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Greek Name

Μουσα Μουσαι


Mousa, Mousai

Latin Spelling

Musa, Musae


Muse, Muses

Winged Muse with lyre | Athenian red-figure lekythos C5th B.C. | Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas
Winged Muse with lyre, Athenian red-figure lekythos C5th B.C., Blanton Museum of Art

THE MOUSAI (Muses) were the goddesses of music, poetry and inspiration. This page describes their divine aspects.



The Mousai (Muses) were originally goddesses of music, poetry, eloquence and song. In the late classical era their role was expanded to encompass a variety of arts including rhetoric, philosophy, mathematics, geography, history and astronomy. The nine books of the Herodotus' Histories, for example, were each named after one of the nine Mousai. The Mouseia ("Museums") were the libraries of ancient Greece which also doubled as religious sanctuaries for the goddesses.

See also Muses & the Inspiration of Poets, Writers & Bards (below)

Hesiod, Theogony 90 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"It is through the Mousai (Muses) and far-shooting Apollon that there are singers and harpers upon the earth; but princes are of Zeus, and happy is he whom the Mousai love : sweet flows speech from his mouth. For though a man have sorrow and grief in his newly-troubled soul and live in dread because his heart is distressed, yet, when a singer, the servant of the Mousai, chants the glorious deeds of men of old and the blessed gods who inhabit Olympos, at once he forgets his heaviness and remembers not his sorrows at all; but the gifts of the goddesses soon turn him away from these . . .
Kalliope (Calliope), who is the chiefest of them all, for she attends on worshipful princes: whomsoever of heaven-nourished princes the daughters of great Zeus honour, and behold him at his birth, they pour sweet dew upon his tongue, and from his lips flow gracious words. All the people look towards him while he settles causes with true judgements: and he, speaking surely, would soon make wise end even of a great quarrel; for therefore are there princes wise in heart, because when the people are being misguided in their assembly, they set right the matter again with ease, persuading them with gentle words. And when he passes through a gathering, they greet him as a god with gentle reverence, and he is conspicuous amongst the assembled : such is the holy gift of the Mousai to men."

Hesiod, Theogony 915 ff :
"Mousai (Muses) . . . who delight in feasts and the pleasures of song."

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 460 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"The combining of letters, creative mother of the Mousai's (Muses') arts (mousomêtôr), with which to hold all things in memory."

Plato, Alcibiades 1. 108c (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : Tell me, first, what is the art which includes harping and singing and treading the measure correctly? . . . Who are the goddesses that foster the art?
Alkibiades (Alcibiades) : The Mousai (Muses), you mean, Sokrates?
Sokrates : I do. Now, just think, and say by what name the art is called after them.
Alkibiades : Mousikê [i.e. music, dancing, poetry and song], I suppose you mean."

Plato, Cratylus 406a (trans. Fowler) :
"[Plato invents philosophical etymologies to explain the names of the gods.]
Sokrates : Let us inquire what thought men had in giving them [the gods] their names . . . The first men who gave names [to the gods] were no ordinary persons, but high thinkers and great talkers . . . The Mousai (Muses) and music (mousika) in general are named, apparently, from môsthai, searching, and philosophy."

Plato, Laws 653d (trans. Bury) :
"The gods, in pity for the human race thus born to misery, have ordained the feasts of thanksgiving as periods of respite from their troubles; and they have granted them as companions in their feasts the Mousai (Muses) and Apollon the master of music, and Dionysos . . . Shall we . . . postulate that education owes its origin to Apollon and the Mousai (Muses)? . . . Shall we assume that the uneducated man is without choir-training, and the educated man fully choir-trained? . . . Choir-training, as a whole, embraces of course both dancing and song."

Plato, Laws 664b :
"[Plato describes the citizen-choirs of his ideal city :] First, then, the right order of procedure will be for the Mousai's (Muses') choir of children to come forward first to sing these things with the utmost vigor and before the whole city; second will come the choir of those under thirty, invoking Apollon Paion (Paeon) as witness of the truth of what is said, and praying him of grace to persuade the youth. The next singers will be the third choir, of those over thirty and under sixty; and lastly, there were left those who, being no longer able to uplift the song, shall handle the same moral themes in stories and by oracular speech . . . The gods, in pity for us, have granted to us as fellow-choristers and choir-leaders Apollon and the Mousai,--besides whom we mentioned, if we recollect, a third, Dionysos."

Plato, Laws 672b :
"Athenian : There was implanted in us men the sense of rhythm and harmony, and that the joint authors thereof were Apollon and the Mousai (Muses) and the god Dionysos."

Plato, Laws 795e :
"Of dancing there is one branch in which the style of the Mousa (Muse) is imitated, preserving both freedom and nobility, and another which aims at physical soundness, agility and beauty [i.e. athletics]."

Plato, Laws 783a (trans. Bury) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"These morbid states [i.e. excessive desire] we must direct towards what is most good, instead of what is most pleasant, trying to check them by means of the three greatest forces--fear, law, and true reasoning,--reinforced by the Mousai (Muses) and the Theoi Agonioi (Gods of Games), so as to quench thereby their increase and inflow."
[N.B. The Mousai and Agonoi were the patron gods of classical Athenian education.]

Plato, Phaedrus 259 ff (trans. Fowler) :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : A lover of music like yourself ought surely to have heard the story of the grasshoppers, who are said to have been human beings in an age [i.e. the Golden Age] before the Mousai (Muses). And when the Mousai came and song appeared they were ravished with delight; and singing always, never thought of eating and drinking, until at last in their forgetfulness they died. And now they live again in the grasshoppers; and this is the return which the Mousai make to them-they neither hunger, nor thirst, but from the hour of their birth are always singing, and never eating or drinking; and when they die they go and inform the Mousai in heaven who honours them on earth. They win the love of Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) for the dancers by their report of them; of Erato for the lovers, and of the other Mousai for those who do them honour, according to the several ways of honouring them of Kalliope (Calliope) the eldest Mousa and of Ourania (Urania) who is next to her, for the philosophers, of whose music the grasshoppers make report to them; for these are the Mousai who are chiefly concerned with heaven and thought, divine as well as human, and they have the sweetest utterance."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 4. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"The Mousai (Muses), who were maidens that had received an unusually excellent education, and that by their songs and dancing and other talents in which they had been instructed."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 5. 3 :
"And, in general, the Mousai (Muses) who bestowed benefits and delights through the advantages which their education gave them, and the Satyroi (Satyrs) by the use of devices [i.e. flutes and tambourines] which contribute to mirth."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 7. 1 :
"As for the Mousai (Muses), since we have referred to them in connection with the deeds of Dionysos, it may be appropriate to give the facts about them in summary. For the majority of the writers of myths and those who enjoy the greatest reputation say that they were daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne; but a few poets, among whose number is Alkman (Alcman) state that they were daughters of Ouranos (Uranus, the Sky) and Ge (Gaea, the Earth). Writers similarly disagree also concerning the number of the Mousai; for some say they are but thee, and others that they are nine, but the number nine has prevailed since it rests upon the authority of the most distinguished men, such as Homer and Hesiod and others like them. Homer, for instance writes : ‘The Mousai, nine in all, replying each to each with voices sweet’; and Hesiod even gives their names when he writes : ‘Kleio, Euterpe, and Thaleia, Melpomene, Terpsikhore and Erato, and Polymnia, Ourania, Kalliope too, of them all the most comely.’
To each of the Mousai 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. They are also believed to be virgins, as most writers of myths say, because men consider that the high attainment which is reached through education is pure and uncontaminated. Men have given the Mousai their name from the word muein, which signifies the teaching of those things which are noble and expedient and are not known by the uneducated. For the name of each Mousa (Muse), they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her : Kleio (Clio) is so named because the praise which poets sing in their encomia bestows great glory (Kleos) upon those who are praised; Euterpe, because she gives to those who hear her sing delight (terpein) in the blessings which education bestows; Thaleia (Thalia), because men whose praises have been sung in poems flourish (thallein) through long periods of time; Melpomene, from the chanting (melodia) by which she charms the souls of her listeners; Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), because she delights (terpein) her disciples with the good things which come from education; Erato, because she makes those who are instructed by her men who are desired and worthy to be loved; Polymnia (Polyhymnia), because by her great (polle) praises (humnesis) she brings distinction to writers whose works have won for them immortal fame; Ourania (Urania), because men who have been instructed by her she raises aloft to heaven (ouranos), for it is a fact that imagination and the power of thought lift men's souls to heavenly heights; Kalliope (Calliope), because of her beautiful (kale) voice (ops), that is, by reason of her beautiful (kale) voice (ops), that is, by reason of the exceeding beauty of her language she wins the approbation of her auditors."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 72. 5 & 5. 74. 1 :
"To Zeus also were born, they say, the goddesses . . . Athena and the Mousai (Muses) . . . To the Mousai, we are further told, it was given by their father Zeus to discover the letters and to combine words in the way which is designated poetry."

Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 10 ff (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"And on this account Plato, and even before his time the Pythagoreians, called philosophy music; and they say that the universe is constituted in accordance with harmony, assuming that every form of music is the work of the gods. And in this sense, also, the Mousai (Muses) are goddesses, and Apollon is leader of the Mousai, and poetry as a whole is laudatory of the gods. And by the same course of reasoning they also attribute to music the upbuilding of morals, believing that everything which tends to correct the mind is close to the gods. Now most of the Greeks assigned to Dionysos, Apollon, Hekate, the Mousai, and above all to Demeter, everything of an orgiastic or Bacchic or choral nature, as well as the mystic element in initiations . . .
As for the Mousai and Apollon, the Mousai preside over the choruses, whereas Apollon presides both over these and the rites of divination. But all educated men, and especially the musicians, are ministers of the Mousai; and both these and those who have to do with divination are ministers of Apollon."

Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 17 :
"From its melody and rhythm and instruments, all Thrakian (Thracian) music has been considered to be Asiatic. And this is clear, first, from the places where the Mousai (Muses) have been worshipped, for Pieria and Olympos and Pimpleia and Leibethron were in ancient times Thrakian places and mountains, though they are now held by the Makedonians; and again, Helikon (Helicon) was consecrated to the Mousai (Muses) by the Thrakians who settled in Boiotia, the same who consecrated the cave of the Nymphai (Nymphs) called Leibethrides. And again, those who devoted their attention to the music of early times are called Thrakians, I mean Orpheus, Musaios (Musaeus), and Thamyris; and Eumolpos, too, got his name from there."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 12. 2 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"No sculptor or painter has portrayed for us the daughters of Zeus in armour. This proves that life among the Mousai (Muses) must be peaceful and gentle."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 14. 37 :
"I do not care to look idly at pictures or the statues that sculptors produce. Part of the craftsman's wisdom is actually in these works. Many examples of this fact can be recognised, and in particular the following: on one, whether painter or sculptor, has ever succeeded in giving us utterly untrue images of the Mousai (Muses), false and alien to the nature of the daughters of Zeus. What artist has been so irresponsibly stupid as to depict them for us wearing armour? The fact proves that life dedicated to the Mousai must be at once peaceful, gentle, and worthy of them."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 12. 50 :
"The Lakedaimonians (Lacedaemonians) had no experience of the arts. They were concerned with sporting and arms. If they ever needed the help of the Mousai (Muses), either for illness of mental disturbance or some other public misfortune of that kind, they sent for foreigners, who might be doctors or exorcists suggested by the Delphic oracle. They also summoned [the poets] Terpander, Thaletas, Tyrtaios (Tyrtaeus), Nymphaios (Nymphaeus) of Kydonia (Cydonia) and Alkman (Alcman)."

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 10 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"The clever device of the lyre, it is said, was invented by Hermes, who constructed it of two horns and a crossbar and a tortoise-shell; and he presented it first to Apollon and the Mousai (Muses), then to [the magical bard] Amphion of Thebes."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 36 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"There is a story that Pythagoras [the mathematician] used to sacrifice an ox to the Musae (Muses) when he had made anew discovery in geometry."

Propertius, Elegies 3. 3 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"Here [on Mount Helicon] was a green grotto lined with mosaics and from the hollow pumice timbrels hung, the mystic instruments of the Musae (Muses), a clay image of father Silenus, and the pipe of Arcadian Pan; and the birds of my lady Venus [Aphrodite], the doves that I love, dip their red bills in the Gorgon's pool [i.e. the fountain Hippocrene sprung from the hoof of Pegasus], while the nine Maidens (Puellae), each allotted her own realm, busy their tender hands on their separate gifts: one [Melpomene] gathers ivy for the thyrsus-wand [tragedy plays], one tunes her song to the strings of the lyre, another [Erato] with both hands plaits wreaths of roses [love poetry]. Then from their number one of the goddesses laid her hand on me (by her looks I think it was Calliope)."

Propertius, Elegies 2. 30B :
"Nor need you address the maiden Musae (Muses) with awestruck lips : their company also knows what it means to love."

Statius, Silvae 1. 2. 7 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Lo! Far away the goddesses [Muses] troop down from musical Helicon [on their way to attend a wedding], and toss on high with ninefold torch the flame that hallows wedded union and streams of song from Pierien fountains. Among them pert-faced Elegea (Elegy) draws nigh, loftier of mien than is her wont, and implores the goddesses as she goes about, fain to support her one lame foot [the elegiac couplet was composed with one line shorter than the other], and desires to make a tenth Musa (Muse) and mingles with her Sisters unperceived."


The Mousai were often described nurturing the great poets in their infancy on the nectar of bees.

Hesiod, Theogony 1 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"One day they [the Muses] taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helikon (Helicon), and this word first the goddesses said to me--the Mousai (Muses) of Olympos, daughters of Zeus who holds the aigis : ‘Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.’
So said the ready-voiced daughters of great Zeus, and they plucked and gave me a rod, a shoot of sturdy laurel, a marvellous thing, and breathed into me a divine voice to celebrate things that shall be and things there were aforetime; and they bade me sing of the race of the blessed gods that are eternally, but ever to sing of themselves both first and last. But why all this about oak or stone?"

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 10. 21 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Note that Periktione (Perictione) was carrying Platon [the philosopher Plato] in her arms, and while Ariston sacrificed on Hymettos (Mount Hymettus) to the Mousai (Muses) or Nymphai (Nymphs), the rest of the family attended to the ceremony, and she laid Platon in the myrtles nearby, which were thick and bushy. As he slept a swarm of bees laid some Hymettos honey on his lips and buzzed around him, prophesying in this way Platon's eloquence."
[Cf. Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 13 below, for another example of the Mousai endowing their gift through bees.]

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 8 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of a painting depicting the love of the river-god Meles and Kritheis (Critheïs), the mythical parents of the poet Homer :] Why do the Mousai (Muses) come hither? Why are they present at the source of the Meles? When the Athenians set out to colonize Ionia, the Mousai in the form of bees guided their feet; for they rejoiced in Ionia, because the waters of Meles are sweeter than the waters of Kephisos (Cephisus) and Olmeios [i.e. of Mount Helikon home of the Mousai]. Some day, indeed, you will find them dancing there; but now, by decree of the Moirai (Fates), the Mousai are spinning the birth of Homer."
[N.B. The Athenians are described being led in the colonisation of Ionia by "the Mousai in the form of bees" because Homer was later born to descendants of the settlers.]

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 12 :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) depicting the birth of the poet Pindar :] Pindar. I suppose you are surprised that these bees are painted with such detail, for the proboscis is clearly to be seen, and feet and wings and the colour of their garb are as they should be, since the painting gives them the many hues with which nature endows them. Why, then, are the clever insects not in their hives? Why are they in a city? They are going on a revel to the doors of Daïphantos [father of Pindar]--for Pindar has already been born, as you see--in order to mould the babe from earliest childhood that he may even now be inspired with harmony and music; and they are busy with this task. For the child has been laid on laurel branches and sprays of myrtle, since his father conjectured that he was to have a sacred son, inasmuch as cymbals resounded in the house when the child was born, and drums of Rhea were heard, and the Nymphai (Nymphs) also, it was said, danced for him, and Pan leaped aloft; nay, they say that when Pindar began to write poetry, Pan neglected his leaping and sang the odes of Pindar . . . The bees inside the house are busily at work over the boy, dropping honey upon him and drawing back their stings for fear of stinging him. From Hymettos doubtless they have come, and from the ‘gleaming city sung in story’; for I think that this is what they instilled into Pindar."
[N.B. Although not explicitly stated, the nurturing bees would have been sent by the Muses to honey the tongue of the infant poet.]

Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 13 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting :] Why do you delay, O divine Sophokles [Sophocles the tragedian], to accept the gifts of [the Mousa (Muse)] Melpomene? Whey do you fix your eyes upon the ground? Since I for one do not know whether it is because you are now collecting your thoughts, or because you are awe-stricken at the presence of the goddess. But be of good heart, good sir, and accept her gifts; for the gifts of the gods are not to be rejected, as you no doubt know, since you have heard it from one of the devotees of Kalliope (Calliope). Indeed you see how the bees fly above you, and how they buzz with a pleasant and divine sound as they anoint you with mystic drops of their own dew, since this more than anything else is to be infused into your poesy. Surely someone will before long cry out, naming you the ‘honeycomb of kindly Mousai,’ and will exhort everyone to beware lest a bee fly unnoticed from your lips and insert its sting unawares. You can doubtless see the goddess herself imparting to you now sublimity of speech and loftiness of thought, and measuring out he gift with gracious smile." [N.B. The Mousai were described instilling poetic skill with the honey of bees.]


Portraits of the nine Muses | Greco-Roman mosaic | Archaeological Museum of Cos
Portraits of the nine Muses, Greco-Roman mosaic, Archaeological Museum of Cos

The Mousai were the divine font of inspiration for poets and bards. Many poems and songs begin with a short invocation to the Mousai. In the case of the oral poets, this was also a prayer to aid memory.

Homer, Iliad 1. 1 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Sing, goddess [i.e. Muse], the anger of Peleus' son Akhilleus (Achilles) and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Akhaians (Achaeans) . . ." [N.B. This is the famous opening line of the Iliad.]

Homer, Iliad 2. 484 ff :
"Tell me now, you Mousai (Muses), who have your homes on Olympos. For you, who are goddesses, are there, and you know all things, and we have heard only the rumour of it and know nothing. Who were all the chief men and the lords of the Danaans [the Greeks in the Trojan War]? I could not tell over the multitude nor name them . . . not unless the Mousai of Olympia, daughters of Zeus of the aigis, remembered all those who came beneath Ilion [Troy]."

Homer, Odyssey 1. 1 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Goddess of song (Mousa, Muse), teach me the story of a hero . . . Goddess, daughter of Zeus, to me in turn impart some knowledge of all these things, beginning where you will . . ."

Homer, Odyssey 8. 60 ff :
"[In the palace of King Alkinous (Alcinous) of the Phaiakes (Phaeacians) :] Then, led by the page, the faithful bard came in. The Mousa (Muse) had favoured him above all other, yet had given him good and evil mingled; his eyes she took from him, but she gave him entrancing song . . . and when they had eaten and drunk their fill the goddess of song moved the bard to sing the deeds of heroes."

Homer, Odyssey 8. 457 ff :
"[Odysseus addresses the bard Demodokos (Demodocus) :] ‘In all men's eyes all over the world bards deserve honour and veneration, because the goddess of song [the Mousa (Muse)] has taught them lays and has shown her favour to all their brotherhood . . . Demodokos, I admire you beyond any man; either it was the Mousa who taught you, daughter of Zeus himself, or else it was Apollon. With what utter rightness you sing of the fortunes of the Akhaians (Achaeans) [Greeks in the Trojan War].’"

