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In Greek mythology, Euterpe was one of the Nine Muses, the minor goddesses who inspired and guided mortals to excel in the arts and sciences. Euterpe presided over lyric poetry and she also influenced song and music.
Who Was Euterpe?
According to the ancient sources, the nine Younger Muses were the daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus who conceived them on nine consecutive nights. Euterpe had eight sisters: Thalia, Melpomene, Clio, Terpsichore, Polyhymnia, Urania, Erato and Calliope. Each of them was linked to a scientific or artistic component which is why they were known as the goddesses of the arts and sciences.
In some accounts, Euterpe and the other eight Muses were referred to as water nymphs that were born from the four sacred springs located upon Mount Helicon. According to the myths, the springs were created when the winged horse, Pegasus, stamped its hooves hard on the ground. The springs were sacred to the Muses as was Mount Helicon and it became the primary place of worship that was frequently visited by mortals. It was the place where they made offerings to the Muses. However, Euterpe and her sisters actually lived on Mount Olympus with their father Zeus and the other Olympian deities.
Euterpe was a highly popular deity among mortals and was often called the ‘Giver of Delight’ by the poets of ancient Greece. It’s said that she invented the double flute, also known as the aulos, but some sources say that it was created by Athena, the goddess of wisdom, or the satyr, Marsyas. The double flute is one of her symbols.
It’s also said that Euterpe invented most of the other wind instruments as well. She’s often depicted as a beautiful young woman, holding a flute in one hand. The flute, the panpipes (another wind instrument) and the laurel wreath she usually wears are all symbols associated with the goddess of lyric poetry.
Euterpe was said to have been unmarried, but according to the Iliad, she did have a son by Strymon, the powerful river god. The child was named Rhesus and when he grew up, he became the famous king of Thrace. However, Homer refers to him as as the son of Eioneus, so the child’s parentage isn’t exactly clear. Rhesus was later killed by the two heroes Odysseus and Diomedes while he lay sleeping in his tent.
Euterpe’s Role in Greek Mythology
Euterpe and her sisters were always depicted together as lovely young maidens, dancing or singing jovially. Their role was to perform for the deities of the Greek pantheon who lived on Mount Olympus and entertain them with their beautiful songs and graceful dances.
As the patron of lyric poetry, Euterpe inspired the development of both liberal and fine arts. Her role was to motivate and inspire poets, authors and dramatists, one of the most famous being Homer. The Ancient Greeks believed in Euterpe and would often invoke her aid to guide and inspire them in their work. This they did by praying to the goddess for divine inspiration.
Hesiod refers to Euterpe and her sisters in Theogony and his versions of their myths are some of the most widely accepted. Hesiod was famous for his writings including ‘Theogony’ and ‘Works and Days’, a poem which describe his philosophy of what it means to work. He is said to have dedicated the entire first section of Theogony to the nine Younger Muses who he believed inspired him to write.
In his passages, Homer asks one of the Muses, either Calliope or Euterpe, to help him by inspiring and guiding him to write. Homer also claimed that he was able to write some of his greatest works, the ‘Odyssey’ and the ‘Iliad’, thanks to the Muse whose help he invoked. Some say that it was Calliope, Euterpe’s older sister, who was the Muse of Epic Poetry but others say that it was Euterpe.
Euterpe had an important role in Greek mythology since she was the source of inspiration and motivation for many great writers. Many believed that if it wasn’t for her guidance and influence, it’s unlikely that many of the masterpieces, such as the works of Hesiod and Homer, would exist.