The New Student's Reference Work/Muses
Mu′ses, in Greek mythology, goddesses included in the first place among the nymphs but afterward held to be quite distinct from them. They had the power of inspiring song, and so poets and musicians were considered their pupils and favorites. They were first honored by the Thracians, and, as this people first lived in Pieria around Mt. Olympus, the muses were called Pierides. There at first were three, though Homer sometimes speaks of a single muse and once refers to nine. This is the number given by Hesiod, who also gives their names; Clio, the muse of history; Euterpe, of lyric poetry; Thalia, of comedy; Melpomene, of tragedy; Terpsichore, of choral dance and song; Erato, of the poetry of passion; Polyhymnia, of hymns; Urania, of astronomy; and Calliope, of epic poetry. They usually were said to be the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Homer speaks of them as the goddesses of song and as dwelling on the top of Mt. Olympus. They were also called the companions of Apollo, singing while he played on the lyre at the banquets of the gods. They were said to have won victories over the sirens in musical tournaments. Their worship among the Romans was merely copied from the Greeks, and never became truly national or popular. The fountains of Aganippe and Hippocrene on Mount Helicon and the Castalian spring on Mount Parnassus were the most famous places sacred to the nine muses.