• Theodore K. Lerud
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In his Metamorphoses Ovid mentions Mnemosyne only once, in the context of Arachne’s weaving in which she depicts, in competition with Athena, a number of Zeus’ indiscretions with women mortal and immortal: Zeus had taken Mnemosyne in the form of a humble shepherd.1 Arachne is changed into a spider for her trouble, but the image of Mnemosyne, or Memory, as the mother of the Muses was a classical commonplace. Apparently there is justice in, and mythological precedent for, Mary Carruthers’ statement that “all art, at some basic level, must engage the procedures of human memory…”2 The fullest classical account of the Mnemosyne’s bearing of the Muses can be found in the Theogony of Hesiod, where Zeus presents himself in Helicon to Mnemosyne, queen of the Eleutherian hills, as a shepherd taught by the Olympians. Zeus lies with her nine nights, and the nine Muses she bears combine civic and aesthetic virtues. Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry (one of the only two Muses mentioned by name in Ovid), is presented as having the highest standing, and her particular virtue is to smile on the just leader:

it is she who attends on the respected barons…

upon his speech, they make a distillation of sweetness3


Visual Imagery Pervasive Influence Elaborative Encode Epic Poetry Material Transmitter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ovid, Metamorphoses VI.114, ed. and trans. Frank Justus Miller, Loeb Classical Library (London: William Heinemann, 1916, repr. 1984), p. 296.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mary J. Carruthers, The Craft of Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 67.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hesiod, Theogony trans. Richmond Lattimore (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1959, repr. 1978), p. 127.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Plato, Phaedrus and Letters VII & VIII, ed. and trans. Walter Hamilton (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1973), p. 96.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Daniel Schacter, Searching for Memory (New York: BasicBooks, 1996), p.vii.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theater of Devotion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 114.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Carruthers, The Book of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 221–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Theodore K. Lerud 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore K. Lerud

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations