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Μνημοσυνη


Mnemosyne


Gender Female
Status Immortal
Parents Ouranos and Gaia
Children Muses
Hair Colour Brown
Home Olympus

Mnemosyne, source of the word mnemonic, was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. The titaness was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus and the mother of the nine Muses by Zeus:

  • Calliope (Epic Poetry)
  • Clio (History)
  • Erato (Love Poetry)
  • Euterpe (Music)
  • Melpomene (Tragedy)
  • Polyhymnia (Hymns)
  • Terpsichore (Dance)
  • Thalia (Comedy)
  • Urania (Astronomy)

In Hesiod's Theogony, kings and poets receive their powers of authoritative speech from their possession of Mnemosyne and their special relationship with the Muses.

As a Titan daughter of Ouranos (Heaven), Mnemosyne was also a goddess of time. She represented the rote memorization required, before the introduction of writing, to preserve the stories of history and sagas of myth. In this role she was represented as the mother of the Muses, originally patron goddesses of the poets of the oral tradition.

Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together for nine consecutive nights, thus birthing the nine Muses. Mnemosyne also presided over a pool in Hades, counterpart to the river Lethe, according to a series of 4th century BC Greek funerary inscriptions in dactylic hexameter. Dead souls drank from Lethe so they would not remember their past lives when reincarnated. Initiates were encouraged to drink from the river Mnemosyne when they died, instead of Lethe. These inscriptions may have been connected with Orphic poetry (see Zuntz, 1971).

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