The Muses

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, ‘the art of the Muses’ from which we derive our word ‘music.’ While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow?

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  • Paul Cartledge 21 episodes
    Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge
  • Angie Hobbs 24 episodes
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield
  • Penelope Murray No other episodes
    Founder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Warwick

Reading list

  • The Muses and their Afterlife in Post-Classical Europe
    Kathleen Christian, Clare Guest and Claudia Wedepohl (eds.) (Warburg Institute, 2014) Google Books →
  • A Companion to Ancient Aesthetics
    Pierre Destree and Penelope Murray (eds.) (Wiley Blackwell, 2015) Google Books →
  • Theogony
    Hesiod (trans. M. L. West) (Penguin Classics, 2000) Google Books →
  • Music and the Muses: The Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City
    Penelope Murray and Peter Wilson (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Iliad
    Homer (trans. E. V. Rieu) (Penguin Classics, 2014) Google Books →
  • Odyssey
    Homer (trans. E. V. Rieu) (Penguin Classics, 2009) Google Books →
  • Early Socratic Dialogues
    Plato (trans. Chris Emlyn-Jones and Trevor Saunders) (Penguin Classics, 2005) Google Books →
  • Phaedrus
    Plato (trans. C. J. Rowe) (Penguin Classics, 2005) Google Books →
  • Laws
    Plato (trans. Trevor Saunders) (Penguin Classics, 2005) Google Books →
  • Cultivating the Muse: Struggles for Power and Inspiration in Classical Literature
    Efrossini Spentzou and Don Fowler (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2002)

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Programme ID: b07bft7v

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Auto-category: 800 (Literature and rhetoric)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The Muses have been associated with creativity and inspiration for 3,000 years, even before the time of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey.