About Thalia, the Mythical Eighth Muse

Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them.
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus


According to Greek mythology, Thaleia or Thalia (pronounced thuh-LYE-uh) was one of nine daughters borne to the Zeus and the Titaness Mnemosyne (Goddess of Memory) at the base of Mount Olympus. The girls were conceived during Zeus’ nine-night stay on Mnemosyne’s couch, which, if that doesn’t tell you this is a myth, nothing will. Nine nights of sleeping on the couch and the guy still got lucky.

"Thalia" by French painter Jean-Marc Nattier

Initially, Thalia and her siblings were an inseparable choir and poetry act, but during the Hellenestic period (323 BC to 146 BC) the sisters became known as mousas (Greek) or muses whose sole purpose was to inspire mortals in the artistic spheres of art, literature, and science. Their transformation, in addition to the origins of Greek mythology, is recounted in the epic verse poem Theogony, which was written centuries earlier by a real person, Hesiod (700 BC). The Greek poet wrote he was bestowed the muses’ story after drinking from the Hippocrene, a mountain spring that the muses were said to have used as means to pass on their wisdom. Prior to Theogony, different versions of the muses’ origin, location, and numbers existed including some tales that claimed there were only three muses. Why Hesiod’s version became the standard is unclear.

The Muse Lineup

Zeus and Mnemosyne’s first daughter was Calliope (Muse of Epic and Heroic Poetry) followed by: Clio (Muse of History); Erato (Muse of Lyric Poetry); Euterpe (Muse of Music); Melapomene (Muse of Tragedy); Polyhymnia (Muse of Choral Poetry); Terpsichore (Muse of Dance); Thalia (Muse of Comedy), and Urania (Muse of Astronomy). With their titles came emblems or symbols, a detail picked up by artists who’ve painted or sculpted them. For example, Thalia is often shown holding a comic mask. In some drawings she has a shepherd’s hook and/or a wreath of ivy – remnants of a previous designation (the bucolic or countryside muse) rendered to her. Of course the comedy mask is the symbol Thalia is most associated with and it appears – minus her – behind the opening credits of many Three Stooges shorts. Today, Thalia’s mask is often paired with the mask of Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, and sold as a wall decoration.

Thoughts On Writers, Writing & Muses

Writing can have its up and downs, its roller-coaster swings; it can run that sort of bipolar, high-tide-low-tide gamut, from the stuff that’s exceptional to the stuff that stinks to no stuff at all. There are good days when I can’t wait to get to the keyboard to pour into it a fusillade of imaginative ideas. And there are the difficult days of staring at a blank screen without a cogent thought to my name, listening to the whooshing sound of the idle computer mocking me. There is a creative progression and retrogression to most artistic pursuits, but when there is more ebbing than flowing, the going gets rough. Writers can be left wondering if they will ever write a decent word again: self-pitying, baffled as to how the muse who was so ubiquitous yesterday could abscond so rapidly today. – The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Memoir by Robert Klein.

Inspired By Muses