Odyssey’s Muse does not pertain to a figure that evokes inspiration from our Greek author. Instead, The Odyssey starts with the invocation of the Muse. To further explain who is/are the muse/s of The Odyssey, we must go over the entirety of the play and a bit of Greek mythology paired with explanations of what an epic poem is.
Who Is the Muse in The Odyssey?
Muse of Literature
Muses in The Odyssey pertain to the nine muses in Greek mythology. The daughters of Zeus, who were born from his nine-day affair with the Titaness, Mnemosyne, are the most influential goddesses in the literary world.
They, referred to as the water nymphs, were born from the four sacred springs on Mount Helicon that emerged from the ground and are said to have been made from Pegasus’ stomps. Their main characteristic is entertaining the Greek gods and goddesses with their innate talent and artistry.
The muses are known as Nymphs for Mnemosyne, the titan of memory, who had given her children to the Nymph, Eufime, and the Greek god Apollo. Apollo, the god of almost everything, had noticed their talents as they started growing older and guided them towards their respective fields.
Mnemosyne’s children appeared to have no interest in anything but the sciences and art, so Apollo brought them to Mount Elikonas, Zeus’ old temple, and encouraged them into their respective fields. Here, the muses engaged in their activities and inspired creativity in their creations, invoking inspiration to their artists.
Mnemosyne and the Role of Memory
Mnemosyne, the titan of memory, had bestowed her gift of knowledge to all her children as memory was an essential factor in their works. Their vast library of knowledge was all thanks to their colossal memory that allowed them to progress and specialize in their chosen fields.
Memory also played an essential role to their artists as they passed on their works, for books and written literature were not a thing of the past. Because memory is a subjective matter differing from one person to another, the representation of muses varied. These Greek goddesses’ models were standardized until the Renaissance and the Neoclassical movement, allowing followers to cultivate artistry and amass a following.
Muse and The Renaissance
The Renaissance, a period of artistic, cultural, and philosophical rebirth in Europe, spanned from the 14th to the 17th century of the middle ages. This phase of artistic inclination standardized the Muses’ representation and cultivated followers for each child of Mnemosyne. Cults were created as the Muses were associated with springs or fountains, gaining followers that hosted festivals and sacrifices in their honor and name.
Because The Renaissance was such an important event for the proliferation and proclamation of literature and the arts, the Greek goddesses were given importance in their respective fields, and ancient day literature containing epics and poems that adduce creativity, giving us the works we have today.
Invocation of the Muses
At the beginning of the Homeric play, our Greek author begins with the invocation of the Muse, a distinct characteristic of literature, typical of an epic poem. The first line of the epic reads, “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns,” which implores the influence of the Greek goddesses asking for their guidance to recount the tale of The Odyssey.
The Nine Muses
The Muse of the epic poetry does not pertain to one but to nine goddesses of literature and the arts. Each one of them specializes in the respective fields. The identity of all nine daughters of Zeus, the sky god, are as follows:
Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, specializes in song and is considered the Greek goddess of eloquence from the ecstatic harmony of her voice. She is depicted with a writing tablet in her hand or carrying a scroll, paper, or book with a golden crown adorning her head. Her sons Orpheus and Linus were taught verses from her songs. According to Hesiod, the Muse of epic poetry was the wisest of all Muses and most assertive of the bunch.
Despite her delicate features, Calliope was a strong woman, punishing those undermining her feats. In Thessaly, she defeated the daughter of a king in a singing match and punished their presumption by turning them into magpies.
Clio, one of the nine Muses, is the patron of history and is depicted with an open scroll or trumpet and water clock. She was a celebrator and glorifier of history, great deeds, and accomplishments and is the namesake for such awards. According to ancient writings, Clio had reprimanded the goddess Aphrodite for her passionate affair with Adonis.
The goddess of love and desire then punishes Clio by falling in love with the king of Macedonia, Pierus. From their marriage, Hyacinthus was born, a young man known for his incredible beauty. Hyacinthus was eventually killed by his lover, Apollo and from his blood sprung the flower of Hyacinth.
