The Muse Terpsichore: Greek Mythology, Definition

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

There were nine muses, each of which was associated with a different one of the arts. In this lesson, we are going to get to know Terpsichore, and see what role she played in Greek mythology.


Boots and cats and boots and cats and boots and cats. Oh yeah. Feel the rhythm? Do you, perhaps, even feel inspired to dance? Well, that could be Terpsichore at work!

In Greek mythology, Terpsichore was the goddess of dance, also eventually associated with lyric poetry and the chorus that accompanied Greek theater. She was one of the muses, the nine goddesses of the arts and masters of their crafts. It was the muses who gave humans the inspiration to excel at the arts, so when you just get that urge to get up and dance, don't resist. You wouldn't want to offend the goddess.

Terpsichore was the muse of dance

Family of Terpsichore

So, how did Terpsichore enter into Greek mythology? Her father was the chief of the gods, Zeus. Her mother was the Titan Mnemosyne, personification of memory. According to the Greek stories, Zeus lay with Mnemosyne nine nights in a row, and as a result she had nine daughters. These were the muses, goddesses of the arts and inspiration. Each muse was given a name that reflected their craft. Terpsichore actually translates to ''delight in dancing.''

Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters, called the muses

Like all of the muses, Terpsichore had a beautiful voice and was a talented musician, playing various harps and flutes. This is a trait she may have passed on to her own children as well. In some versions of Greek mythology, she is listed as the mother of the Sirens, the half-bird/half-women creatures who lured sailors to their islands and killed them. The Sirens were able to lure men because their voices were so hypnotically beautiful, a gift they could only have inherited from having a divinely talented mother.

According to at least one iteration of the myth, Terpsichore's daughters were originally friends of the goddess Persephone, and they followed her around providing beautiful music. However, when they failed to save her from being abducted by Hades, Persephone's mother (the goddess Demeter) turned them into the monstrous Sirens.

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