Momus

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For the Tibetan, Ladakhi and Nepali food, see Momo (food). For the Scottish artist and singer, see Momus (artist).

Momus (/ˈmməs/; Greek: Μῶμος Momos) was in Greek mythology the personification of satire, mockery, censure; a god of writers and poets; a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism. His name is related to μομφή, meaning 'blame' or 'censure'. He is depicted in classical art as lifting a mask from his face. He is the twin of Oizys, a misery goddess.

In classical literature[edit]

Hesiod[1] said that Momus was a son of Night (Nyx). He mocked Hephaestus, Lucian of Samosata recalled,[2] for having made mankind without doors in their breast, through which their thoughts could be seen. He mocked Aphrodite, though all he could find was that she was talkative and had creaky sandals.[3] He even found fit to mock Zeus, saying he is a violent god and lusts for woman, giving birth to two villainous sons equal to him in disgust[who?] (works of Apollonius Molon). Because of his constant criticism, he was exiled from Mt. Olympus.

Momus is featured in one of Aesop's fables, where he is to judge the handiwork of three gods (the gods vary depending on the version). However, he is jealous of what they have done and derides all of their creations. He is then banished from Olympus by Zeus for his jealousy.

Sophocles wrote a satyr play, now almost entirely lost, called Momos.

In Lucian's satiric dialogue Assembly of the Gods (ca 165 CE) it is Momus who is the secretary when the gods stage a city meeting as if at Athens, to decide what to do about newly arrived outsiders and metics, the target of the satire being the recent development of complete enfranchisement of unworthy outsiders (Lucian himself being of Syrian origin).

In Book VI of Plato's Republic, Glaucon says to Socrates: "Momus himself could not find fault with such a combination."

Renaissance and later writers[edit]

Momus Criticizes the Gods' Creations, by Maarten van Heemskerck, 1561, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Leon Battista Alberti wrote a savage and pessimistic Latin satiric dialogue, Momus, (ca. 1450)[4] which drew upon Lucian's example; as with his model — though some readers, with Eugenio Garin, detect in it some of Alberti's own streak of bitterness — the end use of the cynicism in the satire is to amuse.

When Sir Francis Bacon wrote an essay "Of Building," (XLV) he said that "He that builds a fair house upon an ill seat, committeth himself to prison. .. Neither is it ill air only that maketh an ill seat, but ill ways, ill markets, and, if you consult with Momus, ill neighbours."

In Giordano Bruno's philosophical treatise "The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast", Momus plays an integral part in the series of dialogues conducted by the Olympian Deities and Bruno's narrators. Momus was brought back from her expulsion deep in the cosmos in order to assist Jove in reconstructing the heavens by purging them of vice and heralding in an age of virtue.

In one scene of Jonathan Swift's The Battle of the Books, Momus, while rushing to defend the Moderns, gets some aid from the goddess Criticism. Interestingly, Swift, a renowned satirist, sides with the Ancients while the goddess of satire sides with the Moderns

Laurence Sterne ruminated on the possibilities of Momus' window into the soul in a typical rambling excursus in Tristram Shandy.

Antonin Artaud is referencing him in his brief Artaud Le Momo (1947), written shortly after nine years of incarceration.

Henry David Thoreau references him in Walden. In his first chapter, "Economy", Thoreau notes what he considers the valid objection of Momus/Momos against the house which Minerva/Athena made, that she "had not made it moveable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided".

See also[edit]

Momus, detail of the painting by Hippolyte Berteaux, Théâtre Graslin ceiling - Nantes, France

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony, 214.
  2. ^ In the extended dialogue Hermotimus, 20.
  3. ^ Philostratus, Epistles.
  4. ^ Alberti, Momus (The I Tatti Renaissance Library), Sarah Knight and Virginia Brown, editors; Sarah Knight's is the first translation in English.

External links[edit]