Ancient Greek Mythical Beings for Kids: The Nine Muses Illustration

The Nine Muses

The Nine Muses
Ancient Greek Gods for Kids

The Nine Muses were goddesses. Their job was to inspire humans to create wonderful things like epic poetry and choral songs. Most ancient myths credit Zeus, the king of all the gods, as their father and Mnemosine (the goddess of Memory) as their mother, which made the nine muses sisters. Apollo was the god of the arts, so he was very close to all the sisters. Apollo was also their half-brother, as was Hercules, as both Apollo and Hercules were the sons of Zeus, although Apollo and Hercules had different mothers. It can be a bit confusing. What is important to know is that the muses were responsible for human inspiration in several fields including poetry, history, dance, and drama. When an ancient Greek wrote a poem, for example, one or another of the muses was credited as the inspiration.

Some ancient Greeks believed the muses occasionally performed on Mount Olympus for the gods, but did not actually live there. Instead, they believed the muses lived on a nearby mountain, Mount Helicon. There were many festival by the ancient Greeks who lived at the base of Mount Helicon celebrating their presence on that mountain. Others disagreed and believed the muses each had a home on Mount Olympus, built by their half-brother, Hephaestus. On Mount Olympus, all their homes were arranged in a circle, so it would be easy for them to work together on some of their inspirations. Since ancient myths often contradict each other, there is no right answer. Perhaps they kept homes on both mountains. Who knows.

Their names, if you want to know, were Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polymnia, Terpsichore, Talia, and Urania. Their father Zeus assigned them the following responsibilities:

  • Calliope was the muse of epic poetry

  • Clio was the muse of history

  • Erato was the muse of love poetry

  • Melpomene was the muse of tragedy

  • Polymnia was the muse of sacred poetry

  • Terpsichore was the muse of dance and choral song

  • Thalia was the muse of comedy

  • Urania was the muse of astronomy

As any ancient Greek would tell you, if you asked, the muses did a terrific job with their assigned responsibility.

It's important to note that none of the muses were the inspiration behind Greek statutes or works of applied art, like paintings. That's because the powerful Athena was the goddess of arts and crafts of all types. The god Hephaestus, who built all the homes on Mount Olympus, was the god of sculpture and beautiful objects (and volcanoes.) And of course, Apollo was the god of the arts in general. Like Apollo, both Athena and Hephaestus were the children of the great god Zeus. But the muses were each quite important.

The ancient Greeks had no doubt that it was thanks to the great god Zeus and his many children, including the Nine Muses, that the Greeks were far advanced in the arts and sciences compared to other ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean.