A Picture of Euterpe: The Muse Goddess of Lyric Poetry

Jun 28, 22

A Picture of Euterpe: The Muse Goddess of Lyric Poetry

 

A Picture of Euterpe: The Muse Goddess of Lyric Poetry

 

Euterpe or, more formally, Euterpia was the Muse of Lyric poetry. She was the daughter of the river god Achelous and one of his many lovers. She was brought up as a shepherdess and as a result, she had perfect knowledge of nature’s music.

It is said that she once sat by the banks of a stream and played her lyre until it produced such sweet sounds that all who heard it were delighted, including Zeus himself. This led him to create humans from clay so that he could listen to them play together.

Euterpe was not just any Muse; she was worshipped as one in her own right in certain parts of Greece: Argos, Sparta, Messenia and Crete for example. She also appears prominently in Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus first encounters her when he arrives at Scherie (his temporary home).

After losing his way among various shrines and places associated with Euterpe he comes before an altar dedicated to her and is told that she cannot help him because she herself has lost her way.

 

Why Was Euterpe Important?

Euterpe was important to the development of poetry in Greece. It is said that she was the first to sing about purely human passions and so she was a pioneer in the arts of literature, drama, music and painting.

Her importance was not just as an individual Muse, she was a kind of patroness of the arts. She was said to have taught dancing and music to the nymphs, nymphs being the wood nymphs, nymphs being associated with the wild places of the countryside where she was born.

As a result, she was associated with nature and wild animals, she was in some ways like a National Wildflower—a symbol of this country. The nymphs were associated with the countryside, the nymphs were associated with nature and wild animals, so she was a kind of National Wildflower.

 

Her symbol

The symbol of Euterpe was an earring made from a tortoise shell. This was her attribute in art, especially in literature and in ancient music. It was also associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

The tortoise was a particularly wise creature and was associated with the Greek goddesses of wisdom, Athena and Persephone. The shell was also associated with nature, health and protection. Therefore, the symbol of Euterpe is of a wise, protective goddess associated with nature and written wisdom.

 

Her colour and attributes

Euterpe’s colour was green. Green was the colour of nature and the countryside, of fresh sprouting plants and of forests. Green was also the colour of spring and young things.

It was therefore associated with hope and fresh beginnings. Fresh green leaves and grass can be seen every spring and summer so green was especially associated with the seasons.

Euterpe’s attributes were the lyre, the tortoiseshell earring and the torch. The torch was an important element in many of her symbols. It was associated with light and protection, it was used to ward off evil and it also helped to enlighten the mind with knowledge.

The torch was therefore very important to Euterpe.

 

Euterpe in Literature

Euterpe figured heavily in the Odyssey, Homer’s epic poem about Odysseus’ long journey home after the Trojan war.

In the Odyssey Eurylochus is the one who receives and helps Odysseus after his shipwreck. Eurylochus is actually Eurylochus’ slave and he is the son of Eurytus, another one of Odysseus’ crew members.

He is a pimp who, like Autolycus, has a disguise as well as cunning. Eurylochus’ disguise is that of a wandering minstrel. This is not an entirely fictional profession; wandering minstrels were a common sight in ancient Greece. They were usually jugglers, acrobats or comedians.

They were usually dressed in bright colours, wore a peaked hat on the head, a long flowing cloak and were often accompanied by a lyre or a reed pipe. They were mostly itinerant entertainers who went from town to town telling stories, playing music and doing tricks.

Most of them were poor and many of them were probably enslaved. They were usually not poets but the Odyssey is full of references to minstrels, especially in the land of Scherie.

This could be because Eurylochus is a pimp, a common profession associated with minstrels, or because Scherie was a part of Greece, where minstrels were common.

 

The Fourteen Songs of Euterpe

There were fourteen songs associated with Euterpe. The first song was the most well-known: it started “When I was a child, my father taught me this song,” (mimicking the voice of someone who sounded like Euterpe.

This song was about the power of music and it is implied that the musician is Euterpe herself. It is about the importance of listening to nature’s music and knowing how to play music yourself. There were also twelve other songs associated with Euterpe.

The first of these is about how plants were created by the gods when they fell out of love with each other. The plants were so jealous of each other that they did not want to be touched.

Then a wise man named Triptolemus told them to sleep together so that they could get to know each other better. This song is about how people should not be jealous of each other and it is a lesson about the importance of trust. The next song is about the love between a shepherd boy and a shepherdess.

The boy had his heart ruled by his shepherdess and he was so proud that she loved him that he wanted to make a sacrifice to prove his love. Euterpe taught the boy to share love.

The next song is about the love between a goddess and a river god. This love was so strong that the river god could not even stand up when the goddess went by. The next song is about the love between a princess and a shepherd. This went on for so long that the shepherd had to ask the princess to marry him because he got so fat from loving her so much that he did not want to live much longer.

The next song is about the love between a father and his daughter. Euterpe taught the father how to be a good father to his daughter. The next song is about the love between a mother and her son. Euterpe taught the mother how to be a good mother to her son.

The next song is about the love between a farmer and his cow. This cow was so beautiful that all the gods loved her. They wanted her to live with them but they knew that the farmer loved her too much and they could not stop him from getting to keep her.

The next song is about the love between a king and his wife. The king loved his wife so much that he was willing to die for her. He was so proud of her that he wanted her to be the queen of all the gods and goddesses. The final song is about the love between a shepherd and his sheep.

When Euterpe was little her father told her to keep her eye on her sheep because they were the most beautiful thing in the world.

 

The Symbol of the Musical Ear Ring

The last thing that Euterpe wore was a gold, musical earring. This was her symbol in art and it was sometimes depicted as a lyre. Euterpe was also associated with the Greek goddess of music, Mnemosyne.

The symbol of Mnemosyne was the tortoise shell and the ring was, therefore, an image of Euterpe and of music. The musical earring was also a symbol of the Muses, who were the nine goddesses associated with singing, the arts and poetry. Euterpe was associated with the nine Muses and therefore with music.

 

Conclusion

Euterpe was the Muse of poetry and she was associated with nature and wild animals, with spring and with the seasons.

She was associated with the arts and with music and she was also associated with the goddess of music, Mnemosyne.

Euterpe was not just any Muse; she was worshipped as one in her own right in certain parts of Greece: Argos, Sparta, Messenia and Crete for example.

She also appears prominently in Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus first encounters her when he arrives at Scherie (his temporary home).

After losing his way among various shrines and places associated with Euterpe he comes before an altar dedicated to her.

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