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Clio the Muse

In the late Classical era Clio (Kleio) was one of nine goddesses of creative inspiration known as the Muses (Mousai). Daughters of Zeus and the Titaness Mnemosyne (Memory) they were born at Peiria at the foot of Mount Olympus. The Muses were originally nymphs who presided over springs that had the power to give inspiration. As a result of this attribution, fountains and streams often feature in depictions of the Muses. Each Muse acquired a realm of influence over learning and the arts: Calliope (epic poetry); Clio (history and historical writings); Melpomene (tragedy); Euterpe (music and lyrical poetry); Erato (lyric and love poetry); Terpsichore (dancing and song); Urania (astronomy); Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry); Polyhymnia (heroic poetry). Clio was credited with introducing the Phoenician alphabet into Ancient Greece.

The eighth century Greek poet, Hesiod, praised the services of the Muses to mankind, claiming that they inspired kings in the arts of negotiation, diplomacy and judgement. It was common for schools in ancient times to have a shrine dedicated to the Muses, called Mouseion, the etymological root of the word Museum. The first building to have adopted this name was the university erected at Alexandria by Ptolemy Soter ca. 300 BC.

Three earlier Muses are sometimes mentioned in Greek mythology and predate the Nine Muses: Melete (meditation); Mneme (remembrance); Aoede (song). References to ‘The Tenth Muse’ denote the name originally given to Sappho and thereafter applied literary women, including Madame de la Garde Deshoulières, Mademoiselle Madeleine de Scudéry, Queen Christina of Sweden, and the English novelist and essayist, Hannah More.

See: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable; Hall’s Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art; Chamber’s Biographical Dictionary.

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