Hesiod, Theogony 1 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"From the Mousai Helikoniades (Muses of Helikon) let us begin to sing, who hold the great and holy mount of Helikon (Helicon), and dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring and the altar of the almighty Kronion (Cronion) [Zeus], and, when they have washed their tender bodies in Permessos or in the Hippokrene (Horse's Spring) or Olmeios, make their fair, lovely dances upon highest Helikon and move with vigorous feet. Thence they arise and go abroad by night, veiled in thick mist, and utter their song with lovely voice, praising Zeus the aigis-holder, and queenly Hera of Argos who walks on golden sandals, and the daughter of Zeus the aigis-holder bright-eyed Athena, and Phoibos (Phoebus) Apollon, and Artemis who delights in arrows, and Poseidon the earth holder who shakes the earth, and revered Themis, and quick-glancing Aphrodite, and Hebe with the crown of gold, and fair Dione, Leto, Iapetos, and Kronos (Cronus) the crafty counsellor, Eos (the Dawn), and great Helios (the Sun), and bright Selene (the Moon), Gaia (Gaea the Earth), too, and great Okeanos (Oceanus), and dark Nyx (Night), and the holy race of all the other deathless ones that are for ever.
And one day they taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helikon (Helicon), and this word first the goddesses said to me--the Mousai Olympiades (Muses of Olympos), daughters of Zeus who holds the aigis : ‘Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.’
So said the ready-voiced daughters of great Zeus, and they plucked and gave me a rod, a shoot of sturdy laurel, a marvellous thing, and breathed into me a divine voice to celebrate things that shall be and things there were aforetime; and they bade me sing of the race of the blessed gods that are eternally, but ever to sing of themselves both first and last. But why all this about oak or stone?
Come thou, let us begin with the Mousai who gladden the great spirit of their father Zeus in Olympos with their songs, telling of things that are and that shall be and that were aforetime with consenting voice. Unwearying flows the sweet sound from their lips, and the house of their father Zeus the loud-thunderer is glad at the lily-like voice of the goddesses as it spread abroad, and the peaks of snowy Olympos resound, and the homes of the immortals. And they uttering their immortal voice, celebrate in song first of all the reverend race of the gods from the beginning, those whom Gaia (Gaea the Earth) and wide Ouranos (Uranus the Heaven) begot, and the gods sprung of these, givers of good things. Then, next, the goddesses sing of Zeus, the father of gods and men, as they begin and end their strain, how much he is the most excellent among the gods and supreme in power. And again, they chant the race of men and strong Gigantes (Giants), and gladden the heart of Zeus within Olympos,--the Mousai Olympiades, daughters of Zeus the aigis-holder.
Them in Pieria did Mnemosyne (Memory), who reigns over the hills of Eleuther, bear of union with [Zeus] the father, the son of Kronos, a forgetting of ills and a rest from sorrow. For nine nights did wise Zeus lie with her, entering her holy bed remote from the immortals. And when a year was passed and the seasons came round as the months waned, and many days were accomplished, she bare nine daughters, all of one mind, whose hearts are set upon song and their spirit free from care, a little way from the topmost peak of snowy Olympos. There are their bright dancing-places and beautiful homes, and beside them the Kharites (Charites, Graces) and Himeros (Desire) live in delight. And they, uttering through their lips a lovely voice, sing the laws of all and the goodly ways of the immortals, uttering their lovely voice. Then went they to Olympos, delighting in their sweet voice, with heavenly song, and the dark earth resounded about them as they chanted, and a lovely sound rose up beneath their feet as they went to their father. And he was reigning in heaven, himself holding the lightning and glowing thunderbolt, when he had overcome by might his father Kronos; and he distributed fairly to the immortals their portions and declared their privileges.
These things, then, the Mousai sang who dwell on Olympos, nine daughters begotten by great Zeus, Kleio (Clio) and Euterpe, Thaleia (Thalia), Melpomene and Terpsikhore, and Erato and Polymnia and Ourania (Urania) and Kalliope (Calliope), who is the chiefest of them all, for she attends on worshipful princes: whomsoever of heaven-nourished princes the daughters of great Zeus honour, and behold him at his birth, they pour sweet dew upon his tongue, and from his lips flow gracious words. All the people look towards him while he settles causes with true judgements: and he, speaking surely, would soon make wise end even of a great quarrel; for therefore are there princes wise in heart, because when the people are being misguided in their assembly, they set right the matter again with ease, persuading them with gentle words. And when he passes through a gathering, they greet him as a god with gentle reverence, and he is conspicuous amongst the assembled: such is the holy gift of the Mousai to men.
For it is through the Mousai and far-shooting Apollon that there are singers and harpers upon the earth; but princes are of Zeus, and happy is he whom the Mousai love: sweet flows speech from his mouth. For though a man have sorrow and grief in his newly-troubled soul and live in dread because his heart is distressed, yet, when a singer, the servant of the Mousai, chants the glorious deeds of men of old and the blessed gods who inhabit Olympos, at once he forgets his heaviness and remembers not his sorrows at all; but the gifts of the goddesses soon turn him away from these.
Hail, children of Zeus! Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless gods who are for ever . . . These things declare to me from the beginning, ye Mousai who dwell in the house of Olympos, and tell me which of them first came to be."

Hesiod, Theogony 963 ff :
"Now sing [through me] the company of goddesses, sweet-voiced Mousai (Muses) of Olympos, daughters of Zeus who holds the aigis . . ."

Hesiod, Theogony 1021 ff :
"But now, sweet-voiced Mousai (Muses) of Olympos, daughters of Zeus who holds the aigis, sing [through me] of the company of women . . ."

Hesiod, Works and Days 1 ff :
"Mousai (Muses) of Pieria who give glory through song, come hither, tell of Zeus your father and chant his praise . . ."

Homerica, Fragments of Unknown Position Fragment 5 (trans. Evelyn-White) :
"The Mousai (Muses) who make a man very wise, marvellous in utterance."

Homerica, Fragments of Unknown Position Frag 23 (from Bacchylides 5. 191) :
"[The bard] Hesiod, servant of the sweet Mousai (Muses)."

Homer's Epigrams 4 (trans. Evelyn-White) :
"Thence [at Smyrna the birthplace of Homer] arose daughters [the Mousai (Muses)] of Zeus, glorious children, and would fain have made famous that fair country and the city of its people [i.e. by inspiring its native bard Homer]."

Homerica, The Margites Fragment 2 (trans. Evelyn-White) :
"There came to Kolophon (Colophon) an old man and divine singer, a servant of the Mousai (Muses) and of far-shooting Apollon. In his dear hands he held a sweet-toned lyre."

Homerica, The Origin of Homer & Hesiod & of their Contest Fragment 1 :
"[The bard] Homer, son of Meles, if indeed the Mousai (Muses), daughters of great Zeus the most high, honour you as it is said, tell me . . . Hesiod gained the victory [in his contest with Homer] and received a brazen tripod which he dedicated to the Mousai with this inscription : ‘Hesiod dedicated this tripod to the Mousai of Helikon after he had conquered divine Homer at Khalkis (Chalcis) in a contest of song.’ Hesiod, who is honoured by the deathless Mousai surely his renown shall be as wide as the light of dawn is spread."

Homeric Hymn 14 to the Mother of the Gods (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"I prithee, clear-voiced Mousa (Muse), daughter of mighty Zeus . . ."

Homeric Hymn 17 to the Dioscuri :
"Sing, clear-voiced Mousa (Muse) . . ."

Homeric Hymn 25 to the Muses and Apollo :
"I will begin with the Mousai (Muses) and Apollon and Zeus. For it is through the Mousai and Apollon that there are singers upon the earth and players upon the lyre; but kings are from Zeus. Happy is he whom the Mousai love: sweet flows speech from his lips. Hail, children of Zeus! Give honour to my song! And now I will remember you and another song also . . ."

Homeric Hymn 31 to Helius :
"And now, O Mousa Kalliope (Muse Calliope), daughter of Zeus, begin to sing of . . ."

Homeric Hymn 32 to Selene :
"And next, sweet voiced Mousai (Muses), daughters of Zeus, well skilled in song, tell of . . . Sing of the glorious men half-divine [the heroes], whose deeds minstrels, the servants of the Mousai, celebrate with lovely lips."

