Muse

For other uses see Muse (disambiguation).

In Greek mythology, the Muses (Greek Μουσαι, Mousai) are nine archaic goddesses who embody the right evocation of myth, inspired through remembered and improvised song and traditional music and dances. They were water nymphs, associated with the springs of Helicon and Pieris. The Olympian system set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetes.

According to Hesiod's Theogony, they are the daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. For Alcman and Mimnermus, they were even more primordial, springing from Uranus and Gaia.

Compare the Roman inspiring nymphs of springs, the Camenae.

Muses in myth

According to Pausanias there were three original Muses: Aoide ("song", "voice"), Melete ("practice" or "occasion") and Mneme ("memory") (Paus. 9.29.1). Together, they form the complete picture of the preconditions of poetic art in cult practice.

The canonical nine Muses are:

  • Euterpe (music)
  • Calliope (epic poetry)
  • Clio (history)
  • Erato (lyric poetry)
  • Melpomene (tragedy)
  • Polyhymnia (sacred poetry)
  • Terpsichore (dancing)
  • Thalia (comedy)
  • Urania (astronomy)

Together, they form a complete picture of the subjects proper to poetic art in the archaic period. However, the association of specific muses with specific art forms is a later innovation, and has been called pedantic.

In Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical art, Muses depicted in sculptures or paintings are often distinguished by certain props or poses, as emblems. Euterpe (music) carries a flute; Calliope (epic poetry) carries a writing tablet; Clio (history) carries a scroll and books; Erato (lyric poetry) is often seen with a lyre and a crown of roses; Melpomene (tragedy) is often seen with a tragic mask; Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) is often seen with a pensive expression; Terpsichore (dancing) is often seen dancing and carrying a lyre; Thalia (comedy) is often seen with a comic mask; and Urania (astronomy) carries a staff pointed at a celestial globe.

Function in Society

Greek mousa is a common noun as well as a type of goddess: it literally means "song" or "poem". In Pindar, to "carry a mousa" is "to sing a song". The word is probably derived from the Indo-European root *men-, which is also the source of Greek Mnemosyne, Latin Minerva, and English "mind", "mental" and "memory".

The Muses were therefore both the embodiments and sponsors of performed metrical speech: mousike, whence "music", was the art of the Muses. In the archaic period, before the widespread availability of books, this included nearly all of learning: the first Greek book on astronomy, by Thales, was set in dactylic hexameter, as were many works of pre-Socratic philosophy; both Plato and the Pythagoreans explicitly included philosophy as a sub-species of mousike (Strabo 10.3.10). Herodotus, whose primary medium of delivery was public recitation, named each one of the nine books of his Histories after a different Muse.

For poet and lawgiver Solon (fragment 13), the Muses were the key to the good life, since they brought both prosperity and friendship. Solon sought to perpetuate his political reforms by establishing recitations of his poetry—complete with invocations to his practical-minded Muses—by Athenian boys at festivals every year.

The Muses judged the contest between Apollo and Marsyas. They also gathered the pieces of the dead body of Orpheus, son of Calliope, and buried them. They blinded Thamyris for his hubris in challenging them to a contest.

Function in literature

The muses are typically invoked at or near the beginning of an epic poem or story. They have served as aid to an author, or as the true speaker for which an author is only a mouthpiece. Originally the invocation of the Muse was an indication that the speaker was working inside the poetic tradition, according to the established formulae.

Two classic examples: Homer, Book I of The Odyssey:

"Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero
who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy."

... And Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno:

O Muses, o high genious, aid me now!
O memory that noted what I saw,
Now shall your true nobility be seen!

Cults of the Muses

When Pythagoras arrived at Croton, his first advice to the Crotoniates was to build a shrine of the Muses at the center of the city, to promote civic harmony and learning.

Local cults of the Muses were often associated with springs or fountains. They were sometimes called Aganippids because of their association with a fountain called Aganippe. Other fountains, called Hippocrene and Pirene were also important to the Muses. The Muses were also occasionally referred to as Corycides or Corycian nymphs after a cave on Mount Parnassos called the Corycian Cave.

The Muses were especially venerated in Boeotia, near Helicon, and in Delphi and the Parnassus, where Apollo became known as Mousagetes "Muse-leader".

