The Nine Muses of Inspiration
The first time I noticed inspiration it was sculpted into the sides of a sarcophagus in the Louvre museum. Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, and Zeus, the great womanizer, had nine daughters together; the Muses of Inspiration. These muses were carved for prosperity into the cold stone slabs of a marble coffin. The most famous are Thalia and Melpomene, comedy and tragedy, best known by their theatrical masks. The Greeks had oral tradition of literature, alive with music, including a muse for dance, Terpsichore. A writer was mostly about poetry, and they had several variations: Polymnis who fostered musical poetry (or hymnody); Erato, the muse of love poetry; Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry, and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. The muse Clio holds a writing tablet while she records history. The odd one out is Urania, the muse of astronomy. She’s the lone scientist and placeholder for future generations of academic publications.
The muses characterize the ancient ideals of a cultivated man, as represented by the likes of Socrates, or Homer. “According to a belief attested in Greece as early as the fourth century BCE, the practice of literature and philosophy, or daily intercourse with the Muses, ensured immortality and the soul’s salvation.”
Some things never change.
The moral is, since the earliest times, writers prayed or drank wine while yearning for inspiration. And, not content to be a legacy just in their own minds, they’ve all craved the immortal success of a best seller.
* Image courtesy of Sarcophages des Muses, copyright 1993 RMN, Herve Lewandowski