The Nine Muses

The nine Muses are the daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus. Mnemosyne had lain with him in the hope that he would show her mercy, which he did to an extent, banishing her into the Underworld instead of Tartarus. After their mother was exiled, the nine girls were taken to Eupheme, the spirit of acclaim and praise, who raised them as beautiful young women with a hunger for knowledge and a talent for the arts. Such were their skills, they were welcomed to Olympus and invited to become part of Apollo’s court. In his service they entertain the Olympians during feasts with their choral singing and also appear at the funerals of heroes to perform haunting songs of lament. At important weddings, both mortal and divine, the muses will sing joyous songs of happiness.

Their other task is to provide mortals with inspiration in the arts and music, a task they relish since it gives them the opportunity to meet artists create new works of art. Whilst they are part of Apollo's court, they come and go freely and regularly go to struggling artists who have prayed to them for help. The artist usually falls in love with the muse and is stricken with grief when they leave again. It is common for the artist to have even greater difficulty working again afterwards and a few have actually killed themselves, knowing they could never match their Muse-inspired work. Muses are also sent to artists working on a god's commission to make sure the work is of the highest quality.

Each of the nine took one form of art as their realm and speciality:

  • Calliope took epic poetry and has the writing tablet as her symbol.
  • Clio is the muse of history and carries several scrolls.
  • Erato dedicates herself to love poetry and plays a cithara lyre.
  • Euterpe writes elegiac poetry and sets it to music from a aulos flute.
  • Melpomene is obsessed by tragedy plays and often wears a tragic mask.
  • Polyhymnia prefers solemn hymns and wears a modest veil.
  • Terpsichore loves to dance to the music of the lyre.
  • Jolly Thalia patronises comedy and wears a comic mask.
  • Urania looks to the stars, performing astronomy with her globe and compass.

Whimsical and flighty, as easily as they share their wisdom, the Muses can take it away. Highly strung, they take offense easily and must be continually flattered and praised to avoid their displeasure and keep their attention. Like their fellow Olympians, they do not suffer mortal hubris and value themselves above almost all others. King Pierus’ comparison of his nine daughters' beauty to the Muses resulted in the unfortunate girls all being turned into magpies. The singer Thamyris challenged all nine to a singing contest and when he lost the Muses struck him blind and mute.

Worship of the Muses is dedicated to invoking them, so that the artist may benefit from their patronage. It is tradition and custom that an artist should begin work with a dedication to the Muses and a humble request to let the artist be the vessel for the Muses talent.

As well as shrines in the temples of Apollo, dedicated ‘mouseions’ have been built around the Muses’ sacred springs. The most sacred of these sites are on the slopes of Mount Helikon in Boiotia and at Pieria on Mount Olympus. The Muses preferred sacrifice is wine and fruits.

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open/settings/6d6hellenic/the_nine_muses.txt · Last modified: 2016/01/08 17:55 by tregenza
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