Muse-worship was also often associated with the hero-cults of poets: the tombs of Archilochus on Thasos and Hesiod and Thamyris (whom they blinded) in Boeotia all played host to festivals in which poetic recitations were accompanied by sacrifices to the Muses.

The Library of Alexandria and its circle of scholars were formed around a mousaion ("museum" or shrine of the Muses) close by the tomb of Alexander the Great.

Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a "Cult of the Muses" in the 18th century. A popular Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Neuf Soeurs ("nine sisters", i.e. nine Muses), and was attended by Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. One side-effect of this movement was the use of the word "museum" (originally, "cult place of the Muses") to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge.

The classical tradition

The poet Sappho of Lesbos was also paid the very great compliment of being called "the tenth Muse".

The word muse is used figuratively to denote someone who inspires an artist.


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The word muse is used figuratively to denote someone who inspires an artist. More recently, Donnie Wahlberg has been involved in movies such as The Sixth Sense, the critically acclaimed mini-series Band of Brothers and the short-lived police drama series Boomtown in which he played Detective Stevens. The poet Sappho of Lesbos was also paid the very great compliment of being called "the tenth Muse". Also, McIntyre has performed in Broadway musicals. One side-effect of this movement was the use of the word "museum" (originally, "cult place of the Muses") to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge. Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight each released moderately successful solo albums. nine Muses), and was attended by Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. After the group's demise, Wahlberg and Danny Wood formed a record label, and Wahlberg also produced two albums of his brother Mark Wahlberg, who has gone on to become a successful actor.

A popular Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Neuf Soeurs ("nine sisters", i.e. The group broke up in 1994. Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a "Cult of the Muses" in the 18th century. Faced with the constant derision of people outside their preteen fan base and the maturation of that base, in the 1990s they split off from Starr and released one album of self-composed R&B, Face The Music, which, despite a mildly positive critical reception, sold poorly. The Library of Alexandria and its circle of scholars were formed around a mousaion ("museum" or shrine of the Muses) close by the tomb of Alexander the Great. With saturated coverage in teenage fan magazines and even a short-lived animated television series, they became hugely famous and sold millions more of their next two albums, one a recording of Christmas songs and the other 1990's Step by Step, with some of the songs co-written by the group members. Muse-worship was also often associated with the hero-cults of poets: the tombs of Archilochus on Thasos and Hesiod and Thamyris (whom they blinded) in Boeotia all played host to festivals in which poetic recitations were accompanied by sacrifices to the Muses. Their second album, 1988's Hangin' Tough, sold eight million copies around the world, with three top ten singles: the title track, the saccharine "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," and "You Got It (The Right Stuff).".

The Muses were especially venerated in Boeotia, near Helicon, and in Delphi and the Parnassus, where Apollo became known as Mousagetes "Muse-leader". Based on R&B/Pop quintet New Edition and assembled by their former manager & producer Maurice Starr, their self-titled first album in 1986 was largely ignored. The Muses were also occasionally referred to as Corycides or Corycian nymphs after a cave on Mount Parnassos called the Corycian Cave. The members of the band were Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan Knight, brother Jonathan Knight, Danny Wood, and Joe McIntyre, all from Boston. Other fountains, called Hippocrene and Pirene were also important to the Muses. New Kids On The Block was a commercially successful boy band of the late 1980s formed in Boston in 1984. They were sometimes called Aganippids because of their association with a fountain called Aganippe. 1994 "Dirty Dawg" #27 UK.

Local cults of the Muses were often associated with springs or fountains. 1991 "If You Go Away" #16 US (1992 release), #9 UK. When Pythagoras arrived at Croton, his first advice to the Crotoniates was to build a shrine of the Muses at the center of the city, to promote civic harmony and learning. from "Face the Music"

    . And Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno:. 1991 "Call It What You Want" #12 UK. .. 1991 "Games" #14 UK.

    Two classic examples: Homer, Book I of The Odyssey:. 1990 "Tonight" #7 US, #3 UK. Originally the invocation of the Muse was an indication that the speaker was working inside the poetic tradition, according to the established formulae. 1990 "Step by Step" #1 US, #2 UK. They have served as aid to an author, or as the true speaker for which an author is only a mouthpiece. from "Step by Step"

      . The muses are typically invoked at or near the beginning of an epic poem or story. 1989 "This One's for the Children" #7 US, #9 UK (1990 release).

