I wasn’t sure what mythological topic to cover today, so I turned to the Muses for inspiration. Fame whores that those girls are, they suggested that I write a post on them. So, here are the nine Muses, dwellers on Mount Helicon who inspire artists and scientists.
The idea that there are nine is actually a relatively late one, with earlier myths referring to lower numbers of Muses. They are usually identified as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the Titaness of Memory. In the late Hellenistic period, each girl came to be associated with a different art: Calliope with epic poetry and song, Clio with history, Euterpe with lyric poetry, Erato with love poetry, Melpomene with tragedy, Thalia with comedy, Terpsichore with dance, Polyhymnia with sacred poetry, and Urania with astronomy. (For what it’s worth, Calliope and Terpsichore are usually the only two I remember without looking at a list.) As they play an inspirational role, authors tended to invoke them at the beginnings of their work. Some myths refer to Apollo as the leader of the Muses, as he is known as the god of music.
I’m trying to think of more modern appearances of the Muses, but the only one that really comes to mind is the Xanth series, in which the nine sisters live on Mount Parnassus (named after the Greek mountain that is sometimes said to be their home, although I get the impression that Helicon is more commonly used in that capacity). Clio is especially important, being the true author of the histories of Xanth that make it to Mundania, and playing a starring role in Currant Events. I also remember a mention of the Muses in Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music, although they never actually appeared. On the Discworld, they apparently number only eight (that world’s most magical number), and characters refer to their leader as “Cantaloupe.” Some of the Muses appear in Disney’s Hercules, in which they sing gospel music.