The Muses: Goddesses of the Arts
The Muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, were the goddesses of music, art, poetry, dance, and the arts in general. These goddesses were honored by the poets and artists who created through their inspiration.
As Chapter 6 recounts, Zeus and Mnemosyne made love for nine consecutive nights, creating the nine Muses. Each Muse was in charge of a particular domain of the arts:
Calliope: Epic poetry
Erato: Love poetry, lyric poetry, and marriage songs
Euterpe: Music and lyric poetry
Polyhymnia (or Polymnia): Mime and songs
The Muses attended celebrations and festivals, singing and dancing for the gods. They were said to be followers of Apollo in his role as the god of music. Although artists invoked the Muses for inspiration, these goddesses had few myths of their own.
Who were the Pierides?
The Pierides were the daughters of Pierus, a Macedonian king. While consulting an oracle in Thrace, the king heard about the Muses. Returning to his country, he founded a cult honoring these goddesses. Through this cult, his daughters became so proficient in the arts that they challenged the Muses.
Although the Muses were inspirational, they also inflicted punishment. For example, the Pierides (daughters of King Pierus) challenged the Muses to a contest to showcase their own artistic abilities. The Muses were angered by the women's audacity. When the Pierides lost the contest, the Muses turned each of them into a jackdaw (a bird in the crow family). In a similar episode, a bard named Thamyris bragged that he was more skilled than the Muses in the arts of song and poetry. The Muses quickly stifled the man's ego by striking him blind and making him lose his memory.