Virgil and the Muses Clio and Melpomene | Greco-Roman mosaic A.D. | Bardo National Museum, Tunis
Virgil and the Muses Clio and Melpomene, Greco-Roman mosaic A.D., Bardo National Museum

Pindar, Olympian Ode 1. 112 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"For me the Mousa (Muse) in her might is forging yet the strongest arrow."

Pindar, Olympian Ode 3. 4 ff :
"And the Mousa (Muse), surely, stood beside me unveiling new and sparkling paths of music, in Dorian cadence linked, to voice the songs of our triumphant revel."

Pindar, Olympian Ode 5 ep1 :
"The honey-sweet song of the Mousai (Muses) [i.e. poetry]."

Pindar, Olympian Ode 6. 91 ff :
"For you give to my words their true report, unerring tally of the fair-tressed Mousai (Muses), a rich-filled bowl of sounding song."

Pindar, Olympian Ode 7. 9 ff :
"This draught of flowing nectar, the Mousai's (Muses') gift, the sweet fruit of the mind, paying my homage due to those who at Olympian and at Pytho won the victor's crown."

Pindar, Olympian Ode 9. 5 ff :
"Now with a far-ranging flight of arrows from the Mousai's (Muses') bow [i.e. inspiration]."

Pindar, Olympian Ode 9. 80 ff :
"Now may invention grant my tongue, riding the Mousai's (Muses') car, fit words to tell my tale . . ."

Pindar, Pythian Ode 1. 1 ff :
"O glorious lyre, joint treasure of Apollon, and of the Mousai (Muses) violet-tressed."

Pindar, Pythian Ode 1. 13 ff :
"And on the immortals' hearts your shafts [poetry and song] instil a charmed spell--by grace of Leto's son [Apollon] and the low-girdled Mousai (Muses)."

Pindar, Nemean Ode 4. 2 ff :
"But the wise daughters of the Mousa (Muse) bring too their healing balm the soft embrace of song."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 1. 65 ff :
"May the sweet-voiced Pierides [the Pierian Muses] raise high your name on wings of glory . . ."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 2. 2 ff :
"The chariot of the golden-crested Mousai (Muses) [comes bringing inspiration to poets]."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 2. 33 ff :
"The honours of the maids of Helikon [Mousai (Muses)]."

Pindar, Paean 6 (trans. Sandys) :
"Welcome me at this sacred season as the prophet of the tuneful Pierides [a poet] . . . Ye Moisai (Muses) know all things, ye have had this ordinance allotted to yourselves along with the cloud-wrapt Father [Zeus], and with Mnamosyna (Memory)."

Pindar, Paean 7 :
"But I pray to Mnamosyna (Memory), the fair-robed child of Ouranos (Uranus, Sky), and to her daughters [the Mousai (Muses)], to grant me ready resource; for the minds of men are blind, whosoever, without the maids of Helikon (Helicon), seeketh the steep path of them that walked it by their wisdom."

Pindar, Maiden Songs Fragment 104 :
"Hail! O Pierian maid [Pierian Muse] robed in gold!"

Pindar, Fragment 150 :
"Moisa (Muse)! Be thou mine oracle, and I shall be thine interpreter . . ."

Sappho, Fragment 34 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C6th B.C.) :
"Glorious gifts of the Moisai (Muses) [i.e. poetry]."

Sappho, Fragment 58 :
"Fair gifts [i.e. poetry] of the deep-bosomed Mousai (Muses)."

Sappho, Fragment 103 :
"Hither, holy Kharites (Charites, Graces) and Moisai Pierides (Pierian Muses) . . ."

Sappho, Fragment 127 :
"Hither again, Moisai (Muses), leaving the golden house of your father, Zeus . . ."

Sappho, Fragment 128 :
"Hither now, tender Kharites (Charites, Graces) and lovely-haired Moisai (Muses) . . ."

Sappho, Fragment 150 :
"For it is not right that there should be lamentaion in the house of those [i.e. poets] who serve the Moisai (Muses)."

Alcman, Fragment 2 (from Palatine Anthology) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C7th B.C.) :
"I [the poet] have come to know the Mousai Helikonidas (Muses of Helicon)."

Alcman, Fragment 3 :
"Mosai Olympiades (Olympian Muses) fill my heart with longing for a new song . . ."

Alcman, Fragment 14 :
"Come Mosa (Muse), clear-voiced Mosa of many songs, singer always, begin a new song for the girls to sing . . ."

Alcman, Fragment 30 :
"The Mosa (Muse) cries out, that clear-voiced Seren (Siren)."

Terpander, Fragment 4 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C7th B.C.) :
"Let us pour libation to the Mousai (Muses), the daughters of Mnamas (Memory), and to the leader of the Mousai, Leto's son [Apollon]."

Anacreon, Fragment 344 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C6th B.C.) :
"But the lovely gifts [song] of the Mousai Pierides (Pierian Muses) are here."

Terpander, Fragment 384 (from Scholiast on Pindar) :
"For in those days the Mousa (Muse) was not yet greedy for gain nor a hireling [i.e. poets did not charge excessively for their services], nor were sweet soft songs offered for sale by honey-voiced Terpsikhore (Terpsichore) with their faces silvered over."

Stesichorus, Fragment 192 (from Plato, Phaedrus) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C7th to 6th B.C.) :
"For those who have sinned in their telling of myths there is an ancient purification, known not to Homer but to Stesikhoros : when he was blinded because of his slander of Helene he was not unaware of the reason like Homer, but being devoted to the Mousai (Muses) [i.e. as goddess who inspire truth in poetry] recognised the cause."

Stesichorus, Fragment 193 :
"Hither again, goddess [Mousa (Muse)], lover of song and dance . . ((lacuna)) golden-winged maiden . ."

Ibycus, Fragment 282 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C6th B.C.) :
"On these themes the skilled Mousai Helikonides (Muses of Helicon) might embark in story, but no mortal man untaught could tell each detail."

Ibycus, Fragment 284 :
"A complex song of the Moisai Pierides (Pierian Muses)."

Pratinus, Fragment 708 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C6th B.C.) :
"Song was made queen by Pieris [Pierian Muse]."

Simonides, Fragment 67 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C6th to 5th B.C.) :
"This tomb received Anakreon (Anacreon), whom the Mousai (Muses) made deathless [i.e. famous after death], the singer of his native Teos, who tuned his lyre for songs of the sweet love of boys, songs with the scent of the Kharites (Charites, Graces) and Erotes (Loves) . . . But he does not cease from his honey-sweet song : even after death he still has not put to sleep in Haides that lure of his."

Bacchylides, Fragment 1 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"Famous lyre-players [the Mousai (Muses)], daughters of high-ruling Zeus, come hither, Pierians, and inweave . . ((lacuna)) songs of praise, so that you may glorify the ruler of the Isthmian land [Poseidon] . ."

Bacchylides, Fragment 3 :
"And has his share in the violet-haired Mousai (Muses).The light of man's excellence, however, does not diminish with his body; no, the Mousa fosters it [i.e. glorious fame after death]. And the sweet-voiced cock [the poet] of lyre-ruling Ourania (Urania)."

Bacchylides, Fragment 5 :
"You if any motal now alive will rightly assess the sweet gift [i.e. poetry] of the violet-crowned Mousai (Muses) sent for your adornment: rest your righteous mind in ease from its cares and come! turn your thoughts this way: with the help of the slim-waisted Kharites (Charites, Graces) your guest-friend, the famous servant of Ourania (Urania) with her golden headband, has woven a song of praise and sends it from the sacred island [Keos (Ceos)] to your distinguishing city: he wishes to pour a flood of speech from his heart in praise of Hiero."

Bacchylides, Fragment 9 :
"The god-inspired spokesman [the poet] of the violet-eyed Mousai (Muses)."

Bacchylides, Fragment 10 :
"[He] has bestirred for him the clear-voiced island bee [i.e. he has commissioned a poet to compose a victory-song for him], so tht an undying ornament of the Mousai (Muses) might be at hand, a common joy for mankind, informing mortals of your prowess."

Bacchylides, Fragment 13 :
"Trusting in it and in the Mousai (Muses) of the crimson headdress I for my part display this gift of songs. If it was indeed flowering Kleio (Clio) who made it [the song] drip into my heart, there will be delight in the words of the songs that proclaim him to the people."

Bacchylides, Fragment 19 :
"Countless paths of ambrosial verses lie open for him who obtains gifts from the Mousai Pierides (Pierian Muses) and whose songs are clothed with honour by the violet-eyed maidens, the garland-bearing Kharites (Charites, Graces). Weave, then, in lovely blessed Athens a new fabric, renowned Kean (Cean) fantasy: you must travel by the finest road, since you have obtained from Kalliope (Calliope) a surpulative prize."

Bacchylides, Fragment 20B :
"I am eager to send Alexandros (Alexander) a golden wing of the Mousai (Muse) [i.e. a poem], an adornment for banquets at the month's end."

Bacchylides, Fragment 20C :
"Do not put the clear-sounding lyre to sleep yet : I intend, now that I have completed a new blossom of the melodious Mousai (Muses), a lovely blossom, to send it to Hiero."

Bacchylides, Fragment 55 :
"For the keenly-contested gifts of the Mousai (Muses) do not lie open to all for any comer to carry off."

Bacchylides, Fragment 63 :
"Servant [bard] of the Pierians [Mousai (Muses)] . . . of the mighty father's daughter [i.e. Mnemosyne]."

Bacchylides, Fragment 65 :
"Holy, dance-ruling Mousai (Muses) with golden head-bands, daughters of thunder-flashing Zeus, come hither, leaving Helikon (Helicon) . . ."

Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments 941 (from Grammatical Extracts) :
"Let us pour libation to the Mousa (Muses)i, daughters of Mnamas (Memory), and the leader of the Mousai, Leto's son [Apollon]."

Greek Lyric V Anonymous Fragments 953 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner) :
"You uttered that hymn, oh golden-throned Mousa (Muse)."

Greek Lyric V Anonymous Fragments 954 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner) :
"Honey-winged songs of the Mousai (Muses)."

Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragment 1016 (from Stobaeus, Anthology) :
"Mousai (Muses), daughters of Zeus, let us hymn the blessed ones with immortal songs . . ."

Solon, Fragment 13 (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C6th B.C.) :
"[One] taught the gifts that come from the Mousai Olympiades (Olympian Muses) and knowing the rules of the lovely art of poetry, makes his living."

Aristophanes, Frogs 870 (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"Invoke the Mousai (Muses) with a song. Chorus : O Mousai, the daughters divine of Zeus, the immaculate Nine, who gaze from your mansions serene on intellects subtle and keen, when down to the tournament lists, in bright-polished wit they descend, with wrestling and turnings and twists in the battle of words to contend, O come and behold what the two antagonist poets can do, whose mouths are the swiftest to teach grand language and filings of speech: for now of their wits is the sternest encounter commencing in earnest."

Apollo, Marsyas and the Muses | Athenian red-figure bell krater C5th B.C. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Apollo, Marsyas and the Muses, Athenian red-figure bell krater C5th B.C., Musée du Louvre

Plato, Laws 719c (trans.Bury) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Athenian : There is, O lawgiver, an ancient saying--constantly repeated by ourselves and endorsed by everyone else--that whenever a poet is seated on the Mousai's (Muses') tripod, he is not in his senses, but resembles a fountain, which gives free course to the upward rush of water and, since his art consists in imitation, he is compelled often to contradict himself, when he creates characters of contradictory moods; and he knows not which of these contradictory utterances is true."

Plato, Critias (trans. Bury) :
"Hermokrates (Hermocrates) : You must go and attack the argument like a man. First invoke Apollon and the Mousai (Muses), and then let us hear you sound the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient citizens.
Kritias (Critias) : Friend Hermokrates . . . besides the gods and goddesses whom you have mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne (Memory); for all the important part of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theatre."

Plato, Phaedrus (trans. Fowler) :
"The third kind [of madness] is the madness of those who are possessed by the Mousai (Muses); which taking hold of a delicate and virgin soul, and there inspiring frenzy, awakens lyrical and all other numbers; with these adorning the myriad actions of ancient heroes for the instruction of posterity. But he who, having no touch of the Mousai's madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks that he will get into the temple by the help of art-he, I say, and his poetry are not admitted."

Plato, Phaedrus :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : The divine madness was subdivided into four kinds, prophetic, initiatory, poetic, erotic, having four gods presiding over them; the first was the inspiration of Apollon, the second that of Dionysos, the third that of the Mousai (Muses), the fourth that of Aphrodite and Eros (Love)."

Plato, Phaedrus :
"Sokrates : Come, O ye Mousai (Muses), melodious, as ye are called, whether you have received this name from the character of your strains, or because the Melians are a musical race, help, O help me in the tale which my good friend here desires me to rehearse, in order that his friend whom he always deemed wise may seem to him to be wiser than ever."

