Role of the muses in Hesiod’s Theogony

Leslie asked:

How do mythical stories attain authority, and what is the role played by the Muses who are often cited at the beginning of them? What does Hesiod’s term Theogony mean?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

As your question involves the Muses, the answer is simple. Hesiod himself gives it in Lines 25-8 of his Theogony, where the Muses tell him that although they like to dress up their stories (myths) in pleasing apparel, nevertheless they also tell unvarnished truths.

The point here is, that myths usually appeal to witnesses to the events being narrated. It is essential for them to have this kind of authority behind them, so that doubts about their veracity are silenced. The Muses are such witnesses. As they are ever-present, they know everything.

Hence the invocations to them at the beginning of many a Greek poet’s tale. It is a plea to the Muse(s) to share their knowledge with the poet. For the poet, the Muses vouchsafe the truth of the tale.

As to the word Theogony, it means ‘Birth of the Gods.’ (The syllable ‘gony’ also occurs in such words as ‘cosmogony’ = Birth of the Universe).


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