9 Muses

“Clio * Euterpe * Thalia * Melpomene * Terpsichore * Erato * Urania * Calliope * Polymnia

The nine muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory), were a favourite subject for Roman artists and much depicted in mosaic and fresco, or carved in marble to grace the praesidium of a theater.

Clio, the muse of history, is represented with a stylus and a scroll, or after the Renaissance, with a book, a laurel crown, or a trumpet; she is easy to confuse with Calliope, who often has the same attributes. Euterpe, muse of lyrical poetry, bears a flute. Thalia, muse of pastoral poetry and comedy, carries a comic mask and sometimes a viol.

Melpomene, muse of tragedy, is associated with a mask, sometimes embellished with a fallen crown, and holds a dagger. Terpsichore, muse of joyful dance and song, often holds a lyre, as does Erato, muse of lyrical love poetry.

Urania, muse of astronomy, is normally shown consulting a globe of a compass. Polymnia, muse of heroic hymn and eloquence, possesses a lute and a solemn expression that outdoes even those of Clio and Calliope.

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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