The Muses were nine daughter fathered by Zeus and their mother was either Mnemosyne or Harmonia, a goddess descendant from Atlas, according to which tradition one follows. The Muses were not only divine singers, destined to entertain the immortals, but they were patrons of all intellectual activities, including the highest, which freed man from physical reality and gave him access to eternal truths. Within their providence was eloquence, persuasion, wisdom, knowledge of the past and laws of the world, mathematics, and astronomy as well as poetry, music and dancing.
They knew songs that lessen men’s anger or could inspire kings to address their subjects with persuasive words. Their first song, the most ancient hymn, was sung in honor of the victory of the Olympians over the Titans.
The number of the Muses, given as nine, according to the canons was probably not immutable. There appears to have been three at Delphi, and a cult existed at Lesbos dedicated to the Muses. From the classical period onwards the list included Calliope, Clio, Polyhymnia, Euterpe, Terpsichore, Erato, Melpomene, Thalia, and Urania. In the classical time they were given duties although not rigorously assigned: Calliope, became to be thought of the muse of epic poetry; Clio, of history; Polyhymnia, of the mimic art; Euterpe, of the flute; Terpsichore, of lyric poetry and dancing; Erato, of lyric poetry and hymns; Melpomene, tragedy; Thalia, comedy; and Urania, astronomy. Other spheres have been assigned to them in modern times. A.G.H.
Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 110