melpomene was the the Muse who represented tragedy and is depicted with her symbol of a tragic mask
The Three Muses
In Ancient Greek Mythology there is also reference to an early group of three Muses, one who was born from the movement of water, the second who made sounds by striking the air, and the third who was embodied in the human voice. The names of these three Muses were Melete (Practice), Mneme (Memory) and Aoide (Song).