Humanities › History & Culture Who Were the 9 Greek Muses? The Muses have inspired art throughout the ages Share Flipboard Email Print History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Mythology & Religion Figures & Events Ancient Languages Greece Egypt Asia Rome American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated March 17, 2019 The Muses were the daughters of Zeus, king of gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. They were born after the pair lay together for nine nights in a row. Each of the Muses is lovely, graceful and alluring, and gifted with a particular artistic talent. The Muses delight the gods and human beings with their songs, dances, and poems and inspire human artists to greater artistic achievements. In legend, the Muses were variously described as living on Mt. Olympus, Mt. Helicon (in Boeotia), or Mt. Parnassus. While they were beautiful to behold and wonderfully gifted, their talents were not to be challenged. Myths regarding challenges to the Muses inevitably end in the challenger losing the challenge and suffering a terrible punishment. For example, according to one myth, King Pierus of Macedon named his nine daughters after the Muses, believing they were more beautiful and talented. The result: his daughters were turned into magpies. The Muses appeared in paintings and sculptures throughout Greece and beyond, and were often the subject of the red and black pottery which was popular during the 5th and 4th century BCE. They have appeared, each with her own particular symbol, in paintings, architecture, and sculpture throughout the centuries. 01 of 09 Calliope (or Kalliope) Rrrainbow/Getty Images Province: Muse of Epic Poetry, Music, Song, Dance, and Eloquence Attribute: Wax Tablet or Scroll Calliope was the eldest of the nine Muses. She had the gift of eloquence, which she was able to bestow upon statesmen and royalty. She was also the mother of Orpheus the bard. 02 of 09 Clio (or Kleio) manx_in_the_world/Getty Images Province: Muse of History Attribute: Scroll or Chest of Books Clio's name comes from the Greek verb kleô, which means "to make famous." 03 of 09 Euterpe Matt From London/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 Province: Muse of lyric song Attribute: Double flute Euterpe's name means "giver of many delights" or "rejoicing well." 04 of 09 Melpomene Irina/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 Province: Muse of Tragedy Attribute: Tragic mask, ivy wreath Originally the Muse of Chorus, Melpomene later became the Muse of Tragedy. She often carries both the tragic mask and a sword and wears cothurnus boots which were worn by tragic actors. Her name means "celebrate with song and dance." 05 of 09 Terpsichore anamejia18/Getty Images Province: Muse of Dance Attribute: Lyre Terpsichore's name means "delight in dancing." Despite her name, however, she is usually shown sitting down and playing the stringed instrument called the lyre, a symbol also associated with Apollo. 06 of 09 Erato Christos Santos/Getty Images Province: Muse of Erotic Poetry Attribute: Smaller lyre In addition to being the Muse of erotic and love poetry, Erato was also the patron of mime. Her name means "lovely," or "desirable." 07 of 09 Polyhymnia (Polymnia) Syntheticmessiah/Getty Images Province: Muse of Sacred Song Attribute: Depicted veiled and pensive Polyhymnia wears a long cloak and veil and often rests her arm on a pillar. Some legends describe her as the mother of Triptolemus by Cheimarrhus, who was the son of Ares. Triptolemus was a priest of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and is sometimes described as the inventor of farming. 08 of 09 Urania (Ourania) Syntheticmessiah/Getty Images Province: Muse of Astronomy Attribute: Celestial Globe and Compass Urania wears a cloak covered in stars and looks upward toward the sky. Many observatories around the world bear her name. She is sometimes mentioned as the mother of the musician, Linus. 09 of 09 Thalia manx_in_the_world/Getty Images Province: Muse of comedy and bucolic poetry Attribute: Comic mask, ivy wreath, shepherd's staff Thalia often carries a mask of comedy along with a bugle and trumpet which would have been used in Greek comedies. She is usually portrayed seated, sometimes in humorous or erotic poses. Her name means "joyous," or "flourishing."