      They blinded Thamyris for his hubris in challenging them to a contest. from "Merry, Merry Christmas"

        . They also gathered the pieces of the dead body of Orpheus, son of Calliope, and buried them. 1989 "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" #8 US, #8 UK (double A-side with Let's Try Again in the UK, 1990 release). The Muses judged the contest between Apollo and Marsyas. from "New Kids on the Block"
          . Solon sought to perpetuate his political reforms by establishing recitations of his poetry—complete with invocations to his practical-minded Muses—by Athenian boys at festivals every year. 1989 "Cover Girl" #2 US, #4 UK (1990 release).

          For poet and lawgiver Solon (fragment 13), the Muses were the key to the good life, since they brought both prosperity and friendship. 1989 "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)" #1 US, #5 UK (1990 release). Herodotus, whose primary medium of delivery was public recitation, named each one of the nine books of his Histories after a different Muse. 1989 "Hangin' Tough" #1 US, #1 UK (1990 release). In the archaic period, before the widespread availability of books, this included nearly all of learning: the first Greek book on astronomy, by Thales, was set in dactylic hexameter, as were many works of pre-Socratic philosophy; both Plato and the Pythagoreans explicitly included philosophy as a sub-species of mousike (Strabo 10.3.10). 1988 "Please Don't Go Girl" #10 US. The Muses were therefore both the embodiments and sponsors of performed metrical speech: mousike, whence "music", was the art of the Muses. 1988 "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" #3 US, #1 UK (1989 release).

          The word is probably derived from the Indo-European root *men-, which is also the source of Greek Mnemosyne, Latin Minerva, and English "mind", "mental" and "memory". from "Hangin' Tough"

            . In Pindar, to "carry a mousa" is "to sing a song". 2001 "Super Hits". Greek mousa is a common noun as well as a type of goddess: it literally means "song" or "poem". 1999 "Greatest Hits". In Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical art, Muses depicted in sculptures or paintings are often distinguished by certain props or poses, as emblems. Euterpe (music) carries a flute; Calliope (epic poetry) carries a writing tablet; Clio (history) carries a scroll and books; Erato (lyric poetry) is often seen with a lyre and a crown of roses; Melpomene (tragedy) is often seen with a tragic mask; Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) is often seen with a pensive expression; Terpsichore (dancing) is often seen dancing and carrying a lyre; Thalia (comedy) is often seen with a comic mask; and Urania (astronomy) carries a staff pointed at a celestial globe. 1994 "Face the Music" #37 US, #36 UK.

            However, the association of specific muses with specific art forms is a later innovation, and has been called pedantic. 1990 "No More Games - The Remix Album" #19 US, #15 UK (1991 release), US Sales: 500,000. Together, they form a complete picture of the subjects proper to poetic art in the archaic period. 1990 "Step by Step" #1 US, #1 UK, US Sales: 3,000,000. The canonical nine Muses are:. 1989 "Merry, Merry Christmas" #9 US, #13 UK (1990 release), US Sales: 2,000,000. Together, they form the complete picture of the preconditions of poetic art in cult practice. 1988 "Hangin' Tough" #1 US, #2 UK, US Sales: 9,000,000.

            9.29.1). 1986 "New Kids on the Block" #25 US (charted in 1989), #6 UK (charted in 1990), US Sales: 3,000,000. According to Pausanias there were three original Muses: Aoide ("song", "voice"), Melete ("practice" or "occasion") and Mneme ("memory") (Paus. Compare the Roman inspiring nymphs of springs, the Camenae. For Alcman and Mimnermus, they were even more primordial, springing from Uranus and Gaia.

            According to Hesiod's Theogony, they are the daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. The Olympian system set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetes.. They were water nymphs, associated with the springs of Helicon and Pieris. In Greek mythology, the Muses (Greek Μουσαι, Mousai) are nine archaic goddesses who embody the right evocation of myth, inspired through remembered and improvised song and traditional music and dances.

            Urania (astronomy). Thalia (comedy). Terpsichore (dancing). Polyhymnia (sacred poetry).

            Melpomene (tragedy). Erato (lyric poetry). Clio (history). Calliope (epic poetry).

            Euterpe (music).

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