Muse-worthy

From cults of the Muses to modern museums

“Muses Sarcophagus” shows nine Muses and their attributes – marble, early 2nd century AD, Via Ostiense – Louvre.

When Pythagoras arrived at Croton, his first advice to the Crotoniates was to build a shrine to the Muses at the center of the city, to promote civic harmony and learning.

Local cults of the Muses often became associated with springs or with fountains. The Muses themselves were sometimes called Aganippids because of their association with a fountain called Aganippe. Other fountains, Hippocrene and Pirene, were also important locations associated with the Muses. Some sources occasionally referred to the Muses as “Corycides” (or “Corycian nymphs”) after a cave on Mount Parnassos, called the Corycian Cave.

The Muses were venerated especially in Boeotia, in the Valley of the Muses near Helicon, and in Delphi and the Pamassus, where Apollo became known as Mousagetes (“Muse-leader”) after the sites were rededicated to his cult.

Often Muse-worship was associated with the hero-cults of poets: the tombs of Archilochus on Thasos and of Hesiod and Thamyris in Boeotia all played host to festivals in which poetic recitations accompanied sacrifices to the Muses.

Nine Muses dancing with Apollo, by Baldassare Peruzzi.

The Library of Alexandria and its circle of scholars formed around a mousaion (“museum” or shrine of the Muses) close to the tomb of Alexander the Great.

Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a “Cult of the Muses” in the 18th century. A famous Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Les Neuf Soeurs (“the nine sisters”, that is, the nine Muses) – Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Danton, and other influential Enlightenment figures attended it. As a side-effect of this movement the word “museum” (originally, “cult place of the Muses”) came to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge.

Found on Wikipedia.

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