Plato, Ion (trans. Lamb) :
"Sokrates : And as the Korybantian (Corybantian) revellers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains : but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysos but not when they are in their right mind. And the soul of the lyric poet does the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Mousai (Muses); they, like the bees, winging their way from flower to flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles.
Many are the noble words in which poets speak concerning the actions of men; but like yourself when speaking about Homer, they do not speak of them by any rules of art : they are simply inspired to utter that to which the Mousa (Muse) impels them, and that only; and when inspired, one of them will make dithyrambs, another hymns of praise, another choral strains, another epic or iambic verses--and he who is good at one is not good any other kind of verse: for not by art does the poet sing, but by power divine. Had he learned by rules of art, he would have known how to speak not of one theme only, but of all; and therefore god takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that god himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. And Tynnikhos the Khalkidian (Tynnichus the Chalcidian) affords a striking instance of what I am saying: he wrote nothing that any one would care to remember but the famous paean which; in every one's mouth, one of the finest poems ever written, simply an invention of the Mousai (Muses), as he himself says. For in this way, the God would seem to indicate to us and not allow us to doubt that these beautiful poems are not human, or the work of man, but divine and the work of God; and that the poets are only the interpreters of the Gods by whom they are severally possessed. Was not this the lesson which the God intended to teach when by the mouth of the worst of poets he sang the best of songs? Am I not right, Ion?
Ion : Yes, indeed, Sokrates, I feel that you are; for your words touch my soul, and I am persuaded that good poets by a divine inspiration interpret the things of the Gods to us.
Sokrates : And you rhapsodists are the interpreters of the poets?
Ion : There again you are right.
Sokrates : Do you know that the spectator is the last of the rings which, as I am saying, receive the power of the original magnet from one another? The rhapsode like yourself and the actor are intermediate links, and the poet himself is the first of them. Through all these the god sways the souls of men in any direction which he pleases, and makes one man hang down from another. Thus there is a vast chain of dancers and masters and undermasters of choruses, who are suspended, as if from the stone, at the side of the rings which hang down from the Mousa (Muse). And every poet has some Mousa from whom he is suspended, and by whom he is said to be possessed, which is nearly the same thing; for he is taken hold of. And from these first rings, which are the poets, depend others, some deriving their inspiration from Orpheus, others from Musaios (Musaeus); but the greater number are possessed and held by Homer. Of whom, Ion, you are one, and are possessed by Homer; and when any one repeats the words of another poet you go to sleep, and know not what to say; but when any one recites a strain of Homer you wake up in a moment, and your soul leaps within you, and you have plenty to say; for not by art or knowledge about Homer do you say what you say, but by divine inspiration and by possession; just as the Korybantian (Corybantian) revellers too have a quick perception of that strain only which is appropriated to the god by whom they are possessed, and have plenty of dances and words for that, but take no heed of any other. And you, Ion, when the name of Homer is mentioned have plenty to say, and have nothing to say of others. You ask, ‘Why is this?’ The answer is that you praise Homer not by art but by divine inspiration."

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Now tell us, Mousa (Muse), in your own heavenly tongue how . . ."

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1380 ff :
"I [the poet] am the mouthpiece of the Mousai (Muses). What follows is their tale; and a voice from Heaven, a voice that cannot lie."

Callimachus, Epigrams 47 (from A.P. 12.150) (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The Mousai (Muses), O Phillippos, reduce the swollen wound of love. Surely the poet's skill is sovereign remedy for all ill."

Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 2 (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"When the bevy of Mousai (Muses) met the shepherd Hesiod tending sheep by the foot-print of the fiery horse [i.e. the fountain Hippokrene on Mount Helikon] . . . they told him of the birth of Khaos (Chaos)."

Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 4.1 (from Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 7) :
"That minstrel [Hesiod] with whom as he herded many sheep the Mousai (Muses) held converse beside the footprint of the swift horse [i.e. the spring of Hippokrene on Mount Helikon]."

Callimachus, Iambi Fragment 14 :
"O Mousai (Muses) fair and Apollon to whom I [the poet] make libation."

Poseidippus, Elegy on Old Age (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 114) (Greek elegiac C2nd B.C.) :
"Mousai (Muses) of our city, if you have heard a song of beauty from Phoibos (Phoebus) [Apollon], god of the golden lyre, listeners undefiled, in the ravines of snowy Parnassos or at Olympos, starting for Bakkhos (Bacchus) his triennial ceremonies,--now join Poseidippos in his song of hateful age, inscribing the golden leaves of your tablets. Leave your peaks, Helikonides (of Helikon), and come, Kastalides (Castalides), to the walls of Pimplean Thebes. You also, Kynthos (Cynthus), Letous [Apollon son of Leto]."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 6. 74 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Wearied men can find no joy in speech or song, though the Pierides, the immortal Mousai (Muses), love it."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 3. 43 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"A cithara player was singing in the contest . . . [when the Sybarites rioted and killed him.] The Pythia responded [to their petition] : ‘Go away from my tripods . . . I shall not deliver oracles to you; you who have killed a servant of the Mousai (Muses) by the altars of Hera, without respect for the vengeance of the gods.’"

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 9. 4 :
"Polykrates of Samos was devoted to the Mousai (Muses)."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 12. 44 :
"In the midst of disaster [the poet] Philoxenos devoted himself to the Mousai (Muses)."

Callistratus, Descriptions 5 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C4th A.D.) :
"In admiration of this [statue of] Narkissos (Narcissus), O youths, I have fashioned an image of him [in writing] and brought it before you also in the halls of the Mousai (Muses). And the description is such as to agree wit the statue."

Orphic Hymn 76 to the Muses (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To the Mousai (Muses), Fumigation from Frankincense. Daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, loud-sounding, and divine, renowned, Mousai Pierides (Pierian Muses), sweetly speaking Nine; to those whose breasts your sacred furies fire, much formed, the objects of supreme desire. Sources of blameless virtue to mankind, who form to excellence the youthful mind: who nurse the soul, and give her to descry the paths of right with reason's steady eye. Commanding queens, who lead to sacred light the intellect refined from error's night; and to mankind each holy rite disclose, for mystic knowledge from your nature flows. 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, with thee who gavest me to behold the light. Come, venerable, various powers divine, with favouring aspect on your mystics shine; bring glorious, ardent, lovely, famed desire, and warm my bosom with your sacred fire."

Oppian, Halieutica 3. 5 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"The kindly Mousai (Muses) have furnished forth my mind and have crowned me with the gift divine of song and given me to mix a sweet draught for your ears and for your mind."

Anonymous, Epicedeion for a Professor of the University of Berytus (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 138) (Greek poetry C4th A.D.) :
"Divine Homer, who set Ilion before the eyes of all mankind and the wanderings of Odysseus, with the Mousa (Muse) to inspire him."

Anonymous (perhaps Pamprepius of Panopolis), Fragments (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 140) (Greek poetry C4th A.D.) :
"Kyrene (Cyrene) calls me, and Phoibos (Phoebus) [Apollon] constrains me and drags me to the knees of that dear nymphe and huntress [i.e. the town of Kyrene personified]. Up friends, to the seat of Ptolemaios (Ptolemy) the Warrior [i.e. Kyrene], where the Libystides Mousai (Libyan Muses) are still calling me."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 15. 621 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Now show, yet Musae (Muses), ever-present Powers of poets (for you know and time's vast span does not mislead you), whence the island lapped by Tiber's deeps received Coronis' son . . ."

Ovid, Fasti 4. 190 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"I [the poet] have much to ask [of Rhea] ‘Give me, goddess, someone to interview.’ Cybele saw her erudite granddaughters [the Muses] and made them help. ‘Remember your orders, Helicon's nurselings : disclose why the Great Goddess loves incessant din.’ So I. So Erato . . . [tells the tale]."

Virgil, Georgics 2. 475 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"But as for me [Virgil the poet]--first may the Musae (Muses), sweet beyond compare, whose holy emblems, under the spell of mighty love, I bear, take me to themselves, and show me heaven's pathways, the stars, the sun's many eclipses, the moon's many labours."

Virgil, Georgics 4. 315 ff :
"What god, ye Musae (Muses), forged for us this device?"

Propertius, Elegies 3. 2 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"The Musae (Muses) are my friends, my poems are dear to the reader, and Calliope never wearies of dancing to my rhythms."

