The Muses (/ˈmjuːzɪz/; Ancient Greek: Μοῦσαι, Moũsai) are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures. They were later adopted by the Romans as a part of their pantheon.
In current English usage, “muse” can refer in general to a person who inspires an artist, musician, or writer.

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  1. shinichi Post author


    The earliest known records of the Nine Muses are from Boeotia, the homeland of Hesiod.

    Some ancient authorities thought that the Nine Muses were of Thracian origin.

    There, a tradition persisted that the Muses had once been three in number.

    In the first century BC, Diodorus Siculus quotes Hesiod to the contrary, observing:

    Writers similarly disagree also concerning the number of the Muses; for some say that there are three, and others that there are nine, but the number nine has prevailed since it rests upon the authority of the most distinguished men, such as Homer and Hesiod and others like them.

    Diodorus also states (Book I.18) that Osiris first recruited the nine Muses, along with the Satyrs, while passing through Ethiopia, before embarking on a tour of all Asia and Europe, teaching the arts of cultivation wherever he went.

    According to Hesiod’s account (c. 600 BC), generally followed by the writers of antiquity, the Nine Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (i. e. “Memory” personified), figuring as personifications of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music.

    The Roman scholar Varro (116–27 BC) relates that there are only three Muses: one born from the movement of water, another who makes sound by striking the air, and a third who is embodied only in the human voice. They were called Melete or “Practice”, Mneme or “Memory” and Aoide or “Song”. Three ancient Muses were also reported in Plutarch’s (46–120 AD) Quaestiones Convivales (9.I4.2–4).

    However, the classical understanding of the Muses tripled their triad and established a set of nine goddesses, who embody the arts and inspire creation with their graces through remembered and improvised song and mime, writing, traditional music, and dance. It was not until Hellenistic times that the following systematic set of functions was assigned to them, and even then there was some variation in both their names and their attributes: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (flutes and lyric poetry), Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsichore (dance), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry), Urania (astronomy).

    The nine Muses on a Roman sarcophagus (second century AD)—Louvre, Paris
    According to Pausanias in the later second century AD, there were originally three Muses, worshipped on Mount Helicon in Boeotia: Aoidḗ (“song” or “tune”), Melétē (“practice” or “occasion”), and Mnḗmē (“memory”). Together, these three form the complete picture of the preconditions of poetic art in cult practice.

    In Delphi three Muses were worshiped as well, but with other names: Nḗtē, Mésē, and Hýpatē, which are assigned as the names of the three cords of the ancient musical instrument, the lyre.

    Alternatively, later they were called Kēphisṓ, Apollōnís, and Borysthenís, which names characterize them as daughters of Apollo.

    In a later tradition, a set of four Muses were recognized: Thelxinóē, Aoidḗ Archē, and Melétē, said to be daughters of Zeus and Plusia or of Ouranos.

    One of the people frequently associated with the Muses was Pierus. By some he was called the father (by a Pimpleian nymph, called Antiope by Cicero) of a total of seven Muses, called Neilṓ (Νειλώ), Tritṓnē (Τριτώνη), Asōpṓ (Ἀσωπώ), Heptápora (Ἑπτάπορα), Achelōís, Tipoplṓ (Τιποπλώ), and Rhodía (Ῥοδία).

  2. shinichi Post author
    Muse Domain Emblem
    Calliope Epic poetry Writing tablet, Stylus, Lyre
    Clio History Scrolls, Books, Cornet, Laurel wreath
    Euterpe Music, Lyric Poetry Aulos, panpipes, laurel wreath
    Erato Love poetry Cithara
    Melpomene Tragedy Tragic mask, Sword, Club, Kothornos
    Polyhymnia Hymns Veil, Grapes
    Terpsichore Dance Lyre, Plectrum
    Thalia Comedy Mask, Shepherd’s crook, Ivy wreath
    Urania Astronomy Globe and compass

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