GENERAL KNOWLEDGE: Information to furnish the mind

The Nine Muses

In classical mythology, the Muses are nine sisters who inspire the arts. Ancient myths vary as to their parentage and their number.

According to Hesiod’s Theogeny, the Muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory.

The word muse probably derives from an Indo-European word for “mind.” Words deriving from the Muses’ connection with the arts and learning include music and museum.

In late Hellenistic times, the nine Muses were associated with specific genres:

Calliope [kuhlahyuh-pee]; /kəˈlaɪəpi/: epic poetry
Clio [klee-oh]; /ˈsɪθərə/: history
Erato [er-uh-toh]; /ˈɛrəˌtoʊ/: love poetry
Euterpe [[yoo-tur-pee]; /yuˈtɜrpi/: lyric poetry
Melpomene [mel-pom-uh-nee]; /mɛlˈpɒməˌni: tragedy
Polyhymnia [pol-i-him-nee-uh]; /ˌpɒlɪˈhɪmniə/: sacred poetry
Terpsichore [turp-sik-uh-ree]; /tɜrpˈsɪkəˌri/: choral dance
Thalia [thuh-lahy-uh]; /θəˈlaɪə/: comedy
Urania [yoo-rey-nee-uh,]; /yʊˈreɪniə/: astronomy

Several of these names have found their way into popular culture.

A calliope is a noisy musical instrument associated with circuses. Originally the steam calliope used train whistles.

Terpsichorean is an adjective meaning “having to do with dance.” As a noun, it means “dancer.” Here are some examples from the web:

When Lady Sylvia dons that over-the-top temple dancer outfit and tries her own interpretation of the Chinese terpsichorean art, the result is clunky and endearingly game…

…though the world does not know her real name, nor know exactly what dance she performed so successfully, she has become the most famous terpsichorean in all history.

The Charleston Dance was the most popular terpsichorean craze of the Roaring Twenties.

The Clio award for “innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design, and communication,”is named for the Muse Clio because of her role as “the proclaimer, glorifier and celebrator of history, great deeds and accomplishments.”

The word muse can also mean anyone, usually a woman, who inspires an artist to create.

The nine Muses and their emblems in art.
The nine Muses and their emblems in art. Apollo is their leader.

One Response

  1. The name Thalia is used as a supporting role in Rick Riordan’s ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ book series.

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