Propertius, Elegies 3. 5 :
"Tis my delight to have worshipped Helicon in my early youth and joined hands in the Musae's (Muses') dance."

Statius, Silvae 2. 7. 6 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Ye who have the privilege of song in your keeping, Arcadian discoverer of the vocal lyre [Hermes], and thou, Euhan [Dionysos], whirler of thy Bassarides, and Paean [Apollon] and the Hyantian Sisters [the Muses], joyfully deck yourselves anew with purple fillets, make your tresses trim and let fresh ivy enwreathe your shining raiment. Flow brightly green, ye woodlands of Aonia. And if sunlight, let soft garlands fill the room. Let a hundred fragrant altars stand in the Thespian groves [at the foot of Mount Helicon], and a hundred victims that Dirce laves and Cithaeron pastures : 'tis of Lucan we sing, keep holy silence; this is your day, ye Musae (Muses), keep silence, while he who made you glorious in two arts, in the measures of fettered speech and free, is honoured as the high priest of the Roman choir."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 11. 224 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"Hymning a charming song composed to music by a talented poet with the aid of the Musae (Muses)."

See also The Muses & the Fountain of Hippokrene (below)


Apollo and the Muses | black-figure vase C6th B.C. | National Archaeological Museum, Athens
Apollo and the Muses, black-figure vase C6th B.C., National Archaeological Museum, Athens

The Mousai bestowed glory and renown on men through the lyric poets--the so-called "praise-singers." As such they were often paired with Aglaia (Aglaea, Glory) and the Kharites (Charites, Graces).

Pindar, Olympian Ode 10. 95 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"And the Pierides [Pierian Muses], daughters of Zeus, make widespread your renown."

Pindar, Nemean Ode 7. 12 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"If success crowns a man's venture, sweeter then than honey the them he pours into the Moisai's (Muses') stream. But lacking the songs to praise them, the mightiest feats of valour can but find a sorry grave a deep darkness. But for fine deeds a mirror to establish, one way alone we know if Mnamosyna's (Memory's) shining diadem will grant recompense for their labours, in the glory of music on the tongues of men."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 1. 65 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"May the sweet-voiced Pierides [Pierian Muses] raise high your name on wings of glory . . ."

Sappho, Fragment 55 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (C5th B.C.) :
"But when you die you will lie there, and afterwards there will never by any recollection of you or any longing for you since you have no share in the roses of Pieria [i.e. the Pierian Musesi]."

Sappho, Fragment 193 (from Aristides, Orations) :
"The Mousai (Muses) had made her truly blessed and enviable, and that she would not be forgotten even when she was dead."

Bacchylides, Fragment 3 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"And has his share in the violet-haired Mousai (Muses).The light of man's excellence, however, does not diminish with his body; no, the Mousa (Muse) fosters it [i.e. glory and fame after death]. And the sweet-voiced cock [the poet] of lyre-ruling Ourania (Urania)."

Bacchylides, Fragment 9 :
"The fine deed [i.e. a victory in the Games], if it wins authentic songs of praise, is stored on high among the gods; and with the help of men's truthfulness a most fine plaything [the poem] of the slim-waisted Mousai (Muses) is left behind even when one dies."

Bacchylides, Fragment 10 :
"[He] has bestirred for him the clear-voiced island bee [i.e. commissioned a poet to compose a victory-song for him], so that an undying ornament of the Mousai (Muses) might be at hand, a common joy for mankind, informing mortals of your prowess."

Aristotle, Fragment 842 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"On account of your [Arete goddess of virtue] dear beauty the nursling Atarneus left desolate the rays of the sun. Therefore he is glorified in song for his exploits, and the Mousai (Muses), daughters of Mnamosyna (Memory), will exalt him to immortality, exalting the majesty of Zeus, god of hospitality, and the privilege of secure friendship."

Theognis, Fragment 1. 250 (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C6th B.C.) :
"It is the splendid gifts of the violet-wreathed Mousai (Muses) that will escort you [memorialise him in song even after death]."

Solon, Fragment 13 (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C6th B.C.) :
"Resplendent daughters of Mnemosyne (Memory) and Olympian Zeus, Pierian Mousai (Muses), hearken to my prayer. Grant that I have prosperity from the blessed gods and a good reputation always from all men; grant that in these circumstances I be sweet to my friends and bitter to my enemies, viewed with respect by the former and with dread by the latter."


Hippokrene was a spring of Mount Helikon (Helicon) in Boiotia (Boeotia) whose waters were believed to inspire poets.

Hesiod, Theogony 1 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"The Mousai Helikoniades (Heliconian Muses) . . . who hold the great and holy mount of Helikon (Helicon) . . . [who] have washed their tender bodies in Permessos or in the Hippokrene (Horse's Spring) or Olmeios."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 6. 74 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Pour forth a draught of Dirke's (Dirce's) holy water, the spring which the [Muses] deep-bosomed maids of golden-robed Mnemosyne (Memory) made flow beside the well-walled gates of Kadmos (Cadmus)."
[N.B. This is not the Hippokrene, but rather another Boiotian stream whose waters inspried the poet.]

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 31. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[The sanctuary of the Mousai (Muses) on Mount Helikon in Boiotia :] Ascending about twenty stades from this grove is what is called the Hippokrene (Horse's Fountain). It was made, they say, by [Pegasos] the horse of Bellerophon striking the ground with this hoof."

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 9 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When the Mousai (Muses) sang, heaven, the stars, the sea and rivers stood still, while Mount Helikon (Helicon), beguiled by the pleasure of it all, swelled skyward till, by the will of Poseidon, Pegasos (Pegasus) checked it by striking the summit with his hoof."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 254 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Tritonia [Athena] . . . set course, her shortest course, across the sea to Thebae and Helicon, the Musae's (Muses') mountain home. Alighting there she stopped and thus addressed the learned sisters : ‘there has reached my ears a tale of a new fountain that burst forth beneath the hooves of flying Medusaeus [Pegasus child of Medusa]. That is my journey's purpose, my desire to see the miracle. I saw that horse brought into being from his mother's blood. Urania replied : ‘Whatever cause may bring you to our home, you find our hearts most welcoming. The tale indeed is true; the author of the spring is Pegasus.’
She led Pallas [Athena] to the sacred spring. The waters issuing from his hoof's hard stroke long held her wondering eyes; then she gazed round at the green bowers of the ancient woods, the caves and grottoes and the spangled lawns with all their countless flowers. Blest, she said, the Mnemonides [Muses] were alike in their pursuits and in their home. And one of them replied : ‘Had not thy valour, Tritonia [Athena], led thee on to greater tasks, thou wouldst be numbered with our company. Thy words are true; our arts, our happy home deserve thy praises; blest indeed our fortune here, were we but safe.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 7. 222 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Can it be that one of the Mousai (Muses) has dived from neighbouring Helikon (Helicon) into my [a Naiad's] native water, and left another to take the honeydripping water of Pegasos the horse, or the stream of Olmeios!"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 212 ff :
"The horsehoof fountain of imagination [i.e. the Hippokrene], dear to the nine Mousai (Muses)."

See also Cult of the Muses on Mt Helikon (next page)






A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.