Delahoyde & Hughes


Zeus, disguised as a shepherd, slept with Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess of memory, on nine consecutive nights. Nine months later were born the nine Muses at the foot of Mount Olympus. They are companions of the Graces, sitting near the throne of Zeus and singing of his greatness, of the world, and of the deeds of the heroes. Primarily, they promote the arts and sciences; they inspire artists, poets, philosophers, and musicians.

The Muses also sang at the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia, the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, and at the funeral of Achilles. The few stories of those who dared compete with the Muses end in disaster for the challengers: Thamyris, the minstrel (who lost his minstrelsy and his eyes); the Sirens (who had their feathers plucked out); and the daughters of the King and Queen of Macedonia (named after the Muses, they were turned into birds). King Pyreneus of Daulis attempted to seduce the Muses and was led to his death by jumping after them off the top of a tower.

Sacred places dedicated to the Muses were known as mouseions, from which we have the word "museum."


"The Fair-Voiced": muse of epic poetry (and eloquence).
Her symbol is the writing tablet or the book.
She, the eldest among the muses, is the mother of Orpheus (and Linus). Homer invokes her as his muse in the Iliad and the Odyssey. She favored Achilles and taught him how to entertain his friends by singing at feasts. She settled an argument between Aphrodite and Persephone over their rivalry for Adonis.


"The Proclaimer": muse of history.
Her symbol is the scroll.
She is credited with having introduced the Phoenician alphabet into Greece. She was the mother of Hyacinthus who is killed by the wayward bounce of a discus thrown by Apollo (see Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 10).


"The Lovely": muse of love poetry (and mimicry).
Her symbol is the lyre.
She is often seen wearing a crown of roses.


"The Giver of Pleasure": muse of music.
Her symbol is the flute.
She is credited with the invention of the flute. She was the mother of Rhosus who was killed in at Troy.


"The Songstress": muse of tragedy.
Her symbol is the tragic mask.
She is often depicted wearing a garland or a crown of cypress, and she often carries a club or sword. She shows up frequently wearing cothurnes -- boots worn by tragic actors.


"She of Many Hymns": muse of sacred poetry and religious dance.
She is identified by the pensive look on her face, which often is veiled.
She is also associated with geometry, mime, agriculture, and meditation.


"The Whirler": muse of dance and lyric poetry.
She is seen dancing and holding a lyre.
She shows up with a plectrum also, a device used for plucking stringed instruments. She was mother to the Sirens (with Achelous the river god as father).


"The Flourishing": muse of comedy and idyllic poetry.
Her symbol is the comic mask.
She appears with a shepherd's staff and wearing a crown of ivy. She was mother of the Corybantes (the father was Apollo); these were priests who castrated themselves in devotion to the goddess Cybele.


"The Heavenly": muse of astronomy.
She holds a globe. She appears often with a peg in one hand and dressed in a cloak embroidered with stars. She foretells the future by reading the positions of the stars.

Orpheus: Greek Mythology