Thalia, the Muse and Greek Patron of comedy and idyllic poetry, is said to be a Grace, a group of fertility goddesses by the Greek poet Hesiod. She is known to be joyous and constantly flourishing as the praises in her song thrive through time. She is depicted to have a festive air with her head adorned with ivy in the form of a crown, wearing boots with a comic mask and shepherd’s staff in her hands.
She birthed the celebrants of the “Great Mother of the Gods,” Corybantes, with Apollo and had ties with geometry, architectural science, and agriculture. She is known to be the protector of Symposiums as she loved these forums dearly.
Euterpe, the giver of many delights, is the Muse of music and entertainment. She was known to entertain the gods and goddesses on Olympus and later on in Mount Helicon. She is depicted holding or playing a double flute called aulos. In The Iliad, she’s known as the mother of Rhesus, king of Thrace, who was killed during the Trojan War.
Erato, one of the Greek Muse, is the Muse of lyrical poetry, love, and erotic writings. Since the Renaissance, she is depicted with a wreath of myrtle and roses, with a lyre adorning her hands that associates with Apollo. She was the protector of love, romantic poetry, and weddings. Her name comes from the Greek word “Eros,” which means love, desire, or lovely.
The Muse Melpomene is said to be the opposite of Thalia and was the protector of tragedy. She invented tragedy, Melos, and rhetoric speech and was said to have been the inspiration for the playing of the lyre. In addition, it was tradition to call upon Melpomene for inspiration, for she was the Muse to create beautiful lyrical phrases that evoked deep emotions within.
This Muse was the mother of Sirens, divine handmaidens of Persephone, who cursed her children when they failed to prevent Hades’ abduction of Demeter’s daughter. She was depicted with a mask of tragedy in one hand and a knife or sword in another. Furthermore, her legs were adorned with boots. The boots are now traditionally worn by actors.
The Muse, Urania, is known to be the Muse of astronomy and protector of celestial objects and stars. Later on, she is known to be the patron of Christian poetry. This Greek Muse is often associated with universal love and the Holy Spirit. Being a lover of divinity and celestial objects, she is depicted to bear stars, a celestial sphere, and a compass.
During the Renaissance, John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” invokes Urania to guide him in his narration of the creation of the cosmos, a controversial topic different from religions. Because of such, she has heralded the Muse of Christian poetry to create the universe that is believed to have been formed by god in his spare time.
The Muse of sacred poetry, hymns, and eloquence is the protector of divine hymns and mimic art; she is said to have invented geometry and grammar. She is a severe person, usually in meditation, holding a finger to her mouth as a cloak adorns her body.
Terpsichore, the Muse of dance and dramatic chorus and protector of dance, invented dances, the harp, and education. She is joyous as she dances and is depicted wearing laurels on her head, dancing as she holds a harp.
Now that we’ve talked about The Muses, their identities, and roles in the Odyssey, let’s go over some key points of this article:
- The Muse of the Odyssey doesn’t pertain to one but to the nine Muses of Greek Mythology.
- The Muses specialize in separate fields that they’ve created and are called upon by poets for inspiration and guidance.
- Calliope is the Muse of epic poetry, Clio of history, Erato of love poetry, Euterpe of music, Melpomene of tragedy, Polyhymnia of sacred poetry, Terpishcore of dance, Thalia of Comedy, and Urania of Astronomy.
- Homer starts the Odyssey by invocation of the Muse, asking them to guide him in portraying the journey of Odysseus.
- Renaissance refers to the cultural rebirth Europe went through in the 14th to 17th century and is the sole reason the Muses were standardized.
In conclusion, the Muse of The Odyssey refers to the 9 Muses of Greek Mythology that inspired Homer to create the Odyssey. Our epic playwright invokes their talents to guide him in the creation and foretelling of his literary works. That’s everything you need to know about the Muse of the Odyssey.