Greek Mythology >> Greek Gods >> Olympian Gods >> Muses >> Terpsichore (Terpsikhore)


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Delighting in Dance

Muse Terpsichore | Greco-Roman marble statue C2nd A.D. | State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Muse Terpsichore, Greco-Roman marble statue C2nd A.D., State Hermitage Museum

TERPSIKHORE (Terpsichore) was one of the nine Mousai (Muses), the goddesses of music, song and dance. In the classical era, when the Mousai were assigned specific literary and artistic spheres, Terpsikhore was named Muse of choral song and dancing, and depicted with a lyre and plectrum.

Her name means "Delighting in Dance" from the Greek words terpsis "to delight" and khoros "dance".



[1.1] ZEUS & MNEMOSYNE (Hesiod Theogony 75, Apollodorus 1.13, Diodorus Siculus 4.7.1, Orphic Hymn 76)


[1.1] THE SEIRENES (by Akheloios) (Apollonius Rhodius 4.892, Nonnus Dionysiaca 13.313)
[2.1] LINOS (Pindar Dirges Frag 139)
[2.2] LINOS (by Apollon) (Suidas s.v. Linos)


Hesiod, Theogony 75 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"The Mousai (Muses) sang who dwell on Olympos, nine daughters begotten by great Zeus, Kleio (Clio) and Euterpe, Thaleia (Thalia), Melpomene and Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), and Erato and Polymnia (Polyhymnia) and Ourania (Urania) and Kalliope (Calliope)."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 2. 6 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Then the Mousa (Muse) [i.e. the poet] had not yet bowed to love of gain, or made herself a hireling journeyman; nor in the market clad in masks of silver did honey-tongues Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) barter her gentle-voiced and sweetly sun refrains. But now she bids us pander to that word the Argive spoke, to sadly near to truth : ‘Money, money makes man.’"

Pindar, Dirges Fragment 139 (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"But in another song did three goddesses [Mousai (Muses)] lull to rest the bodies of their sons. The first of these [Terpsikhore (Terpsichore)] sang a dirge over the clear-voiced Linos (Linus) [personification of the lamentation song]."

Corinna, Fragment 655 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) summons me to sing."

Plato, Phaedrus 259 (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"When they [the grasshoppers] die they go and inform the Mousai (Muses) in heaven who honours them on earth. They win the love of Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) for the dancers by their report of them."

Muse Terpsichore | Athenian red-figure amphora C5th B.C. | British Museum, London
Muse Terpsichore, Athenian red-figure amphora C5th B.C., British Museum

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 13 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Mnemosyne [bore to Zeus] the Mousai (Muses), the eldest of whom was Kalliope (Calliope), followed by Kleio (Clio), Melpomene, Euterpe, Erato, Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), Ourania (Urania), Thaleia (Thalia), and Polymnia."

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 892 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"The clear-voiced Seirenes (Sirens), Akheloos' (Achelous') daughters, used to bewitch with their seductive melodies whatever sailors anchored there. Lovely Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), one of the Mousai (Muses), has borne them to Akheloos, and at one time they had been handmaids to Demeter's gallant Daughter [Persephone], before she was married, and sung to her in chorus."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 7. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Hesiod even gives their names [the Mousai's (Muses')] when he writes : ‘Kleio (Clio), Euterpe, and Thaleia (Thalia), Melpomene, Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) and Erato, and Polymnia, Ourania (Urania), Kalliope (Calliope) too, of them all the most comely.’
To each of the Mousai (Muses) men assign her special aptitude for one of the branches of the liberal arts, such as poetry, song, pantomimic dancing, the round dance with music, the study of the stars, and the other liberal arts . . . For the name of each Mousa (Muse), they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her . . . Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), because she delights (terpein) her disciples with the good things which come from education."

Orphic Hymn 76 to the Muses (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus . . . Kleio (Clio), and Erato who charms the sight, with thee, Euterpe, ministering delight : Thalia flourishing, Polymnia famed, Melpomene from skill in music named : Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), Ourania (Urania) heavenly bright."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 313 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The Seirenes (Sirens), whom rosy Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) brought forth by the stormy embraces of her bull-horned husband Akheloos (Achelous)."

Suidas s.v. Linos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Linos : Of Khalkis (Chalcis), [son] of Apollon and Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), but others [say] of Amphimaros (Amphimarus) and Ourania (Urania), others of Hermes and Ourania."

Thumbnail Terpsichore Playing Lyre

K20.6 Terpsichore Playing Lyre

Athenian Red Figure Vase Painting C5th B.C.

Thumbnail Musaeus & Terpsichore

K20.6B Musaeus & Terpsichore

Athenian Red Figure Vase Painting C5th B.C.

Thumbnail Terpsichore Holding Lyre

Z20.1A Terpsichore Holding Lyre

Greco-Roman Vichten Floor Mosaic C3rd A.D.

Thumbnail Portraits of the Nine Muses

Z20.3 Portraits of the Nine Muses

Greco-Roman Trier Floor Mosaic C3rd A.D.

Thumbnail Portraits of the Nine Muses

Z20.2 Portraits of the Nine Muses

Greco-Roman Cos Floor Mosaic A.D.

Thumbnail Symbols of the Nine Muses

Z20.4 Symbols of the Nine Muses

Greek Elis Floor Mosaic C1st B.C.

Thumbnail Statue of Terpsichore

S20.3D Statue of Terpsichore

Greco-Roman Marble Statue

Thumbnail Statue of Terpsichore

S20.2 Statue of Terpsichore

Greco-Roman Marble Statue





Other references not currently quoted here: Alciphron Letters 1.13, Scholiast on Euripides' Rhesus 346, Suidas Rhesos.


A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.